Doki Doki School Hours Vol. #5 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2006



What They Say
How could this be happening?! A dreadful monster attacks innocent people and Iincho struggles to save them and uncover the monster's identity. Mika-Sensei awakens to a parallel reality where her students are in a fierce war plaguing Earth. After that, the students worry when an offer for an arranged married is extended to Mika-Sensei. If she accepts the offer, will they lose their beloved pint-sized teacher?


The Review!
Spending more time in the realm of the fantastic rather than that of your everyday school situations, Doki Doki takes a bit of effort to finish out but does finish nicely.

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:
The last cover to the series is a rather good one and an obvious choice as it features the main class characters together for a photo against the chalkboard with lots of smiles and cute designs. They even manage to look a bit younger and smaller here. The back cover is also heavy on the various shades of green 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 box art for all the releases.

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 "gold" versions of the second opening sequences are presented in both their clean format and the original Japanese text format, both of which are very welcome.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Doki Doki School Hours finishes out on its fifth volume as the series only has twenty episodes and in a way it's a good thing since the show was starting to reach its limits in what it was able to do and still be amusing. This last set of episodes is an even split between fantasy and reality and those fantasy episodes really make it difficult to get through.

The first episode is a focus around Shuzuka as she plays the role of "Beast Buster Ekaterina Nagare," something where she takes on the personality of a beautiful maid with guns and glasses who defends the world against evil. She's accompanied by her pint sized assistant Mika-sensei as they deal with the kidnapping of their friends from the school, a school in which there's an evil aura infecting it. Shizuka and Mika go through dealing with the main villain and then the real villain afterwards in a rather hyperactive and overly cute way. What makes it awkward is that the entire episode is focused on this bit of fantasy and there isn't any lead-in to it or nods to how things are in the shows own reality. It happens just for the sake of happening with nothing related to it. It just became hard to really connect with it, especially since it jumps around so much in how it's telling the tale.

This happens again but a bit better in the next episode when Mika is walking through the halls of the school and stumbles onto a late afternoon debate among her students. The life altering subject? When to switch between winter and summer clothes since each side has its own strong beliefs about it. It's mildly amusing but as Mika goes on, she ends up falling unconscious from a smell and "time-slips" a thousand years into the future where, you guessed it, there are two warring factions based upon the argument. Mika ends up in the middle of it as a rare civilian left in a world of factionalized parties that either use magic of technology to push their agenda. Similar to the Shizuka episode, there are some amusing moments to it but overall it just feels like a lot of filler. And in a series that's essentially fluff and filler to begin with that's even worse.

As slow and tedious as these first two episodes were, the second half proved to be far better as it went back to actual school and personal related events of the cast. The third episode brings us back to the culture festival routine and the class is trying to figure out what to do, which is a good part of the show. While the play they put on before was amusing with the whole Snow White aspect, most of them want to do something new, which leads to the idea of a rice stand. Most of them fit in well to it but there are some who shall not be named that continue to like dressing up as princesses and demand that a play be put on. It's cute overall though it brings in the weird later on as the cuckoo birds of bad business arrive and put the kibosh on the entire festival for most of them. Some of the best moments are just watching the characters be themselves, from the Old Man truly looking the part to Kitagawa's Mika Balls.

What worked the best is the final episode of the series as it worked through the problem of seeing if Mika was really ready to grow up. With her being twenty-seven and completely unattached, there are plenty of members of her family wanting to help out by going through the arranged marriage route. Surprisingly, Mika's blasé about it and doesn't mind being set up since she's not taking it seriously, but it's something that she starts to think about more as time progresses on it. There are a lot of emotions that come up nicely during the course of this, from the students and their potential loss to how her own father handles it. Looking at Mika though, you have to wonder whether she's really ready and whether it'd be something where she'd even be able to provide children to a husband. That said, it's a solid episode and one that I wish we had more of, especially during these last few episodes.

In Summary:
If you're into the slice of life comedy of school aged kids and an amusing teacher with some height issues, this is a fun show to watch and overall it has plenty to offer. It's not deep, but it's meant to make you smile and simply enjoy and I think it does that in spades for most of the series. It's certainly not a series for everyone though and there are series that do what Doki Doki School Hours does better, but they continue to be relatively few and far between. This is a good stop-gap kind of show until something better comes along but it doesn't feel like a stop-gap show. I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy this going into it but it grew on me more and more as it went along. If you're a fan of this genre, it's definitely an easy pick-up.

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

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, 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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Doki Doki School Hours