This is the very first anime which introduced the term moe to the industry. There were other shows older than it which were also about cute girls doing cute things but this is by far the one which centred solely on the element and created a subgenre of school comedy that became overabundant in the following years because of its success. Although many will rush to say it was Haruhi which managed to that (as they will say the same about everything else), since Azumanga came first and set the rules of the game I am willing to say it was Haruhi which took pointers from Azumanga and without it, it wouldn’t be the way it is.
Being the very first, means that by default it is also the most simple in its presentation. It’s moe without fan catering otaku jokes, or guitar product placements, or love for sweets. Many would see it and think it is boring for being plain … which is not true. To me moe means to like watching cute girls doing cute things ONLY. All the rest of it are in my eyes nothing but manipulating extras that are there to full you into buying products not related to the nature of the show (such as the constant Haruhi references in Lucky Star ) or tease you into doing things (such as the girl bands in K-On ). Although being inspired to do things thanks to a show is a good thing, it is still in effect emotional manipulation bent on taking advantage of your brain having turned to mash potatoes and being open to suggestive commands. Can you imagine using moe to infuse you with war mongering feelings? … Hey wait a second, they made Sora no Oto ???!!
Well Azumanga does not do that and it’s the reason I consider it the first and the purest of them all for being JUST moe. It is JUST about girls in school doing simple yet silly things without any sort of major conflict or tension. Still, I must admit that there actually IS a sort of tension in the form of seeing the girls coping with their simple daily problems. Nothing major but it is highly humorous to see how they manage to make a joke out of the simplest thing; a thing not so present in later similar shows. Because indeed, the humour of the show is made specifically to present them as completely naive (but not stupid) to even the most fundamental aspects of their lives. It will feel like their brains lag in processing data or their imagination makes them come up with some really hilarious line of thought that it is silly and innocent at the same time.
The type of humour is not working for everyone of course; there are dozens of different ways to make a joke and in order to like this show means to enjoy this sort of treatment. I for example liked it because it was very relevant to the way the girls thought, it was fitting the mood of the show and it was even ingeniously stupid at several moments.
The plot is not always about the girls. At times it focuses on their teachers and other relatives, thus giving you the feeling the world is not autistic. The adults are stupid too but do thing more naughty and complicating, thus provide an antithesis to the still pure minds of the girls. That element offers variety and even a better attachment to reality.
The story is as usually unimportant but does give you the feeling there is a progress. The series covers entire years of their daily lives, after of which they graduate and separate. On each year you will see how they take part on several mainstream school activities and ethic holidays, each time as if they are trying to improve themselves by correcting last year’s mistakes. That not only provides a feeling of how time moves in repeating schedules of the daily routine but also how each time is unique and different than before. I liked that a lot; it wasn’t that aimless and made you keep recalling previous events in order to get the joke. Thus it was smart silliness.
Another thing I liked is the number of the main characters. Unlike following moe shows which are always about three to five girls only, Azumanga has almost a dozen, and not JUST girls but teachers as well. Each one has of course a simple personality but their distinctive quirks and interactions create a very interesting blend, both complicating and humorous.
In other words, despite Azumanga being the first moe and with no extra fuss like otaku jokes or bands, still manages to be more complicating and variable next to its descendants and thus more quality material in my eyes.
The production values are not bad either. They transmit the feeling of the show perfectly, with simple yet likable character figures, minimal but practical backgrounds, almost monotonic but this way humorous voices, and some really crazy songs that are cute and silly at the same time. It all works fine in the context of the premise and one should not consider them as bad or plain. It wouldn’t add anything to the lot if there was more to it. I must say that for a J.C. Staff production, the girls are not turned to sluts; fan service is kept to minimal and most of it is implied rather than shown. If only most shows from that dreadful studio were subtle like this one…
Value is still getting the maximum score for being a cornerstone in moe history. My enjoyment is high; it is still a mostly aimless show about cute girls but the fact they had no product placement and offered a feeling of progress makes it much more enjoyable. I was even left with a sad feeling when the show was over and the girls now separated, each going to a different place and having a different life with different people. That after effect is priceless and not found easily in any other show of its type.
Story: Azumanga Daioh is a classic slice-of-life anime that loosely revolves around Chiyo, an 11-year-old prodigy who enters high school early, and her group of eccentric friends. The episodes are comprised of short comedic vignettes that are sometimes bizarre or surreal in nature. Since Azumanga is a slice-of-life anime, the story isn't really that great (there basically is no plot, other than fairly typical things that happen in the characters' daily lives) and can sometimes even be boring. Azumanga Daioh's strength lies in its characters and humor (especially the surreal scenes), rather than in its plot. If you're expecting something as plot-driven as Death Note, stay faaaar away from this anime.
Art: I'm no art expert, but this show masterfully utilizes exaggeration for comedic effect. In the course of one episode, you might see gigantic heads, characters suddenly turning into chibi, and extremely bendy limbs. I haven't seen any other anime use this kind of art and animation style to their advantage as much and as well as Azumanga Daioh does. The characters are fairly simplistic in design, but are all cute in their own ways.
Sound: I ended up watching maybe over half of this anime dubbed, simply because I needed something else to do (*cough* play New Leaf *cough*) while watching it. The voice actors in both languages are absolutely perfect for the characters they play (Osaka's spacey Japanese and weirdly Southern English voice actors were spot-on), although Chiyo's English voice actor can be really annoying. When it comes to opening and closing songs, the opening is iconic in my mind. It's playful, catchy, and is accompanied by hilarious scenes that perfectly depict each character. The closing song is very pleasant, as well.
Character: Even though every character in Azumanga Daioh is basically one-note, they're all very relatable and lovable in their own ways. My personal favorites were Sasaki, a tall, silent girl who has a secret love of all things cute (come on, is it even possible to dislike her?), Osaka, a spacey dim-witted girl who provides a lot of the surreal humor in the show, and Kagura, a peppy tan jock who is basically a more palatable version of Tomo, a really loud and obnoxious girl who can be grating very quickly. Side note -- even though Azumanga Daioh does have a lot of surreal scenes, some of the comedy is basically just Tomo or their teacher Yukari being loud and obnoxious. I found that this type of scene, with Tomo or Yukari screaming shrilly, wasn't really as effective as the surreal or bizarre parts and seemed sort of childish (I know that was the point, though). However, even though some characters are annoying (Tomo, Yukari) or boring (Yomi), I saw myself in each character and knew I would miss them when their last scene ended. Except for the teacher Kimura. Kimura is just creepy and, not even trying to sound overly sensitive, but I didn't even think his purpose was that funny. He mostly unsettled me instead of making me laugh.
Enjoyment: Even though the show can be boring and is essentially pointless, this anime was worth the watch because the characters are so lovable and the humor was ridiculous. I was probably stupid to play Animal Crossing through half of this anime because I suspect I would have enjoyed it more than I already did (and I enjoyed it quite a bit). This is a classic slice-of-life anime for a reason -- the humor is top-notch, the characters are silly and cute, the art style is perfect, and it has just enough sentimentality and emotion to make any loner like myself be on the verge of tears at points.
Overall - 8/10. I wish I could give this a 9, but there's basically no story and it was very boring and repetitive at times. Maybe I'll hike the rating up when I re-watch this again in a few years.
Azumanga Daioh Review:
It’s sad for the fact that I have not reviewed this anime yet and I haven’t watched in about a year and half! Well, better get started before I forget, it’s not like there was too much to remember in Azumanga Daioh to make a full fledge review! So let’s get ourselves some floating cat things for Dads and review Azumanga Daioh!
Azumanga Daioh is a 26 episode + 1 OVA long anime done by Studio J.C Staff back in 2002. It was originally, plot twist, a magazinecomic by Kiyohiko Azuma and spawned some mangas, too.
This anime is rated TV-PG for its small use of language. Viewer discretion is not really advised.
The story for Azumanga Daioh you could say is obvious…nothing. Well, in a way, it does have a story of a sort but nothing of any sort. Chiyo is a very young girl who moved up to highschool due to her intelligence and now has to make new friends. Along the way she meets Tomo, an energetic and annoying girl who always gets in trouble, Ayumu, a weird transfer student from Osaka who gets the nickname Osaka because of it, Sakaki, a very quiet and shy girl, and Yomi, a more of a hot head and the leader of the so called “group.” Together the friends go on silly adventures and interact with new friends like Chiyo’s Dad, a yellow cat-bird thing who can speak Engrish!
So judging by that, there is a story of “some sort” tied into but overall it is about nothing. Just…nothing.
The characters are the most crucial part of an anime about nothing. Azumanga Daioh passes that test. All the characters follow the Steins;Gate trail, or the other way around, whereas all the characters have cookie cutter or stereotype personalities but have a little bit of something added to them to make them a lot better than average. And to say, Azumanga Daioh does this pretty well, my favorite character being Osaka because of absolutely how weird and random she is!
Now let me get one thing clear…as far as I remember, there are absolutely NO male characters in this show besides Chiyo’s Dad and the perverted teacher. Sure there are some that have speaking roles and appearances, but overall there’s only just two. I just want to tell you that so you can get a better understanding of the cutesy feel of this show and why. Because it’s swarmed with girls!
The animation for Azumanga Daioh I have nothing to say because it is not special at all. Sure it’s fluid and solid, but it’s not anything worth noting. It’s not really impressive for its time and it’s actually pretty dated. So be cautious if you want to watch this anime because if you like newer anime, the style and animation in general and maybe even a couple character designs might annoy you.
The music for this anime is not very special either. Sure the opening and ending fit the show exceedingly well and it’s cute and catchy and upbeat, but Azumanga Daioh is also one of those silent animes where there wasn’t very much music or at least memorable music. I’ll sort of forgive because I haven’t seen this show in about a year and a half but I digress.
Is Azumanga Daioh doing a great job for what it’s doing? Yes. Is it cute, funny, and creative? Yes. Is it something you should absolutely go out of your way to watch and ignore any other animes like it? Not really. You have all the time in the world to watch this anime, you don’t need to go out of your way to watch so soon. This anime is something that it memorable for many scenes, but you can easily wait to watch it another day. Is it bad? Hell no! But is it perfect? Hell no! If you like slice of life comedies like Lucky Star and Hidimari Sketch, Azumanga Daioh will be something you definitely love. Otherwise, you have all the time in the world to watch it another day! So now, I leave it at that!
Next Review: One Week Friends
(If you have any questions or corrections about this review or Azumanga Daioh, contact me! :D)
I'm not sure how harsh I should be, since Azumanga Daioh practically created the modern school comedy genre, but the fact is that the plot boils down really simply to "six girls who go to high school together." Each episode is chopped up into five-minute segments and each one of them can be taken completely out of context and someone could still understand what's going on. Of course, there are little story arcs here and there but those are the exceptions rather than the rules. The story isn't even why someone would be watching a comedy series anyway, so give it a pass.
I will say that the recurring themes of friendship, while subtle, are very powerful. I probably can't think of any series that has covered friends' relationships with one another better than Azumanga Daioh.
When the art comes up, one thing is abundantly clear: cuteness is the main goal and it certainly is delivered. Azumanga Daioh was made back in the early 2000s, and it had some pretty good production values for its time. Having gone through the whole series multiple times probably has gotten me more acclimated to the tiny little bits, sort of those subtleties that can't be caught on just one time around, which is why I will say that the art manages to have a surprising amount of depth.
Character designs are simple, but realistic, and while we've all seen school uniforms or mascot characters, something about the design in Azumanga just manages to stand out to me. Maybe it's the colors, maybe it's the general softness that the art appears to have all the time, or the mixture of cute and surreal (especially with the mascots) but the fact remains that in the slew of school series, Azumanga is one that is instantly recognizable.
Another thing of note is that all of the characters bring a lot of personality, thanks to the amazing director of the series. Osaka's movements, for example, are usually very stiff and strange (likely a reference to her inflexibility that's established near the start of the series, or just her odd personality); in contrast to Kagura, who is really laid-back and free-flowing; or Sakaki, in which the viewer can see how deliberate all her motions are. One of the things I didn't even realize until my second time through the manga was how Osaka is always drawn with the reflection in her eyes on the bottom, while all the other characters have theirs on the top.
Ultimately, Azumanga Daioh worked within the technology of its day without using any CGI or fancy effects, everything being done simply. This was probably deliberate, so as to allow the art style to be timeless. It isn't trying to be a visual masterpiece, but that's fine since the art does its job at matching the tone of the series.
General Presence: 2/2
Visual Design: 1/2
Attention to Detail: 1/1
Visual Effects: 0.5/1
Honestly, I will say that this was one of my first experiences with subbed anime. I tried watching the dub, but couldn't really get behind it (it was Osaka's voice that killed it since I took one look at her design and sort of instinctively had an idea in mind of how she should sound). The sub is much better, with voice actresses who can not only fit their characters to a tee, but who have great comedic talent. They all sound distinct, and even as I got more used to the Japanese voice actresses and started hearing more from the girls I first heard in Azumanga, I can still go back to the series and find that their performances in here are distinct from pretty much anything else they've done. But if you don't like subbed anime, I will say that I consider the dub to be passable for the most part.
The music is, as one would expect, very relaxed and laid-back. It matches the tone perfectly and uses a lot of strange instruments, most notably a liberal usage of recorders. I like it, it makes the music stand out a lot, especially when they could've used violins and the music wouldn't have made as much of an impact. While it's not a perfect soundtrack, the music in Azumanga Daioh fits the series perfectly and it can be very effective (the composition that plays over the final scene of the series is so touching I swear it makes me cry every time I hear it).
Sound effects sound great and are used exactly right. When they don't need them, they aren't used - when they help the scene, they are used. Some of the more notable sound effects - like the floating sounds or the meowing heard various times - are actually ones that someone whose seen the series could identify as being from Azumanga Daioh.
And the image songs are amazing. Just for the record.
Voice Acting: 4/4
Sound Effects: 2/2
What's a series without good characters? Be it a drama, a comedy, or whatever the goal is, good characters are one of the most important factors. Quite honestly, it's the absolutely stellar cast of Azumanga Daioh that makes the show. Not only the six main characters, but the three teachers, Kaorin, and even the various cats all have unforgettable presence on screen. Over the course of the series, they aren't just the characters who deliver jokes to you, they are in fact your friends.
There's a wide range of personalities bouncing off each other here, from serious to shy to hyperactive to plain strange and I think that's where I'll fudge the "Complexity" score (since I couldn't bring myself to NOT boost this rating up to max power), since they all act differently around everyone else. Yomi doesn't treat Tomo the same way she treats Chiyo, or Osaka, or Sakaki. Just like actual people, their relationships are distinct. Kagura doesn't join the group of friends just because she hangs out with Sakaki, she joins the group because she becomes friends with the other five. At the same time, having the benefit of all the exposure I do, it's also interesting to note some of the character traits that one wouldn't notice except with prolonged exposure to the characters, such as Sakaki being almost as airheaded as Osaka or Chiyo's terrible luck, usually resulting in slapstick. So while I do think that I might be generous to give "complexity" a full score, I also think it's one that I could easily defend.
The ultimate guiding question when it comes to any comedy is "Is it funny?" And Azumanga Daioh constantly answers that with a big "yes." The comedic timing, both in the manga and the anime, is perfect - or if it isn't perfect, it's damn close. There's a reason this series has defined the modern slice-of-life genre, and that's because it's just really good. The only times Azumanga isn't being funny are when it will be tugging at your heartstrings, which is equally enjoyable. It's short, yes, but I actually think that the short size makes it better. It doesn't stay too long, knowing that all good things must come to an end. When the final episode comes around, you WILL cry, oh yes. And then you'll want to go back to the beginning and relive all those great memories. I've heard Azumanga Daioh as being "comfort food," and that's probably a good way to describe it. Maybe my own feelings for the series are biased, as it was one of my earlier anime experiences, but that doesn't deflate my love for it. Azumanga Daioh is easily one of the few anime that I love enough to say...
FINAL JUDGMENT : 10/10