It’s always touch and go when an anime series that relies as heavily on puns and humor as Azumanga Daioh does is translated into English. ADV Manga tried to be too clever when they translated the manga, and as a result the first volume really lost some of the funnier bits…but I’ve been told that the problems were rectified in the later volumes.
Nonetheless, it was with some trepidation that I purchased the first volume of the DVD. In general I was pleasantly surprised.
Let me start off with the good – the liner notes. I have never seen such excellent liner notes *ever,* in any release. Not only do they explain the puns (and how they developed the English-language equivalents) they have fun comments from the designers and directors and other Japanese staff. Because a lot of these comments are silly and irrelevant, they fit with the general tone of the anime well. The liner notes also include character sketches, which I personally don’t care for much, but I’m sure some people would be thrilled with. (The killer for me on these was that for Sakaki-san’s character sketches, they completely don’t show her in the uber-cool gakuran she wears at the second Physical Fitness Festival. I mean – if we can’t see that, who *cares*? ^_^)
There wasn’t any “get” until the third volume – a pretty decently made cloisonne’ pin of nekokoneko. I wouldn’t mind a few more pins. (I’m betting the Otousan cat wil be one of them, though…sigh.) The DVDs come with reversible covers, which seems to be the norm now – I quite like that.
Of course, I wasn’t happy with the use of honorifics, or lack thereof, but at least they are consistent and explicable. Essentially, they left “-chan” the way it was, since they couldn’t translate it in any meaningful way, but translated “-san” as “Miss” or “Mr.” and “-sensei” the same way…mostly. It gets a bit uncomfortable when Tomo calls Yukari-sensei “Yukari-chan” and they don’t really translate that….
Again, I remain a purist on honorifics, because there is no English equivalent to the hierarchies implied by their use. PLEASE translators, leave them alone!
Because so much of Osaka’s dialogue is horrible puns, I have to admit they really went out of their way to figure out reasonable English equivalents, which was good, but…I was disappointed that they use the English-language script as the subtitle script. So we don’t get those complex puns as she says them – we get the made-up equivalents. The liner notes cover the puns, so you can learn what Osaka really says…but they could have just translated them directly for the subtitles. Oh well.
Lastly, in terms of number of episodes, this series is wildly inconsistent, running from 6 episodes to 4, depending on the volume. Which isn’t heinous. And getting 5 or 6 eps. on a DVD always makes me feel pretty good about the purchase.
In terms of story: this series still cracks me up every time I watch it. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, all while being pretty mild and goofy. I smile a lot at the characters involuntarily.
Kaorin is *still* hugely and openly gay. Her crush on Sakaki goes well beyond akogare/admiration. You can tell because of the rainbow colored jets and church bells and lily imagery that they shove down your throat whenever she has a Sakaki moment. ^_^ This is a comedy – she’ll graduate never having told Sakaki a thing, but you can be sure that Kaori will be wearing rainbow accessories in her future. ^_^
Art – 6
Story – 8
Character – 9
Yuri – 7, since Kaorin is just a side character.
Music – 7
Service – 3
Overall – 8
This is laugh out loud funny and a nice change of pace from angsty Yuri. A definite must-have. ^_^