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 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.