Azumanga Daioh Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, January 10, 2005
Release Date: Monday, August 16, 2004
What They Say
Crack open those books, and don't forget to pack your lunch for the first side-splitting volume of Azumanga Daioh!
In Miss Yukari's English class, every day is an adventure. First off, there's the teacher herself: a bit of an airhead, she may have graduated from high school, but she sure hasn't left. And with the arrival of not one, but two transfer students (one 10 year old prodigy and one space cadet) it's going to be an interesting year.
It's going to be a full year, too. Between handling enormous assignments, dodging murderous volleyballs and enduring endless rivalries, summer vacation should serve as a welcome break for the weary student unless your teachers come with you: get ready for a serious lesson in laughter!
One of the most popular and hyped series of the past few years hits the UK, the hilarious comedy known as Azumanga Daioh.
I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review, and noticed no distortions or dropouts. The track itself was a fairly standard stereo mix for a television series. The performances from all the voice actors were a riot, and I enjoyed their work immensely. Tomoko Kaneda is perfect as Chiyo-chan, with Yuki Matsuoka and Yuu Asakawa putting in particularly good performances as Osaka and Sakaki respectively. But on the whole, the entire cast is really good.
The English language track is presented in 5.1, and it sounded fine while writing the review, though it didn't seem that enhanced over the Japanese stereo track. The dub sounded good from the portions I listened to, with most of the main characters seeming to spark a similar chemistry as their Japanese counterparts. This is another series I look forward to watching in full in English when I get the time.
Azumanga looks fantastic in what is a very good transfer. Colours are very vibrant and the transfer is clean, and I noticed no artefacts, aliasing or other problems during regular playback. There were a couple of areas of cross-colouration, but it's barely worth mentioning. There's really little more I can say about the transfer as it really is very good. Subtitles are the nice, newer ADV font, and are in a yellow as always.
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the cover replicates the Japanese DVD cover with an image of Chiyo-chan bouncing up. The volume number and show's log appear large around the cover, too, and there's a cute little Japanese "A!" above Chiyo's head. The cover makes great use of white space, and looks really good. The back cover is a bit manic with a description of the show, some screenshots and the credits list all scattered about. There are also plenty of arrows pointing around. The usual ADV info box appears here, clearly listing technical information.
The cover is also reversible. The front features a cute image of Chiyo-chan holding an English textbook and looking all excited, with Osaka asleep in the background and Sakaki looking out the window. Yukari and the other school girls appear on the back of the reverse cover with an episode listing (including a breakdown of the individual episodes within).
As a nice extra we also get the 12-page booklet that includes a Chiy-chan profile, translator notes, staff comments, production images and more. It's a really nice extra and I love that ADV go the extra mile to bring these inserts over to the UK.
The main menu features Sakaki getting her hand bitten by the cat, and waving it up and down, while the episodes are listed across the top. The show's logo is on the right hand side, while that yellow toy thing appears around the screen. Sub-menus are also animated simply. The extras menu features Chiyo-chan flying with her pigtails bobbing up and down, and Osaka following her with some pigtails of her own. The scene select menu features Tomo swaying back and forth, while the language menu features Yukari about to hit Osaka with a textbook, and the sub-menus all feature different pieces of music. These menus are far more creative than the usual ADV fair and I like them a lot, as they really fit with the tone of the show.
My only disappointment with the disc is the on-disc extras department, which simply contains a standard textless opening and ending, and a selection of production sketches set to some music. I'd expect to see this trend continue across the series, so it's not particularly an exciting prospect in that regard.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Azumanga Daioh made quite an impact on anime fandom when it aired on Japanese TV, and it became one of the most highly anticipated licenses of the last few years. So when ADV announced their license of the series in early 2003, there was much rejoicing. Based on a manga made of a series of sketches by Kiyohiko Azuma, the TV series spans 26 episodes, or more precisely each episode is made up of five segments, for a total of 130 for the entire series.
Azumanga is a pure comedy and as such is likely to be love it or hate it for most people, with not much in-between. Amongst fans opinion tends to be far more positive than negative though, and it's easy to see why as the series is an oftentimes hilarious blend of high school girls and comedy.
There's not really much of a story structure to Azumanga Daioh, as it mainly just spans events in the girls' day to day lives at school. The basic premise is in the set-up, which sees a new child prodigy transferring to the school as she's so advanced in her learning. At only ten years old, Chiyo-chan's often more intelligent than her classmates, but is extremely polite and helpful, and never arrogant. She is, however, filthy rich. She pretty much becomes the mascot for her first year of high-school class, and makes friends with Tomo, who is extremely competitive, Yomi who tends to be quite mature, and Sakaki, who is idolised by many of her classmates for several reasons, but is actually quite shy and has her own little quirks.
Ayumu Kasuga also soon transfers to the school from Osaka, and is quite ditzy, having a habit of day-dreaming during class and thinking and saying the most odd things. She is quickly nicknamed Osaka by Tomo, who immediately adds her to the list of competitors. The group is rounded out by their homeroom teacher, Yukari, who is quite the lazy one and constantly annoys her friend, the PE teacher Minamo (nicknamed "Nyamo"). The whole group is introduced over the first two episodes, and all five follow the girls through their days, showing us what they're doing, saying and their random thoughts. From visiting Chiyo-chan's summer house where they tell ghost stories, to going swimming in the pool, it really is a slice-of-life kind of show.
While comedy is always hit and miss, for me more often than not this series nails it and leaves me laughing out loud. The timing is really great, and some of the events are just hilarious. Osaka tends to crack me up in most situations, just by her long pauses followed by something completely random. A great example was in the netball game when she names the team "sea slug" and the other girls just don't know how to react, so after a pause she says it again and they just follow her lead, but the expressions on their faces compared to hers are just too funny. The second episode, which pretty much followed her day, had some great moments too, especially moments like those with Chiyo-chan's pigtails. I'll never be able to look at them in the same way again!
Chiyo-chan is also the source of many laughs. One of my favourites was in the third episode when she's talking with the teachers and the books on the desk suddenly start to fall, and she grabs hold of them and the teachers simply say "oooh!" That and her follow up just had me laughing all the more. It's often her cuteness which leads to laughs, too, like when she's in the line after not doing her homework and just in total fear as the teacher comes along to hit her on the head with a textbook, and when she is in constant fear of driving in Yukari's car.
The other characters are great as well and it's the interactions between them, and the laughs that ensue, that make Azumanga so enjoyable. Tomo and her hilarious attempts to out-do everyone at everything leads to much comedy, and the teachers play off each other fantastically well (the encounter with the English man in episode three as Yukari "blah"s together with him just had me laughing. Sakaki also made me laugh when she was trying to stroke the cat. Yomi is the only one who thus far hasn't left much of an impression, but as we see more of her I'm sure her personality will really come through. The only slightly disturbing aspect of the show is Kimura, the male teacher, but even he manages to produce a few laughs as well.
The character designs in the series are also really appealing as everyone and everything looks really cute, and it fits really well in the style of the show. The animation is as good as you would expect and consistent across the first five episodes. The music and in particular the sound effects are always entirely fitting and only help with the atmosphere.
In fact, the only thing I can really fault the series for at this stage is that for some it might be a little shallow. There's not much really happening outside things being setup for their comedy value, so anyone looking for a good plot will probably not find much of value in that regard here. But comedies are generally light on plot anyway, so that's really something that comes with the genre.
The first volume of Azumanga Daioh is a great start to the series. While it's naturally light on plot, the comedy is present in spades, and the characters are a funny bunch. Azumanga is a hilarious show and is easily one of the most enjoyable I've seen this year. If you're looking for a bit of fun and a laugh, this series is exactly what you need!
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Clean Opening & Closing,Production Sketches
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Azumanga Daioh