Lucky Star Vol. #5 (also w/Limited Edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 09, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Summer vacation is nigh and that means issues with homework and looking towards the future for these senior girls.

What They Say
Hello again, Shiraishi here! I hope you'll join me and the Lucky Star cast for four episodes of summer time classes, vacation, study sessions and the oppressive heat and insects that inevitably come with the season. Before we change into our summer uniforms though, we can't forget about Konata's surprise birthday party!

Even with university applications right around the corner, our friends� study habits could not be more varied. Konata has of course been playing her online games non-stop, and while it�s very important to take short breaks to relax between two assignments it�s even more important to remember to do the actual assignment!

The Review!
Audio:
The bilingual production for this release gets a pretty good stereo mix for both languages as each track is encoded at 224kbps. The series is really pretty tame when it comes to the audio side once it gets beyond the opening and closing sequences so it’s hard to tell the impact of it at times. It’s basically a full on dialogue piece with lots of moments of punctuated silence so the mix doesn’t really stress itself in the slightest once it gets past the hyperactive opening. In listening to both language tracks, we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the show.

Video:
Originally airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series has a very strong visual design to it which looks really great here. With its relatively meager origins in a four panel strip, the anime incarnation runs with a similar feel in how the backgrounds have a bit more of a “comic strip” feel to them with the detail and coloring. The character designs are much more vibrant and the combination of the two elements really works well here as it’s a show that stands out strongly. The backgrounds aren’t soft but they don’t have the kind of sharpness you get in other shows but it looks very solid and generally free of heavy noise. The character designs with their large spaces of bold colors works in much the same way as there isn’t any noticeable breakup or heavy noise either. Cross coloration is absent and other than a bit of line noise during some of the panning sequences, this is just another winner in how it looks in portraying Kyoto Animation’s work.

Packaging:
Released in both a disc only and limited edition set, we’re looking at the limited edition release since we liked what we got with the previous ones. Though they don’t do much for me, I have to say that the t-shirts make great sleep shirts for the kids. The packaging for this release is a basic throwaway thin box that has lots of character artwork on the two main panels of the four lead characters while each of the side panels features headshots with one of them also listing the extras and episodes to be found here along with the bonus items in the box. The bonus items certainly aren’t for everyone but I have to admit I’m enjoying them as are my kids. The character CD included in this round is the one for Konata and Patty as they belt out a few tunes. The L sized t-shirt included is unlike the previous ones as it’s a “boys” uniform printed onto a white shirt. With it being much darker than the other ones, it feels rather different.

The keepcase artwork for the limited edition release in the box is different from the regular edition and it’s quite amusing. The front cover is a piece of white lined paper on which Konata has drawn her view of what her cousin in her police office uniform, complete with the car in the background. The back cover uses the paper design again to good effect as it features four headshots of the girls and a summary through the center of what the basic premise is all about. Arrayed around the corners are the sections that list different aspects such as the basic features, disc extras, the episode numbers and titles as well as the special edition extras. The bottom of the cover is standard Bandai Entertainment design as it lists the production credits and some meager technical information. The release feels very unusual in that it actually contains a useful insert, a two panel foldout piece that has liner notes for all the oddities across the four episodes on this volume.

Menu:
The menu design for the show is quite cute as it capitalizes on the character designs and the bouncy music that epitomizes the opening sequence. With all four girls lined along the bottom with just headshots, there are “thought balloons” that have clips from the show playing about as they switch between the characters. The navigation strip is down the middle which is pretty standard in its selections and they all load nice and quick. There is a brief delay though as they do include a small transitional piece of animation every time you go to something from the main menu. The disc unfortunately follows a pretty standard trend with Bandai Entertainment releases in that it doesn’t read our players’ language presets. 

Extras:
The extras are pretty similar to the last couple of volumes in that there are some interesting things to be found here but continue to be oddly targeted to an audience. The first things that are listed is a pair of key scenes galleries in which stills from the show float by with Japanese text on them (soft subtitled in English) that explain certain elements of the show while at times playing up the cuteness of the characters. They both run just under two minutes each. The bigger set of extras are really interesting pieces that runs about fourteen minutes called Minoru Shiraishi’s Adventures. These continue to vary in how appealing they are. Some of the moments are cute and fun, others seem to drag on for far too long and leave you with a disinterested feeling. I can see the appeal for fans of the gent, but they generally do very little for me. A new addition to this volume is the first English voice actor interview piece which runs just under nine minutes and is done with Wendee Lee. Wendee’s been around for a few years so she handles this well and she gets some interesting questions as well since she’s played both actress and director.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Lucky Star continues on, the series plays through more rather mundane slice of life “stories” if you can call them that. Lucky Star is still one of those shows that’s very hard to talk about since there’s little truly going on. The lives of the girls are pretty straightforward still with no real challenges being faced or any kind of manufactured adversity to make things more difficult. It’s the little challenges that they have to deal with and sometimes that doesn’t make for exciting viewing.

Thankfully, the characters are engaging enough on their own to pull it off for the most part. A lot of it continues to come down to the way they interact and the slightly off center approach that Konata has to life. She’s the main area of strangeness in the show, but that’s more to do with her being somewhat quirky and having non-standard interests, or at least more so than others. Her very geek oriented lifestyle isn’t quite so mysterious to the others anymore, especially as Kagami has realized she has a few leanings there herself. The two have spent enough time together and even do some shopping trips together where Kagami finds that Konata makes sense. Basics things like grabbing magazines and books from the bottom of the pile are the subjects of their discussion.

But they also venture elsewhere, such as when Kagami tries to get Konata to read some light novels, but Konata defers to the anime version. The printed word is something that Konata has a hard time with and even light novels fall into that category at times. She rails against baseball games as well when she sees one on that her father is watching and she laments about how it impacts things. This even leads to an amusing if brief discussion about how holiday specials for various shows “impact” things but not in the same way. Konata’s life isn’t hard to be certain, but that just means the small things tend to frustrate her more and that’s all that she has to complain about most of the time.

While not taking up a serious amount of time, there’s a good bit of material devoted to Yutaka and her friends as they make their presence more known. They’re becoming more interconnected with the senior girls now as they come across them at school and outside of it as well. One of them even lives across the street from Miyuki, something that’s discovered when they all decide to get together for some neighborhood summer fireworks activities. These continue to be cute moments, but these additional characters are still ones that I can’t find myself actually getting interested in and seeing what they’re like. They’re getting attention to be certain, but they’re not compelling, especially at this stage of the series. Even worse is that this set of episodes has little of Tsukasa and Miyuki for the most part which is like rubbing a little salt in the wound.

Lucky Channel is again something of a mixed bag, but this isn’t a surprise after all these episodes. Minoru’s still doing his best to be the best co-host of the show he can and Akira is still her generally unpleasant and rude self, which leads to some very amusing moments. Akira actually has an in-show cameo this time around, which only frustrates her more in the end. She manages to get revenge on Minoru at one point for his talk of travel by sending him off to Mt. Fuji in search of special water, which means we get a guest appearance from Daisuke Ono for the last Lucky Channel of this volume. Having him off on this trip, which coincides with some fun outdoors live action closing sequences, it a lot of fun. Though the extras for these segments may bore me, the actual closings that are created from some of them are quite amusing to watch. Minoru’s continually being beaten down both in the live and animated parts is a twisted sort of pleasure to watch.

In Summary:
Lucky Star continues to make me smile a lot and it’s very addictive in a number of ways, but it’s a problematic show to really talk about. These episodes are moving things right along as the girls are getting older and working towards their futures in a lackadaisical way, but they manage to still have bits of humor in there. Whether talking about cell phone plans, visions of what the Otome Road is really like or enjoying fireworks, there’s a certain charm to the relaxed friendship that they all share. These are the nice girls that are nice through and through, though you can see that they may not be ones you’d want to have cross at you in the long run. Lucky Star is fun, it’s cute and it looks great both in the show itself and in the package that Bandai and Kadokawa have put together here.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Key scenes galleries, The Adventures of Minoru Shiraishi, Liner notes

Limited Edition: Boy's uniform T shirt, Patty and Konata CD

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98/49.9
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lucky Star