A festival of fun, so come one, come all!
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 12/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The fun continues with the new semester, which opened in the last moments of episode 5. Here, the usual gang of girls compete in the Sports Festival. The various homeroom classes compete and the zealously competitive teacher Yukari Tanizaki tells her students to give no quarter to Class 5, a.k.a. the class of Minamo "Nyamo" Kurosawa, the PE teacher. The tall gallant Sakaki is a superior and excellent athlete here, and shows gallantry to teeny-tiny Chiyo-chan, who's worried and feels guilty that her lack of athleticism will drag everyone down. Sakaki places a reassuring hand on Chiyo, saying, "Don't worry. Leave it to me." Although Sakaki wins a few events, Chiyo and Osaka fail miserably and funnily in the three-legged race, never even leaving the starting line as they repeatedly fall down in unison.
Yukari's competitiveness and overzealousness can be demonstrated when she brags to Nyamo that she has Sakaki on her team, but flies into a rage when she discovers Nyamo has the equally athletic Kagura and even tries to sabotage Nyamo's star player by offering Kagura an adzuki bean-filled bread roll. I presumed it was spiked or is filling enough to slow athletes. The final relay featuring Sakaki and Kagura is nail-biting excitement. In the end, Nyamo comes off as the better teacher, as she thinks trying one's best is better than winning.
During the folkdance following the sports fest, Kaorin gets to dance with Sakaki, who is put on the boy's side to even things out. Kaorin is in sheer heaven here, with colourful backgrounds, a field of flowers, a ringing temple bell, and her blissed-out voice ringing out wishing she could hold hands with Sakaki forever. That sensation is drowned out with her next dancing partner, the pervy Mr. Kimura who's a cackling goon here.
The Culture Festival, where the classes stage projects to raise money and even participate is a fine example of innovation and teamwork. Chiyo-chan is the class representative and thanks to an idea given anonymously (though there is a visual cue to Sakaki), the class hold a stuffed animal festival. The ever-energetic Tomo gets into the spirit of things by running around in a life-sized cat suit, spreading cuteness everywhere, and scaring Ms. Kurosawa and Yomi. The cat badges and stick-on teddy bear ears are cute, even on Sakaki. There's a bizarre but funny moment when Osaka gives two stuffed animals these names, Tsutenkaku, a tower that's a landmark of her eponymous hometown, and Hanshin, the name of a railway company, which totally befuddles a customer. However, the swim team's café is beset by Mr. Kimura, who thinks the swim team should be serving beverages in their swimsuits. Failing to get that concession, his request for a glass of pool water that the girls had been swimming in grosses out Kagura and sends her coach, Ms. Kurosawa, into a dead faint. This story introduces Mr. Tadakichi, Chiyo-chan's pet Great Pyrenees dog; petting or merely sitting beside him fills Sakaki with such happiness.
The Hatsuyume or New Years' Dreams episode, reveals a lot about some of the characters. Tomo-chan beating Chiyo-chan in grades and Sakaki in sports, as well as being a superhero, shows how much she loves being the center of attention, but also her desire to be better. Osaka's dream is the loopiest, taking the step of Chiyo-chan's detachable pigtails further in that they flap like wings, enabling Chiyo to fly! It's in Sakaki's dream, where she yearns to have a cat, that the weird orange-looking cat that's one of the series' mascots, has some lines. The shots of Sakaki with the levitating orange cat, whom she gets to spend time with, show her in bliss, walking with it through the fields, sitting with it, and she's visibly shocked when the cat bids her farewell. The question facing her is where and how can she get a real cat? And Sakaki herself is shown as a noble prince/rescuer in the dream of her #1 admirer, Kaorin.
Episode 9 is devoted to Sakaki's quest to pet a cat or find an adequate substitute, is covered. Her crying at the happy ending of a kid's movie, where a little girl is reunited with her lost kitten, shows her sensitive side. Fortunately, no cats bite her here-they merely run away. A scene where she pats a mechanical kitten and it breaks down is funny. The usual gang minus Kaorin and Chihiro are invited to Chiyo's 11th birthday party, where they give her gifts. Osaka's present, a stuffed animal, totally freaks out Sakaki, as it's someone she met in her Hatsuyume. Hint-it's orange. The finale has them admiring a beautiful sunset, and Sakaki finds herself swept into it, imagining them running, rolling around, and laughing together in the clouds. What a way to end the story, thanks to the vision of a true romantic, Sakaki!
The bonus includes art studies of Osaka, the male student Ohyama, Mr. Tadakichi, Kamineko, the biting cat, and the orange Azumanga cat."