Flashback: Azumanga Daioh

Show: Azumanga Daioh— Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, School — Episodes: 26

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I’d like to begin this article by apologizing. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for turning the video below into a meme among some of the Gator Anime community.

Azumanga Daioh was first a “yonkoma,” essentially a comic strip that read from top to bottom, published in Dengeki Daioh magazine. It’s primarily a comedy, but it integrates a lot of slice of life elements and occasionally more emotional moments. The anime would follow a couple of years later and adapts a lot of the stories and gags. It is classified as shonen, which may surprise readers given the nearly all-female cast and the focus on high school girls doing…high school girl things. Surprisingly, it paid off, and a lot of later shows, such as Lucky Star and Nichijou, would follow a similar concept.

The story follows the misadventures of six high school girls, three of their teachers and the incidental people around them. The girl with (arguably) the most focus is child prodigy Chiyo, who enters high school at the age of 10, and has to spend a lot of time learning about how high school works. The character with the most development is probably Sakaki, the tall, athletic and dreadfully shy girl who strikes fear into the hearts of everybody, none of the qualities she wants. The other main girls include Tomo, a hyperactive jackass, Yomi, Tomo’s ever suffering friend and complete opposite, Osaka, the polite, imaginative, ditzy, and overall kinda weird girl, and Kagura, the emotional sports junkie.

Other important characters include their teachers Yukari Tanizaka and Minamo Kurosawa, both of whom get a few stories to themselves. Yukari is essentially a grown-up Tomo (though lazier and a little smarter) while Ms. Kurosawa is very sweet and, of course, Yukari’s best (and probably only) friend. She gets incredibly tired of her antics. There’s also Kaorin, a girl who has a crush on Sakaki (mostly played for humor), and Mr. Kimura, the perverted, but ultimately harmless goofball that mostly just acts as a jump scare to the girls.

Most of the series is just following the characters in their everyday lives and watching the experiences and adventures that arise from their interactions. Most episodes are just a series of events that don’t always have much to do with each other; the girls will be having a conversation one moment and be walking home the next. The comedy is mostly very situational and character-based, but some parts approach sketch comedy. Some sketches are nothing, but the tangents and rambling by the girls as they sit in class.

While most of the stories are played for humor, a lot of character shines through in how they bounce off one another. This is where the slice of life elements are more apparent, though it usually swings back to comedy pretty quick. The humor can also intertwine with actual character development. Watching Sakaki continuously try to pet cats is both funny and kind of heartbreaking at the same time, for example.

The anime is an incredibly faithful adaption of the manga, consisting entirely of jokes and plots from the manga. It mimics the yonkoma’s usage of “beat panels” by having long moments of silence as a character’s expression changes or otherwise reacts. This might be a bit odd to viewers of faster-paced comedies like Nichijou or Daily Lives of High School Boys, but it lends it’s own charm. The music is very memorable, really cutesy and odd, highly fitting the series. The opening and ending themes are both very good as well; the opening theme sounds very upbeat and quirky while the ending theme is very somber.

The English dub I highly recommend. Though I don’t recognize most of the voice actors, I must give a nod to Luci Christian and Jason Douglas, both of who perform excellently as Yukari and Chiyo’s father, respectively. The biggest thing you’ll be missing out on is Norio Wakamoto, once again as Chiyo’s father, and as always, he’s awesome.

As for flaws, the show might be too slow-paced for some people to be engaged, and while I find that part of the charm, it might not be for everyone. Being a comedy series, it’s of course very much up to the individual if they find it funny.

Honestly though, I find very little fault in Azumanga Daioh. The manga is a ton of fun and, despite it’s format, has a lot of characterization. For most people, I’d actually say to check out the anime, given its masterful translation of the yonkoma, and I feel the slow pace of the show really heightens the slice of life elements. It isn’t for everyone, but I think it has more of a universal appeal (as far as anime is concerned) than other shows in its wake, and it never ceases to make me smile and feel content when I’m watching it.

Derek Delago is a UF student who is also an anime club officer. He loves anime, video games and rock.

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