02/26/04

**Azumanga Daioh review**

Sometimes less is more.

This is one of those times.

The style of Azumanga Daioh is deceptively simple. The character designs seem somewhat basic, the music is very light and subdued, and minor details such as ...plot... seem to be easily disregarded. Azumanga Daioh epitomizes the so-called Slice of Life genre of anime.

The strongest aspect of Azumanga Daioh are the characters themselves, so I will introduce the major ones here.

First there is Koyomi Mizuhara, or simply Yomi. She seems to be the most down to earth of the girls, diligent in her studies, doesn't act outlandish, and is a bit concerned about her weight.Yomi
TomoNext we have her longtime friend Tomo Takino. Tomo is not particularly bright, but she makes up for this by channeling what seems to be a limitless supply of energy and optimism.
Third is Sakaki. Unusually tall and developed compared to the rest of the class, Sakaki seems somewhat of a loner, though she is very gifted athletically. She also has a soft spot for all animals, though those feelings are not usually mutual...Sakaki
ChiyoNext there is Chiyo Mihama. Chiyo is an adorable child genius, entering high school at the age of just 10. Despite that she still manages to be so much further along than the rest of the class, and at times even the teacher.
After Chiyo we meet Ayumu Kasuga, whom in the very first episode acquires the nickname Osaka for no greater a reason than the fact she just transfered from there. Osaka is very, well, slow, in her own way. She is easily distracted, yet somehow manages to surprise you with the most random and hilarious comments when least expected.Osaka
KaguraKagura is sort of a combination of Sakaki and Tomo, being both athletic and none too bright at the same time. She means well, of course, but she's more focused on swimming and training rather than academics.
Kaorin on the other hand, seems somewhat intelligent yet quiet. Her focuses drift more simply toward Sakaki, whom she has a crush on, and which of course becomes an endless source of comedy.Kaorin

Yukari
Nyamo
Kimura
Now after those seven students are three teachers in particular.

Yukari Tanizaki, Minamo "Nyamo" Kurosawa, and Kimura. Yukari and Nyamo are old friends, having attended high school together themselves. While Nyamo is more or less level-headed and hard-working, Yukari on the other hand is sloppy, lazy, and ... insane. Yukari is the homeroom and English teacher for the girls all three years, while Nyamo is the P.E. teacher and swimming coach. They eventually become good friends with the girls, even accompanying them on summer vacations. Kimura-sensei on the other hand, well, you just have to see him to believe him. He really likes high school girls though, only he just can't understand why they insist on not tucking their shirts into their shorts for P.E. A little perverted, yes, but more or less harmless.

Beyond knowing who the characters are, there's just not much need for explanation here. The series jumps forward in time from episode to episode, spotlighting various aspects of high school life, from Sports Festivals, to Cultural Fairs, to summer vacation trips, and to studying for college entrance exams. Since it is originally based on a four-panel comic series, it's easy to see why there is little in the way of plot and continuity in the series. There are running gags, certainly, but not much else is there other than the girls' steady progression through high school and towards graduation.

Visually, as mentioned above, the character designs are very simplistic and not particularly detailed. Backgrounds and surroundings are not as detailed either, and yet there is a certain elegance to all this simplicity that really is appealing to me. As a result, the images provided are adequate to conveying meanings to viewers, yet at the same time they do not distract from the interaction and dialogue of the characters.

Speaking of the seiyuu now, there are many extremely talented voice actors who have lent their talents to the show. Notably, Yuu Asakawa portrays Sakaki, Houko Kuwashima performs the voice of Kagura, Yukari-sensei is voiced by Akiko Hiramatsu, Rie Tanaka lends her talents to Yomi, and Aya Hisakawa gives voice to Nyamo-sensei. More than any of those talented seiyuu, however, special recognition needs to be given to Tomoko Kaneda who provides the voice of the super-cute and adorable Chiyo Mihama. She manages to perfectly capture the naive innocence and pure outlook of a ten year old girl, and actually sounds like she herself is ten.

The music is very playful and at most times lighthearted and easygoing. Wind instruments seem prevalent in the background music, at times even including the use of recorders. The music may on occasion sound strange, but it just fits so perfectly that it's difficult to think of it being any other way. The opening and ending themes, Soramimi Cake and Raspberry Heaven, are vibrant and cheerful songs, easily setting the tone for the series.

Overall, this is an excellent comedy show that I've found easy to watch over and over again. There is nothing particularly groundbreaking to the series, but it remains eminently enjoyable. It is a show that is appropriate for most anyone, as there is very little objectionable material. Right now it is among my three favorite shows, and I don't see it moving out of that position anytime soon.

-Larinon

Composite grade A+ (4.00)
Visuals A
Story A
Performances A
Music A
Overall A