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Azumanga Daioh
Reviewer: Tony Huynh 03/16/2007

Based on the manga of the same name, Azumanga Daioh captures the lives of a group of girls and a handful of teachers. Set in modern day Japan, the series follows the girls as they progress from the beginning of high school to their graduation.
Though simple as it may seem, Azumanga Daioh is a character-driven series that takes place in an ordinary high school in Japan. Here we meet several main characters that make up the diverse cast of girls. A ten-year-old prodigy named Chiyo-chan enters high school after jumping from elementary school. Osaka, who thinks “outside the box,” transfers from Osaka, Japan. The very energetic Tomo attempts to best everyone at his or her own game, in athletics or academics. Sakaki, the quiet athletic girl, has a love for alley cats. Yomi, the smart girl, has a diet obsession. Finally, Kagura, the sporty type who loves competition, competes against her “rival” Sakaki. Additionally, three teachers get into the act: Yukari, who is the primary teacher of the group of girls; Minamo, a fellow teacher and rival/best friend of Yukari; and Kimura, a perverted professor.
Since the plot is thin, the main thing that this series has going for it is its range of characters and their interaction with one another during their time in high school. Unlike typical anime series about giant robots or romantic angst, Azumanga Daioh is just about normal everyday school life. There are many funny memorable moments in this series that keep people laughing, from the cultural festivities to their summer vacation. Each character represents a great deal of emotion and personality and by the end of the series; they blossom out of high school and into society. There is a lot of nostalgia towards high school when watching this series. I started to remember the good and bad times in high school and these girls are going through the same things. They are making memories that one day they can look back and laugh about it. Although there is a timeline, Azumanga Daioh is episodic in that you can start just about anywhere in the series and not have to worry about what happened before. However, I recommend watching it in order to get the full meaning and effect from the series.
The animation is clean and crisp along with the characters and their many expressions. Sadly, the actual environments are not very detailed, but this is not much of a hindrance since the attention is usually on the characters. The music score fits with the series, but for the most part, is forgettable. Although I prefer the Japanese audio track for this series, the dub does a decent job and depicts Osaka's dialect pretty well in the English version (having a southern accent). Be warned though, if you watch the Japanese audio track there are many culture puns and jokes that you may not get the first time around.
While there is plenty to like about Azumanga Daioh, the show does have a couple of issues that might turn you away. One thing is that the humor in this series is not suited for everyone. There are numerous running gags, such as Sakaki with the cats and Chiyo-chan’s father scenarios, which some people may get tired of after a while. Usually this is not a problem, but they tend to draw out some of the jokes a little too long. Additionally, the pace of the series might be a little too slow for some people, due to it being primarily slice of life and character driven show. However, these do not detract from the overall quality of the show, but may be an annoyance to some.
Azumanga Daioh is a great slice of school life comedy that engages the audience with its intriguing characters. By the time the series ended, I did shed some tears because I was into the characters so much that I could not bear to see it end. It has a memorable cast that shows the audience that characters do not have to have special powers, pilot giant robots, or have a romantic interest to be entertaining. This is a story about the lives of ordinary girls in real (for the most part) situations and making memories of their times together. I loved every minute of it.
The original manga was a series of four panel scripts that lasted four volumes.
ADV brought over both the anime and the manga to the US. Although the thinpak is available, I suggest getting the individual DVDs if you can because of the extra goodies you get like translator notes (for all those cultural references) and some volumes contain cool cloisonné lapel pins.
Also from the creator of Azumanga Daioh, Kiyohiko Azuma, is Yotsubato&!, another manga series available from ADV.

Azumanga Daioh
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Review Title:
Azumanga Daioh
Alternative Titles:
Azumanga Daioh: The Animation
650 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Comedy, School, Slice of Life
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