ADV Films // 2002 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // May 25th, 2004
In Miss Yukari's English class, every day is an adventure.
Azumanga Daioh is shrill and cutesy. It has no plot twists and no major plot arch. There is little in the way of character development.
But none of that matters a bit, because this show is the most fun I have had watching a television screen in a very long time. The humor is rich and varied, the animation is great, the dialogue is slick, and I have now become hooked on a show from a genre I usually despise.
Azumanga Daioh follows the adventures of a young English teacher in Tokyo named Miss Yukari and a few of her students. At first glance, it seems like a pretty stereotypical group. Chiyo-Chan is a ten-year-old transfer student that skipped five grades. Tomo is a loudmouthed, energetic brat. Osaka is a naïve, spacey girl who just moved from Osaka. Rounding out the group is the smart and bossy Yomi and Miss Sakaki, a shy girl that the other students find threatening. They all hang out at school and run into various issues and problems. And that's about all there is to it. It's based on a four panel comic strip series from Japan.
While many anime shows are based on manga series, not many of them are based on comic strips. Such a short format does not have storylines that can fill a full 22-minute episode. To solve this problem, the creators of Azumanga Daioh decided to break each episode into five mini-episodes. This format works perfectly, as it has the focused humor of the short segments isn't stretched out too long. Things must not have been adapted too closely, though, because the segments often have several things going on at the same time. This makes the series great for repeat viewings, because there are always details to find that you had missed before.
This first volume has five episodes:
* "Miss Yukari"
This first episode basically sets up the characters. It's a little overwhelming at first, but it's incredibly funny the second time through. Much of it follows Chiyo-Chan's introduction to high school.
* "Osaka's Day"
The second episode focuses mainly on Osaka and a very challenging day for her. Osaka may well be the funniest character in animation, and this episode is the strongest one on the disc.
This episode follows the rivalry between Miss Yukari and the gym teacher, Nyamo. The show is definitely funniest when it is centered on the students, making this the weakest episode on the disc (but not by too much).
* "Pool, Pool, Pool"
In any other anime show, an episode about a classroom of teenage girls in a swimming pool would be an opportunity for a whole lot of fan service. The makers of Azumanga Daioh know that, and they make some jokes about that without ever crossing the line of good taste. There are no gratuitous breast shots or anything like that, and this good taste is one of the reasons I am as impressed as I am with the show. In this episode, the girls are followed to the pool by their more than a little creepy male classical lit teacher, Mr. Kimura.
* "Summer Break"
In this final episode, the main characters wind up at Chiyo-Chan's summer home. It's a fitting break for the series, and it's very funny.
ADV has released this first volume of the series on a very satisfying disc. The animation of the show is very good, and full of little details that enhance the show. The video transfer captures all of those details and looks great doing it.
The sound is also excellent. While I prefer the Japanese dialogue and subtitles, as a number of the jokes get lost in the English translation, the dub is one of the better ones I have heard. The subtitles are perfectly timed and go that extra mile to show what signs in the background say. The music is cute and delightful, capturing the tone of the series perfectly. The original Japanese is presented in a nice stereo track, while the English dub is presented in a slightly nicer 5.1 surround track.
One of the biggest troubles I had watching the show was catching the steady stream of cultural references and jokes. To combat that problem, ADV has included a booklet with five pages of translation notes, which I found very helpful. Also included in the booklet are some staff comments as well as an art study of Chiyo-Chan. The extras on the disc are minimal, with a few trailers, clean opening and closing animations, and some production sketches. The quality of the booklet more than makes up for the bare bones disc, however.
As awesome as it is, Azumanga Daioh is not quite perfect. Some of the segments don't work as well as others, and there are times that it is too shrill and manic. In the end, though, I don't see how I can complain too much. If you have read my Prétear reviews, you will know how much I dislike this cutesy crap in anime. Even though this show is cute to the point of being adorable, I love it, and I can't wait till the next installment.
If you are a fan of shoujo shows, go get this disc immediately. Get it with the series box, because you are going to want the whole set as the other installments come out. If you are not a fan of the genre, check it out anyway. If you get to the end of the second episode and aren't hooked, there may be something wrong with you.
Miss Yukari and her students are free to go, but they are welcome to come back to my courtroom whenever they want. ADV is ordered to submit the remaining volumes as quickly as possible as further evidence. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2004 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Sketches