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.