Japanese Manga written by Kiyohiko Azuma, and published monthly in Dengeki Daioh Magazine, one of the large phonebook-size manga magazines popular in Japan.

It deals with the exploits of a group of middle shool girls in typical situations that may arise in japanese schools. The cast of characters is very entertaining and allows for a wide variety of stories. There is the sporty one, the dumb one, the young genius one (everybody just loves cute Chiyo-chan), the kowaii (scary) one who nonetheless is the one who loves cute things the best, the chaotic teacher, the "I-love-young-girls" scary teacher and many many more. Just read it and enjoy the fun. AFAIK, there are scanlations on the web somewhere.

A typical strip has a standard length of 4 vertically arranged panels with a punchline in the last panel, although some storylines also saw regular manga format stories.

Thus far (June 2002), 4 volumes have been published and it seems that the latest volume also ends the series, as the girls graduate from middle school and in the latest Dengeki no new stories were to be found...

There is however a TV-show retells the manga in its episodic nature, that is quite nicely done. It is being broadcast in TV Tokyo after midnight every Thuesday. The was also a short Azumanga Daioh movie shown in conjunction with the new Slayers movie, the DiGi Charat movie and the Sakura Taisen movie.

The television series of Azumanga Daioh is obscenely hilarious and offensively cute. The TV series like the manga focuses around the small group of friends and depicts their adventures in short, gratified mini-episodes. About five mini-episodes in each 23 minute episode. The series is produced by Bandai and is currently all the rave in Japan. Surely, Kiyohiko Azuma created a comedy gem. All the characters are very lovable (well, all but one, but he's supposed to be that way). The series follows the adventures of six girls in High School (in the anime at least) from the first day of school to their graduation and college acceptance tests. Even though the series repeats events repeatedly, the repetition is always for comical purposes and the comedy in this anime is horrendously well done.

Characters

Chiyo-chan - a ten year old super genius placed into high school. She is the primary source of the cuteness in the anime and is also prone to painful, yet somehow hilariously adorable "accidents" (sometimes they aren't). She owns a dog, named Tadakachi-san that she rides around like a horse. Her family is rich and she lives in a HUUUUUUGE house. The most notable features of Chiyo-chan is her red pigtails and lack of height (she is only 10). These only add to her cuteness.

Sakaki-san - tall, big breasted, long black hair, quiet, thoughtful... The first impression you get of Sakaki-san is that she's rather scary. But she's not. She loves all things kawaii, especially cats. But cats don't love her. Throughout the series she is being bitten constantly by this one black cat she sees to and from her way to school. Everyone is jealous of her large breasts, Chiyo-chan especially. As time progresses, Sakaki-san sort of becomes the guardian and best friend of Chiyo-chan.

Kasuga Ayumu - A transfer student from Osaka, she was quickly nicknamed Osaka because Tomo-chan said so. Osaka-chan appears to be thoughtful and intelligent, but the only shred of common sense she has is in the various forms of kanji. It's not that she's stupid, it's just that she's really slow. Because she's a transfer student, she wants to get a fresh start, but her lack of abilities and focus lead to, well... funniness. She's one of the more lovable characters of the show because of her apparent dim-wittedness and dazed look. She's almost always seen with her mouth hanging open for no apparent reason. It's great!!

Tomo-chan - Tomo over exaggerates everything. She is very energetic and dedicated, but for the wrong reasons. She is also very competitive but not able to keep up mentally. Loud and obnoxious, she'll jump in with out realizing the consequences, always with humorous results.

Yomi - Smart and studious, she isn't really a comedy factor on her own, but when she is paired with her antagonist, Tomo, it's rather funny. The two are consistently at eachother's throats and provoking eachother, speaking of that, Yomi is sensitive about her weight.

Kaorin - a minor character. She has a crush on Sakaki-san but Sakaki appears to be apathetic about it (although Sakaki seems that way about most things). Kimura-sensei seems to particularly like Kaorin, which irks her to no end. Which is perfectly understandable.

Yukari-sensei - the girls' delinquent homeroom/English Language teacher. She gambles, drinks, slacks off, and is frequently late for work. Her long time friend is Kurosawa-sensei, so they are always together and know how to pick at each other’s nerves, much like Yumi and Tomo. Yukari, like Tomo, is loud, obnoxious, and focused on all the wrong things. Yukari can't drive worth a damn, which permanently scars most of the girls for life, especially Chiyo-chan.

Kurosawa-sensei - P.E. teacher and swim coach. She is the complete opposite of Yukari-sensei, and is a total hottie. Drooled over by most of the boys in the high school. As said before, she is the complete opposite of Yukari, although she does enjoy betting for her class in the annual athletics competition.

Kimura-sensei - another minor character that's featured repeatedly, and the only repeated male character with a name. Kimura is creepy. And that's an understatement. He admits to liking high school girls, and he especially likes Kaorin. He organizes the annual athletics competition, probably so he can see all the girls in their gym uniforms, consisting, for the girls, of what is basically underwear and a tight t-shirt. He repeatedly watches the girls swim in the spring but always gets caught and sent away. Probably the worst part about him is that he suddenly appears next to our beloved girls for no reason, when he wasn't there a moment before. Kowaii!!


Synopsis and what not

Azumanga Daioh is one of the funniest things I've ever watched. It is a great anime to watch whether you're a seasoned veteran to anime or just beginning. If you are just beginning, then you should keep in mind that it is very Japanese oriented and draws upon Japanese Kanji, myths, other anime, Japanese comedy skits, and even j-pop references for a few minor jokes. When this series is eventually released on DVD, it will be very interesting to see how they dub it because of the aforementioned Japanese culture references, but because a good deal of the humor for me, as an English-speaking American, is the heavily accented broken English that comes out of the mouths of most of the characters; especially Yukari, since she is the English Language teacher.

The music of the anime is cheery and uplifting, and actually gets you in the mood to laugh a good deal. I don't know how it's done, but I am ready to buy the OSTs.

The Animated Short is about 5 minutes long, the length of most movie trailers, and quickly shows condensed versions of a few gags that occurred in the series with much higher quality animation. VAG says the animated short was made before the series, not after.

The animation in the series is on par with most animes that don't rely on CG to make it look all fancy, but is randomly cartoony for comedic affect. Which is superb.

The humor in the series is about half visual and half spoken and all of it is able to be understood by any one that knows what a woman's breast is (yes, some jokes are about breasts). There were several parts in the series where I had to pause the video because I was laughing too hard to pay attention. One of those instances I ended up laughing so hard I ended up crying.


Azumanga Daioh is truly a comedic masterpiece and should be enjoyed by everyone.

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