animefringe october 2003 / reviews

Azumanga Daioh Vol.1
Format: right-left manga / 172 pages
Production: ADV Manga / Kiyohiko Azuma
Comments: Cute, charming, and awfully funny.
Animefringe Reviews:
Azumanga Daioh Vol.1

Armed with satchels and skirts, the high school girls of Azumanga Daioh quickly assert their quirky personalities, and they won me over after the second strip.

From the adorable 10-year old child prodigy Chiyo to the tall, athletic Sakaki (who has a soft spot for animals), any one of these characters could carry a show of her own. The manga is composed mostly of four panel strips, just like the daily comics here in America. Some strips will have a self-contained joke while others may continue a running gag. Unlike most comics, however, that don't feature character development, Azumanga Daioh depicts changing relationships between the main characters as time goes on. While it won't tackle a sensitive issue or get too complex, by the end of the first volume, I want to see more of the characters, not less of them.

Most of the humor in Azumanga Daioh comes from the cuteness of the protagonists, and that cuteness stems in large part from the artistic talent of Kiyohiko Azuma. From the front cover alone, the girls radiate their personalities. It's easy to tell who genki-girl Tomo Takino is, or which one is Ayumu Kasuga, the shy and somewhat distracted Osakan space cadet.

The visuals here aren't too dynamic, but that doesn't detract from the overall experience in any way. Backgrounds are almost nonexistent, and since the majority of the series is set in a high school, there aren't going to be any sweeping vistas to impress the readers. What counts is Azuma's conveyance of emotions, for frequently, the funniest part of a gag is how the other characters react to it.

Just like Full Metal Panic (ADV's other manga release so far), this book is technically solid. There's the occasional grammatical error (substituting "an" for "a" on page 76, for example), but more importantly, the book is unflipped, larger than the average TOKYOPOP release, and it's only $9.99. The original Japanese sound effects are untouched, though sometimes translations of them appear next to the kana script. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a few color pages in the front of the book. There isn't much in the way of bonus material or author information, but so far it appears as if ADV is on the right track to publishing manga.

The cover is cute, but the book has no summary information on the back. It's true that anyone flipping through the manga can quickly deduce what kind of book it is, but it's always nice to get a description of what's inside. Both EAN and UPC barcodes, for some reason, are included on the back and inside front cover of the book. As a bookseller, it's nice having the barcode on the back, but the redundancy is unnecessary.

Overall, this is one of the funniest, most adorable manga series I've read. I love the characters and the entertaining events they experience in their normal daily lives. There's no life changing message here, no mind-bogglingly beautiful artwork, and not even much of a fleshed out storyline, but Azumanga Daioh is already one of my favorite manga series. Every once in a while it's nice to read something that's nothing more than an amusing diversion, and this series fills that need to perfection.

Let's hope we get the next one soon!