Azumanga Daioh, dubbed by some as the Seinfeld of anime, follows 3 years in the the lives of several high school girls, from their first day of class to graduation. No magic powers, no battles to save the world, no mysteries to be solved, Azumanga Daioh simply shows what passes for normal everyday life for the girls and and some of their more interesting teachers.
AZUMANGA DAIOH AT A GLANCE
- Director: Hiroshi Nishikiori
- Studio: J.C.Staff
- Genre: Seinen, Comedy, High School, Slice of Life
- U.S. License: AD Vision
- Episodes: 26
The characters of AD are the only part of the show; their distinct personalities are what make the mundane activities of school life seem almost exciting. Everyone is presented as is, up front, so there isn't even any real character development. The point of AD seems to be observation without analysis, which creates an anime that is both enjoyable and relaxing in its simplicity.
Chiyo Mihama (Chiyo-chan) is an 11-year-old genius, skipped from 5th to 10th grade. This results in her being smaller, cuter, and smarter than all of her high school classmates. She's introduced in the first episode by the bouncing of her pigtails on her way to the first day of class. Chiyo is aware of the disadvantages of her position (being a little girl surrounded by blossoming young women), but her sweetness and near-nauseating cuteness always win everyone over.
Sakaki (always referred to as "Miss Sakaki" by Chiyo and Kaorin) is the tallest and bustiest girl in her class, and probably the entire school. She has an obsessive love of cute things, which explains her quick friendship with Chiyo and her love of cats, though all but one of the cats she encounters don't reciprocate this affection, and her mother's allergy to cats prevents her from having one of her own. Sakaki is quiet, and a born athlete, but is far more interested in animals than sports, and spends most of her time daydreaming about pets. Other girls (mainly Kaorin) mistake her shy aloofness as a sort of rebellious cool.
Koyomi "Yomi" Mizuhara
Yomi is the "sensible" one of the group, who usually only loses her wits when irritated with Tomo. Only a bit shorter than Sakaki, and just as developed, Yomi's issues with her weight are introduced late in the series, proving that she is less grown-up and more insecure than she'd like others to think. Her only intellectual rival is Chiyo, but due to Yomi's maturity (and a lot more to Chiyo's cuteness), there's never any bad blood between them.
Kagura shows up quite a few episodes after the other characters; her first appearance is during the first year sports festival as the sports star in another homeroom class. By second year she becomes a mainstay (due to Yukari's scheming), ends up in the others' homeroom and immediately pegs Sakaki as her athletic rival, and the fact that Sakaki isn't interested in competing with her doesn't bother Kagura a bit.
A transfer student from Osaka, her hometown becomes the name that sticks with her throughout the series. Osaka is even stranger and more out of touch with reality than Sakaki, as she spends entire class periods sleeping, daydreaming, or repeating a motivational mantra so many times to herself that she misses her chance to become a better student. She comes off as a dumb country girl, and her athletic ability is less than a toddler learning to walk, and for this she quickly becomes a loveable / unbelievably annoying
My personal favorite, Tomo is a loudmouthed, overconfident braggart who's only real talent is being blissfully unaware that she has none. If anyone around her displays a particular skill, Tomo is sure that she can be a million times better, and doesn't hesitate to tell everyone. It doesn't seem to matter that she never succeeds in beating her self proclaimed rival; she simply makes a half-hearted excuse for her failure, and continues on to her next conquest. Tomo's energy and competitiveness are matched only by Kagura, but at least Kagura has the good sense to know when she's beaten.
Kaorin is an interesting character, as her purpose in the series is based on two factors: her strange crush on Sakaki, and Mr. Kimura's weird crush on her. She isn't featured nearly as much as the others, but she provides a lot of comedy in her interactions with Sakaki and Kimura.
The girls' homeroom teacher, Yukari is a typical nutball anime character. Selfish, arrogant and competitive, Yukari shouts more than she speaks, gets drunk with her fellow teacher and old "friend" Minamo, and puts Chiyo in a recurring temporary catatonic state with her bad driving. From the way she acts as an adult, it's clear that Yukari was a lot like Tomo as a student: impulsive, reckless and somewhat destructive.
Minamo, or Nyamo as Yukari calls her, is a P.E. teacher and well liked by all of her students. In a sharp contrast to Yukari, Nyamo encourages and rewards her homeroom class for their efforts, win or lose. Much like Yomi with Tomo, Nyamo is generally a kind and controlled person, driven to bad behavior only by her love/hate relationship with Yukari. The best example of this is an incident at Chiyo's beach house, where Nyamo felt it her duty to drink all of the sake Yukari brought to keep Yukari from doing anything stupid that might scar the girls emotionally for life. Of course, it doesn't go as planned.
Kimura is something of a minor character; like Kaorin, his purpose is limited. In fact, his only purposes seem to be being a creepy guy who watches the girls during gym class and obsessing over Kaorin (to the point of making declarations in class that they'll always be together). He remains open-mouthed with unseeable eyes through the entire series. The funniest thing is that he has a wife, so sweet she brings his lunch when he forgets it and really thinks he's a great guy, and a daughter who's mentioned only in passing. Kaorin's disgust at his attentions doesn't slow him down at all in his pursuit of her, even though the disgust is more than justified.
I really enjoyed this series, although it is a little slow, and Chiyo's introduction was near vomit-inducing in its cuteness. If you can make it past the first few episodes, you'll be pulled into the characters' quirkiness and won't be able to stop watching 'til the end.
Official Azumanga Daioh Website: