Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Azumanga Daioh

Genre: Comedy
General Audience
2002. J.C. Staff. Genco, J.C. Staff. TV Tokyo satellite. Kiyohiko Azuma (manga). Hiroshi Nishikiori (director).

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MarkPoa's Description:
Follow the funny and lighthearted misadventures of a group of young girls as they go through three years of high school life. Azumanga Daioh! is a 26-episode TV series based on a series of short 4-panel comic strips by Azuma Kiyohiko.

Lighthearted innocent fun... and cute, too! >>> by MarkPoa

"Raspberry heaven... I'm coming back to you... rakuen no hana ..."

I enjoy comedy anime and usually recommend such crazy shows such as Excel Saga, Dragon Half, and Fairy Princess Raine. Those anime comedies are at the flipped-out and fast-paced end of the spectrum. Now, if you're looking for a change of pace, Azumanga Daioh can give you a fun lighthearted trip back (or into) high school life.

Of course, that's loosely considering that your high school is as nutty as a fruitcake.

Azumanga Daioh! is a comedy series based on a series of short manga (comic) strips. The original manga strips were around three to four panels long each, kind of like regular comic strips you see in your newspapers. Because of this you can expect some short jokes and one-shot humor within this animated series.

For an anime comedy, Azumanga Daioh doesn't really fit typical high school anime conventions. It features:
* No nudity
* No gratuitous fanservice (except for some girls in swimsuits)
* No giant robots
* No space aliens
* No giant squids
* No magic (aside from dreams and stuff)
* No catgirl, er, *real* catgirls
* No robot girls
* No love triangles
* No nosy neighbors
* No army scenes or soldiers
* No gratuitous bloodshed
* No decapitated ninjas
* No flying spaceships or other machines
* No elemental spirits
* No pokemon or other mythical animals (except for strange cats)
* No dying
* No fourth wall breakages

It does feature:
* A cast of cute girls
* Osaka
* young genius Chiyo in a penguin suit
* Massive doses of cuteness
* Osaka
* A look into three years worth of madcap high school
* That's 3 years of school festivals, sports festivals, summer vacation, and exams!
* Lighthearted moments
* Innocent playful and funny (!) comedy
* More cat-biting than you can shake a stick at
* Oh, and did I mention Osaka?

The entire 26 episode TV series spans three years of the girls' high school life. The pacing of the story is fast without getting repetitive. Think of it as a comedy sitcom with a continuing story and you'll have a good idea. The gags might seem weird at first, but as the series goes on, you'll realize that part of the charm of the characters are their idiosynchrisies.

Don't expect mindboggling plots and storylines, though. All you get are these girls and their high school life. As mentioned above, there won't be any needless angst, complicated love triangles, stupid villains and world domination plots, or large quests. What you see is what you get. Plus, it kind of gets repetitive since you see the same festivals (albeit with different class projects and situations) for each of the girls' high school years.

The characters (all female, except for this one guy who I have a sneaky suspicion is supposed to represent the director or manga artist or something) have distinct and likeable personalities. I'm pretty sure each has her own following, and as a cast, they interact well with each other to bring out the humor in each situation they get into.

Fast paced animation highlights most episodes. This series is surprisingly well-animated for a TV series. Don't expect large scale or flashy special effects, though, since the story stays a bit down-to-earth.

The opening song is as lighthearted and nonsensical as the first Ranma 1/2 opening, giving you a good preview on the weirdness ahead. The ending song fits the overall story itself. The lyrics and tone sounds "girly", like something a young girl would listen to... no, not that Britney Spears stuff. Kids these days...

The main thing that could make or break this series for a person is the cuteness factor. The characters and story are cute to the point of saccharine saturation, though it doesn't go to the level of kiddie show cuteness. Unless you can handle the cuteness factor of the show, you're better off watching something else.

I must admit my initial reaction to this was "Another anime with cute girls? Puh-leaze!" But, because of the lack of other stuff and a concentration of good old-fashioned fun storytelling, humor, and quality animation, Azumanga Daioh won me over. It's just real innocent fun.

Give it a spin.

" Rakuen no hana ..."

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 7; Characters 9; Sounds 9

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