Doki Doki School Hours Vol. #4 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • 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

Doki Doki School Hours Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     May 12, 2006
Release Date: May 23, 2006


Doki Doki School Hours Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Summer vacation is for relaxing fun in the sun, right? Wrong! An American exchange student arrives and he's just as obsessed with anime and manga as Watabe. Of course, the otaku hit it off and before they know it they're transported to an alternate manga world. Later, the class focuses on a strategy for winning Sports Day. Finally, Mika-Sensei and her students come together as one big family and bring you a compelling story of love and emotion!


The Review!
Between summer fun, more school adventures and a twisted alternate world episode, Doki Doki plays up the character humor in familiar and new ways.

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 Japanese artwork continues with this volume and we get another piece that really pushes the loli aspect as Mika is in a very childlike bathing suit and holding onto a beach ball while at the poolside. It's adorable and very cute but you know exactly how it's trying to be sold. 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 expected months for the last volume.

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 closing sequence 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)
While for most longtime fans you could see the routine that the show would become on the first disc, it was pretty much solidified on the second disc and really beaten into you by the third. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy this particular brand of humor as it does work in a number of ways and it is one of those ideal shows for a weekly installment of wackiness but may lose something when you're watching it in bulk, similar to how manga cliffhangers have less significance in their collected form than in their monthly serial form.

So it's little surprise with the fourth volume that we have the gropu doing some very familiar things but with the usual twists. The show opens with another summer adventure but they get to do some different things this time as it's fun in the sun at the beach. This is a very standard kind of episode in many shows so you see the various pairings getting together and plenty of ogling of the older women in their skimpy outfits. Kitagawa gets to gush over Mika which still is cute to me while I laugh at the way Kudo deals with the buff and tanned Suetake. The pairings have been strong for several episodes now so they work well here such as the Old Man or the way Watabe deals with his obliviousness of his fellow artist. The episode does take a poor turn in the second half though as it introduces hot springs monsters and royalty along with a quirky adventure that just gets too surreal to really work well here.

This kind of surreal feel gets into a lot of the episodes on the disc. There's a new character that's introduced as an American exchange student so we get a few phrases in English here and there but he quickly fits into the cast and before you know it he's fairly well marginalized and gets less screen time than most everyone else. Some of what's done is amusing though when he arrives since he's got the idea that Japan will be a haven for him since he's a manga fan only to find that according to Watabe that Otaku are persecuted in Japan as well. This leads into a very amusing and well done version of the Untouchables as Mika takes on the role of the cops and goes after "Al Watabe" who is distributing and creating illegal manga in the city. There are a lot of really good bits with this piece, particularly when Kudo gets taken out in boys-love form by Suetake. Sort of.

Sports day returns as well but this is similar to the beach episode in that it's fairly by the numbers but not like previous sports day episodes seen in the series as it lets different characters get the focus and changes up the events a bit. Mika's competitiveness gets some amusing jokes as well as her outdated nature which she gets from her father. I still think her father is one of the more underappreciated characters in the show as he has a similar role to Ataru's father in Urusei Yatsura of mostly being the straight man but also having some very strange quirks that help explain why Mika is the way she is. This release doesn't end on an enjoyable note though as it takes the surreal turn again and does an alternate world storyline where a bunch of the students and Mika all live together as relatives while their father is out in the world exploring for certain kinds of soups. It's setup is simple enough but the execution just left me not laughing for practically the entire episode and it really felt like pure filler in a series that's mostly just light comedic fluff to begin with. Enjoyable fluff but still.

In Summary:
As much as I may rag on the surreal nature of several of the episodes on this volume, there's still a core appeal to the show as the characters, archetypes they may be, are well executed and distinct enough over the course of the series so far that there is still a good number of laughs to be had. It's a brightly lit simply character comedy that's essentially harmless. This set of episodes is weaker than what we've had before for it but depending on how much you like the surreal side of the series it may work better for you than it did for me.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean 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, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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