Azumanga Daioh Volume 1

The prospect of reviewing Azumanga Daioh was always an interesting one for me. I don’t naturally gravitate to these types of ‘cute-comedy’ shows (I’m more of an action buff), so it’s always fun to challenge my standard preconceptions on the off chance that I’ll actually like what I see– it happened with Fruits Basket, and (rather unsurprisingly) it has now happened with Azumanga Daioh too. This show rocks!

Azumanga Daioh follows the everyday lives of Japanese school girls [and their immoral teachers!]. The plot really doesn’t get much thicker than that, with the story centred on the vast array of crazy characters and the stupid situations they get themselves into. It’s full on ‘situational’ comedy with a different scenario presented in each episode.

As the disc goes on and we become more familiar with the lovable (and painfully cute) characters, it just gets even better, with notable traits appearing in each of our flawed ‘heroes’; from Ayumu’s incredibly spaced out personality to Chiyo’s unbreakable determination – the ‘main’ girl’s personalities are combine well and it becomes really fun to watch them in action.

Of course, if it was all high-pitched school-girls, Azumanga would get annoying– fast.
But thankfully, the adult characters hold up just as well, bringing the kind of playful ‘mature’ humour needed at just the right times. My favourite adult character so far has to be the totally perverted male teacher, who reaches new depths of depravity to catch glimpses of the girls in their swimsuits. The look on his face is just hilarious and his attitude incredibly blunt; “I wanted to be a teacher because I like high-school girls”. Having a character like this in a ‘high school comedy’ is extremely risqué (especially in the UK), but his moments on-screen turn out to be among the best so far.

My only real quibble with “Azumanga’ so far is the slightly distracting allusions made to Japanese culture.
Given the show is primarily about people and life in Japan, there are many references made to things that are pretty exclusive to Japanese viewers. This can lead to a few jokes falling on deaf ears, but ADV have done the right thing and provided a 12-page booklet which contains translation notes and comments from Azumanga’s Japanese staff.

Smoothly leading me onto my next point, ADV have done a fine job with this DVD release.
Not only does it contain the aforementioned 12-page booklet, but also comes with a reversible DVD cover and a set of production sketches.
Add to that the fact that this DVD contains 5 episodes of Azumanga Daioh and you really have a quality DVD release. I don’t usually praise things like special features in my reviews, but this definitely merits a special mention.

In Summary

Azumanga Daioh #1 is a very funny, likable and just downright cute anime series.

I was all set up to slate Azumanga in my review, but find myself won over by its lovable character designs and realistic collection of personalities.

I really can’t wait for the next volume and would recommend this to anyone looking for some good, Japanese-tinged comedy.

8 / 10

Paul

Washed up on the good shores of Anime UK News after many a year at sea. Also known as @bateszi, Paul has been writing about anime for a long time here at AUKN and at his anime blog.

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