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Case Number 05114: Small Claims Court

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Azumanga Daioh: Rivals (Volume 3)

ADV Films // 2002 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // September 2nd, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Joel Pearce loves hanging out with these animated high school girls.

The Charge

"Anyway, we're rivals! Be seeing you."—Kagura
"Sure."—Miss Sakaki

The Case

After the second volume in the series, I was a little scared that the magic of the first volume of Azumanga Daioh was either a fluke or just something in my imagination. Well, a couple episodes into this disc it seemed that those fears were quite unfounded. This volume contains a full five episodes, which begin as the girls are starting their second year of high school.

• "We're Second Year Students!"
It seems that Miss Yukari has pulled some strings, ensuring that she won't have to learn any new names for her second year homeroom. This works well for the main cast, who are happy to be together for another year. The one new addition to the class is Kagura, who Miss Yukari wants in order to ensure victory at this year's sports fest. This episode does a good job of setting the stage for the upcoming episodes, and is also quite funny at times. I find I have an adjustment period each time I sit down to a new volume of Azumanga Daioh, as it is paced so differently from other comedy shows. I find it can be one of the show's greatest strengths, but it still takes some getting used to.

• "Kagura and Sakaki"
Kagura is excited to be a part of the class, because it gives her the opportunity to compete directly with Miss Sakaki. Unfortunately for her, Miss Sakaki doesn't seem to have any desire to compete with her, or even to hang out with her. This episode falls back on a lot of the old Miss Sakaki gags, with Kagura unable to understand her or realize what kind of person she is, and by the end the constant cat jokes continue to get tiresome. Sakaki is a fascinating character, but I don't feel that we are getting to know her enough as the series continues. This is one of the weaker episodes on the disc, but it is still better than most of the episodes on the second volume.

• "Chiyo-Chan's Day"
Most anime shows have the occasional review episode, because they help catch latecomers up mid-season and are cheap to produce because you can simply recycle the animation from earlier episodes. As with everything else, Azumanga Daioh handles review episodes a bit differently. This episode focuses on a day in Chiyo's life, in which she explains her own situation and introduces us again to the people in her life. It doesn't have any recycled animation, but like so much of the material with Chiyo, it is far more cute than funny. This kind of episode is necessary on television, but never works as well on the DVD format.

• "Exams"
The last two episodes of this volume really pick up a lot. When Yomi refuses to supply her study notes once again, Tomo gangs up with Kagura and Osaka in order to study for the upcoming exams. Will these three be able to learn all of the course material within a few days? Will Osaka show up on the right day? While Kagura has been brought in primarily as a rival for Miss Sakaki, she is a great counterpoint to Tomo, which is one of the things that make this episode really solid.

• "The Ocean, Summer, Kimonos, and a Party!"
The last episode on this volume is the best of the series this far, edging out "Osaka's Day" on the first volume by a slight margin. The whole group (except a heart-broken Kaorin) heads to Chiyo's beach house again for summer break. The interactions between the full group come together perfectly, with a slew of funny details and some great moments with Tomo and the two teachers. The end segment, with Miss Kurosawa getting drunk and having a very grown-up conversation with the girls is handled perfectly and is probably the funniest segment of the show to date. This episode definitely puts me in the mood for the fourth volume of the show.

This show rocks. Many of the jokes and quirks of the characters have been used dozens of times, but just like the best gags on Calvin and Hobbes, they get better over time because the characters feel like close friends. I know that's a pretty subjective explanation for why it works so well, but I'm afraid it's the only way I can describe it. Even when I can see where the jokes are heading in this series, the timing is so perfect that I still completely enjoy them as much. The expressions on the characters and tiny background details tell a whole different story that's just as funny.

The transfer is basically the same as the previous volumes. Because it has so many simple lines and blocks of color, there are occasional problems with aliasing in the video transfer. That seems largely unavoidable with this kind of animation, though, and I never found it distracting. The audio transfer is also excellent, and I have once again found myself singing the theme songs in my head afterwards—very catchy. As the series continues, I am finding myself less impressed with the dub track. It's not the fault of the voice actors, and I have a lot of respect for the people that translate films. So much of the humor is cultural though, and it simply doesn't translate well into English. The meaning of lines needs to be changed so much that it no longer makes sense. The best way to watch Azumanga Daioh is in Japanese, with the translation notes close at hand.

The only extras on the disc are the requisite clean opening and closing animation, as well as some production sketches. It would have been nice for ADV to put a little more effort into the extras on these discs, but at the same time I think the show does a fine job of selling itself. On the brighter side, the booklet included is quite good and the disc also comes with a very cute little lapel pin that would make Miss Sakaki blush.

Fans of the series, and hopefully there are plenty by now, will be thrilled with this third volume of the show. It has regained the magic of the first few episodes, and seems to be setting the stage for a lot more fun ahead. Any fans of comics and animation should check out this series, even if they don't normally care for shoujo shows. It is touching, heartwarming, well written and clever—things that most shows of this nature fall short of.

Well, that's enough gushing for me this time around. Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genre:
• Anime

Distinguishing Marks

• Production Sketches

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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