Azumanga Daioh Omnibus

Not your typical manga, the Azumanga Daioh Omnibus (collecting four previously published books) follows a group of high school girls through school until graduation. With a few exceptions, the entire book consists of four-panel strips… so this is more like a Japanese version of a Dilbert collection than your usual high-school romance.

Azumanga Daioh Omnibus cover
Azumanga Daioh Omnibus
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At first, I took them lightly, as slight gag strips that told a joke and moved on. It surprised me later on to notice how much character development was happening in the sum of the parts. The book makes up in volume (almost 700 pages!) what can’t be done in detail in only four panels. Reading the whole thing is like living with these girls for four years, and they become friends, not only to each other, but to the reader.

Each chapter is a new month, with the typical events of the corresponding time of year. When first introduced to the girls, some I could only keep straight through different hairstyles. As I spent more time with them, though, they became more distinctive, and they developed more varied characteristics. I especially liked finding out that tall, intense Sakaki had a weakness for small, cute animals. That humanized her a lot.

The first character seen is a teacher who behaves inappropriately like a student, with no sense of self-restraint. I found her annoying, but there’s also a certain appeal to her lack of discretion. As a fantasy, the idea of behaving like that would be fun, without worrying what anyone else thought or how they were affected. As a counterpart to her immaturity, transfer student Chiyo is only ten years old but much smarter than her age. She visually resembles the title character of author Kiyohiko Azuma’s later work Yotsuba&! There’s also Tomo, who’s insanely energetic but unfocused, and Osaka, who in this Americanized version speaks like she’s from Brooklyn to indicate the stereotypes about her region.

The book’s quite funny, using a wide range of techniques. There are pratfalls and other pieces of physical comedy; the humor of counter expectations, where the reader expects one thing but gets the opposite (as with scary Sakaki’s adoption of cute little pets, even when they get the better of her); sheer goofiness, as some of the characters do ridiculous things (especially the teacher); and the exaggeration of taking things too literally. At times, the jokes become surreal, with a character dreaming about Chiyo’s pigtails detaching and being used as the shapes they’re drawn as. There’s something here for everyone, and at a great value, too.

(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

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17 Comments

  1. Yeah, defenitely not a typical manga. Í´ve watched it a couple of times when going to my brother´s appartment. I like it…
    Regards,

    El Gonzi

  2. Osaka is the nickname of a transfer student from…Osaka. The people of Osaka have a very distinctive dialect and (among the Japanese) a reputation as natural born comedians. To convey this, manga translators and anime dubbers have usually given characters from Osaka either a Brooklyn or Southern accent (at least two of these three groups of people need to feel insulted by this). The meta-joke here is that while the AZUMANGA DAIOH manga gives Osaka a Brooklyn accent, she’s as southern fried as a Georgia peach in the dubbed anime!

  3. Fried peaches? ewww…. You fry tomatoes. You can peaches.

  4. [...] Michelle checks out vol. 20 of Basara at Soliloquy in Blue. Johanna Draper Carlson enjoys the Azumanga Daioh omnibus at Comics Worth Reading. At Active Anime, Scott Campbell checks out vol. 1 of The Outcast, Holly [...]

  5. Funny, I always saw Osaka as having a southern accent in the manga…

  6. Fuhgeddaboudit? Yo, How you doin?

    I’m pretty sure that the translator of the manga (Kay Bertrand) wasn’t trying to convey a Southern accent for Osaka.

    At any rate, Azumanga Daioh is one of my favorite comics of all time, and I’m thrilled that they’ve made it available in one big chunk like this. I’ve given a whole bunch out for Xmas.

  7. Ah, see, I’d forgotten about the “fuhgeddaboudits” and “yos”.

    I’m so used to Osakan characters being given Southern accents in English translations of manga/anime that I just assumed the same for Osaka.

  8. David Oakes

    You can fry anything. But Fried Peaches are pretty good. Just make sure the peachers are firm, like apples. Nothing is nastier than soggy fried anything.

  9. Ed Sizemore

    Johanna, You’ve been in the South long enough to know that you can fry or deep fry anything. :-} I’ve not had fried peaches, but they do sound good. On the other hand, deep fried Snickers is still on my ‘not in this lifetime’ list.

  10. [...] of four panels arranged vertically. That format is more often used for comedy (such as the popular Azumanga Daioh) than supernatural quest adventure. I’m not sure the combination works, because it makes for [...]

  11. [...] anime over the manga. Of course, if you’re looking for a good humor manga, then I recommend Azumanga Daioh any [...]

  12. [...] Kiyohiko Azuma previously created Azumanga Daioh. He beautifully draws everyday life and items, providing a grounding background. The detailed [...]

  13. [...] second is Azumanga Daioh. Both are done in the four-panel comic strip style. Astro starts by introducing us to two young [...]

  14. MangledDangle

    Azumanga Daioh is defintley the best comedy manga/anime I have read/watched. The characters are elaborate and interesting and they will grow on you like a gross tumor your ashamed of but, still it’s is a part of you and you wouldn’t change it or get it removed even if you could. The whole thing is very well animated and hilarious. Most of the random, brilliantly-stupid humor leaves you scratching your head and asking “why the hell” while laughing. I strongly recomend this to anyone who has eyes that work and a brain that can comrehend writing. Buy your copy today! =D

  15. [...] some 4-koma, it can be difficult to grasp the distinctions among the characters or follow development at a short length, or the comedy might not translate. My favorites are those [...]

  16. Rayne Analease

    I love Azumanga Daioh! A lot of my friends who have read or watched the series say that I’m most like Sakaki anf Tomo, so I’m going to cosplay as them as soon as I get the chance ^^

  17. […] of Azumanga Daioh will find a lot to like here. Another of author Satoko Kiyuduki’s works, Shoulder-a-Coffin […]

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