Girls. Attend. High School.
(Hard to describe slice of life shows you know?)
I got to watching Azumanga Daioh not only because it was recommended to me, but also because a lot of people compare other anime to this one, as a benchmark. I've come to the conclusion that these people are simply terrible at drawing comparisons, because no matter what anyone's opinion of this title is, there is no way that it's even remotely like most other anime. The source of Azumanga Daioh wasn't a traditional manga series, but a 4 panel comic strip series (like found in newspapers). The anime is about group of girls who attend high school. Notably this means that there really isn't any story. It's more about various situations - similar to experiences in real life.
It's unusual for me to be completely at odds with the entirety of anime fandom, but I didn't like Azumanga Daioh. I'm still not entirely sure what the cause is either. Perhaps it was depending on cultural references I didn't get. I'm also heavy into a good story, and this title didn't have one. Comedy was mixed with me. This series often uses repetition as comedy, and I'd say that's not very effective on me. Many people also talk about the characters giving a sense of nostalgia; reminding you of people you went to high school with. I didn't get that feeling either. The anime which most reminds me of my high school experience is Initial D, (yeah, no joke) so I'm not sure what that says about me. Out of the cast, there were really only two characters that I found all that interesting.
Sakaki is a quiet girl who seems very distant, but despite her kind nature this is misinterpreted as her being a bad ass which causes people to avoid her. Despite this 'cool' atmosphere about her, Sakaki has this irresistible pull towards all things cute, and I found that rather adorable.
The most interesting of the girls is Ayumu, nick named Osaka - as that's where she's from. She's probably the most spaced out character in ANY anime I could name, and also pretty weird. You'd think in a slow moving show that she would cause things to drag even more, but watching Ayumu is often comedic suspense as she weird enough to be unpredictable. Some controversy surrounds her in the dub, where she was given a slight southern accent. While not culturally equivalent, this seems to ideally fit her slower mode of speech and highlights her being from out of town. It's a good example (maybe the only one ever) of a southern accent being a good fit and done well. She's the main reason you would want to watch the dub. The English cast does a good job, but this is one title where the energy of the show best captured by the Japanese cast.
While intended as an off the wall comedy, I found a lot of it pretty boring. Part of doing reviews isn't just about whether I like something, it's evaluating things in a way so you can decide if YOU like it. Should you give it a try? Absolutely. As a slice of life comedy, it's hard to find a title which is so overwhelmingly liked as Azumanga Daioh. I would say if you're new to anime, that you should postpone watching this until you consider yourself a well versed anime fan. Certainly worth investigating, but wasn't for me.
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