12/16/2007

Twelve Moments in Anime 2007 - #10: Azumanga Daioh 8

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The "12 Days of Christmas" series is a joint feature by some members of the Anime Blogging Collective recognizing twelve moments, twelve series, or just twelve things about anime that we've enjoyed over the past year, that really make us enjoy loving what we do, and that is being an anime fan. Feel free to join in the list-making fun too if you wish. We hope you enjoy this feature.

Anime doesn't need to be touching to be awe-inspiring.

It doesn't need to be dramatic, to be moe, to be well-animated, to have any logical merit to be enjoyable.

Sometimes, it just works. Sometimes, all you need is something light to relax with and laugh with, and that can be all an anime needs to work.

A sense of humor is something that a lot of anime in my genres - slice-of-life and harem - strive to have; a sense of humor is something that not all of them can obtain. Some rely too much on moe, on cliches, on the same jokes we've seen over and over.

But funnily enough, some of the most brilliant jokes are the most ridiculous, the ones that on paper, shouldn't be funny. It's this sort of skewed humor, almost at home in a Monty Python skit, that nearly always seems to work for me, and like this post, it's all to do with repetition.

Repetition.
Repetition.
Repetition.
Azumanga.
Episode eight.


12 Moments of Anime 2007
#10 Azumanga Daioh - 8
"Lather, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat..."


What makes an anime 'funny' or not is a fine line.

Quite often, what works for own viewer will not work for the other. Everyone seems to have a different sense of humor, including the animators.

It's why humorous, slice-of-life anime can be judged so hard at time, since a lot of the appeal relies a lot on the viewer 'getting it.' For example, referential humor like that of Lucky Star will fly over most casual viewers' heads. Physical humor may be considered too low-brow by some, while verbal humor might be too boring (or too hard to translate).

What kind of humor, though, that I imagine always works, is bad humor.

It's a concept explained by the now incredibly old "circle of badness" devised over at riuva a while back. A simple application of this is for gags in anime.

A joke, used the first time, is usually funny. The second time a gag is used, it might be funny again, but a little less. The third time, it could still have minor value.

But eventually you reach a point where a gag, no matter how funny the first time, just gets wrung to death so much that it's not funny anymore. One begins to get tired of the joke, wondering if the writers are just trying to fill for time or on strike.

Some producers which are less aware of the "circle of badness" would stop here. "Oh, it's not funny anymore," they say, "so let's stop using it." But what would the fun be in stopping while you're down?

A daring show will keep pushing the edge of humor until it breaks through into a realm where the rules of common sense ceases to apply. At this point, somewhere around the 6th, 10th, maybe 20th repetition, things begin to turn back to the funny side.

It's that sense of ridiculousness one gets from an overdramatized show. That "I can't believe they're actually doing it" factor that surpasses any sense of logic and goes straight to the funny nerve. It works by not working at all, by ignoring the normal mindset and playing by its own rules.

It's something that's quite at home in Azumanga Daioh, very much a random, nonsensical anime. Azumanga is one of those shows that sometimes makes you wonder what drugs the animation team was one, and where you can get some.

The original manga was funny and quite enjoyable, but to turn four volumes into 26 episodes was a bit hard; and so a lot of 'filler time' and jokes resulted. Some of it was pure ADHD; Chiyo's "father" flying around, random scene cuts, and anything that came out of Osaka's mouth. More of it was running gags throughout the series; Sakaki's adventures with cats, Kaorin's adventures with Sakaki, Kimura's adventures with Kaorin, and so on.

And then, occasionally, there was the epic time-waster. Maybe it was an awkwardly long pause, or strangely long camera zoom or slow-motion scene. This time, in episode 8, it was simple repetition.

Situated in Tomo's New Year dream world, Yomi is sleeping through a class in school. Tomo goes to wake her up, and is called 'mother' by Yomi, resulting in Tomo headchopping her while shouting "Nandeyonen!" ("Why the heck?").

"Nandeyonen!" She continues a little longer.
"Nandeyonen!" I start staring at my watch
"Nandeyonen!" Seriously?
Ah, finally, it stopped.
"Nandeyonen!" Again!?
"Nandeyonen!"
"Nandeyonen!"
"Nandeyonen!" This is just ridiculous.
"Nandeyonen!" Ridiculously awesome.
Ahh, that was a good one.
"Nandeyonen!"
"Nandeyonen!" Ahahahahahaha~

In the end, it was something like 30 reptitions or 30 seconds straight of head-chopping nandeyonen action. And the best part was, this wasn't the shortest scene of its ilk in Azumanga. Near the end of the series, Chiyo's "get motivated" chants pip this scene at the post by a few seconds. It's one of those things that needs to be started with a chuckling "I kid you not" when telling others.

It'd be wrong to say that a scene like this is right all the time. I enjoy my ridiculous piece or two in my anime, but it works best as something that sticks out, rather than being the main focus.

This concept is prone to being applied to itself; the first time it's funny, if you try it again, maybe less so, and a third time, you just start to wonder how much filler they need.

But a whole episode full of repetition of repeating gags? We may never know what factor of epic win (or loss?) that would result in.

Azumanga Daioh is a crazy anime full of crazy characters, a sharp contrast to the normal environment around them. It's one of those anime that works the best as a relaxing show you watch to enjoy rather than to experience. And what better to sum a time-wasting show like this than with one of its pinnacle time-wasting moments?

-CCY

7 comments:

Oh bother, now I'll have Chiyo's "Get motivated!" stuck in my head all night =P I wouldn't mind if it actually worked, and it wasn't Sunday night and near by bedtime...

I have to agree with you on Tomoyo's "why in the heck?" Likewise, when I first saw it, it was like, "Okay, this make sense to have in the dream. Um, all right, it's still going on. Wow, she's really keeping it up. Very good *sarcasm entering*, you're doing fine Tomoyo. Has it been this long already since she started? And she keeps going. And going. *Starting to chuckle without knowing why.* And still she goes on. *Accidentally laughing aloud a little.* Okay, she seriously needs to stop, haha..."

It's things like that that make me wonder if Azumanga Daioh isn't quite all together, but then realize it's perfect just the way it is.

And nothing beats the background artwork in that screenshot.

I can't really remember this part of Azumanga Daioh. It's been quite a few years since I've watched it. Either that or my mind has blocked the hundreds of times they used the "nandeyonen" jokes.

Even though I really enjoyed Azumanga Daioh, I sometimes find the very repetitive gags to be more annoying than entertaining. But then again, it wont be Azumanga Daioh without them lol

chris fritz: (Or lack of background art? XD)

I'm pretty sure Azumanga isn't 'all together', as you put it; the same can be said of all its characters. But, again, like you mention, it works like this - it's just so off-the-wall and comic you have to enjoy it.

There's a time for serious and there's a time for funny, and Azumanga nails the latter.

nekonron: I actually can't remember any other extended uses of 'nandeyonen' gags here other than in this episode, so I guess I'm the opposite. XD

And I understand that definitely mileage can vary with these kinds of repeated jokes - I'm much the same way with cliches in the romance/harems I watch. No tolerance at all~

Maybe that scene overloaded my memory with so much "nandeyanen" that it just feels like its being overused throughout the entire series lol

What the heck

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