SPECIAL EDITION PACKAGING
Volume 3 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 5 R2 (Japan) DVD case. The other side (below) features the image that was first used on the cover of the limited edition Volume 6 R2 (Japan) DVD case.
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 cover switch was done for Volume 3, the jacket of which bears the Konata doodle that first appeared on its Japanese regular-edition counterpart.
And as before, we still don’t have a reversible cover.
Volume 3 contains episodes 9, 10, 11, and 12 of Lucky Star. If you’re 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), click on the links supplied in the episode list below to view Random Curiosity‘s screencap-loaded episode write-ups. Needless to say, beware of spoilers.
: Food! Between a sushi horoscope and an all-you-can-eat cake buffet, who wouldn’t come out from watching this episode feeling peckish?
: Merchandise! The friendly neighbourhood Animate salespeople prepare to welcome Legendary Girl A. Minorin explodes over the definition of “tsundere”.
: Christmas! On the agenda: Santa Claus, police dramas, instant noodles.
: Comiket! Konata drags the Hiiragi twins along with her to the mother festival of otakudom. Chaos ensues – for Tsukasa, at least. Loads of doujin, cosplay, and shrine maiden goodness.
The series got off to a fairly weak start, as if the production team were still learning the ropes of yonkoma adaptations; but by the time we get to the third disc one feels that they’ve finally hit their stride. Volume 3 features some of my favourite scenes – mostly in Episode 12 (Comiket!) – and the overall entertainment value is substantially higher than in the previous volumes.
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 3 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.
The “textless opening” is a clean, video-only version of Lucky Star‘s opening sequence. This differs from the “opening with lyrics” found on Volume 1, which I previously described as follows:
The “opening with lyrics” is – now how shall one describe it? I suppose it’s a clean opening with a difference, the difference being that Japanese lyrics appear everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE) in various font sizes and wild layouts, sometimes virtually blotting out the scenes. (I’m guessing the clean “clean opening” has been reserved for a later volume [EDIT: Volume 3, as we now know].)
SPECIAL EDITION EXTRAS
The special edition DVD comes with Tsukasa’s character album (above). I haven’t taken it out of its plastic wrapper just yet, but I guess it’s safe to assume that like the CDs included with Volumes 1 and 2, we’ll find an insert containing song lyrics in romanised Japanese (with accompanying English translations) inside the jewel case.
(Nice cover. I hope the songs are just as good.)
We also have a T-shirt bearing a printed reproduction of the PE uniform used in the series (front shown below).
Unlike the last two shirts, which were great collectibles but seemed like open invitations for mugging if used outside one’s house, this one actually looks fit to be worn in public. (Not that I’d actually wear it or anything.)
My general opinion hasn’t changed much from the previous installment, so the next few paragraphs are just a copy-and-paste (with minor edits) of the concluding section of my Volume 2 review. I’ve added some Volume 3-specific thoughts after the line of asterisks at the end.
Let’s face it: no matter how aggresively Bandai markets Lucky Star to the uninitiated, in the end most of their sales will probably 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 Yuuutsu back in 2007.
Overall, my opinion of Volume 3 is better than what I thought of Volume 2. The same issues persist – few extras, high price, etc. – but since this disc contains some of my favourite episodes, I feel as if I’m getting better value for money this time around. Other than that, there’s still plenty of room for improvement, and with three more volumes to go Bandai have more than enough in the way of opportunities to make good things happen.