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Dated 1 January 2003: Azumanga Daioh

I've haven't given Azumanga Daioh nearly enough love on this site. To put it quite simply, it is one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Its 26 half-hour episodes are comprised of five-minute clips (130 in all) centered around the lives of six high school girls. Bucking tradition, instead of portraying high school as a metaphor for Hell, Azumanga Daioh portrays high school as rosy, sunny, and bright. It is high school without the angst. In fact, it's Raspberry Heaven. There is no backbiting or bickering or powder room politics or really any drama. Of course, Azumanga Daioh is a comedy, so it can get away with its fairly unrealistic depiction of high school life.

The Yukari-sensei Fake Out
The Yukari-sensei Fake Out.

Well, that description, while technically correct, is really not particularly apt. Sure, technically it's a comedy, but Azumanga Daioh is probably better described as being pure, unbridled hilarity. It is astoundingly funny and always cute while remaining genuinely poignant and even sad at times.

Azumanga Daioh is one of those shows that thrives because of the affection the viewer develops for its characters. The truth of the matter is, I don't see how anyone can possibly pick a favorite character; it can't be done. Whether it be precocious Chiyo, reserved Sakaki, boisterous Tomo, serious Yomi, spacey Osaka, competitive Kagura, heartsick Kaorin, anonymous Chihiro, or any of their teachers (Nyamo, Yukari, and Kimura are the BEST. TEACHERS. EVER. this side of Misato-sensei from the Love Eva alternate universe), you have to love them all.

Nyamo and Yukari
Nyamo and Yukari.

Because these characters are so endearing, Azumanga Daioh's underlying theme really shines. That is, time and youth are fleeting. The viewer is introduced to the cast during their first year in high school (i.e., 10th grade) and follows their lives through graduation as the 26 episodes quickly whip by.

I don't think I've ever seen 26 episodes go by so fast. The time-worn parental cliche about children growing up so quickly rings true here. The viewer sees the lives of these girls go by at alarming speed, and develops a sense of dread near the final episode. One realizes that all too soon there will be no more Azumanga Daioh to watch, just as these girls realize that their high school days are ending. There's a sense of sadness that it has to pass, as if nothing good ever lasts.

Yomi, Tomo, and the suggestion box
Yomi and Tomo, lifelong friends.

I suspect much of this sadness comes because Azumanga Daioh is so insular. We get to know the core characters, but little else about their world. For example, all of the male students are completely anonymous throughout the series. Likewise, for the most part, their parents are absent from the show kinda like the parents in Peanuts. Even when we're briefly introduced to Chiyo's friends from elementary school, they're dead ringers for characters we already know—the teachers Yukari and Nyamo. Because these elements become familiar to the viewer, as they are familiar to the characters, one is able to empathically sense their trepidation as their high school years come to an end. One realizes, just as they realize, that this can't go on forever, that they will someday have to part their ways, and that the relentless march of time will inevitably change everything they (and we) have ever known.

But it's one Hell of a ride.

Dated 18 February 2003: Azumanga Daioh DVD rips

The Triad has powered-up their digisubs of Azumanga Daioh with beautiful DVD rips. They've also softened up some of the profanity from their original subtitles.

Yukari and Nyamo
Yukari and Nyamo.

The first four episodes are currently available on the usual newsgroups and through Ishin Anime's BitTorrent page.

Dated 22 March 2003: Nanaka 6/17

Kirisato Nanaka

Nanaka 6/17 is a light comedy about Kirisato Nanaka, a 17-year-old girl who falls down some stairs and loses 11 years of memories, causing her to revert back to her six-year-old self. Her childhood friend Nagihara Nenji, and her father attempt to shield Nanaka's condition from the rest of world as she resumes high school life as effectively a six-year-old in a 17-year-old's body. Nanaka herself, of course, believes she and Nenji are still actually six-year-olds and convinces herself that they have magically become adults after making a wish together.

Nenji and Nanaka's wish to become adults
Nenji and Nanaka's wish to become adults

Nanaka 6/17 is a fairly amusing situation comedy but also deals quite deftly with the nature of various relationship and the occasionally untenable demands of social expectations. The show frequently leads the viewer to consider the contrasting personalities of Nanaka herself and those of the people she affects.

Nanaka and Nenji
Nanaka and Nenji

The 17-year-old Nanaka is an intensely serious, studious, curt, and self-absorbed individual. She is eager to reach adulthood and finds the antics and idle gossip of her classmates to be childish and trite. However, 17-year-old Nanaka is also not well liked by her peers and she knows it. She knows her coldness alienates her from her classmates but does not seem to care—often looking down upon them as they whisper spitefully amongst themselves. Furthermore, 17-year-old Nanaka even infuriates Nenji, her oldest friend, with her critical remarks about his immaturity and lack of direction.

Nanaka thinks she's 6-years-old
Nanaka thinks she's six-years-old

In constrast, the six-year-old Nanaka is filled with wide-eyed innocence and a genuine love for life. She is boundlessly optimistic and filled with joy. In return, the change in Nanaka's personality also affects the people around her. For example, Nanaka's newfound affability makes her more popular with the boys at her school who find it refreshing that a girl is willing to be so friendly and straightforward. Naturally, her female classmates continue to hate her, although their cattiness is now in response to her sudden popularity with the boys and a bit of self-loathing at their own inability to be as unguarded as Nanaka.


The person most affected by Nanaka's transformation is Nenji. Now shouldered with the responsibility of watching out for his old friend, Nenji becomes much more mature and manages to bring direction and discipline to his own life as he strives to return direction and discipline to Nanaka's. Despite his ridiculous, pointy hair, Nenji becomes a remarkably level-headed [Ha! I kill me.] kid; in a way, his own transformation is no less dramatic than Nanaka's.

Nenji watching over Nanaka
Nenji watching over Nanaka

Nenji also struggles with his realization that in many respects he likes the six-year-old Nanaka more than her 17-year-old counterpart. Nenji is somewhat torn between the fact that he misses the 17-year-old Nanaka whom he genuinely likes despite her coldness and his affection for the "younger" Nanaka. Nanaka is simply more fun to be with now that she thinks she's six years old and Nenji realizes with some dismay that he's also more attracted to her.

Nenji and Nanaka
Nenji and Nanaka

This theme is also echoed in the affection Nanaka's male classmates feel for her and the crush Nenji's rival, Arashiyama Jinpachi (completely unaware that Nanaka is suffering from this peculiar form of amnesia), develops for the six-year-old Nanaka. Jinpachi, like Nenji, was once an immature and callow youth, prone to fighting, but he has also now reformed due to Nanaka's influence.

Arashiyama Jinpachi
Arashiyama Jinpachi

Viewed from a more serious perspective, in this way Nanaka 6/17 indirectly addresses the nature of pedophilia. Although her classmates still see Nanaka as a 17-year-old, she unquestionably becomes more popular with the boys after reverting to her six-year-old self. Likewise Nenji finds himself more attacted to Nanaka now that she is essentially a six-year-old in a 17-year-old's body even though he is fully aware of her condition. The obvious implication here is that it is possible for a person to be attracted to someoone for whom they are regardless of their age. In this way, Nanaka 6/17 implies that pedophiles are not necessarily deviants but rather just victims of circumstance. They are attracted to the person, not the child; it is only coincidence that these persons happen to be children.

This bit of speculation, however, probably dissects the moral implications and themes of the show a bit too finely. This line of thought is certainly far more serious than Nanaka 6/17 attempts to directly develop. All the implications themselves are there, but the show itself is generally lighthearted and comic.

Magical Domiko
Magical Domiko

The focus of the show actually tends to involve the six-year-old Nanaka's "fish out of water" and "Freaky Friday" antics. Also significant is Nanaka's fascination with Magical Domiko, a cartoon from Nanka's childhood about a magical girl and her adventures. Nanaka is a big fan of Magical Domiko (which is conveniently still being televised 11 years later) and tries to emulate its eponymous heroine as much as possible by adopting her characteristics and mores.

The real heart of Nanaka 6/17 are the plotlines that focus on Amemiya Yuriko, a classmate of Nanaka and Nenji. Although initially hostile towards Nanaka, Amemiya develops an affection for her as she sees both her own current self and her younger self reflected in Nanaka. Amemiya also grows increasingly fond of Nenji and her quiet romantic interest in him contrasts quite well with Nanaka's ebullient friendship.

Amemiya Yuriko
Amemiya Yuriko

Amemiya is voiced by Yui Horie of Naru and Multi fame. In a way, one can "see" the Narusegawa in Amemiya mostly by hearing subtle inflections in her voice. However, although one can sense the Naru in her, the characters are actually quite different. Amemiya doesn't have Naru's temper, for example. It is also apparent that Amemiya has the capacity for much more cruelty, but she does manage to exercise restraint. Although it's probably too early to tell, I find that the Amemiya storylines the most interesting and find that she's becoming a real peach.

Nanaka 6/17 is currently being fansubbed by Anime-Conan. Eight episodes have been released thus far.

Dated 6 July 2004: The Melody of Oblivion

Toune and Bocca
Toune and Bocca

The "other" Gainax show this season, Boukyaku no Senritsu (The Melody of Oblivion), has not been getting as much attention as Konomini.

The Melody of Oblivion is a bit hard to describe. I guess I could call it a futuristic science fiction story that takes place after "monsters" have enslaved the planet, and say that it follows the adventures of Bocca Serenade, a Melos Warrior who fights as part of a small band of independent rebels. This description, however, fails to adequately communicate what the show is really about: Cool music, archery, motorcycles, and FREAKY, FREAKY SHIT.

Dated 20 October 2004: The Melody of Oblivion

Daicon girl
Daicon girl

Episode 15 of The Melody of Oblivion contained a Daicon reference.

Flying Bunny
Daicon reference in The Melody of Oblivion

This is not the first time a Gainax show has paid homage to this Daicon icon. As you'll recall, FLCL had Haruko sky-surfing on her bass while wearing a similar outfit.

Daicon reference in FLCL

For the record, Playboy bunnies sky-surfing on huge broadswords and fighting giant robots is like the best idea, ever.

Dated 13 January 2005: ADV misses an Azumanga Daioh opportunity

ADV was crazy not to include Red Raccoon Dog headbands with its penultimate Azumanga Daioh DVD.

Dated 14 July 2006: Zero no Tsukaima

Zero no Tsukaima (Zero's Familiar) is pretty amusing. It's not likely to crack my Top Four List like Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (which was astoundingly good—nearly Azumanga Daioh good), but it's definitely one of summer shows worth watching this season.

Louise and Saito
Louise and Saito.

Zero no Tsukaima (which I can't stop calling Hermione ZERO) is about a second-year magic school student at a rather Harry Potter-ish academy who inadvertantly summons a computer nerd from Tokyo as her familiar. Rather than being a high-speed honor student-type girl like Hermione Granger, ol' Louise is a consistent failure as a mage, which accounts for her "Zero Louise" nickname. Louise carries the show with the power of tsundere (and with the power of zettai ryouiki, some may argue). Refreshingly, Saito, Louise's reluctant familiar, is considerably more assertive than the typical male protagonist wimp one usually finds in anime like this. He stands up for himself in episode two, and defiantly takes his lumps in stride.

Saito and Louise
Saito and Louise.

It is unclear whether or not this is intentional, but Saito's episode-two injuries appear limited to his right side; his left side seems relatively uninjured. Perhaps it has something to do with the myserious runes on the back of his left hand. The runes manifested after Louise and Saito sealed their magician/familiar contract, but they seem to have special significance to the academy's Dumbledore/Gandalf correlate.

Saito's runes
Saito's runes.

The runes also attract the attention of Ms. Longueville. I hope I'm not ruining the show for anyone, but it seems pretty clear to me after seeing her treatment and subsequent reaction in episode two that she is the cloaked green-haired antagonist seen in the OP. I mean, c'mon.

Miss Longueville
Miss Longueville.

Miss Longueville?
Miss Longueville?

There's also something unusual about Zero no Tsukaima's version of YUKI.N>.

Zero's Familiar is exected to run 12 or 13 episodes and should remain fairly entertaining thanks to its lively cast of characters. It also shares many of the same voice actors as last autumn's Shakugan no Shana, so it's also amusing in the VanDread:Stratos 4 sort of way. It also has Yui Horie sweetness and J.C. Staff designs to seal the deal, ensuring that Zero no Tsukaima will reign as this season's tsundere romantic comedy. It's much better than the wretched Tsuyokiss which is going to need a 180-degree turn for the better, and fast.

Dated 26 August 2006: Zero no Tsukaima

Let's see, first some noble doofus traded Siesta, a concubine-maid so fresh she was still in her original wrapper, for an old porno magazine. And now Saito has passed her up for...the dubious pleasure of being blue-balled the rest of the season. Good job, guys.

Siesta joins Saito for some impromptu nude hot tubbing.

Zero no Tsukaima's source for Yui Horie Sweetness is going to inexplicably have zero miles on her by the end of the show, isn't she?

Henrietta, Saito, and Louise
A kiss on the hand is worth two in the bush. Wait, I said that wrong....

In any case, Saito's character has been rather inconsistent. Sometimes he's played up like a typical harem comedy male terrified of any sort of female contact, and at other times he's all about the casual nudity and the smooching of pretty girls above his social station.