Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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Dated 8 September 2012: Status updates for the Fushigi no Umi no Nadia, Full Moon wo Sagashite, and Ai Yori Aoshi re-watching projects

Kaoru and Aoi
Aoi lap-pillows the shit out of Kaoru.

I finished re-watching Ai Yori Aoshi even though that meant going outside the one-episode-per-week framework I previously decided upon in my attempt to mimic its initial broadcast schedule from 10 years ago. This was not because Ai Yori Aoshi is so great I couldn't help myself, but rather because I was re-watching it via my old Pioneer DVDs, so it was easier to burn through a block of five episodes in a row than to fuss with disc swaps every week. I don't mean this as another sign physical media are dead, since I do still value the tangible qualities they impart, but there are certainly inconveniences associated with optical media that seem anachronistic in an ever-increasingly instant-gratification age.

Nadia
Nadia is pouting in this scene because
Jean never visits her bunk. True story.

I don't remember Nadia being such a harpy. That girl just will not stop bitching. Frankly, I am amazed Jean manages to put up with her unrelenting complaining and her hippie bullshit. Then again, maybe it's a good thing that she's so disagreeable all the time. Were it not for her acerbic personality, Jean probably wouldn't be able to keep his mind on science and aeronautics. He's at that age, y'know. And they're stuck on a boat together (and/or island sometimes). And she doesn't seem to like wearing a lot of clothes. And she's a very bendy and athletic circus acrobat. I'm just sayin'.

Madoka
I love Madoka even though she is not a cunt all the time.

Full Moon wo Sagashite? Still the best anime of all time, although I guess you wouldn't necessarily realize it at this point (episode 22). After 10 years, Full Moon wo Sagashite still remains somewhat of a difficult sell, particularly now that in many respects it not only is "old" but it sort of looks old, too. I'm not sure what it is...perhaps the lack of shiny skin? Since Full Moon wo Sagashite aired in 2002, myco (Mitsuki and Fullmoon's voice actress and singer) has released a solo album, my collage, and another album as the lead vocalist for the band Quintillion Quiz. I was able to purchase a my collage CD, but Quintillion Quiz's Mement Mori appears to only be available on iTunes. Both albums are good, but Mement Mori in particular is a steal at only eight bucks or so for the entire album. It rocks quite a bit more than myco's earlier work with the band Changin' My Life. I'm afraid I have no idea what Kana is up to these days, though....

Dated 2 September 2007: What we need now is more Azumanga Daioh

Sakaki, Kagura, Osaka, and Tomo
This is not a Danbooru breast-comparison chart.

I'm re-watching Azumanga Daioh again. This time I'm leaving my ADV DVDs on the shelf, and just watching the Triad fansubs—partially because of ADV's "MISS SAKAKI" faggotry, but also because I find it entirely too inconvenient at the moment to swap DVDs and cycle through pointless menus, etc.

Tomo, Yomi, and Chiyo
Tomo, Yomi, and Chiyo.

E/N Warning: I originally watched Azumanga Daioh during an especially demanding time. I didn't really have time for, well, anything...but I sacrificed sleep to watch episodes of Azumanga Daioh because the show always made me laugh my ass off.

Sayaka
Sayaka from Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo.

As an aside, those of you who really enjoy the music in Azumanga Daioh are encouraged to give another J.C. Staff series a try: Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo. It's a vastly underrated series, which suffers because it didn't capture the attention of a better-known fansubbing group, and because its initial episodes are a little overt with the fan service levels. Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo is no Azumanga Daioh to be sure, but it is amusing enough, and the background music is very similar.

Osaka, Chiyo, and Sakaki
Osaka, Chiyo, and Sakaki.

Actually, I ended up marathoning Azumanga Daioh before I finished writing this entry. My original review still stands. I don't think I even have much to add, except perhaps this:

In light of this year's fervor over Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, it is important to remember the tremendous fanbase devoted to Azumanga Daioh during its prime. That Bandai enjoyed great success with its The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya launch compared to ADV's Azumanga Daioh failure is at least partially attributable to the degree to which ADV fucked it up.

Haruhi
Haruhi.

Certainly the timing of the sales and the expansion in the market itself over the years contributed to the differences in the two North American releases, but it should be obvious to fans of both shows that ADV's stumbles marketing Azumanga Daioh coupled with the MISS SAKAKI-type curiosities seriously cost ADV a tremendous opportunity. I'm not going to break down the differences point by point, but a large one to consider is Bandai's (at least tacit) willingness to embrace (and market directly to) fans of the show who had already seen it via downloading fansubs or streaming YouTube—a sharp contrast to ADV's doctrines.

Yukari and Nyamo
Yukari and Nyamo.

Think of it as the triumph of Web 2.0 mumbo jumbo versus the old and busted obstinate way of doing things. ADV, like everyone else, knows fansub-watchers buy DVDs. Think of it this way: Every series offered with a "collector's box" edition of the set's first DVD is obviously geared towards people who have already watched and enjoyed the show. Who else would buy the collector's box edition of a show they had never seen? Wouldn't it make more sense to offer the collector's box with the last DVD? And yet, although ADV will grudgingly acknowledge the inspired-by-fansubs market exists, it won't (or at least didn't) embrace it.

Tsuruya
Tsuruya.

Osaka
Osaka is actually a genius. I swear.

For neophyte anime fans who are only still reading this because I mentioned The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, you should also watch Azumanga Daioh because Tsuruya's seiyuu, the megas-talented Matsuoka Yuki, also voiced (the vastly different) Osaka.

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.