The very first anime which introduced me to the term moe. 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 mashed 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. The humour of the show is focused on presenting 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 also 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 in a naughtier and more complicating way, thus provide an antithesis to the still pure minds of the girls.
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 in several 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 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 conclusion, 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.
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 still 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 also point out how despite being 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…
In terms of value it gets the maximum score for being a cornerstone in moe history. My enjoyment out of it was 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.
I started watching this with the intention of laughing, and damn I really did find the right anime!
The peaceful hilariosity of the whole thing just makes it unique in a way that's quite difficult to understand unless you actually watch the show, not just read this review. Basically I loved it. The animation was well ahead of its time as well, to be honest, I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was. And everything else... well I'm too lazy to write about all that but basically I can say that Azumanga Daioh is REALLY ONE OF THE BEST SHOWS OUT THERE!!
[Osaka really makes the show special]
J.C.Staff’s High School comedy dates to 2002 an amazing 21 years ago. It really doesn’t look its age at all. We would go as far as to say it is an ageless classic in a field dominated by an awful LOT of anime in this sub-genre. So much anime comedy is based at High School and is focussed on the lives of female friendship groups. Typically, they do not have any particular story but are held together by the strength of the characters and the sheer insanity of their adventures together. The strength of “Azumanga Daioh” is in the character interplay and the way the 26 episodes neatly follow their lives over the entire three years of High School. Nominally the show is built around child genius Chiyo Mihama who skips forward five years to start High School at age 10. Around her a friendship group forms consisting of a bunch of quite eccentric, colourful and boisterous girls for whom every day is an adventure. One character, a tall & quiet busty girl called Sakaki, dominates proceedings as she entertains us with her numerous misadventures with cats. She loves all things cute but due to her mother’s allergies she cannot keep a cat. Instead, she tries to pet any small fury animal in sight and often gets bitten for her pain.
Describing the main characters would be a lengthy undertaking as they are all so well fleshed out. What makes the show so adorable is that the friendship group also managed to include two of their homeroom teachers Yukari Tanizaki and Minamo Kurosawa who have been friends themselves since school. The two are close but fight like cats and dogs. The strangest character is a third teacher – an eccentric man called Kimura whose weird behaviour gets him the reputation as being a bit of a perv amongst the girls. He is strangely depicted in the manner of a zombie yet the girls soon learn that he has a really nice wife who turns up at their Sports Day. Needless to say, there is an awful lot going on the show and it defies all summarisation. It is the sort of anime you do not have to pay too close attention to as it was built around even shorter episodes. You could completely zone-out for ten minutes at a time and not really miss anything. It isn’t that there isn’t a lot going on, it is just that it is easy to pick up at any point. It is actually worth paying attention to as it is very, very funny. If we have a criticism it is that the timing of the some of the animated humour was a little off with the animators milking a visual joke well beyond its sell-by date. Pay some attention to the hilarious behaviour of one girl Ayumu "Osaka" Kasuga whose air-headed, open-mouthed, antics left us in stitches. Quite unique. We loved this show even if we didn’t always watch it too closely. It relishes in quite a few nice touches – particularly towards the end as the girls face their graduation. The show also has elements that are extremely weird and surreal. It represents quite an investment in your time but we think it is worth it. A fine example of the slice of school life comedy genre. Maybe it has few outstanding points but it is riddled with good ideas and occasional comic genius. Make some time for it.
I love this anime. It was the first one I ever watched, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
That being said, after returing to this and watching a few episodes again I can say, reluctantly, that it's a little too slow-paced. The comedy is lacking a lot of the time, and there are many jokes that rely on long periods of silence or repetition, or things like hastily animated character sprites moving slowly across the screen, which can be good sometimes, but this show perhaps does it to a fault. The animation is fine, but having become accustomed to newer styles and HD visuals, it looks really dated.
Much of the comedy requires knowledge of Japanese culture, which is fine with me, but may be off-putting to some viewers. I was lucky to watch this as my first anime, because I may have dropped it otherwise due to it's slow humor, and jokes that seem like ripoffs, but are, in fact, the originals, because this show is OLD, or, well, old for a school-life anime.
But the reason I like Azumanga Daioh isn't because it is funny. I like Azumanga Daioh because of the loveable characters, and the emotional moments, highlighted by some of the best music ever to be paired with anything. When some actual semblance of a plot begins to form in the later episodes is when the show really wins in my book. One of the later episodes has probably my favorite moment in any anime ever. The last episode brought me to tears several times. Due to the off chance that somebody reading this may not have already seen it, I will say no more about this. Watch it if you haven't. I recommend it to anybody who likes the slice-of-life genre.