Azumanga Daioh Vol. #6 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Azumanga Daioh

Azumanga Daioh Vol. #6

By Dani Moure     May 18, 2006
Release Date: June 20, 2005


Azumanga Daioh Vol. #6
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
School's almost out! But, it ain't over yet...

Mountains of career sheets and last-minute homework threaten to drown the girls in a wave of paper. But Sakaki has battles of her own - until a lifesaving visitor from the past appears and saves the day! Meanwhile, exams are looming larger than ever. To improve their chances, the girls go through all sorts of bizarre rituals, from splitting chopsticks to drawing fortunes and even studying! Well, a little.

And then...the final face-off between Sakaki and the grey cat! The last tests the girls will ever have to take! The last of Yukari's less-than-enlightening lectures!

It's all here in the final wacky, wild and whimsical volume of Azumanga Daioh!!

The Review!
It's time to say goodbye to the girls as they graduate high school in the final volume of Azumanga Daioh.

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review, and noticed no distortions or dropouts. The track itself was a fairly standard stereo mix for a television series. The performances from all the voice actors were a riot, and I enjoyed their work immensely. The entire cast is really good.

The English language track is presented in 5.1, and it sounded fine while writing the review, though it didn't seem that enhanced over the Japanese stereo track. The dub sounded good from the portions I listened to, with most of the main characters seeming to spark a similar chemistry as their Japanese counterparts.

Video:
For the course of the series, Azumanga has looked fantastic, with very good transfers throughout. Colours are very vibrant and the transfer is clean, but early on in this volume I was forced to switch to my Pioneer player to watch the end of it because my Philips has a faulty loading mechanism. Unfortunately for the last episode and some of episode 25, this meant that there were sever jagged edges and artifacting around the edges of the characters and the fine lines drawn on everything. It was a strange effect, although I'm not able to verify at the time of this review whether it was just an issue with my Pioneer player or not

Subtitles are the usual nice ADV font, and are in yellow as always.

Packaging:
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the final cover replicates the Japanese DVD cover with an image of Tomo doing the bounce this time. The volume number and show's logo appear in large graphics on the cover, too, and there's a cute little Japanese "A!" above Tomo's head. The cover makes great use of white space, and looks really good. The back cover is a bit manic with a description of the show, some screenshots and the credits list all scattered about. There are also plenty of arrows pointing around. The usual ADV info box appears here, clearly listing technical information.

The cover is also reversible, with a wraparound image of some of the girls in science class. Tomo is the focus, while Kagura and Yomi are having trouble with an experiment in the background. An episode listing is also included (with a breakdown of the individual segments in each).

As a nice extra we also get the 12-page booklet that includes a Tomo profile, translator notes, staff comments, production images and more. It's a really nice extra, with the translator notes being an especially good feature of a culturally based series like this, and I love that ADV go the extra mile to bring these inserts over to the UK.

Menu:
The menus are exactly the same as the last volume. The main menu features Sakaki getting her hand bitten by the cat, and waving it up and down, while the episodes are listed across the top. The show's logo is on the right hand side, while that yellow toy thing appears around the screen. Sub-menus are also animated simply. The extras menu features Chiyo-chan flying with her pigtails bobbing up and down, and Osaka following her with some pigtails of her own. The scene select menu features Tomo swaying back and forth, while the language menu features Yukari about to hit Osaka with a textbook, and the sub-menus all feature different pieces of music. These menus are far more creative than the usual ADV fair and I like them a lot, as they really fit with the tone of the show.

Extras:
In addition to the standard extras, this disc also features the original Azumanga Daioh movie, that served as a sample preview of the series before it aired. It's about the same length as one of the individual episode segments, and features a few themes that eventually made it into episodes of the series proper. These include the cat theme with Sakaki getting bitten, and much of the focus on Osaka falling asleep and playing games with Chiyo-chan's pigtails. The animation and character designs are a bit different (and I much prefer the series designs personally), but this is definitely a nice extra to have. A production art gallery for the movie is also on this disc. Additionally we have the standard textless opening and ending, and a selection of production sketches set to some music.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
And so we reach the end of Azumanga Daioh after 26 episodes of some real deadpan, hilarious comedy. In some ways it's a crying shame. I would absolutely love to see more of the girls' daily lives as they just go about doing stuff in their own unique ways. But on the other hand, bittersweet though the ending is, it's just perfect and left as it is, we have a show that is a little bit different but, all told, brilliant in its execution. This is one comedy that will, for me, stand the test of time because not only is the deadpan sense of humour right up my alley, but there are enough laughs throughout every episode that, though I might not find everything funny, I can't help but crack up at some point and that's exactly how it should be with a great comedy.

Staying true to form, the series doesn't compromise itself in these last three episodes. There's no attempt to bring in some grandiose or tragic plot. There's no attempt to do anything other than finish the final year of high school, just as every even numbered disc has ended a year. But that's what makes the ending so fitting, and so touching. Just the natural ending of the girls' lives in high school is enough to bring emotions out because you've seen what they've been through the past three years, and it really is both a joyous and sad occasion when it comes to the end of the final episode.

Stepping back though, the first episode on this disc kicks off three of the series' best, as Sakaki finally gets a cat! After she and Chiyo-chan are confronted by a swarm of other cats who look a bit mean, the mountain cat from the school trip on the last disc returns to scare them all away. Sakaki immediately takes to it again, as it lets her pet it and carry it around. She wants it so badly that she decides when she goes to college she'll get a place on her own so she can keep a pet (since her mother is allergic to them). In the meantime, Chiyo-chan kindly volunteers to keep the newly named Maaya at her house until Sakaki can take care of her. Watching Sakaki bond with Maaya and play with her is really cute, as she finally has something she's dreamed about for so long, and she makes a wonderful owner. It does still amuse me though that Chiyo-chan's parents are still nowhere to be seen! Seeing the girls together having a study session was a little bittersweet, as it started to make me think that this was one of the last few times we'll see them together.

The next episode focuses on the entrance exams, and the studying that goes along with it. Amusingly Osaka looks to Chiyo for advice about what to become in the future, and Chiyo ends up suggesting a teacher, much to Yukari's chagrin. Everyone goes and studies at Chiyo-chan's some more, and Osaka continues to obsess over sleeping at her heated table (while Sakaki continues to play with Maaya), before they all go say a prayer at the shrine for good luck. Naturally, this leads to yet more bizarre Osaka-ness, as only she can provide, as she starts trying to use chopsticks and other things as good luck charms. It's pretty funny stuff, and when she starts having a dream about that yellow mascot thing being Chiyo's dad I couldn't help but think how much I'll miss her weirdness. One of the sadder moments comes towards the end of this episode though, as everyone passes the exams but one girl. I felt quite sorry for Yomi though she handled the situation extremely well!

And then it's time for the final swansong. One of the long-standing "threads" gets wrapped up, as Sakaki finally sorts things out with the cat that keeps biting her. But then it's the graduation ceremony, along with much crying from a couple of the girls (naturally Chiyo, and surprisingly Kagura as well) and some classic Yukari moments as well (like how she doesn't get why what she said brings tears to Kagura's eyes, and sees the loss of her wallet as the saddest event of the day). Alas, I found myself feeling quite sad and even welling up on a couple of occasions because it's the final episode, and with it being the end of school for the girls there's a real foreboding sense of it being the end, and it's sad because I have really, really enjoyed this series a great deal. It ends on the perfect note as well, with some really poignant words as things work out for Yomi, and Chiyo-chan realises it's not the end after all.
Over the course of its 26 episodes, Azumanga Daioh has amused me a great deal, thanks to some witty and snappy writing, great stories that allow the comedy to come so naturally and the absolutely stonking cast of characters. I know I've probably said it in every review for the show, but honestly, this is one of the most perfect casts I've ever seen in any show. The girls are just such a different bunch with their own individual quirks, yet they complement each other and balance themselves out so well. The creative team behind the show have really accomplished great things with the animated version of the show, and it's easily become one of my favourites.

In Summary:
There are just so many good things to say about Azumanga Daioh that it's hard to know where to begin, let alone end it. This is one of the finest shows I've seen in a long while, and is probably the first anime comedy that has not only made me laugh several times, but consistently made me laugh several times throughout every single episode, a feat that is extremely difficult for a comedy (especially one with repeat themes like this) and yet is pulled off so well here. While I'm sure there are some people out there who won't like the show, most people will be easily won over by its comedy and charm, and it really does get a very high recommendation from me. Brilliant and genius, this is one show I'll be revisiting for years to come.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,The Azumanga Daioh Mini Movie,Clean Opening & Closing,Production Sketches

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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