Alan Smithee

Weeaboo Wednesday: Azumanga Daioh

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In the age of the internet, there is no short supply of pejorative terms for fans of certain types of media. If you’re into video games you might be called a fanboy if there is any perceived preference that you might have. The same goes for fans of Japanese culture. Whether it be the TV shows, movies, music, manga, or anime, if you have an affinity for it, you’re probably like me and have been called a Weeaboo.

I’ve been huge into Japan since my early formative years when I would watch any and every Kaiju Eiga (Monster Movies…think Godzilla), Speed Racer, G-Force, Gigantor, Voltron, or even Robotech. There was always something about Japanese animation that made American animation look pale by comparison.

I have to admit that I am running a few seasons behind and probably couldn’t tell you what the new hotness is for anime or manga right now, but I will let you in one of my more recent favorites. For some reason Azumanga Daioh is a show that I can’t stop watching, even though it’s only one season long.

Azumanga Daioh was originally a 4 panel comic strip that was incredibly popular in the magazine Dengeki Daioh and eventually meandered its way onto an anime series that took a different approach than your typical 25 minute long show. Instead of being one long episode, it was broken up into five different 5 minute segments. Each segment would air in between episodes of more popular anime on various Japanese networks. There would be a new 5-minute segment each day until the weekend where they would combine the segments into a 25-minute long ‘episode’.

The show is a amazingly sweet and funny anime that chronicles the life of half a dozen Japanese girls (and a few of their teachers) and their adventures through all 3 years of highschool. Each one of the girls is uniquely different. You have:

    Sakaki – The shy and closet-ed lover of all things cute, who also gets bitten by the same cat she tries to befriend throughout the entire series.

    Chiyo – The youngest student to attend the highschool who was moved up in grades because of her extreme intellect. She is the resident tensai during this show and also becomes the show’s inadvertent mascot when she dons her penguin outfit (perhaps one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen in anime).

    Tomo – The best way to describe Tomo is an overactive retard. She lacks the smarts to be good in school, the drive and energy to be good at sports, but has more than enough enthusiasm to say and do crazy shit throughout the show (just wait ’til you see the one where she chucks the house keys into the woods).

    Yomi – The smart and average girl who is always keeping Tomo in line and would probably be best described as the group’s ‘straight man’. Her main quirk is that she’s obsessed with her body image.

    Osaka – The transfer student from Osaka that isn’t bright nor energetic. She has trouble with simple things, but is great at word puzzles and is always, always daydreaming.

    Kagura – The group’s athlete and another one of the 3 girls that refer to themselves as the ‘Bonklers’ due to their inability to ever get good grades on tests.

While the girls are the show’s main focus, there are also 2 of the girls’ teachers that could be considered main characters.

    Yukari – Much like Tomo, she’s wild and impulsive. She’s a horrible driver and the school’s English teacher which provides a few laughs for us Gaijin. Perhaps the best part about Yukari is that she keeps her relationship with her students very close and personal to the point where she demands the students call her by her first name (which is highly unusual in Japanese culture).

    Nyamo – The school’s PE teacher and Yukari’s best friend from back when they were in high school with each other. Being into athletics and competition, the two teachers always place bets on their students winning the athletics festival every year. Nyamo also enjoys gossiping on Yukari whenever she gets the chance.

The show is an amazing window into the lives of somewhat ordinary Japanese high school girls that takes you all the way from the beginning of school, all the way through the athletics festival, to the new year’s celebrations, and back. Each year of school is represented during the show’s running, leading up to the girls’ graduation ceremonies.

I am a complete sucker for shojou anime, and this one is no different. What IS different is that there are no lecherous boys (though there is a pervy teacher), no crazy martial arts, no super secret magical powers, and most certainly no girls that turn out to be the center of the universe. It’s just a story about 6 girls growing up and becoming adults.

I can’t speak highly enough for this show, if it weren’t licensed in America I’d provide some torrent links for you to watch the excellent fansubs that are out there. I have just one warning; DO NOT watch this show in English. The dubbed version is absolutely horrible…especially how they give Osaka a Southern accent…It’s just wrong to give any Japanese schoolgirl a Southern accent.

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