Video - Daria the Complete Animated Series
Equipment used in review:
As with the other DVDs, I won't be reviewing the episodes themselves here, since that's spread all over the site. I will say that some things about the show don't bother me as much as they used to. Some bother me more. On the whole, it's actually held up pretty well.
Might as well start off with the big two issues. Is It College Yet? is still the cut version, not the full original broadcast. This appears to be tied to the second problem, namely music copyright. This is hardly unexpected, since it's been the main factor delaying the series getting a DVD release. An insert helpfully explains the issues, for those who haven't been following this:
The music was almost completely replaced. Splendora's music is still there, but that and Mystik Spiral's compositions are about it. Which makes a couple scenes lose their comedy. In truth, though, the music isn't really as bad as it could be. At least, most of the time I didn't find it distracting from the dialog, which is the emphasis of the series anyway. It didn't, however, add to it, which the original soundtrack could do.
To demonstrate, here's some short clips from College Board.
Moving on to the positive side, the video quality on the DVD is a definite step up from the VHS release. No real complaints here. It's low-budget 90s cell animation, and they didn't do any of the obvious extreme edge enhancement mistakes.
There is some extra copyright protection going on. Not in any way that hurts playback, just that my usual bitrate measuring tool isn't working on the whole discs. What I can see is coming it at around 5 Mb/sec, which is really plenty for this material.
Happily, the episodes do indeed use the uncut versions, not the version aired on The N, with the one exception of Is It College Yet?
The cover doesn't particularly jump off the shelves at you, but the front cover works well for this series. Daria probably would have actually written her name with a capital letter, though. I'm more curious about the selection of characters on the back cover. Daria, Jane and Quinn are self-explanatory. Trent could even make sense as a choice. Kevin and Brittany over everyone else I'm less sure of.
The hubs holding the DVDs in place are good. The discs don't come off easily on their own, but you don't have to use disc-bending force to pry them off, either. I'm not familiar with this particular mechanism, but it's working. Which is more than I can say for hinge holding in the flaps all the DVDs are mounted on. This has a tendency to drop the entire set in your lap if you hold the case up.
Each DVD has a character portrait or two on it. Daria and Jane each get their own DVD. Several of the other pairs make sense: Kevin and Brittany, Helen and Jake, Jodie and Mack. Mr. DeMartino and Ms Li go well together, although Mr. DeMartino looks even angrier than usual about it. Stacy does not look happy about sharing a disc with Charles. Quinn and Trent don't look like they mind sharing, but given who it is, they may not have noticed each other yet.
There are some. Most of them are on the last disc, but you can see the introductions used in the Daria Day marathon if you play episodes individually. Not all episodes were in this marathon, of course, so only the ones that were have these. More attention could have been called to these. Although they do get a mention on the back cover, nothing says where they're located until you go select individual episodes.
There are also character profiles, although these are just short descriptions of the characters. More interesting is the accompanying short videos, which shows the evolution of the character art from concept to the ones used in the show.
The pilot, "Sealed with a Kick", is included, as is the full "Freakin' Friends" video.
I'm not sure why they chose to include this, but they've also got a set of music video intros done by Daria and Jane for an MTV top ten countdown. Videos, of course, not included. There were other intros, such as the Sarcastathon or the Garbage video introduction, that could have been included as well, but weren't.
If you've got a computer around (and if you don't, how are you reading this?) there's also a PDF of a script Glenn put together about a possible Mystik Spiral centric spin-off. Hopefully any remaining script-format fanfic authors will enjoy having a reference of an actual script format to work from, but I'm not sure that MTV Animation closing down before this could get animated was a bad thing. Then again, Daria wasn't exactly a fully fleshed out and realized character on Beavis and Butthead, so maybe they could have pulled something from these four eventually.
The biggest lost opportunity in the extras is the so-called Cast Interviews. Despite the title, this is just a six-minute segment of brief comments from various cast and crew, with production sketches and clips from the show mixed in. Most of this gives the impression of being cut from longer interviews, so it's disappointing they didn't spend more time on these. With a show of this vintage, though, we should probably be thankful MTV bothered to do anything like this at all.
There are issues with the release, but they were expected. Not much can be done about them until 2100 or so, when the copyrights on the music finally expire (and assuming there's not another Steamboat Willie protection extension). Unless MTV is still around and interested in this series then, this is probably as good as it's going to get. All in all, about the only reason not to buy this set is because you've still got a full set of recordings of the original broadcasts. In which case you probably want to buy it to support the series anyway. Or, you know, write a review for your site.
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