Azumanga Daioh Manga Omnibus (English – ADV Edition)

April 26th, 2010

I swear to you that this is true. Last week I said to myself – y’know, I haven’t read Azumanga Daioh in forever, let’s crack open the old Japanese editions and re-read them. And that afternoon, the English-language Azumanga Daioh Omnibus was delivered.

Do you know, I have never read the English edition of Azumanga Daioh? Well, not entirely true – I scanned the first volume when it first came out, shuddered with distaste, and didn’t buy it. I understood why ADV made the choices it did. And in many ways, I agreed with those choices, as they made the manga more accessible to a wider audience outside the core fandom. By calling Yukari-sensei “Miss Yukari” and when the students called her Yukari-chan, “Yukari baby,” they would make it easier for a non-manga fan to follow the comic. I never disagreed with their choice. I just didn’t enjoy it for myself.

Once again, allow me to clarify – I do not believe that fans want “literal” translations. What we want is an authentic reading experience. This is a subtle, but critical difference.

A literal translation of an idiom won’t kill us (unless it’s a particularly bizarre or obscure idiom. For example,  try thinking of a cute way to translate “pig in a poke” to another language.) It doesn’t really matter if you write “staring off into the middle distance” or “staring off into the day after tomorrow.” Readers will get it, whichever way you chose.

However, Kaorin is a nickname,  and therefore doesn’t really need to be translated. It’s more authentic just to leave it. We have nicknames – we get it.

Why honorifics? Because Yukari-sensei, Yukari,  and Yukari-chan all mean completely different things. It’s perfectly respectable for her mother to call her Yukari-chan and perfectly not respectable (or respectful) at all for her students to do so. As ADV learned, when we all wrote to tell them so. And they listened, as we can see with the lovely translators’ notes, explaining the choices made (and the personal touch they provide) for later volumes.

Azumanga Daioh manga was the first real battlefield where this particular war was fought. The fans have mostly won this now, although there are still pockets of resistance among publishers. Ironically, one of the few instances left that *really* bugs me is in Yotsuba, by the exact same author. “Miss Stake” would only have been good localization if the character’s name was “Chigau.” “Shimau” is a form of the verb “shimasu” and as a result, the choice of translation is irrelevant and annoying. But not to the mythical people who read manga who know nothing about it, might potentially walk in off the street and grab Yotsuba off the shelf because it’s cute. They won’t, because they don’t exist and Yotsuba, which is wonderful and deservedly won all sorts of award nominations, is buried on the far right bottom corner of manga shelves because manga is shelved alphabetically by title, where no one who isn’t looking for it will ever find it.


I digress.

So, anyway, ADV caved and as a result, later volumes of the English adaptation were much less irksome. And, interestingly, as ADV was carving a tighter niche in translation/localization, the artist was doing the same thing with his art.

As a result, reading the omnibus volume of Azumanga Daioh, the manga, is like a little historical retrospective of both ADV’s learning curve and Azuma Kiyohiko’s.

I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Many times I find myself laughing out loud – at 4-koma comics? Is it possible? Yes – possible and probable in this series. I can say just about anything and it’ll make you smile – “Get out of the way, Oji-san!” or mention an iriomote cat named Maya or anything Osaka ever says or, heck, just hold out two evenly broken chopsticks and say, “hehhh.” And you’ll laugh.

Because where most 4-koma comics are amusing, Azumanga Daioh is *funny.*

The absolute best part of this volume is that I cannot *wait* to donate it to my local library. I hope that many people will take it out and enjoy Chiyo-chan in a penguin costume and The Red Raccoon Dogs in gakuran and the Morons.

Oh wait – that’s the second best thing about this volume, The number one best thing is that we have a new Okazu Hero to add to our list. Thanks Kevin R. for your support of Okazu and sponsorship of today’s review! Email me so I can send you your Okazu hero’s badge and my thanks to you personally.^_^


Art – starts 5 evolves to 7
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 4
Service – 4

Overall – 9

The manga industry has come a really long way since Azumanga Daioh and so has Azuma’s work. But it’s still hard to top this series for belly laughs.

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11 Responses

  1. DezoPenguin says:

    Just to clarify:

    This is a review of the ADV Azumanga Daioh omnibus and not the new Yen Press Azumanga Daioh omnibus?

  2. This is a review of the ADV Omnibus.

  3. Ed Sizemore says:


    I’m such a huge fan of this series, I’m glad you liked it too. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read all four volumes. The wear and tear on my covers says enough to show my love.

  4. @Ed Sizemore – I also am a big fan of the series from way back. I just haven’t read through the translations. In fact, this series was largely responsible for me deciding to study enough Japanese so I’d never be beholden to translators again. I don’t regret that decision at all.

  5. Ingraman says:

    Your picture and text links point to Amazon’s page for (ex-ADV) Section 23’s release of the anime, and not to either ADV’s or Yen’s version of the manga. Was that intentional? Same publisher, at least. ^_^;

    I just recently got the Yen Press version of Azumanga Daioh, and enjoyed reading the story again. I loved seeing Sakaki with Maya once more. If I can find the individual ADV volumes, I’ll pass them on to the local library or to a friend’s daughter (who will share them with several of her friends).

  6. @Ingraman – Not intentional. Thanks for the catch. The Blogger/Amazon integration still has holes. I’ll fix it right away.

  7. Filo says:

    Is it wrong for me to think the images of all the girls between chapters are real visual eye candy?

  8. Anonymous says:

    The absolute best part of this volume is that I cannot *wait* to donate it to my local library.

    That’s a very good idea you know. I wonder if my local library would accept a copy of Azumanga Daioh…

  9. @Anonymous – The best way to know if your library would like donations of Graphic Novels is to ask someone in Collection Development. (Not the folks at the front desk, who are often volunteers or paraprofessionals.) I have an agreement with my library – I give them every single English-language GN I think will be suitable for the shelves. They have YA and Adult GN sections, so they accept a good 80% of what I give them. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well as far as I can tell my library has one employee. ^^; It’s pretty small but IIRC they did have a handful of Graphic Novels the last time I was in there… worth looking in to anyway.

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