Azumanga Daioh

Vol: 4; Ch: 69
1999 - 2002
4.414 out of 5 from 2,269 votes
Rank #606
Azumanga Daioh

Miss Yukari's high school class is far from average. With ten-year-old genius Chiyo; dim-witted ‘Osaka'; weight conscious Yomi; loud-mouthed and energetic Tomo; and the ultra cool, animal-loving Sakaki, daily life is far from dull. Follow the day-to-day lives of this fun-loving group of girls as they progress through high school. From annual cultural festivals to gambling, from first dreams of the New Year to death-defying road trips, the lives of these students and their teachers are always exciting and new.

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Story: High school may well seem like a trying time but, as old farts like myself will tell you, your school days really can be some of the most fun of your life. Azumanga Daioh proves this unequivocally with every turn of the page as it documents the everyday life of the innocent ten-year-old prodigy, Chiyo, and her new high school friends during this turning point in their lives. As with all the best comic slice of life series, Azumanga contains very little in the way of plot. While the overarching narrative follows the girls’ escapades through high school, the joy of this manga comes from the individual events that occur within the three-year timeframe. Likewise, these incidents aren’t entirely disconnected from each other as, like in real life, the experience builds from year to year, creating a natural progression. Azumanga largely achieves this through ongoing jokes such as Yukari’s increasingly competitive obsession with beating fellow teacher Minamo in the school athletics festival or Chiyo’s traumatising ordeal at the hands of her tutor’s horrific driving “skills”. Azumanga excels in its comedy by refusing to rely on outlandish or just plain idiotic plotlines. Instead mangaka Kiyohiko Azuma brings the natural humour out of day to day life and enriches it with his eccentric – yet wholly believable – cast. By not overusing fantastical elements, Azumanga allows its readers to relate to events, which ultimately heightens its comic appeal. Small incidents such as Yomi tricking Osaka into eating her super spicy curry will undoubtedly remind people of odd pranks they‘ve either witnessed or played on their friends. Certainly, whoever has given in to the temptation of conning a gullible pal into believing a ludicrous pack of lies will find something to smile at when Chiyo becomes convinced that Sakaki is sucking the height out of her and is the sole reason she’s so short. Azumanga’s 4-Koma layout works ideally with the story’s tone. By splitting the girls’ antics into bitesize chunks, each punchline packs that little extra punch by providing a definite pause for the joke to sink in rather than merely moving on to the next frame. Not every strip provides a laugh a minute, but that isn’t a necessity since some simply set the scene for the next quadruplet of panels, and in doing so build up the anticipation for the inevitable gag. Likewise, Azuma adds in occasional “specials” in a more standard manga format, which, while not always as funny, adds a nice change of pace from the series’ otherwise quick and pithy rhythm.   Art: Azuma utilises a more straightforward visual style, with few frills or unnecessary fuss and the character designs – particularly those of the girls – are suitably cute. This not only helps endear them to the reader, but also allows for added humour when their appearance descends into an even more simplistic form, thus adding impact to the relevant expression or situation. A brilliant example is when Yukari’s driving flips Chiyo’s trauma switch and the prodigy’s suffering becomes plain to see as her usually naïve and shiny wide eyes transform into empty wibbling pools of horror. Despite a generally simpler art style, Azuma still adds in plenty of small details to make the Azumanga world that bit more believable. Seemingly unimportant things such as giving Kagura tan-lines and then continuing to include them even after the initial point has been noted by another individual, shows a great care in the mangaka’s work. Likewise, Osaka balancing a cup of water on the end of her chopsticks is greatly enhanced by Azuma depicting that the eating implements had broken unevenly. It not only seems more real, but also refers back to the earlier jokes surrounding the dim girl’s obsession with equally splitting the spindly wooden rods.   Characters: Azumanga’s greatest strength comes from its cast. While each individual is fairly straightforward, this simplicity ultimately drives most of the comedy. The adorably naïve Chiyo, quiet and misunderstood Sakaki, and athletic Kagura all shine through their distinct quirks, whereas the manzai-style relationship between tsukkomi Yomi and the cringingly irritating boke, Tomo, sets up plenty of comedy throughout. However, while they all grab onto the reader’s attention like barnacles to a whale’s butt, there’s one girl who continually hogs the spotlight: everyone’s favourite dimwit, Osaka. With her head permanently in the clouds, the lovable teen flaunts her own “unique” way of thinking wherever she goes. Her fascination with the most obscure of things – such as sea-cucumbers or splitting her chopsticks perfectly in two as a good luck charm – gives her an altogether child-like feel and sets up countless incidents of hilarious reactions from her peers. Likewise her curiously illogical brand of logic and half-sleepy antics, such as attempting to wake up Yukari with a kitchen knife, remain a constant source of amusement. This young girl, whose idea of terrifying is smelling a fart in an empty room that isn’t your own, sets up a plethora of jokes during Azumanga’s four volumes and remains one of its most memorable characters. While the main group inevitably grabs most of the focus, Azumanga’s secondary cast proves just as captivating. For me, the star of the show is the creepy and depraved super-perv, Kimura. Part of his genius as a character comes from echoes of real life. Now, I’m not saying that every school has a guy demanding to drink a glass of pool water that all the girls have been swimming in, but I’m sure that everyone knew of a lechy old teacher when they were a student – or at the very least heard rumour of one. Certainly, incidents such as Kimura chasing girls at the sports festival and obsessing about them tucking their shirts into their shorts reminds me of one time at my (all girls) secondary school where my entire class had to line up as two of our male teachers leered at our thighs checking our skirts weren’t too short – seriously. There’s a very fine line between cringingly funny and just plain cringeworthy, but Kimura hits the comedy spot on without inviting utter disgust. Whoever doesn’t find themselves giggling at Kimura’s gaping-mouthed declarations of “I LIKE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS” is probably missing a humour gene somewhere and should consult a specialist immediately.   Overall: This was one of the earliest manga that I read, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t overly impressed at first for the simple reason that I wasn’t a fan of the 4-koma style. Now, after a few years and a bit more experience with the medium, I’ve come to realise that in the right situation, this method of storytelling excels where a more narrative-led layout simply can’t convey the same comic tone. With plenty of humour, an outstanding cast, and enough of schoolgirl antics to keep a herd of rampant otaku nourished for a few weeks, Azumanga Daioh is four volumes of pure comic brilliance.


Azumanga DaiohPlot – Girls go to high school.Characters – Chiyo, a 10 year old genius who skipped many grades, is most likely the protagonist. Her friends, stereotypical buffoon “Osaka”, annoying and self-centered Tomo and Sakaki, an intimidating badass in appearance who secretly has a love for cutesy things, all get their share of the spotlight, as well as some other friends and their teachers, two of whom are drunkards and perverts.Why It Works – The simple premise allows for total freedom of character interaction, which ultimately becomes the highlight of the manga. With different personalities clashing constantly, humor usually rises out of reactions from characters that are different than you expect, which leads to effective jokes and can always elicit at least a chuckle. Another way this series uses humor is by miscommunication, which, when used at the right time, can be absolutely hilarious. Adding to this, the small cast allows for each character to have their chance to shine. The pedophilic gym teacher is an oddball and usually creates jokes by acting in a perverted way without bothering to hide it or acting totally out of character. The drunkard main teacher is a hard one to pinpoint, as she’s almost always acting out of character, but usually its always in a way that benefits her. Finally, the sane gym teacher is usually manipulated by the drunkard, which often results in jokes revolving around a teacher acting like a child. Yet perhaps the best thing about Azumanga Daioh is not the characters or the humor, but the environment. Through people’s behavior you really see a lot of Japan and how Japanese school functions. (Minus the gag teachers, etc.)  Not only that, but the simplistic backgrounds are remarkably interesting and make the environment a star as well. Adding to all of these elements, the manga is very brief. Due to the humor focusing on characters acting differently from normal, the jokes are bound to become predictable and repetitive; or, they would have been, had this manga lasted any longer. At a trim four volumes, Azumanga Daioh is impressively short, just the perfect amount of what it is. Both entertaining and amusing, Azumanga Daioh is a four panel manga, or 4-koma, which doesn’t really affect too much humor as there is less humor in the punch lines usually than in the first three panels themselves. The art is quite simple, enhancing the characters expressions and supporting the humor. Azumanga Daioh is fun and simple.Why It Doesn’t Work – The simple premise would allow for character development, but never does. Throughout the course of four years, the characters remain in their cliché roles; genius-klutz, stupid-selfish, stupid-clueless, not-really-badass, etc. Also, being a 4-koma manga, the punch lines lose lots of impact when translated. Sometimes you’re left wondering “What was the joke?” at what was apparently making fun of fairly typical behavior. Something that distracts this manga from its theme is brief and random fan service. This doesn’t add to the manga and just feels odd and interrupts the flow of the manga. Story arcs can feel abandoned at times and just when it seems like Azumanga Daioh is a funny commentary on realistic events, something that couldn’t conceivably happen in real life (the Iriojime Cat) happens. Adding to this, the manga never goes anywhere. Despite time going on, the characters never really mature and you can’t imagine they’ll be any different in college. Once they graduate, they attempt to tackle the issue of not seeing each other again. And then they don’t. The author’s attempt to confront this issue is better than in Lovely Complex, but you still feel as if there was no real ending and despite time supposedly going on, it’s just an endless circle.


Story: A group of high school students from all walks of life coming together for a mere 7 hours of school on a daily basis. Thats it, thats all there is to it- yet inside that plotless scenario theres so much more. As soon as you start to read this manga you're instantly drawn in to the story, and can relate to the mindless witty stunts that go on all throughout it, reminding you of just how great high school can be, forgetting the teaching and whole main point to it.  The story starts off with, often drunk and cruel yet comedic teacher, Miss Yukari needing a way to get to work (late as usual) she then sees one of her students and when he asks for her help, what, I ask you, does she exactly do? Steal his bike, thats what. And in just them short few panels of the manga, you can already tell that this is not a normal manga and thats certainly no normal teacher- the other characters are just as weird. Art: Art in this manga is not outstanding in the usual way you'd think, its amazing in a much more different way. Drawn, majority in chibi-style, the art of Azumanga Daioh fits in extremely well to the story of this manga- Random yet awesome. The simplified faces and expressions perfectly convey the feelings of the characters in each and every drawing, and make the manga even more comical and funny. Sometimes you can get a kick just from how the characters have been drawn, and just looking at Chiyo-chan, the cute child genius is enough to turn you all ''moe, moe!! :3'' for days on end, just like Osaka's faces are sure to traumatise you. Characters: Now this, THIS is where the sheer magic happens. Azumanga Daioh truly wouldn't be complete without the bumbling group of amazing characters, each bringing something original to the manga, and it doesn't bring the usual cliches of big breasted blonde bimbo, and perverted porn-addicted teens...ok, some of these cliches exist in this manga, but nonetheless unique character designs are brought in and make the story simply superb. You meet Chiyo-chan, the unbelievably cute little 10-year old genius whos pigtails seem to have a mind of their own, at least according to Osaka, another amazing character who, without, Azumanga Daioh would be very incomplete. Osaka, the resident thicko and airhead who takes the term ''a sandwich short of a full picnic'' to a whole new level. Osaka (named after the place she comes from, no one actually ever cares to remember her real name as its only mentioned about once then immediately forgotten) is the psychopathic teen who's thicker than a board of 80-inch MDF. The majority of the laughs come at her expense, and we love her all the more for it. Add in Tomo, the equally as crazy, brainless teen, Yomi, the hardworking girl who shows the only signs out of all the cast at thinking these school girls are slightly odd and out of the ordinary, and Sakaki, the tall, studious, admired girl who wants to achieve nothing in life but be able to pat the cat who she passes everyday on the way to school, without getting her hand bitten off, and you have a prize-winning cast. Overall: I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who loves comedy, f you're up for laughs its for you. But to appreciate the true genius of this manga I'd say you have to be at least a few years in high school, or older to appreciate the thing this manga was set up to make us feel- nostalgia for the time you have at high school. Azumanga Daioh really proves the saying true that High school is ''the best few years of your life'' :)

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