SPECIAL EDITION PACKAGING
Volume 2 was packaged in a thin cardboard box with illustrations on two sides. The construction is quite flimsy, prone to acquiring dings and creases if not properly handled – but that’s hardly surprising since this container isn’t designed for long-term storage. (That task that falls to the sturdy artbox that came with Volume 1.) We’ve seen this type of arrangement before, when Kadokawa and Bandai teamed up to release Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu in the US: one series artbox to hold all of the DVDs, initially containing just the first disc, followed by a disposable container for each of the subsequent volumes.
I’m in no hurry to toss this “disposable” container into the dustbin, though. The illustrations splashed over its surface might be enough to make it worthy of shelf display, provided it doesn’t reach your doorstep as a crumpled heap of cardboard.
One side (above) bears the same illustration used on the cover of the limited edition Volume 4 R2 (Japan) DVD case. The other side (below) features the same image used on the cover of the regular edition Volume 2 R1 (US) DVD case.
Here we have another unsigned masterpiece, presumably by the hand of the avant-garde artist Izumi. Compare this portrait of the gentle miko Tsukasa, her endearing expression りょうりだいすき (“I love cooking!”) immortalised on standard school-issue ruled notepaper, with Izumi’s terrifying depiction of the tyrant miko Kagami (featured on the cover of the first volume). Scholars have theorised that these two images are from the long-lost Izumi diptych “The Shrine Maidens, or Head in the Clouds vs Stark-Raving Mad”, although this remains open to debate…
You may recall that the special edition Volume 1 DVD sold in the US sported the same Kagami portrait used on the regular edition Volume 1 DVD released in Japan. The same thing was done for the special edition Volume 2 DVD, which features the jacket art first seen on the cover of its regular edition Japanese counterpart. However, unlike the previous occasion, I’m actually quite pleased with the switch since the limited edition Japanese DVD‘s jacket is pretty unremarkable.
Nevertheless, I feel compelled to repeat the question I asked last time: “Seriously, Bandai – how much of a dent in your revenues could a reversible cover have made?”
Volume 2 contains episodes 5, 6, 7, and 8 of Lucky Star. For those in need of additional information on what the episodes are about (as opposed to what the DVD contains, which is what I’m discussing here), links to sites with reviews and articles are provided towards the end of this post. Needless to say, beware of spoilers.
The usual set-up options are provided: audio in English or Japanese, with optional English subtitles.
The DVD comes with liner notes (in the form of a printed insert) that contains some remarkably detailed explanations of the myriad cultural/otaku references sprinkled throughout these episodes. The notes are categorised by episode, and within each episode they are arranged chronologically (making it easy for viewers to look up an unusual joke or gesture as soon as it comes up in the show). It’s tempting to dismiss the insert as little more than a trivia list – which it is, in a way – but one cannot underestimate its usefulness as an aid to understanding the often obscure in-jokes that generate much of the series’ special brand of humour.
Now for the extras. The bonus material on the Volume 2 DVD includes the following:
The “key scenes galleries” are slideshows of, well, key scenes set to music with on-screen text commentaries. The original text is in Japanese, but English translations are supplied.
SPECIAL EDITION EXTRAS
The special edition DVD comes with Kagami’s character album (above). Inside the jewel case is an insert containing song lyrics in romanised Japanese (with accompanying English translations).
I like the CD cover, though I can’t say the same about the songs themselves. Harmless and reasonably entertaining – but completely forgettable.
We also have a T-shirt bearing a printed reproduction of the swimsuit Konata wore in Episode 6 (front shown below; the name tag reads “Izumi”).
It’s a nice treat, and one I’m perfectly willing to pay a little extra for, but rest assured that you will NEVER see me wearing this. Ever.
Let’s face it: no matter how aggresively Bandai markets Lucky Star to the uninitiated, in the end most of their sales will probably still come from existing fans. And to an existing fan, the more pressing question isn’t “Should I pick this one up?”, but rather “Should I get the regular edition or the special edition?”.
First consideration: the price tag. Ordering the special version at list will set you back US$49.98, versus US$29.98 for the no-frills edition. (Plus shipping, handling, customs duties, etc.; it all depends on where you live and where you get your copy from.) People with generous incomes – or generous parents – are likely to dismiss the twenty-dollar price difference as inconsequential, but those operating on tighter budgets should think carefully about what the added cost will get them.
Which brings us to our next consideration: marginal benefits. (Read: extras.) In this case, US$20 will get you a character CD and a T-shirt, plus a different cover from the commoner version and a box that may or may not have any collector value. How much would you be willing to pay for these goods if they were sold separately? From my perspective, trading in another US$20 sounds fair, but it’s a borderline case. Last year’s special-edition premiums on the SHnY DVDs were more than justified since purchasers got extra video discs in the bargain (plus CDs, pillowcases, shitajiki and iron-ons). As far as extras go, Lucky Star doesn’t offer particularly good value.
(Of course, there are other things that might tip the balance one way or the other. For example, online retailers frequently offer substantial discounts on DVD sets of this kind, so it might be possible to wring out more value for every dollar spent if one manages to grab a copy at a price significantly less than list.)
In summary: a solid DVD release, but one that falls short of the high standards set by the same producers when they rolled out Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu in 2007.