Region: 2 - UK
Length: 650 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Azumanga Daioh is a slice of life, high school comedy anime, consisting of twenty-six episodes, adapted from the manga by Kiyohiko Azuma. The manga was originally published as four panel comic strips in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. It was because of this that Azumanga Daioh was originally broadcast in Japan, in 2002, as five minute long segments and why the anime is split up into short, clear chapters. The anime follows the everyday lives of six high school friends, from the girls first days through to their graduation.
Azumanga Daioh is more a character driven anime rather than story driven. The storylines are usually kept short and simple, and therefore the anime is quite realistic. The girls worry about the little things that seem to be huge problems when you are a teenager, but they don't even mention boys. Yomi worries about her weight, Sakaki wishes that people would stop thinking that she is unapproachable and Osaka...well Osaka doesn't really think at all. The series is shown through Chiyo's eyes, a ten year old girl who, due to her genius, has been allowed to skip five grades and enter high school.
As well as the students, the teachers are also integral to the series. Yukari and Nyamo's relationship reflects Tomo and Yomi's friendship, and it is often as if the girls are glimpsing their possible futures when Yukari starts to drive Nyamo mad. Yukari is the main girl's teacher, and they are often left very confused by her outbursts and generally strange behaviour. Nyamo teaches PE and is very popular with her students, which often leads to Yukari getting jealous. There is also Mr Kimura, a teacher with a penchant for high school girls.
The animation is crisp and clear, but the colours are still quite gentle, and of course there are lots of over-exaggerated expressions. The music is quite simple and washes over you throughout the anime, but the opening and ending themes are incredibly catchy and will get stuck in your head.
The dub is passable, and many viewers enjoy the dub more than the subtitled version. However I do dislike the dubbed voice for Osaka, however this is a personal thing, and it is understandable why they choice that voice for her as it shows that she is clearly from a different area of the country to the other girls. Other than that the rest of the voices fit the characters very well and the girls maintain their bright personalities.
The special features are the usual from ADV, with clean opening and closing credits, character sketches and an art study of each character. The standalone DVDs come with reversible covers, but the images on some are a little stretched. Both the box set and single DVDs come with a very handy booklet with translation notes. My personal favourite extra is the mini-movie on Volume 6, simply because the style is drastically different to Azumanga's usual art style.
The series is slow, gentle and packed with witty humour, though sadly some can be missed if you are not very familiar with Japanese culture. I would say that it is a shame that there aren't more anime like Azumanga, but would that really be a good thing? Azumanga is unique with its humour, storytelling and style. The characters are normal, and just like normal people they have their quirks. It isn't going to have you on the edge of your seat with excitement and anticipation, but it will have you hooked, and that is what makes it so appealing.