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Anime ● Review: Azumanga Daioh

English Title: Azumanga Daioh

Japanese Title: あずまんが大王

Director(s): Nishikiori Hiroshi

Screenwriter(s): Okouchi Ichiro

Studio: J.C.Staff

Released: 2002

Runtime: 26 episodes, ~24m each.

Starring: Kaneda Tomoko, Asakawa Yu, Higuchi Chieko, Matsuoka Yuki, Tanaka Rie, Hiramatsu Akiko, Hisakawa Aya, Ishii Koji

My Verdict: Classic high school slice-of-life comedy. Can use a little more variation even if it is meant to be slice-of-life genre.

Azumanga Daioh

● Based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Azuma Kiyohiko, the series follows the daily life of a group of high school girls and two of their teachers in Tokyo. The school is not named. The original manga was published between 1999 and 2002.

● It is a slice-of-life comedy so it examines and exaggerates the ordinary everyday experience and it generally does it well. One could also describe the humor as mildly twisted. As such, it is relatable and yet also absurd. Repetition is a technique commonly used as is the long and silent reaction.

● There is essentially no central arc except that it begins at the start of the academic year (April) when the main characters are in their first year of high school (10th grade) and progresses to their graduation at the end of their third and final year (12th grade).

● Even within each episode, the plot isn’t always apparent even though it is typically focused on one topic and/or theme. Each episode contains 5 segments although these are not merely skits as they are at least somewhat related to the topic and/or theme. For example, the episode may be focused on the cultural festival or the sports festival.

● Of the main characters, there arguably isn’t one main viewpoint character although some characters are more prominent than others. There is, of course, the occasional episode that focuses on one or two characters.

● Tomo is the first student introduced by name and she is the loudest—basically the overly dramatic and hyperactive one of the group who can be irritatingly competitive and yet incompetent—but she isn’t the strongest character in any respect.


● Chiyo-chan is a 10-year-old prodigy who skipped all the way to the first year of high school. This is, of course, unrealistic but she is the “innocently cute and adorable” one. She has a lot of screen time and as she is the character who is out of place, she has screen presence and is arguably one of the stronger viewpoint characters.

● Yomi has been friends with Tomo since elementary school although she is in every respect her opposite, mostly the serious and level-headed one. She is tall although Sakaki-san is taller and, in a way, the latter is more serious as she is quiet and seemingly unmoved by anything other than cute animals like cats. It is arguable that these two are too similar but as Yomi is more vocal, it works well enough.

● Kasuga Ayumu is a student who has just transferred from Osaka. Even though she is the opposite of the stereotype—she is gentle, quiet, seemingly slow and spaces out—they nickname her “Osaka” anyway and indeed call her that for the entire series. Like Chiyo-chan, she is the odd one out so she has a certain screen presence. She has a twisted, darker side which, unfortunately, is not delved into more deeply.

Yomi, Chiyo-chan and Osaka
Yomi, Chiyo-chan and Osaka

● Yukari-sensei, also affectionately called Yukari-chan by her students, is obviously not your typical teacher. She is the girls’ homeroom and English teacher. She is a slightly more mature version of Tomo. Fellow teacher Kurosawa-sensei, who is also a friend from high school, is more of a serious but nice teacher. She is a P.E. teacher and homeroom teacher of the class next door. The obvious point is that so-called grown-ups are… well, not.


● There are recurring minor characters but hardly any. The series is centered on the girls and two of their female teachers, that is the genre. Given the length of the series, however, it could use more characters to introduce more interaction and relationships as well as to mix things up for the sake of comedy.

● For example, Kimura is the only male teacher who is a recurring male character but he is there for the comical value since he is a pervert who has an inappropriate interest in female students. And, of course, this kind of comedy might have worked at the time but would probably not work today, at least not in the way it is executed.

● There are a few episodes early in the series that focus almost exclusively on Yukari-sensei and Kurosawa-sensei. This is understandable for the sake of introducing the characters but feels a little forced.

● The main weakness is that with no central arc, there is a little too much repetition. As slice-of-life, that is the point and one cannot just skip events that are considered the norm, but having three episodes on the sports festival or three episodes on going to chiyo-chan’s summer home (once per year over the three years) requires more thought on its execution.

● On the note of the latter, Yukari-sensei and Kurosawa-sensei hanging out with the girls without an invite to the rest of the class is unrealistic (even if there are no official rules) as there is the possibility that the students can gain an academic advantage.

● Like many works centered on adolescents, parents generally do not make an appearance. A younger audience may not think much of it either way—after all, parents are not involved in every minute of their child’s life. Up to a point, this is not necessarily wrong but an older audience may see this as a bit odd. This is simply the reality of this generation—parents go to work and children go to school for too many hours. I don’t think the author of this work is downplaying the family but some works do and it is an observation worth mentioning.

● Ultimately, it is a classic example of the slice-of-life genre. The characters are mostly lovable. The production and voice acting are solid. Visually, the character designs are tastefully 80s without looking dated. Given the length, the storytelling is a little too shallow at times and can use more variation even if it is meant to be ordinary.


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