Series "Review": Azumanga Daioh

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Azumanga Daioh is a show about everything and nothing. It's so unfunny at times it's funny and sometimes it tries to be so funny that it's not. Whatever it may be, it's certainly one of the bigger-name shows, being the benchmark to which many slice-of-life/4-koma anime have been compared to. Rightfully?

Probably. I can certainly say that I enjoyed the anime very much, but coming from Mr. Likes Everything that may not be saying much.

The most balanced way to evaluate Azumanga is probably to say that it's appeal and downfall stem from the same aspect of it, in that it's a very simple show.

Simplicity is good, because it allows one to turn their brain off, relax, and enjoy the straight-up comedy. Azumanga is a very simple show with obvious jokes and as such you won't be alienated by the more obscure Japanese or anime humor found in other series such as Zetsubou Sensei or Lucky Star.

Simplicity is bad, because it makes one turn their brain off and just sort of veg out. There's not much that one can derive from the series after the show has ended, and it's really just sort of a waste of time compared to series like Zetsubou Sensei and Lucky Star that keep you involved and make you feel smart for getting the jokes.

Aside from that though Azumanga actually does have a strong second side to it, and that is one of the most important of any anime, and that is relatibility, which happens to be a word coined about five seconds ago to mean "how much one can relate with something that they are watching".

I find that connecting with an anime is one of those aspects that can really make a good show great, or maybe a average show watchable; I feel a large aspect of Lucky Star, for example, at least, is that "Hey, I've thought that too" factor, which would explain why they talk about food for 15 minutes (or, alternatively, reference a different anime every 10 seconds).

Azumanga Daioh is, as such, for a high school student, especially one towards the closer end of anime, very topical. While Azumanga is similar in a sense to a lot of American sitcoms in the sense that it's humor-based and that the plot, if any, is contained in an episode, there is very much almost a sense of development as well in Azumanga.

It's not development in any other anime's sense of the word but the anime is always set in forward motion, and the characters do change ever so slightly as they go from first to second to third years. It's not like an average American show or comic strips where high school students stay students for years or maybe decades on end.

And as such you can definitely feel the passage of time, whether from the outside perspective of "There's only two episodes left" or from the inside, especially in the last episode where both the characters and the viewer can feel the bittersweet emotions of things coming to an end.

Perhaps I'm waxing poetic because I'm a high school senior myself and as such the last episode was quite touching in a way, but Azumanga definitely has a start and a end, defined by the years of high school; as opposed to many other series where the ending is sort of like "Everything's resolved and happy and things are normal, so there's nothing more to see here."

Azumanga, per se, was always "normal" in a sense although the characters never were, and to be honest, it could've kept going in showing everyone's separate travels through college, but, aside from being limited by the manga, the parts of Azumanga just don't work as well as the whole.

A large part of Azumanga is the the characters. Although they may not be wholly realistic most people probably know someone with at least a little Osaka or Tomo in them. And the humor in Azumanga, as in-your-face as it is, is at it's best when the characters bounce their personalities off each other; you know the type of humor. A character will say or do something totally of the wall, and depending on the crowd, you'll either get a stunned epic silence, a fiery argument, maybe an equally ridiculous response, something that will at least make you laugh a bit inside. It's just the sort of thing that wouldn't work with one or two main characters and a bunch of secondaries.

The characters can be criticized for being a little one-dimensional but arguably this anime as a whole is largely one-dimensional, and if you are expecting something else than it might be a better idea to watch something else. Besides, a large variety of these comedy anime have relatively flat, exaggerated characters and yet we don't see much complaining about a depressive teacher with a class of stalkers, Anonymouses, OCDs, and hikikomoris.

The personalities of the characters lead to that sort of familiarity that breeds humor as well, personally. You know Sakaki's crazy about cats and so when you see anything that's vaguely a cat-like substance you wonder "Heh, what's going to happen this time?" It sounds like it's predictable and boring but it's more common than you think. You take the characters and their pre-cut personalities, maybe you twist them a bit, mix up the gags a bit each time, keeping the show fresh yet familiar at the same time.

This does lead to a problem of Azumanga in that it's not exactly one of those things you can take in large doses. Like candy, it's tasty, high in sugar yet low in useful substance, so it's not a good idea to take it all in at once. After your fifth candy bar you really begin to hate the taste of chocolate, and after the fifth episode of Azumanga you really begin to get annoyed by Tomo being crazy.

As such, Azumanga, perhaps like those sitcoms mentioned a few times, is one of those shows that is better in small pieces, perhaps with some different flavors of shows in-between to cleanse the pallete; a piece of advice that might go well with any anime, but especially this one.

To be honest this review was a tough one to write, perhaps because Azumanga is such an off-the-wall series that it defies summary and normal review, perhaps because it is somewhat of a personal series. Maybe because it's a big name. But to put it in a very tl;dr fashion, Azumanga is a great example of the comedy school/slice-of-life genre, but it's upfront and direct sense of humor, with obvious jokes and clearly-defined, largely stagnant characters may or may not be for you. It's a good show if you don't mind mindless stuff; something easy to watch after brain-burning episodes of drama and tears, or maybe Actual Work.

Ask your doctor self if Azumanga is right for you.


Based on how often I preach it myself in my posts, I should add "relatibility" into my posts as well.

I think that AzuDai is a good show, but not a great one, but it makes sense that based on how many school slice of life shows there are (are there really that many? :P), it would be a good show to compare with. I do get confused when people seem to place the show on a pedestal though. It can get repetitive, in situation (but that's what happens when people go through high school) and in the character's actions, but I didn't think of it as too much of a problem, and life is like that too. I did like the interplay that some characters had (mostly Yomi/Tomo and Nyamo/Yukari).

Seems like a sensible evaluation of the series. It feels like there's a bunch of school life series, at least recently: Hidimari Sketch, Lucky Star, Zetsubou (maybe), supposedly Manabi Straight (haven't watched it yet, though)...but then again it might just be a bar for comedy shows in general. I know I fall guilty of always wanting to compare something to something else.

Same goes with idolizing a show. I imagine most people have at least one show that they bow down and worship, and since Azumanga is the type of series that could draw newcomers into anime, it could definitely be one's "first love of anime" (which usually can't be touched).

Man, my comments feel long.