Chiyo may only be ten-years-old, but she is so intelligent that she has just begun high school. Her new school is full of interesting students. Before the conclusion of her first day, she is already friends with a diverse group of individuals. There is another new girl, Osaka, who is always day dreaming about the most unusual things. Tomo and Yomi have always gone to school together, and they are good friends even though their personalities are polar opposites, and they are constantly bickering. Sakaki is a tall, “cool” girl with a hidden soft spot for anything cute, especially cats. These are just a few of Chiyo’s new classmates, and it looks like they are all in for an entertaining high school career.
summary by Gatts
Highs: Absolutely hilarious; unique, memorable characters
Lows: You’ll either love it or hate it
Many twenty-six-episode comedies tend to get less humorous after their novelty begins to wear off, but occasionally a series remains just as amusing for its entirety. Azumanga Daioh falls into the latter of the two. I can’t recall an anime that had me laughing quite as much.
The student body in Azumanga Daioh is one of its strongest assets. Their distinct personalities complement each another nicely, and the chemistry between both characters and seiyuu is exceptional. This chemistry is a crucial element considering the fact that a great deal of the humor is character based. There isn’t too much along the lines of character development, but they are still much more than shallow puppets. It stays away from lowbrow jokes and instead uses fairly innocent ones about school life. Each episode consists of five smaller, often unrelated, subsections (an interesting side note is that the series was also aired in an alternate format with one mini-episode shown every day). This quick pace helps keep the show moving without lingering on any single joke for too long, and it spans the girls’ entire high school careers. It jumps around between each character, so everyone’s favorite characters are sure to get a decent amount of screen time.
Be warned: Azumanga is not for everyone. It will have some people rolling on the floor laughing, but it will put others to sleep. Viewers who do not enjoy the early episodes will most likely not enjoy the later episodes, either. Also, it’s important to note that quite a few of the jokes rely heavily upon knowledge of Japanese culture and society, but the show is still extremely enjoyable even if you are not well versed in it.
Azumanga Daioh‘s excellent use of characters creates an experience unlike most others. It quickly became my favorite comedic series, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good laugh.
Highs: Unique brand of comedy; all-star cast of characters; amazing seiyuu work
Lows: Some jokes are used to death
An anime with literally no plot whatsoever and episodes made up of five unrelated subsections. The idea might sound strange, but it, at least in the case of Azumanga Daioh, works like magic. This is an ingenious comedy that needs not rely on slapstick or the main character being punched into the sky, but instead takes everyday events, such as buying juice from the vending machine, and making them roll-on-the-floor hilarious.
You read right; there is basically no plot to be found here. Like many comedy shows out there, the entire anime relies on the cast of characters. Unlike many comedy shows out there, the characters are surprisingly deep. Each character in Azumanga Daioh has such a diverse personality that everyone will have a favorite character that they love or just love to hate. Each girl gets plenty of time in the spotlight, leaving all fans happy.
The style of animation will give you the feeling of manga come to life. The drawings are simple, and there aren’t any flashy effects. As is in the case of Azumanga Daioh, simple is the answer. Catchy tunes and an amazing seiyuu cast certainly help, too. In fact, my only real complaint throughout this anime that is worth mentioning is the overuse of some jokes. There are a few that just go on too long and really kill them.
Not everyone will enjoy this anime, and if there was ever a “love it or hate it” anime, this is it. If this kind of comedy sounds like your niche, however, I highly recommend checking this one out. You just may end up as one of the many die-hard Azumanga fans out there.
Highs: Brilliant humor that hits the target again and again; amazingly likable, diverse cast; seiyuu fire on all cylinders
Lows: Not enough Yukari-sensei!
Let me get this out up front:Azumanga Daioh is about as perfectly a balanced comedy as you will likely see in any medium, anime or not.
This series borrows comedic styles from a nice sampling of other anime. Combine the random insanity of Di Gi Charat with the punch line delivery and timing of My Neighbors the Yamadas, and you have a blend of laughs that is unlike any seen in anime. Admittedly, this mix is an acquired taste, and it took me about three episodes to acclimate myself to the atmosphere. The jokes are consistently on target, and despite the reused school themes, nothing about this anime ever grows stale. To maintain such a high level of quality for an entire series is no small feat for dramas, but for a comedy to accomplish this deserves the utmost of praise. There is a quiet, understated brilliance to the sequence of events, the dialogue, even the positioning of characters in any given scene. If I could explain it by breaking down its components, I would. Alas, the only way to understand the underpinnings of this anime is to see it for yourself.
The old saying goes that a comedian is only as good as his material. I say the comedian makes his material work, and much of what makes Azumanga Daioh work is its comedians. The cast (and their seiyuu, which are matched perfectly) are about as diverse as a group of people can get. They aren’t necessarily deep, and with the exception of Sakaki and possibly Kagura, there isn’t much in the way of character development. But the characters are genuine, and their interactions with each other are so authentic that they feel like real, likable people.
Perhaps what viewers will appreciate the most about Azumanga Daioh is that the cast of characters acts like friends. Like any friends, they share life’s experiences together. They piss each other off, they make each other laugh… and they make each other cry. In the end, they’ll be your friends, too.
Highs: Hilarious and endearing; re-watchable
Lows: Some jokes may miss the mark
“Goodbye sadness!” declares the opening song of Azumanga Daioh, and the series delivers on that promise. This is a show that manages to have no strong plot yet provides laughs, joy and a bit of nostalgia for school days gone by. Although a number of jokes might fly over some viewers’ heads, Azumanga Daioh is a great series that can be watched time and time again.
With a cast of characters as wacky as it gets, each one of them has their own unique charms to match their quirks. With perfect timing and delivery by the talented seiyuu cast, Yukari-sensei and Chiyo-chan, in particular, never fail to produce a smile. Not all of the humor will be to every viewer’s taste; the need for explanation on some of the jokes with a cultural basis can take too much effort to truly understand. Throw in random flying cats and removable ponytails and this show might just be a little too weird to be appealing to some.
Although this series is not for everyone, if you find yourself chuckling within the first few episodes, then it is for you. By the end of the show, older viewers might feel a bit of nostalgia and most can identify with the bittersweet feeling of graduating from high school.
Perhaps the best thing about Azumanga Daioh is that their adventures can be re-lived over and over. One of the few series that can be watched at any point as often as the urge strikes you, this comedy never loses its punch. With the episodes in vignette format, this is a perfect show to throw on when you’re in the mood for a quick laugh.
Azumanga Daioh can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.