Lucky Star Vol. #2 (also w/Limited Edition) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Kadokawa Pictures USA
  • MSRP: 29.99/49.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Lucky Star

Lucky Star Vol. #2 (also w/Limited Edition)

By Chris Beveridge     July 30, 2008
Release Date: July 01, 2008


Lucky Star Vol. #2
© Kadokawa Pictures USA

I so needed to see these characters discussing the visit of their “special friend”….

What They Say
Minoru Shiraishi here! The season of summer starts for the girls of Lucky Star and with it comes those staple images of vacation like gold fish scooping at outdoor festivals while wearing a yukata... Smashing watermelons on the beach in swim suits... and that homework due when vacation's over that I completely forgot about! Ms. Kuroi's going to kill me if I don't get that done! Knowing Konata she's probably spent the whole vacation playing online games and won't get her work done till she's copied it from Kagami. I wonder if she'd let me copy too, probably not since I don't know her that well. I really need to make some smarter friends... What? I'm getting off track? Sorry. Please watch us!

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 first one and 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 Kagami as she does her song numbers. The XL t-shirt included is similar to the first in that it’s an all white affair and it has Konata’s school swimsuit printed on both the front and back of it. It’s strangely… amusing.

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 Tsukasa is like as she’s in a Shinto priestess outfit with a small handheld shovel. 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 first volume in that there are some interesting things to be found here but they’re also a bit… odd. 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. We saw the first part on the first volume and we get two more of them here in which we see the actor and several of the production crew out doing a live action shoot for the show. I’m still not exactly sure of what the point of it all is but there are some fun moments to be had even if it does get dull at other times. It’s certainly an acquired taste would be the polite way to put it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second installment of Lucky Star bring out another four episodes of stories that aren’t all that terribly connected, much like the first volume was. Where this one feels different is that the numerous little vignettes that make up each episode seem fewer this time around and that the vignettes run a little longer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there was something to be said for some of the very quick cuts and gags that populated the first four episodes. Nothing seems to drag on too much with these episodes, but it lacks a bit of the pop and brevity that the first one had.

Of course, when it comes to Lucky Star, there isn’t really all that much going on here outside of four girls and a few friends getting into trouble. Or talking about inconsequential things as they slowly bond in unusual ways. Some of the best fun is just watching how Kagami and Konata continue to become friendlier all while mocking each other and tweaking each other. Konata’s regular references to gaming and anime only sets off Kagami since she feels that Konata isn’t even talking Japanese, while Konata simply loves to toy with the way Kagami takes things so seriously and personally. Balancing it out with the strangeness of Tsukasa and the mild cuteness that Miyuki brings to it and the group has a rather good dynamic to it , even if it is fairly predictable.

The vignettes run through some fairly standard pieces here as we have the girls visiting a summer festival in their kimonos, which in turn brings in Konata’s cousin who is somewhat daffy for being a traffic officer. What provides the most amusement with her is that she ends up awkwardly befriending the girls’ teacher but that she gets rather involved with everyone at times with what’s going on. The best scenes for her though involve her driving as her role as a traffic officer don’t jive with the way she is on her own time. The Initial D references are priceless and it’s these kinds of little gags that keep me coming back to the show. The couple of Sgt. Frog references that make their way in later also have a similar feel, but they do such a good job of mimicking character designs and bad CG animation for the Initial D homage/parody that you can’t help but to love it more.

Summer vacation is covered with a trip to the beach in which Konata is the only one wearing her school swimsuit. She reasons that she likes it because it’s simple and stress free for the way she likes to lounge, but it also does a good job of keeping the guys away. Of course, if you go by anime fans, you’d think it would be a major draw. The summer material also delves into the simple lighthearted humor revolving around homework and cleaning that must be done and the mild stresses involved with that. What was particularly amusing is the way that Konata continues to spend much of her time in her net-game instead of doing what she should be doing. What makes it all the more fun is that her teacher plays on it regularly as well and spends time in-game telling Konata not to forget what she needs to do in standard “geek speak” text.

The return to school material does set up for the busy period of their life as the arts and sports festivals are almost upon them. This is very traditional material for just about every school based series so there aren’t too many surprises to be found here. The fun is in that some of these characters do defy expectations. Konata is very much the geek girl who’d rather laze about, but she’s also rather good at sports and can handle herself well in these situations. Even more so than the others in the group who you’d suspect would be able to deal with it better than her. The sports festival offers her another chance to be blasé about it while still excelling at what she gets involved in, often through no choice of her own. Of course, all of this material is balanced out by Kagami and Tsukasa talking about how their menstrual cycles occur in an earlier episode. I don’t think that particular story really hit me until I was further into the show and watching the sports festival material. It was just completely unexpected.

Lucky Channel continues to baffle me. I feel bad for Minoru. He deserves better.

In Summary:
This set of episodes was a shift in how the series was done as the director changed out and I’m not quite sure it’s for the better. The first volume felt a bit more energetic and chaotic with more short stories mixed in. This one has a bit more continuity to it and lengthier vignettes for the characters to work through. It’s still amusing, but not quite as much. The four girls in the show are still rather cute and endearing in their own ways and it’s amusing to watch Konata rule the roost without the others quite so aware of it at times. The growing friendship between her and Kagami is the best though but the fun moments as the two sisters bond work rather well too. Miyuki comes up short this time around and only has a few good moments here and there. The show could do without Lucky Channel however.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Key Scenes Galleries,The Adventures of Minoru Shiraishi,Liner Notes,LE: Lucky Star Ending Theme Collection CD,LE: Konata School Swimsuit T-Shirt

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.

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