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Azumanga Daioh Vol. 4 - Friends
The fourth volume of Azumanga Daioh continues the comic adventures of young Chiyo-Chan and her schoolmates. The series has settled down into a pattern, but it's still one of the funniest anime series to be released this year. This volume is the best yet.
The volume starts out with another sports day, where all of the classes in the school compete against each other in a series of sporting events. These episodes are always funny, and this one is no exception. The three legged race and Chiyo-Chan's ball rolling contest were the highlights for me.
The school culture festival comes around next and Class 3 has to decide what type of booth to have. Last year's haunted house was good, but they want something even better. Someone suggests a café, and then the idea of putting on a haunted café comes up. Osaka suggests decorating the café with dead dogs and cats to give the booth a real spooky air. They settle on a "stuffed animal café" and dress Chiyo up as an unbearably cute penguin.
The rest of the volume covers Christmas, a trip to the amusement park, and even a trip to a Karaoke club. All with hilarious results.
This series continues to impress me with it's charming stories and great comic moments. The timing of the comedy in this show is just perfect. They are willing to pause the action give a joke time to come off. They don't rush the humor and it works well. I found myself laughing through every episode, and some of the shows had me rolling on the floor. I had to pause the DVD after Osaka's horror story so I wouldn't miss anything while I was laughing.
Though there isn't any deep meaning or even much continuity, this program has really drawn me in. The characters are fun and believable (for the most part) and the light stories are really enjoyable. If you enjoyed the others in this series, make sure you grab a copy of this volume.
Oh yea, and I want a father hat!
Like the previous volumes, this DVD offers the choice of the original Japanese language track in stereo or a 5.1 English dub. The 5.1 English track was more enveloping than the Japanese track, but I preferred the original language track. The female voices in the dub were all high pitched and squeaky. Osaka's voice was done with a fake southern accent that sounded really dumb. I greatly preferred the Japanese track that was clean and clear with no hiss or audio distortion.
Being a recent production, the full frame video looked pretty good. The lines were tight and sharp, and the colors clear. There was some aliasing, with the diagonal lines having a stair step effect, but this is common with animated shows. The colors were a little muted, but I think that this was the creator's intent. A fine looking disc with only minimal defects.
There's no cloisonne lapel pin included with this DVD, but the disc does have some good extras. The clear case comes with a reversible cover, and there is a 12-page booklet enclosed. The booklet had comments on each episode by various people who worked on the show. It also contained explanations of the various cultural references in the series that western audiences may not understand. This was especially helpful in explaining some of the more obscure jokes, and now I know what balloon fishing is.
The DVD itself includes a clean opening and closing, a two-minute reel of production sketches, and several trailers.
This show is consistently funny. The jokes and gags work really well. It took me the first volume to get the show's sense of humor and structure, but after that I was hooked. A great show. Highly recommended.