TV, 26 episodes (each of these are divided into 5 different episodes, for a total of 130 five-minute episodes)
By Genco/J.C. STAFF, 2002.
Genre: Comedy, School life.
A lighthearted anime that follows the exploits and daily lives of 6 high-school girls, as well as 2 teachers and a supporting cast. It begins when Chiyo Mihama, a 10-year old girl who was bumped up several grades (and is still smarter than her classmates!), arrives for the first day of high school. From there, more characters are met and their lives are chronicled up until the day that they all graduate.
I won't lie here, Azumanga Daioh doesn't really have a story to critique. It is a rather simple premise that doesn't appear to amount to much. However, the story is not what this anime is about at all! All it is there for is to set up the many diverse and well-executed (not to mention HILARIOUS) jokes and gags, which is a shining point in the series. The episodes do have flexible plots though, which allow for jokes for a wide variety of tastes, a few of which require some patience, but many of which will have you holding your sides for a while. All things considered, the mark that I have given for story will not be counted in the final score. It is the jokes that will be taken to account (which, were I allowed to, I would grade 9.5/10)
The diversity between the cast members is quite impressive. If slightly simplistic, each character has their own unique charm. Ayumu Kasuga (otherwise known as Osaka), the spaced-out girl with a tendency to sleep in class, is particularly entertaining to watch. Taniko Tomo brings new definition to the word 'hyper' (and this is a comedy anime of all things!), and tends to be quite competitive (turning even holding buckets of water in the hallway as punishment into a test of endurance, with amusing results). The creepy teacher Mr. Kimura (who is, incidentally, the only recurring male character in the series), is the resident pervert of the series, as initially evidenced by the fact that, when posed the question by a student in the middle of class, "Why did you decide to become a teacher?", he responded "BECAUSE I LIKE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS.". The cast even develops ever so slightly as the series progresses. And there are, in a rare twist, no truly annoying characters in the series! A well done job, indeed.
Not great, but not terrible either. Though, considering that there is not a lot of physical activity in this series, it isn't a glaring issue to begin with. The character designs are very diverse and consistent, though. Furthermore, the super deformities that occur (there are a lot of them), all look very appropriately funny. While some of the animation does get a bit cheesy sometimes, it is very clearly intentionally done. Honestly though, there really isn't much else to tell here. It gets the job done.
Voice Acting/Music: 9/10
A simple, yet charming soundtrack. It manages to effectively establish the lighthearted atmosphere without going overboard. Similar things can be said about it's sole opening and ending songs, which are also pretty catchy as well as appropriate. As for the voice acting, there is little to complain about here. Each character has a fitting voice for their respective characters. From Osaka's catatonic, even tired sounding voice to Sakaki's quiet, reserved voice, there as much diversity here as with the cast themselves. Though, one thing I feel I should mention is that Chiyo has a higher-pitched voice than my 3-year-old cousin (who is also a girl)! I got used to it pretty quickly, though. Nicely done.
On the whole, his is probably the funniest (and weirdest) anime I have ever seen. In the wrong hands, this could have easily fallen flat on it's face due to it's notable lack of story. Fortunately, the execution was near-perfect, and we have a very funny anime. While a few jokes do fall flat, and it is something of an acquired taste, the series is pure, comedic bliss and should not be missed..