Lucky Star Vol. #4 (also w/Limited Edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, December 18, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The new year and new semester is upon the girls of Lucky Star and a few new characters are introduced to spice things up a bit.

What They Say
Hey! It's Shiraishi again! The cast of Lucky Star is steadily expanding. In this volume we see the introduction of Konata's younger cousin, Yutaka. She doesn't attend school too often, she's a bit frail that way but I think that's what I like about her. I just get this feeling like I must protect her! She's so moé!

With her cousin's arrival, Konata starts feeling the pressure that goes along with being an older sister. It's all about looking smart, getting your homework done and staying up late to study for tests. Too bad she's only feeling the pressure and not actually following through. I was wondering how Yui put up with that preasure but having seen the episodes, I get the feeling that none of it really affects her. So please tune in!

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 sleepshirts 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 Miyuki as she does her song numbers. The XL t-shirt included is similar to the rest in that it’s an all white affair and it has Konata’s summer school uniform printed on the front and back.

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 Miyuki is like as in her gym outfit. It’s a great crayon drawing that really pushes a certain kind of feeling that the show has. 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 twelve 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Four volumes in and Lucky Star has really worked to its particular rhythm of being about very little. That’s almost unfair in a way but it is rather accurate. There’s nothing major or epic here, nor are there any situations that the girls end up in that even have them really panicking in a serious way. The most that happens is that some of them get a little behind on their studying for exams or homework and they get in a little tizzy because of that. It’s all mellow and harmless for the most part, which is a big part of its appeal.

These four episodes are essentially more of the same really. With the new year done and over with, the show deals with the characters enjoying the end of their vacation, a vacation that of course goes by too quick, and the return to routine. The girls cover some of the basics of the time of year by talking about giving chocolates, which has Kagami actually dealing with the potential of giving some to someone. Far more amusing is Konata however as she’s very up front about the fact that she’s giving chocolates to someone this year. The reality of it is far different however as the roles are reversed and it’s done entirely online since she’s such a social internet geek. Though the other girls, mostly Kagami, give her grief about it and the way she handles herself, depending on the viewer it could seem like Kagami is the one more out of touch than Konata.

There’s one rather significant change to the series just past the halfway mark here as the new semester gets underway. That’s the arrival of Yutaka into the Izumi household. Though Konata has always called Yui her sister, she is really her cousin and Yui has her own little sister. Yutaka has come to live with Konata and her father as she’s now going to high school in the same place as Konata and living there will help immensely with her commute. Yutaka is a fun little character, and little does run in the family as she is somewhat short. She’s not exactly dwarfed by others in her class, but she’s struggling and it doesn’t help when she sees that Konata isn’t all that much taller than her and is a few years old. Yutaka brings a little more mellow nature to the show, but she has her moments of panic as well as she deals with living with Konata and a new school.

More amusing is the way that Konata deals with the situation. She certainly gets along well with Yutaka and doesn’t have any apparent issues with her fellow friends, but she’s suddenly finding herself in something of an older sister role. When she does the comparison to how her relationship with Yui is, since she’s often calling her older sister in a somewhat mocking tone, it’s amusing to see the strong differences between how the relationships are. The act of having Konata “complain” about it to Kagami is even more amusing and that leads to a view of how the Hiiragi household operates since she and Tsukasa have two older sisters. Tsukasa is certainly babied in her own way there and it’s an interesting loving family dynamic that isn’t quite represented by what Kagami says when she first talks about it.

Lucky Star does continue to run some odd and amusing situations. The anime/gaming store that Konata often goes to has its staff continuing to try and get her to buy stuff and she manages to escape unscathed each and every time. It’s an amusing game of cat and mouse in a way with how it plays out. What was really amusing this time around was seeing the little café that Konata works in which is basically a Haruhi cosplay café, including having an actual dance number done during it. The others in the group are pretty unsure about what they’re saying, and watching the confusion and near disbelief in Kagami is worth the price of admission alone. Toss in several more Lucky Channel segments, some of which are actually entertaining as Akira finally gets her big debut, and you’ve got a decent collection of little stories and snippets overall for these girls.

In Summary:
Lucky Star is moving right along as the class year progresses, the characters grow ever so slightly and new situations are introduced that adds some minor changes. It has that air of realism, the lack of real drama and a sense of true slice of life feel while still bringing in the absurd and weird. Being able to manage all of it while keeping the characters cute, fun and relatively realistic isn’t an easy chore. But they do surprisingly well in pulling it off here with an easy flow to all of it. Lucky Star doesn’t have that single thing to pull it all together into a cohesive show, but that’s not the point. It’s simply to let us have a look at this girls growing up in this particular age, anime style, and to enjoy it. I find myself rarely laughing, but I’m smiling often and enjoying it thoroughly.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Key scenes galleries, The Adventures of Minoru Shiraishi, Liner notesLimited Edition: Girls Summer Uniform T-Shirt, Miyuki Character 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: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Kadokawa Pictures USA
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