azumanga daioh cover

High school is a common theme amongst anime and manga.  One of the best in the genre is Azumanga Daioh.

Azumanga Daioh follows a group of teachers and students throughout their high school years.  The storyline does little more than chronicle their day-to-day experiences; while there are small story arcs, there isn’t an overall consistent storyline other than the fact that the main characters are either attending or working at a high school.  The manga is presented in a four-square format known as Yonkoma, with traditional manga-style pages thrown in during dream sequences or complicated “story lines”.  Most of the time, each four panel comic is self-contained, although many reference previous four panel comics or are spread out over multiple four panel comics.  While there is some mild innuendo, Azumanga Daioh is mostly innocent in its content.  I personally find this funny, considering it was published by ADV in America…

The humor in Azumanga Daioh is a bit over the top, although almost every comic is hilarious.  Chibis and chibi-style effects run rampant, as the characters shift and morph depending on the conversation or their mood.  The English/homeroom teacher Yukari Tanizaki shifts more than possibly any others through the manga, as her mood shifts radically.  My personal favourite character is Sakaki…physically, she is intimidating and stronger as well as bigger than everyone else in the school.  Beneath her quiet and towering exterior, however, is a borderline obsession with all things cute.   While she is somber and certainly not the funniest of characters in the story, I found her inner thoughts and views on situations to be the most entertaining.

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Originally collected in four volumes, there is also an Omnibus edition coming in at a hefty 686 pages and weighing over two pounds.  The binding is a strong adhesive, while the spine seems to be somewhat crease-resistant (unlike the Clover omnibus).  The pages feel and look like a larger-scale version of what you would typically find in a manga, although the unnecessary yet traditional “stop! this is the back of the book!” page for people who aren’t used to manga is not included.  There is, however, information on author Kiyohiko Azuma’s other work, although there is (sadly) no mention of his dojinshi.

Azumanga Daioh is one of the most entertaining, funny, and enjoyable manga out there.  The Omnibus is definitely the way to go, since you get the whole series in one volume (and at a larger scale than traditional manga) for only $24.99.  Still, if you are a manga purist, it is easy enough to find the original series on eBay…but be prepared to pay slightly more than you are used to for manga.  Regardless of whether you go with the singles or the Omnibus, I highly recommend you check out Azumanga Daioh; it’s an excellent addition to your manga shelf, and something that can be enjoyed by people that don’t even like the genre.