Azumanga Daioh is a Japanese yonkoma comedy manga series written and illustrated by Kiyohiko Azuma, which was serialized in MediaWorks’ Dengeki Daioh magazine between 1999 and 2002. Three additional chapters were published in Shogakukan’s Monthly Shōnen Sunday in May 2009 to celebrate the manga’s tenth anniversary. The manga was first released in English by ADV Manga, and was later re-issued by Yen Press.
Both the manga and anime have been praised for their humor driven by eccentric characters, with Azuma acclaimed as a “master of the four-panel form” for both his art style and comic timing.
The series title has no particular significance to the story. “Azumanga” is a portmanteau of the author’s name “Azuma” and “manga”, while “Daioh” comes from the magazine in which it was originally published, Dengeki Daioh. In the anime, “daioh” is mentioned during the next episode previews, used in context with the meaning “great king”.
Azumanga Daioh was written and illustrated by Kiyohiko Azuma, largely in yonkoma (four-panel) format. The unnumbered chapters were serialized by MediaWorks’ in the monthly magazine Dengeki Daioh from February 1999 to May 2002. The series was collected in four tankōbon volumes. Each of the four volumes covers about a year in the characters’ lives. A new edition in three volumes was released in Japan by Shogakukan to commemorate the manga’s 10th anniversary, with volume one, covering the first year of high school, being published June 11, 2009. The reprint edition contains three additional 16-page chapters serialized in Monthly Shōnen Sunday starting in May 2009 under the title Azumanga Daioh: Supplementary Lessons (あずまんが大王·補習編 Azumanga Daiō Hoshūhen?).
The series was licensed in English in North America and the United Kingdom by ADV Manga, which released all four volumes between 2003 and 2004. ADV later reprinted the series in an omnibus edition on November 7, 2007. In 2009, Yen Press acquired the North American and UK license of Azumanga Daioh, and released a new translation in December 2009 in an omnibus volume. In Europe, Azumanga Daioh is licensed in French by Kurokawa, in German by Tokyopop, in Spanish by Norma Editorial, and in Finnish by Punainen jättiläinen. In Asia, the series has been licensed in Korean by Daiwon C.I., in Thai by Negibose Comics, in Vietnam by TVM Comics, and in Chinese by Tong Li Publishing. It was the first yonkoma manga translated in France.
Azumanga Daioh chronicles the everyday life in an unnamed Japanese high school of six girls and two of their teachers: child prodigy Chiyo Mihama and her struggle to fit in with girls five years older; reserved Sakaki and her obsession with the cute animals who seem to hate her; spacey Ayumu “Osaka” Kasuga with a skewed perspective on the world; Koyomi “Yomi” Mizuhara’s aggravation at an annoying best friend; Tomo Takino, whose energy is rivaled only by her lack of sense; sporty Kagura and her one-sided athletics rivalry with Sakaki; their homeroom teacher Yukari Tanizaki; and her friend, physical education teacher Minamo “Nyamo” Kurosawa.
Secondary characters include Kimura-sensei, a creepy male teacher with an obsession with teenage girls, and Kaorin, a female classmate with a crush on Sakaki.
The story covers three years of tests, talking between classes, culture festivals, and athletic events at school, as well as time spent traveling to and from school, studying at Chiyo’s house, and vacations at Chiyo’s summer beach home and the fictional theme park Magical Land, concluding with the graduation of the main cast. It is generally realistic in tone, marked by occasional bursts of surrealism and absurdity, such as Osaka imagining Chiyo’s ponytails being “unscrewed” from her head and an episode featuring the characters’ New Year’s dreams.