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Azumanga Daioh Complete Collection PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Sunday, 28 October 2007 17:00
Azumanga DaiohTake one class full of maybe slightly-crazy students, add some definitely-crazy teachers, and follow them through their three years of high-school, and you get the general idea of Azumanga Daioh - although that doesn't begin to explain just how funny and enjoyable it can be. It could almost be described as the show that made the high-school comedy cool again - and now it's getting a UK boxset release. Worth it? Oh yes...

Those girls, then. There's cute-as-a-button child prodigy Chiyo, who's so smart she's skipped 5 years of school already; Sakaki, the shy one in class who's obsessed with cats and doesn't realise that classmate Kaorin's obsessed with her; genki girl Tomo, who sees life as one big opportunity to goof off; Osaka (real name Ayumu), who comes from Osaka - how'd you guess? - and seems to live in her own strange little world; Yomi, who's obsessed with her weight; and sports-mad Kagura. On the staff front, there's over-competitive Yukari, her long-time friend & rival Nyamo, and schoolgirl-obsessed (and not in a good way) Kimura. Put them all together, mix well, and see what happens.

Kimura-sensei causes problemsPool!  Yay!

Waitresses!  Yay!Don't anger Yomi...

The anime is based on a '4-koma' comic strip - think Garfield, and you get a rough idea of the format - and the TV series tries to mimic the short, sharp gag approach that encourages by splitting each episode down into 5 short mini-stories - they each stand on their own up to a point, but put them all together into a 25-minute episode and you get a larger story out of them. It's an unusual way of doing things, but the way it forces the scenes to be short and to-the-point helps the comedy of the series flow and helps keep the interest. Sometimes comedies suffer from stretching gags out a bit too long - the format here doesn't allow that to happen, and that's a good thing.

It's not all completely comedy, either - there are some good touching moments thrown in there are well, around Sakaki's love for cats (when the kitten of a killed wildcat seeks Sakaki out, after she had been friendly to it earlier) and the general friendship of the girls that gives the show a little depth. As it covers the full three years of highschool, there's also a surprising amount of development for some of them as they go through the years - not too much, as it's not that sort of show, but enough that you can see some changes.

Shocku!Kaorin watches Sakaki from a distance

Kuroneko and friendsLast day blues

Following the girls through three years does bring its own problems, though. Most high-school shows have the obligatory culture festival and sports day shows - Azumanga has three of each, one for each year; likewise the "trip away" episode, and they all come the clockwork regularity. The episodes are fun enough of themselves, but there's only so much you can do with the ideas and it does get a little repetitive. Some of Kimura-sensei's antics stray very close to the line between funny and creepy - being obsessed with schoolgirls is all very well, but you kind of cringe a little when, for example, he's at a student-run cafe during the culture fest and asks for "..pool water! That the girls have been swimming in!"

But for every bad moment, there's a whole series of good one. Yukari-sensei coming unstuck with a German tourist. Sakaki stumbling across a huge flock (?) of cats - and getting eaten by them all. The formation of the Knuckleheads. Nyamo's facts of life. I could probably go on, but there's just too many scenes in this show that you have to love. At its heart it's another slice-of-life show, but rather than treat the concept seriously like, say, To Heart did, the show has a lot of fun with the concept without going completely over the edge.

What'dya score? Huh? Huh?Yukari in 'punisher' mode

The set also includes the Azumanga Daioh Mini-Movie, a five-minute short that follows the usual format of the show but that has absolutely stunning production values - well beyond the TV episodes, so save it for last and don't spoil yourself.

Azumanga Daioh is a great little series that takes a concept that has been done many times before, and tinkers with it just enough to make it something fresh again. The girls are lovable, the teachers great fun, and the overall package is a good dose of entertainment that will cheer most people up on any occasion. It's maybe a bit too frenetic or slapstick for some people, and it can be a bit repetitive in places - it's not a series that lends itself to marathoning - but those are really the only criticisms that can be levelled at it. Definitely worth buying.

For episode summaries and screenshots, check out or reviews of the original releases - some of these were written way back before I'd settled on a standard page layout, so they may look a little off under the current theme (not to mention that the reviewing style was different back then, too), but the info's all there...
» Volume 1: Entrance!
» Volume 2: Festivals!
» Volume 3: Rivals!
» Volume 4: Friends!
» Volume 5: Seniors!
» Volume 6: Graduation!

Rating - ****

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