By Kiyohiko Azuma
Published in Dengeki Daioh 1999 – 2002
“High school life of some eccentric students and their teachers”
Have you ever heard of a Yonkoma? The 4 panelled, comic strip manga can provide short term laughs, but can they satisfy the appetites of epic story lovers?
In a word, yes! Yonkoma manga is a perfect tool to build up small parts of a much larger story. This week, I will shine a light on this overlooked format of storytelling with a shining example of Yonkoma manga!
Azumanga Daioh is a delightful, “slice of life” manga, consisting of short Yonkoma moments in the daily goings on of a high school. Centering on 6 schoolgirls and two of their teachers, the manga begins each day anew and focuses on a specific issue in each Yonkoma.
Beginning with English teacher Yukari Tanizaki, the manga firmly establishes her relationship with her students, along with her attitude towards the job. We then get introduced to the 6 student misfits of this unnamed high school:
Chiyo Mihama is a pig-tailed genius who skipped 5 years and now has to adapt to her first year of high school.
The hip Sasaki, who despite her sporty physique, painstakingly hides her shyness to create many funny misunderstandings about her.
Ayumi or “Osaka”, that in spite of having her home city as a nickname, can’t live up to the vibrant exuberance of Japan’s “second city” with her slow and daydreaming demeanor.
Koyomi the most mature of the group, therefore the responsibly smart and sporty girl that unexpectedly has a crushing complex about her weight and singing.
The always energetic Tomo is always challenging everyone to contests, despite never winning.
As the story progresses, we are introduced to other teachers and new students, giving us a delightful ride of the ups and down of high school life!
Azumanga Daioh not only gives us a great examples of interesting moments in life, it offers the chance to really dig deep into complex characters.
Kiyohiko Azuma reminds us that a good story doesn’t need superpowers, fantasy settings or explosive weapons to make a lasting impression. Indeed, this “fly on the wall, slice of life” perfectly timed comedy celebrates the subtle events that make up our lives, providing instantly relatable moments.
The characters in Azumanga Daioh are expertly crafted, with each harboring strengths and weaknesses that are not only relatable, but perfectly shine a light on the high school dilemmas we all remember!
At its very core, it’s the character that drive this unusual manga. Whether it’s a student or a teacher, the faults of each character, played out in four paneled adventures, endear them to the reader instantly. Both nostalgic and pioneering, Azumanga Daioh will make you wish for those heady school days again, yearning for both the good times, and the bad!
So maybe even I can make a Yonkoma manga of my life as a ninja!!
Would love to hear your thoughts so follow me on
Twitter – @SmacViVi
Facebook – Vivi Fabbri Smac
Don’t forget to use the #manganutcracker