ADV Films // 2002 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // November 11th, 2004
Two years down...one to go!
This is the fifth and penultimate volume of the Azumanga Daioh series. It includes the following four episodes:
* "Third Year"
The disc starts out a bit weak with this episode, establishing that the girls are now in third year. Oddly enough, all of the lead characters have found their way into Miss Yukari's class once again. All of them, that is, except Kaorin, who finds herself all alone in Mr. Kimura's class (far away from Miss Sakaki). It covers a lot of the same old ground, but there are also a couple of very funny moments.
* "School Trip"
In this episode, Chiyo gets to go on her very first school trip. The gang goes to Okinawa, Miss Sakaki meets a new friend, Tomo and Kagura go on their first airplane ride, and Yomi gets quite annoyed.
* "Entrance Exams Study Camp!"
Being in third year, the gang needs to spend the summer break studying instead of vacationing as usual. They don't want to miss out on the opportunity to go to Chiyo's summer house again, though, so they decide to turn it into a "study camp." The addition of a very excited Kaorin means that the Yukarimobile needs to be put back into service.
* "Last Sports Fest in High School"
With Kagura and Sakaki in the same homeroom, do any of the other classes have a chance at the sports fest? Unfortunately, the addition of some new and strange activities, as well as some less than stellar teamwork from Kagura and Tomi, cause some troubles for the class.
I have long given up trying to be objective about Azumanga Daioh. I found myself a little less enthusiastic about this fifth volume, but I think that may be because I have come to expect so much from the series. It's obvious that it's winding down now, and that's probably a good thing. There has never been much plot or content in the show, and none of the characters are especially deep. The jokes are starting to reach their logical ends, and if continued for much longer, a lot of the show would probably start to get repetitive and dry. Still, it's with sadness that I say that, because the whole show has been an absolute delight for me. These girls have come alive so much in these short episodes, and they are now suddenly in their last year.
This upcoming finale is emphasized in the first episode on this disc, with the girls planning ahead for their futures. There's not much time to feel sad about the inevitable end of the series, though, as the wacky and largely good-natured antics kick in again in pretty short order. The school trip works quite well because it takes the characters our of their usual situations, and a trip to Chiyo's summer home is always great fun. All in all, this is not as strong as the first or third volume of the series, but only by a bit. There is still more than enough cuteness to go around, as well as a good number of laughs.
The other tactic employed to keep the same jokes from getting old is an increased look into the minds of the girls. There are more dream and imagination segments here, which work really well and capture the feelings of the individual girls perfectly. The emphasis on Chiyo, Osaka and Sakaki from the first volume have given way to a more balanced focus, with a lot more time spent on Yomi and the friendship/rivalry between Tomo and Kagura. This shift of perspective is quite clever, as the three that got the lion's share of the attention in early episodes were the outsiders. Now that they have become a true part of the group, the perspective is now on all of the girls in the group.
If anything, the animation on the show is improving slightly. This animation seems slightly more detailed and cleaner, with some subtle changes to the characters as they get a bit older. The trip to Okinawa gives the animation team a chance to do some very different artwork, and they do a fantastic job. Once again, the video transfer captures the animation perfectly, with both a solid black level and careful attention to all the pastel tones. The sound is great as well, with a perfectly mixed Japanese stereo track or a 5.1 English dub. Over the course of these volumes the dub has started to grow on me, but I still prefer the original voice cast.
The extras are about on par with the others on the series. Although there really isn't anything on the disc, the translation notes offer a really practical way to get the cultural knowledge necessary to understand what's going on. Some character sketches are also included, as well as some interview segments from the creators of the show. I really like having some of this in a booklet rather than reading it on-screen, so I appreciate ADV's choice to handle the extras in the way that they did. Not many studios are willing to print up nice supplemental material anymore.
If you like Azumanga Daioh as much as I do, you don't need me to tell you to buy this disc. The fifth volume is a worthy addition to the show, although it wouldn't be the best place to start for people who have never seen the series. If you haven't been exposed to the show yet, but think there's a chance that you would like it, do yourself a favor and check it out. You will probably be glad you did.
The only thing this series is guilty of is rushing by too fast. Court adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2004 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 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: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated