Doki Doki School Hours Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, September 12, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 08, 2005



What They Say
Mika wants to be the best teacher in the world: able to inspire her students to work hard and excel in their studies. Every day she tries her hardest to achieve this dream, but standing at under five feet tall (even in heels!), it?s difficult to be taken seriously. To make matters worse, her class is full of hyperactive kids (to say the least), from the super athlete to the resident otaku. Can Mika-sensei control her classroom and reach her goal of becoming a well-respected teacher? Pay attention--this is not your average comedy!


The Review!
It's school time fun and comedy as we're introduced to a pint size teacher who has the usual assortment of kids to deal with.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has solid sounding but fairly standard stereo mix as it's mostly a dialogue driven show with sight gags and word puns and the like. The mix does have some directionality to it but mostly it's just some well placed dialogue or some zooms across the entire soundstage. The mix is clean and clear throughout though on both language tracks and doesn't get too high or low. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series takes a lot of the usual routes in terms of its visuals with standard realistic looking background colors while the character art is clean and smooth with bright colors that maintain a really solid feel to them. There are a few areas of pink lettering visible but unlike some other recent Geneon releases there are no issues with dot crawl here. The way this show looks is very simple in its designs but it comes across strong with the vibrant colors and a good mixture of soft and sharp scenes that just look fantastic.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the first Japanese cover, we get a very cute image of Suzuki in her standard outfit outside of the school as the cherry blossoms fall. It's done in a light cartoonish style with soft colors and lots of blue and pink with the whole thing surrounded by a simple pink flowery border. The cuteness factor is strong here as it should be since that's the basis of the show and this is like pure honesty in advertising. The back cover is also heavy on the various shades of pink with a brief summary along the top of the premise while several screenshots are mixed into the center of the cover. The discs features and episodes are clearly listed and the back cover is capped off with the usual round of production information and minor technical information. The insert has the artwork from the front cover without the border around it while the reverse side lists the episode numbers and titles as well as expected months for future volumes.

Menu:
The main menu layout is cutely done with a strip along the lower half that's like a blackboard being written on while kaleidoscope colors appear behind it over the rest of the screen. The series logo, which is both in Japanese and in English, takes up a lot of the top half while character shots zoom in and out to a bit of bouncy instrumental music from the show. Access times are nice and fast and the menu layout is easy to navigate and didn't have any problems. The disc correctly read our players' language presents and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras for the opening volume are pretty slim with just the textless version of the opening sequence and the original opening sequence, both of which are pieces I'm glad to see included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga Tamami Momose, Sensei no Ojikan which is also known as Doki Doki School Hours is the latest school age comedy series that has that feel of being based on the three or four panel comic strip gags and being expanded into themed episodes. While not a knock-off or clone of Azumanga Daioh, the similarities are very strong between the two but approach the theme from different angles.

The premise of Doki Doki isn't exactly a huge leap. We're introduced to a teacher and her class of students and follow them through themed episodes that take a particular series of related gags and works them together. It's not exactly a coherent story in a sense but it runs with the idea of telling small stories that make up the larger lives of the characters. Each class of course has its strange characters that become stranger the more you get to know them which is really nice instead of being hit up front with it. For example, you get to know Kudo as a decent student and generally good guy but after the first few bits you realize that he's really got a thing of sorts for fellow classmate Suetake. Suetake's your basic jock of all trades character and is completely oblivious to the admiration that Kudo has for him, which only has Kudo to flaunt himself more and more to gain the attention he wants from him. It's a sempai-complex.

The main gag that carries a lot of the show through is who the series is ostensibly based around and that's Mika Suzuki. She's twenty-seven years old but she's tinier than the new incoming freshman into the school. We initially see her getting lost in the sea of new students and is helped along by her second year class after a rescue. Suzuki's got the usual set of problems you can expect from being this small in that she's very childlike in appearance, lots of students find her cute and she has problems exerting her authority because of it. This doesn't stop some of the students, such as Suetake, from wondering if she's all adult under her clothes when she makes certain comments and we get some hilarious images that are really wrong in a lot of ways.

Suzuki fills the role of teacher very nicely and different enough from other shows that even the similarity of other elements of the show is offset. She lives at home with her parents and her father is so completely doting that he does all sorts of things to help her at times though her mother objects. During the summer break you get to see her just lounging around the house like any student would and having the same kind of conversations with her parents. She gets to commiserate and relate a lot to Matsumoto, someone who is the same age and has the role of school nurse. The two hang out a lot which only drives more of the students wild.

The show is filled with all sorts of school related gags that carry it along in batches but also has a lot of return gags to play on things that it built in the past. Once you get into the initial introductions of the cast and their setting, the next episode gives us a lot of fun with the yearly physical and health check. It keeps its focus to the girls since it does fun with breast size gags, extreme dieting for a day and the surprise that Suzuki herself has to undergo a physical which only serves to remind her about her tiny stature again. Never mind the fact that she's actually shrinking. One episode covers the sports festival which the class places all their hopes on Suetake to handle all of the key events and another episode that does summer swim lessons which really brings out the teacher-complex in Kitagawa. She so absolutely adores her teacher that being one of the smartest students, she fails tests in order to take summer school tests with her.

The animation for the show by J.C. Staff is just fantastic which isn't any surprise considering a number of shows they've put out in the last few years. The mixture of very clean and simple lines with bright vibrant colors in the uniforms and other areas really works well here as the show has a really light and happy feel to it. With the comedy bent the character designs are of course simpler in their nature and work really nice here. They avoid doing a lot in the way of super deformed or wild takes, instead relying on the characters expressions and dialogue to carry things through. There are some flights of fancy through and it's simply cute material that has a number of laughs throughout it.

In Summary:
Doki Doki School Hours is a perfectly charming little comedy series that certainly feels like other shows but manages to be its own show quickly enough. The characters are fun, they avoid sticking to any one of them for too long and the gags are all things that a lot of people can relate to from their own school experiences even with as much cultural stuff as comes through here. J.C. Staff has put together a great version of the original manga in animated form and it really has a life of its own that's entertaining and provides some good laughs. The opening volume doesn't bang you upside the head with being outlandish or over the top but instead just gets to you with its humor and keeps you from there on in. Good stuff and definitely merits seeing more of.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Original Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 24.98/34.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Doki Doki School Hours