22 May 2003 | kerpan
2002's best comedy series came from Japan
Azumanga Daioh (Hiroshi NISHIKIORI, 2002) (based on Kiyohiko AZUMA's comic strip of the same name)
Take the fundamental sweetness of the best of the "Peanuts" TV specials, mix it with the whacked out humor of "Calvin and Hobbes", add in some stylistic homages to Isao Takahata's films (the memory scenes of "Only Yesterday" and his neglected 1999 masterpiece "Our Neighbors the Yamadas") -- and you have anything but a routine anime series. (It also reminds me a bit of the quirky short-lived TV series "Square Pegs" from many years ago). The show follows the lives of seven girls (including one 10 year old genius who skipped middle school) and three teachers (two highly dysfunctional, one _mostly_ sane) through all three years of high school (that's how the system works in Japan). This is mostly side-splittingly funny, though it managed to evoke a few furtive tears before it ended. The characters are everything in this virtually plotless traversal of three years of school (and vacations). Although this series runs for 26 episodes, it ends all too quickly -- I was far from weary of the charming and loveable characters portrayed here. (The best term to describve the show is, of course, Japanese -- "kawai" which means not only ultra-cute but very loveable). This show was immensely popular in Japan, and has recently been licensed for release in the USA (thank you ADV).