Article: Classics of Anime - Azumanga Daioh
Classics of Anime - Azumanga Daioh
For all of the great shows we've talked about so far over the course of our Classics of Anime series, it's hard to think of an anime which has drawn a line in the sand as definitively as the effort we'll be talking about today, representing as it does a huge shift in how comedy in anime was represented, while also paving the way for a relatively new genre of series which is still becoming increasingly popular to this day. "What is this ground-breaking anime, and where can I watch it?" I hear you all cry. Well, the chances are that you've at least already heard of the series in question, and there's a distinct possibility that you've watched it too, for this innovative anime goes by the name of: Azumanga Daioh.
Of course, Azumanga Daioh actually began its life as a four-panel manga series back in early 1999, running for just over three years (much like the school life of its stars) before coming to an end in mid-2002, winning an award for its creator Kiyohiko Azuma at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2002 and proving the longevity of its popularity by being named as one of the top twenty-five manga of all-time at the same event in 2006.
At its heart, Azumanga Daioh's concept couldn't be simpler, throwing as it does a number of girls with various differing personalities together and following them through their high school life all the way through until their graduation. While the series does occasionally rely on wider themes or settings (such as a school trip or beach-side holiday, for example), the four-panel origins of Azumanga Daioh means that the focus is very much on the comedy derived from a given situation, in that typical comic strip fashion of using a handful of panels to set up the joke and deliver it in double-quick time. This is something that the Azumanga Daioh manga proves itself capable of doing with devastating comic effect, but how well could this kind of setup translate into a full-on animated series? That question was left to J.C. Staff and director Hiroshi Nishikiori, and come April 2002 Azumanga Daioh began its twenty-six episode run on TV Tokyo.
Thankfully, this anime adaptation manages to perfectly capture (and it could be argued actually enhance) the myriad characters lovingly created by the original work, from young child genius Chiyo through to the rather different "genius" sported by Ayumu, otherwise known by her nickname of "Osaka" on account of her accent and origins. Similarly, the brief tales and gags which made the original manga so popular almost all make it through to the anime intact, tied together masterful to bring reasonably cogent episodes together out of those various four-panel strips from which they were adapted.
So packed with great jokes and memorable moments is Azumanga Daioh that everyone will doubtless have a favourite of their own, whether it's the distinctly surreal side of the show's humour (most ably demonstrated by bizarre dreams of penguins and Chiyo's father) or the more traditional jokes revolving around cures for hiccups or the series small selection of dysfunctional teachers. The sign of any great comedy series is when a group of people can sit around discussing it, prefacing their thoughts with "remember that bit when...", and Azumanga Daioh succeeds admirably when it comes to passing that particular test.