Sunday, March 7, 2010

Manga Reviews: Azumanga Daioh

Series Background

Where do I even begin?

This has got to be one of the goofiest manga that I’ve ever read. It’s also incredibly satisfying, if somewhat disappointing in that it’s already ended. I’ll be reviewing the manga, I’ll do a separate review of the anime later on.

For those of you that don’t know, Azumanga Daioh does not follow graphic novel format, but instead is drawn in the Japanese newspaper strip format. Which is four vertical panels. As such the story is individual strip focused, with gags and punchlines. So those of you that don’t like newspaper comics, you’ll probably still like this one. If there were a comic as good as this in American newspapers I’d buy up every copy of ever newspaper that runs it.

It’s that good

The series was named after creator Kiyohiko Azuma, by combining his name “Azuma” and “Manga,” to create “Azumanga Daioh.” Not sure what the “Daioh” means.



Umm… Well, you see… It’s about girls in Highschool… And they… Umm…

Okay, so there isn’t any kind of plot. At all. It’s one shot gags, and minor storylines interconnected together into a tribute to life. If life was filled with minor lunatics. I’m looking at you Osaka!

Like I mentioned before, the focus is on the individual strips, and the joke. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always random jokes—which it often is—but it does have a very vague kind of storyline. Basically the structure doesn’t go beyond being a basic framework around which the jokes are woven. The manga starts in highschool, and continues on to their graduation and, spoilers, to taking college entrance exams.

But seriously, I could transcribe the entire plot here and you’d loose nothing from your reading experience. The strength is definitely in the jokes, which fortunately more often than not are character related and hence easily understood by non-japanese readers. Keep in mind though, there are several examples of jokes that don’t make sense if you don’t know anything about Japanese culture or the language.


Chiyo Mihama – The child prodigy, she skipped to the beginning of highschool, and is five years younger than the other girls. She skipped from grade 5 to 10.

Tomo Takino – I’m convinced this girl is insane.

Koyomi “Yomi” Mizuhara – She’s the stereotypical smart girl, which would work for her if she were actually the smartest in the class. That position is held by Chiyo-chan. Yomi is obsessed with both food and dating, and often has luxury vacations with her parents where she eats lots of good food. Much to the annoyance of Yukari.

Sakaki – Tall, silent, athletic. The ultimate tough girl, according to her class mates. According to herself she just loves cute things, especially cats.

Ayumu “Osaka” Kasuga – Forget Tomo, Osaka is the real nutter. Please refer to the previous picture of her.

Kagura – The real tough girl, athletic (not as much as Sakaki), and Sakaki’s eternal rival. She’s basically a tomboy, and along with Osaka and Tomo, one of the class’ trio of underachievers and numbnutts.

Kaori – Kinda underplayed, she’s the butt of several jokes. Especially when Kimura is involved.

Yukari Tanizaki – How does this woman still have her job? She’s incredibly immature, and torments Chiyo-chan just because she feels like it. Keep in mind that this is a comedy, and it’s played for comedic effect. If this were realistic she’d be out on the street. It helps that seeing Chiyo-chan’s dreams crushed is



Minamo Kurosawa – She’s the mature one. Cool, collected, in charge. She’s also the gym teacher, and apparently less skilled at academics than Yukari, which provides an odd contrast to the rest of her capable personality. Seeing as she’s the only female in the series that is neither underage nor insane, male readers should feel free to fall in love with her. Keep in mind, she’s just drawings on paper, and this makes you a looser.

(Next week: Top 10 sexiest comic book women.)

Kimura - He’s probably the only downside of this series. If anything this perverted teacher who loves his job because he’s surrounded by highschool girls will be a touchy subject for our western audience. But really the jokes never get too tasteless, and he comes across more as an eccentric than an actual threat. Not only that, but his characterization is incredibly contrary to one’s expectations of such a character.

Art Quality

Quite low for the majority of the series. But the layout is in newspaper strip format, where the focus is on the joke, not so much the art quality. It’s still better than a lot of American comic strips, but can’t really match up to the art work of Tite Kubo and Hiroyuki Takei (his later art work, ie/ especially in Ultimo). Really it looses most points in art because of the format, that by n

ecessity limits the space in which to draw. If you compare the art in Azumanga to Yotsuba, you’ll notice a big difference. In fact, the main factor is that Azumanga was relatively much earlier in Azuma’s career than Yotsuba.

Overall the art isn’t anything spectacular, but pleasing enough to look at.

Azuma also published three additional chapters back in May 2009.

It’s quite obvious how his art has improved since he finished his run of Azumanga Daioh. It is quite satisfying to see old characters in a crisp new style.


The humor. And the characters, loony as some of them may be. Again, Kiyohiko Azuma proves that young girls taking abuse is the height of physical comedy.



Azumanga Daioh is completely family friendly. Except for the creepy teacher. There are two storylines that take the characters to the beach, so there are some swimsuit scenes. However, given the art style that tends towards realistic proportions, these do not serve as eye candy in any way. And if you’re too prude to even handle swimsuits, then how the heck did you get internet in the Amish community, and why are you reading my blog? Sure, I’m flattered, but it still seems kind of odd.

My Final Decision

I love this manga. Seriously. It supports itself through characters and a good sense of humor. There are a few times where the humor doesn’t make sense, lost in translation you could say. But since most of the humor is character driven, not pun driven (there are a few of those though), it crosses language barriers quite easily.

Buy it/Don’t buy it

Buy it. It’s only four volumes long, and well worth the money you’ll spend. There are the individual volumes you can buy, or you can buy the entire series in one large volume. Personally I’m a little skeptical of the omnibus edition, and would rather have the individual volumes. However, if you’re on a budget (why are you buying manga?) then overall the omnibus might just be the one for you. The Omnibus edition includes all four volumes for about 20 dollars. It also includes color pages, and while I’m not a fan of such large comic volumes, for this series it works.

I do not know if there are any editions in English with the supplement chapters included.


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