ADV Films // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // July 22nd, 2004
It's fall...and that means festivals!
Judging from my first review, it should be no surprise to anyone that I was excited to crack open this second volume of Azumanga Daioh. The first volume was incredible, with a perfect blend of cuteness, humor, and manic weirdness. This second disc is entertaining as well, but doesn't seem to have the magic that the beginning of the series had. This volume has four episodes of the show:
* "Sports Fest"
The first episode on the disc finds Miss Yukari's class going head to head with Miss Kurosawa's class in the annual sports festival. Miss Yukari has made a bet with Nyamo over whose class will win, so she puts a lot of pressure on her girls to perform. Miss Sakaki should make victory easy, but class 5 has a star athlete as well. It's a decent episode, but it certainly doesn't do anything that hasn't already been done on the show.
* "Culture Fest"
The annual culture fest is coming up, and class 3 needs to come up with a great idea. They end up deciding to put on a stuffed animal exhibit. Miss Sakaki is the focus once again, and her obsession with cute animals. They also make a cat costume that they take turns wearing. I think this is the weakest episode to date, as it is much cuter than it is funny.
* "New Year's Dream Special"
Osaka, Tomo, Miss Sakaki, and Kaorin each have a New Year's Dream. In Japanese tradition, whatever you dream on New Year's Eve will come true. This is definitely the most bizarre episode yet, as well as the best on this volume. I won't try to describe each of these dreams here, but they have the fast pacing, twisted humor and subtlety of the early episodes that I have missed so much in this volume.
* "Miss Sakaki"
The last episode on this volume follows Miss Sakaki through her animal loving adventures. We learn that she is not allowed to have animals at home, which is probably the reason she follows cats around the neighborhood, trying to pet them and take pictures of them. It's Chiyo-Chan's birthday, so she needs to try to find the perfect present. This last episode is better than the festival episodes as well, and it ends on a touching note.
I know that anything I am going to say in this review will make Azumanga Daioh: Volume 2 sound terrible. It's not. It's just not nearly as good as the first volume was. Most of the laughs in the original volume were from Osaka and Tomo, who are both largely ignored this time around. Most of the focus in this second disc is on Miss Sakaki. The jokes surrounding her and the fact that she seems intimidating but really likes cute animals and stuff get old in a hurry, but they just keep coming. The best jokes in these episodes are from Kaorin and her unhealthy obsession with Miss Sakaki.
The pacing is also weaker. On the most part, each of the episodes on this volume is much more consistent. They have a plot arch that runs the full 22 minutes. The series is still based on a four-panel strip, though, so it really did work better when each episode was a series of thematically connected sketches. In the two festival episodes especially, it feels like the creators needed to use a lot of padding to fill the whole running time. This padding usually takes the place of blatant repetition or the recycling of old jokes.
There is some good news as well. Azumanga Daioh is still incredibly cute, and there is something very charming about the simple, mundane adventures of the students in class 3. Girls in their early teens that are interested in anime (all 15 of them) will still go nuts over the show. As well, the funny moments of these episodes are very funny. The creators of this series have a remarkable comedic timing, and a second viewing helps to highlight the smaller things that are happening in the background.
The animation is just as clean as it was on the first volume. The sound is great as well, although I found the quality of the English track has dropped a great deal in quality. The dub actresses simply don't correctly capture the tone of the series, making the Japanese track a much better choice. In the extras department, the disc is certainly lacking. The translation notes in the booklet are still very helpful, and the disc comes in a very attractive package, but there are virtually no extras on the disc itself. There are a series of production sketches, but they seem to be similar to the ones included in the booklet. Other than that, all we get are a few trailers.
Even though there has been a slight drop in quality on this second volume, Azumanga Daioh is a show that's hard not to like. It's simple, straightforward, subtle, and extremely cute. Fans of the series will be happy to tear into another volume, and the undecided will likely be satisfied by it as well.
Everyone involved is free to go, but I do hope that the magic of the first few episodes returns in the third volume of the show.
Review content copyright © 2004 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated