Judge Joel Pearce isn't anticipating the forthcoming graduation of these kicky anime gals, so he enjoys the ride while he can.
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"
• "School Trip"
• "Entrance Exams Study Camp!"
• "Last Sports Fest in High School"
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.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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