Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Manga Review

あずまんが大王 manga review
Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Manga Review

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Azumanga Daioh Omnibus MangaI remember when I watched the Azumanga Daioh anime series, I really wanted to get the manga for two reasons. First, because I have a love of American comic strips, I was interested in learning more about Japanese comic strips — the 4-koma manga which is in effect a 4-panel comic strip going from top to bottom rather than right to left. Since the Azumanga Daioh anime was based on the 4-koma manga of the same name, I wanted to see how a comic strip could be adapted into such an amazing anime. I bought the first volume that ADV released, but a combination of disappointment at the manga adaptation combined with medical bills meant that I never purchased any more of the series and I sold off the lone volume I had. Thankfully, Yen Press comes to my rescue with an all-in-one omnibus edition of Azumanga Daioh that far outdoes ADV’s original release.

The Manga

Much as with the anime, this manga covers all three years of high school for a group of girls who become friends, including the ten-year old Chiyo-chan, who’s intellect allowed her to pass the entrance exam and enter this high school. The strips are often related in that one strip’s “story” or theme is carried over into the next strip. The stories are pretty much slice-of-life stuff centering around the different things this group of friends experience, whether in school or outside of school. From time to time, there will be strips about the two female teachers, Yukari-sensei and her long-time friend Nyamo.

Japanese comic strips don’t work on the same level as American comic strips as American comic strips attempt to end on a joke or gag. Japanese comic strips don’t bother with that structure though as seen in Azumanga Daioh, sometimes the strip does end in a joke/gag. However, many times there is no gag or joke but rather the strip as a whole may be the gag/joke. In other instances, the one strip may in fact be setting up the next strip where the gag is. However, taken as a whole, this collection of comic strips is quite enjoyable.

Chapters in this manga are broken down by months starting with April, the month that starts the Japanese school year. Some months have multiple parts. From time to time, Azuma-sensei will do a regular manga which may cover a single page or an entire chapter.

As with the manga, the joy is in the characters as the characters drive the manga. In fact, reading the adventures and fun of Chiyo-chan, Tomo, Sakaki, Osaka, Yukari-sensei, Yomi, Nyamo, and the rest was such a delight that now I want to watch the anime, even though it is mostly the same stories, just presented somewhat differently. I find that whether it is the manga or the anime, I can easily dive back into the world of Azumanga Daioh and re-enjoy all the stories again.

The Yen Press Release

Yen Press combines all four volumes of the manga into this omnibus edition. The translation is completely new and this time the manga is presented from a Japanese perspective. That means that all of the core Japanese honorifics are there and for me, that makes the manga so much more enjoyable. Osaka’s dialect is handled fairly well. It doesn’t come off as horrible southern like sometimes Osakan (Kansai) dialects are done. Most Japanese jokes appear to be left in, though some things, like tongue twisters, are made American. Japanese jokes that might be more than the average person could understand are explained in the translator notes section. More on that later.

Yen Press also includes a fair amount of color pages here, including a few pages of color manga. None of the strips were in color and I don’t know if there were any done originally or not, but getting color art and the one bit of color manga is pretty nice as an extra.

The book is a larger size than normal, which is understandable considering it covers four volumes of manga. The dimensions of this book are 8.3 x 5.8 x 2 inches compared to the traditional 7.5 x 5 x 0.6 inches (give or take 0.1 inches on the thickness). While this will make an “out of place” book on your manga bookcase, I think it is worthwhile to have the larger sized book.

While I can and do heap lots and lots of praise on Yen Press for this volume, I have one negative and it is a big one, at least for me. It is great that Yen Press has translator notes and even an index included in this volume. The translator notes are included at the end of each original volume and that’s fine too. However, the problem comes in the presentation of these notes rather than the content.

As with all “unflipped” manga in the U.S., we’ve been trained that manga is to be read from top to bottom, then right side to left side, right page first then left page second. Thus, when we read manga, we read it “backwards” compared to traditional graphic novels. Yen Press does follow this principle for the manga pages. However, when they get to the translator notes, for some bizarre reason, they immediately switch to western printing format and this is extremely jarring, especially after ~150-pages of reading Japanese-style.

As such, when it comes to text, Yen Press makes two-columns on the text page. So after 150 pages of “right column –> left column,” I immediately hit the right column first of the text page first because that’s what I’m used to doing. So it is somewhat jarring to suddenly switch to left column –> right column. However, what Yen Press does that makes it worse is they decided that they have to go left page –> right page when the text is spread over two pages and that is REALLY jarring and out of place in a book that is printed Japanese style. Man, that was REALLY annoying, both in the translator notes sections and in the index.

People read in a flow and that’s why it has not been difficult for Americans to adjust to reading manga “backwards.” However, printing pages that break the flow and indeed go against the flow makes no sense to me. I guess the Yen Press people thought that people desperately want to read “normal,” but normal in this case would have retained the flow. Del Rey keeps the flow in their published manga, though to be fair, they don’t use the two-column method for text pages like translator notes.

Still, while this is a big negative on this manga release, everything else Yen Press has done with this excellent manga has been superb. As such, I highly recommend it to fans of Azumanga Daioh or Yotsuba!&.

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9 Responses to “Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Manga Review”

  1. Anonymous says:

    With all due respect, this is a rather silly complaint. It’s just as much “Japanese style” to have horizontal text with left->right columns and pages — while it is a Western influence, in this day and age it’s extremely commonplace, especially for academic and other non-fiction publications. It’s also in no way unusual to find Japanese-language books that contain both vertical/right->left and horizontal/left->right sections within the same book; as it happens, appendices and indices are prime candidates for such a treatment. It’s more than reasonable to do the same in a Western English-language publication.

  2. まりも says:

    This was one of the first reviews I did on my blog. I love Azumanga Daioh, one of my favorite comedies next to Gintama.

  3. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @Anon — So, what you are saying is that it is cool to go right to left on pages, starting with page 1 and moving forward, but when we get to page 150 (a made up page number) where we want to do English text, we are going to make you jump from page 149 to page 151 in order to make it western styled, then you can read western to page 150 before skipping to page 152 to start reading Japanese style again?

    @まりも — I’m rewatching the anime (well, very slowly considering time constraints) since the manga put me in the mood. Azumanga Daioh is good stuff. ^_^

  4. Anonymous says:

    Having to change reading direction wouldn’t be a problem for me. I’ll give you the point that it may not be the best of ideas to intermix the two styles like that mid-book. I didn’t notice before that you said the left->right translation notes were placed after each of the included volumes. Still, the best way to resolve this is to simply move all the translation notes to the end of the compilation and have a a single left->right section there for both the notes and the index. Like I said, the Japanese use this method themselves. The idea of using right->left page order for the notes, not to mention right->left column order, is not an acceptable solution in my mind. It seems to me you’re rather indiscriminately extrapolating your ideas about “Japanese style” instead of considering how weird most readers would find your solution. Frankly, although I said intermixing the styles like this is not he best of ideas, I’d have no problem with it if the notes section is very short, like if it’s only two pages as in your example. If those pages are facing, you wouldn’t even need to flip a page back over. It really isn’t as big a deal as you make it out to be and your solution would only make things worse.

  5. Gyt Kaliba says:

    I saw this, along with two copies of the ADV omnibus (one of which was used, so I suspect someone turned it in and then bought a copy of the new one lol). It’s so tempting…must…resist until I have money!

  6. BlackSun88 says:

    i enjoyed the anime series too, i wish i have the chance to read this too

  7. Beagle-san says:

    I’m typing this with a bookcase full of anime and manga less then 2 feet from my left arm… and on those shelves are the Azumanga Daioh anime, and the original ADV manga volumes. Much read, much re-read, much watched and rewatched, the obvious question for me is what’s the difference between Yen Press’s version and the ADV versions? Oh, and the ADV versions have their translator notes in proper right to left order. ^_^

    So, aside from better honorific-use, what’s different? And, to no surprise, AD is highly reccomended.

  8. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Without the books for me to compare on a page-to-page basis, I couldn’t say for sure what all changes were made in the Yen Press version. However, I do know that their Yotsuba&! release tended to keep Japanese jokes vs. rewriting them as American ones.

    BTW, if you haven’t scored Yotsuba&! already, I think you should. ^_^

  9. Beagle-san says:

    I got into Yotsuba&! as soon as it started coming out, but lost touch during the ADV shipwreck. I still have the original few volumes around here, somewhere. Yeah, it’s good, and I need to re-check it out.

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