Review: Azumanga Daioh is one of the funniest comedies I have ever watched. It has a cheerful feel to the backdrops and colors, as if celebrating the joy, wonder, and insecurities of adolescence. Let’s meet the cast:
Chiyo: (“Chiyo-chan”) a precociously cute ten-year-old prodigy. Despite her smarts and uber-rich status, Chiyo is humble, cheerful, and kind. I was never annoyed by her.
Tomo: is the poster child for Ritalin. She also has an occasional mischief streak. Let me put it this way: that line about “with friends like you, I’d never need an enemy”? It fits Tomo to a T.
Yomi: One of the tallest characters and the only one who wears glasses. She and Tomo have been friends for years and they make an excellent comedy team, with Yomi playing the “straight woman”. She’s also somewhat concerned about her weight.
Sakaki: The tallest and quiet girl with extremely long hair (and very pretty to boot). All she wants is to pet a kitten, unfortunately every cat she meets has a tendency to bite her.
Ayumi: (Osaka) In one word: weird. She will say some of the most random things and seems to have a bad case of ADD.
Kagura: The resident jock. She’s a member of the swim team and has a competitive spirit, particularly toward Sakaki. Although she is introduced early on, she doesn’t become an important character until the class enters their second year. I think the show does an excellent job of giving us time to get to know her in spite of this.
Kaorin: Shy little girl who obsesses over Sakaki (who wouldn’t?) almost to the point of lesbianism. She’s a rather weak character, but it’s not like she needs much depth.
Yukari: the homeroom teacher. She has a hot temper and can speak English very well (in the dub, she’s just a language teacher). She seems to never have mentally matured past adolescence, judging by her temper, crass attitude, and her attempts to compete with Minamo’s popularity.
Minamo (“Nyamo”) is the P.E. teacher and a former classmate of Yukari. She’s quite popular with the other students. Like Yomi, she plays straight woman to Yukari most of the time.
Kimura is the only male teacher we meet. He has borderline pedophile tendencies toward female students, much to Kaorin’s chagrin. He’s pretty creepy and I found him very annoying.
It may seem hard to believe, but this show does have a plot. It does a great job of following the girls throughout their high school days. I noticed a few subtle changes in character design as the girls matured, which I thought was a nice touch. What I liked best was that I felt as though I knew them all personally–we’ve all met people like them in every high school.
All in all, this is an excellent comedy. There are some cultural references that you might not be able to get, but if you want to know what life is like for a typical Japanese student, this is a great series to pick up.
Music/Score: Addictive. The themes have never left my head, and I doubt they will leave yours. I’ve even found myself humming Chiyo’s cooking song when I use the microwave.
Sub/Dub: Although the dub isn’t that bad (I’ve heard quite a few complaints, particularly toward Kira Vincent Davis’s portrayal of Osaka), I feel the sub is better. The jokes really require them to be heard in their original context, which is lost in translation. Not only that, but Yukari actually does slip into English in the sub, and this is not as easily conveyed in the dub. To be fair, the dub’s standout voice would definitely be Christine Auten (Sakaki) and Mandy Clark (Tomo).
Language: (5/10) Both Yukari and Tomo are heavy on the bad language. While the official release doesn’t have F-bombs, I saw some fansubbed versions back in the days before legal anime streaming became more common that had lots of F-bombs. I’m not sure if all of these have been removed from Youtube, but it’s worth noting.
Violence: (2/10): Only the occasional slapstick.
Nudity: (2/10) There’s three beach episodes with a few of the characters wearing bikinis. Tomo, Yukari, and Kagura, tend to wear some pretty skimpy ones.
Sexuality: (4/10): There’s quite a few scenes where jokes are made about breast sizes, particularly the fact that Sakaki’s are noticeably bigger than the others (I would hesitate to classify it as fanservice because I remember in my high school days, quite a few girls were “early bloomers”. In one “beach episode”, Minamo gets drunk and gives the girls an implied “lecture” on sex, but we only get vague ideas about what was said. Kimura’s obsession with schoolgirls is intended for laughs, but to be honest, I was not amused. It’s also pretty obvious that Kaorin has a slightly homosexual attraction toward Sakaki, but we never see it go above platonic and it’s certainly not meant to be offensive. I actually wasn’t even bothered by it.
Religion: (1/10): Just two episodes where the girls visit a local shrine for New Years. (the second visit is more elaborate) There’s also a Christmas episode.
Related Media: This is based on the manga Azumanga Daioh. Kiyohiko Azuma also created Yotsuba&!