Written by Ichiro Okouchi, based upon the manga by Kiyohiko Azuma
Directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori
Music by Masaki Kurihara
- Clean opening and closing animation
- Mini movie
- Character gallery
- Production sketches
- Collective pin
- Art gallery
- Reversible cover
- Insert with translator notes
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
- Cute cats and kids
- Exam stress
- Vicious bell-ringing
- Cat on girl violence
Released by: ADV
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Get it now and love it forever.
The first episode returns to the issue of the iriomote cat, who befriended Sakaki on their school trip. His mother having been killed, he has come to Japan in search of Sakai, and arrives just in time to save her from the attack of all the neighborhood cats. In the second episode, the girls study for college entrance exams, and Osaka decides she might be a good teacher, which of course infuriates their teacher Yukari. The girls also make their New Year visit to a shrine to pray for success, providing some insight into such things as bell-ringing, sacred fortunes, good luck charms, and how to split disposable chopsticks properly.
The art is cute without being too cute or annoying. Each girl is so distinctive and adorable in her own way, even the cranky Yomi, and her personality truly shines through. The voice acting also supports this, in English and in Japanese, no matter how you may feel about Osaka’s slow, quasi-Southern drawl instead of the Bronx accent some fans feel would be more appropriate.
The fact that there are only three episodes left in the show to put on this disc is offset by the wealth of special features. The special features list includes another lovely cloisonnÃ© pen, this time of Mayaa, the iriomote. More shows should do this, as it’s not only a great bonus in itself, it serves as free advertising when friends ask what it is and want one too. We also get a movie character art gallery that shows off the various characters to nice effect, and a set of production sketches that do the same. Prospective artists will appreciate the chance to see how faces, bodies, etc. are drawn.
The case comes with a lengthy insert of translator’s notes, a feature that more, if not every, anime release should include, as they’re splendid, but can’t be that expensive to produce and provide to us. The notes, accompanied by nice images from the show, are fascinating, actually useful, and just plain entertaining, perfect for benighted Americans who don’t live in Japan and can’t revel in the culture in person. The real star of the features list, however, is the Azumanga Daioh mini-movie, which is just over five minutes long and shows a little scene from school with each girl, demonstrating in a mere moment what each girl’s personality is all about. All anime designers, indeed all fiction writers, could learn a great deal about showing character from this little film. There’s also a keen character sketch gallery for the mini-movie. We also get a reversible cover featuring Tomo and a clean opening and closing.
Somehow, without giant robots, scantily-clad heroines, magic, or big guns, Azumanga Daioh consistently entertains and amuses. It’s not only cleverly written, but engrossing, good-hearted, and amusing. It just goes to show that you don’t need car chases, sex, or bad language to be fresh and entertaining. Fans of comedy shows, slice of life shows, or high school shows will love this show, as will anyone who just wants to see what it’s like to be a schoolgirl in Japan. More than anything else, the show is about friendship and love, and how good it is to have people have faith in you and appreciate you for who you are, even if you’re weird, a little slow, half their age, or overly-competitive. If you’ve ever had a real friend, you’ll love this show and want to collect all the discs.