ADV's new anime series, Azumanga Daioh: the Animation is an oddity
among anime. It isn't based on a continuing manga story like most
anime adaptations are. It is based on four-panel humor strip.
Converting a simple strip into a half hour cartoon sounds like it would
be difficult, but the creaters were able to carry it off, creating a funny
and enjoyable show.
Chiyo Mihama is a young prodigy. Though she's only ten years
old, Chiyo has skipped five grades, and is in high school. Not only
that but she's one of the best students in her class. Chiyo is charmingly
cute and instantly liked by her classmates. Other members of the
class are the athletic and competitive Chihiro, and Ayumu (also known as
Osaka) the spacey and not too bright girl. Miss Sakaki is the student
who is perfect in every way, the first to physically develop, and a great
athlete. But she can't seem to pet a cat. Add into the mix
a couple of competitive teachers, and you have a very funny show that gets
funnier as it goes on.
The program's format is reminiscent of a comic strip, which is natural
since that's what it is based on. Each episode is composed of five
short chapters that are usually not related. Sometimes the scenes
in each chapter will be unrelated too, so it's difficult to give a synopsis
of each show. Though there isn't a lot of plot to the program, each
episode does have a good share of laughs. While some of the chapters
fall flat, most of them are funny. At first I thought that the series
was just mildly amusing, but as I watched more, I became more familiar
with the cadence of the show and it grew more entertaining and laugh-filled.
There are several great bits in every episode, but I especially liked
Sakaki's various attempts to pet the vicious cat. Chiyo and Osaka
practicing volleyball, and the episode where the entire group goes over
to Chiyo's house only to find that she lives in a mansion are funny also.
A typical chapter is the one in the second episode where Osaka gets the
hiccups. Everyone tried to cure her using assorted remedies that
they've heard. They start with mundane cures like drinking water
while holding your nose, but quickly move to more bizarre suggestions such
as giving them to someone else (!?) or a hard punch to the solar plexus.
There was a rather odd joke in one show where some of the girls are
in bathing suits and the one with the largest breasts is described as being
"American." Being embarrsed by this, she refers to a flat chested
girl as being Japanese. Eventually it is desided that the ones in
the middle are from Hawaii. That's a classification system I never
would have thought to create.
J. C. Staff, the same people responsible for Excel Saga and
Puni Puni Poemy, did the animation. They did their usual good
job, adding just the right amount of whimsy to the character designs to
make the show funny, but not a parody of itself.
The five episodes on this first volume are:
Episode 1: Miss Yukari
Episode 2: Osaka's Day
Episode 3: Nyamo
Episode 4: Pool, Pool, Pool
Episode 5: Summer Break
This DVD offers the choice of the original Japanese language track in
stereo or a 5.1 English dub. The 5.1 English track was more enveloping
than the Japanese track, but it doesn't sound superior. The English
track was actually fairly irritating. It sounds like it was dubbed
by people who have never actually heard a young girl talk, but are trying
to imitate other cartoon girl voices. The female voices were all
high pitched and squeaky, not natural sounding at all. Osaka's voice
was done with a fake southern accent that sounded really dumb. Even
though it was only in stereo, I greatly preferred the Japanese track that
was clean and clear with no hiss or audio distortion.
Being a recent production, the full frame video looked pretty good.
The lines were tight and sharp, and the colors clear. There was a
fair amount of aliasing, with the diagonal lines having a stair step effect,
but this is common with animated shows. The colors were a little
muted, but I think that this was the creator's intent. A fine looking
disc with only minimal defects.
This DVD includes a clean opening and closing, and a two minute reel
of production sketches.
The trailers on this disc are for Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat, the
Lesson, the strange Puni
Puni Poemy, Kino's
Journey, Kaleido Star, and Magical
Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.
The clear DVD case comes with a reversible cover, and there is a 12-page
booklet enclosed. The booklet had comments on each episode by various
people who worked on the show. It also contained explanations of
the various cultural references in the series that western audiences may
This was a funny show. There wasn't a lot of plot, but they did
manage to cram a lot of jokes into each program. While the first
episode was amusing, the show definitely had me laughing more as the series
went on. It's a good show to check out if you are looking for some
easy laughs. Recommended.