Happy November everyone! We’re going back a little bit in time- and for some readers, it may be a burst of nostalgia. Here’s a belated Halloween “treat” for everyone!
Series: Azumanga Daioh
Studio/years aired: J.C. Staff, 2002
Reviews are back! In a twist to begin November, it’s Azumanga Daioh- an early 2000’s show that’s a classic within its genre. Indeed, the focus of this piece hearkens back to a show that can be construed as the progenitor of a “slice of life”/”moe” explosion in the years to come. The genre as a whole has a lot of interesting shows, several of which I’ve discussed before in other reviews.
Recommended to me (like a number of other good shows that have been written about here), there was an excitement of the unexpected. It was true that the show existed in a part of my mind (the title at least) but there wasn’t the slightest clue what it might be about. Azumanga Daioh could be described as a hybrid of Nichijou’s brand of humor, K-On! in the high school progression and adventures of the characters, and Lucky Star in the casual day to day sense, along with a clever reference or three. In saying that, it’s more accurate to pin this show as an inspiration for all those influential SOL’s and the genre at large- because it came first.
Of those shows though, Azumanga Daioh without a doubt, is the spiritual predecessor of Nichijou. Following the lives of the six main girls in their high school careers, it’s an often zany ride between their respective personalities, inconsistently consistent teachers with their own agendas, strange daydreams, and Tomo being Tomo. The surreal humor and superb timing on gags makes it an easy stylistic comparison.
Despite being busy with both many real life tasks and the ubiquity of animation in general, this in particular reminded me again of the value in returning to older titles, be it anime or Western animation. Azumanga Daioh allowed a whole genre to take flight after it- and yet remains a very good show in its own right, and one that has stood the test of time well so far. Indeed, it is an archetype show- and still holds up very well despite nearly two decades passing. It has a good dub (not always a given from the early 2000’s), an easy cast of characters to follow along, humor that works pretty well by and large, and fairly good animation from its era. In a word, it is “fun” and definitely worth a look.
(Also…if you watch, you’ll find out what a “Yukarimobile” is, who Chiyo’s father is, and many other amusing oddities. Have fun!)
Animation: Traditional 2-D animated. The early 2000’s was a transitional time in the methods used, but this series shined due to its visual humor and absurdist gags melding so well into the form. It’s not the shiny gloss of a series in 2019, but it was both representative of its period and genre- and has held up really well. An excellent understanding of the medium here!
Characterization: The show revolves around the daily high school lives of six girls and their homeroom teacher- the impulsive and often reckless Yukari- and each of them is easily categorized by some major defining trait.
Chiyo Mihama is a child prodigy- a 10 year old who skipped straight to high school. Bright, polite and absolutely adorable, she’s as close to being the lead character as anyone in this show, and is generally adored by her friends and teachers alike. Her family is surprising wealthy and as a result, the group often meets up at her large house. Chiyo’s also the owner of a large and loyal dog- Mr. Tadekichi.
In contrast, “Osaka”- real name Ayumu Kasuga- is the resident airhead. Despite being the other transfer student along with Chiyo, her generally happy disposition comes with a “pie in the sky” approach to most things. Easygoing as they comes, no one’s quite sure what goes through her mind…except Osaka herself, and it’s always an adventure.
Speaking of mindgames, Sakaki’s a tall, athletic and well-developed girl who is generally percieved to be cool and stoic by many of her peers. In reality, she’s a kind girl with an obsession for cute things, especially animals and cats in particular, which she loves. She gets along especially well with the younger Chiyo, and adores her dog, Mr. Tadekichi.
Her self-proclaimed rival is the sports star Kagura, who starts the series in another class, but by the second year joins the rest of the main cast in Kagari’s homeroom. A swimmer on the school team, she views the former as her main competition, but in an amusing twist, Sakaki is unaware any such rivalry exists.
Alongside these girls are childhood friends Yomi and Tomo. Despite knowing each other a long time, they are almost complete opposite personalities, and in Yomi’s case, she’s often disapproving of the latter. A serious student who secretly harbors concern about her waistline, and a sense of fun beneath a usually sarcastic front, she’s the brighter bulb of the two.
Tomo’s an energetic girl- perhaps too energetic for her own good. Personality wise, she take quite a bit after Yukari, between her self-absorbed pranks and general rudeness towards her friends. Along with Kagura and Osaka, the trio’s academic prowess leaves something to be desired, leading to a certain nickname later in the show…
A concise cast of characters, they cast archetypes for countless SOL’s to come. As the originals, they’ve held up, and perhaps most importantly, remain characters rather than caricatures. The supporting cast compliments the main crew well- and overall, they all help carry the show.
Story: The plot of Azumanga Daioh follows the main cast’s journey through high school, though the episode to episode events are much more self-contained in nature. That isn’t to say continuity doesn’t exist, because it does- often culminating in humorous results. Featuring a snappy, humorous episode to episode approach, often with some surreal results, this show is a load of fun to watch.
Themes: Despite its silliness and quirkiness, the show focuses on some realistic theming, from the challenges of high school to the perils of relationships. That said…it’s a very laid back show with a great deal of comedy. What it does, it does fine, and that’s plenty enough for this style.
Don’t Insult the Viewer: Generally a clean show, although there’s one fairly creepy teacher whose actions can be offputting, to say the least (although it’s clearly meant as a running gag.) A really unique opening and ending help, as both are rather catchy and visually amusing; the music in the show does a nice job syncing with the comedic timing of gags. Intangibly, the series does well.
Overall: 21/25 (84%). Azumanga Daioh is more than a mere archetype show, holding up well years after its release with its quirky, lovable cast and fast-paced sense of humor. It’s a must watch for “slice of life” fans and for anyone in particular who watched and enjoyed Nichijou.
Like what you see? Big fan of Azumanga Daioh? Leave a comment!