I had a recent assignment in the Library of the school to which I'm currently assigned. I spent part of that day organizing the manga shelves. Part of the reason for this was to scope out something new to read.
Oddly, despite all the volumes, the choices where slim. I wanted something where the first volume wasn't missing nor were there any early gaps in the sequence in case I got interested and the story dragged out for multiple books. Of the ones that qualified, quite a few were romance books, which I wasn't interested in. And one seemed to be about chess, which was a maybe. But I saw the four volumes of Azumanga Daioh, so I took the first one. It wasn't objectionable, so I borrowed the other three as well.
First off, I'm not the target audience. Secondly, I understand that there's animation of the series (doesn't surprise me), and if it were available on some platform I currently subscribe to, I might check it out.
Basically, the four books tell the story of a group of girls as they go through high school, each book being roughly a year in the life. There are boys at the school, but rarely seen, and there's no romance (or lovestruck teens, wishing from afar) to be found in these pages. Also, there are two teachers, one the girls' homeroom teacher and the other the P.E. teacher, are important. (I originally thought it was going to deal more with them.) As for male teachers, the only one there, which I guess would've been comic relief back then, is a little too creepy today. Although he's married with a daughter, he likes looking at teen girls. (He doesn't try to date them or anything, but it's creepy.) Also, he's drawn in a style that suggests that he's an anime character that always SHOUTS his lines. I didn't like him.
As for the girls, well, some of them were a little interchangeable. The artwork was small and the characters wore uniforms. Between some of them, the only difference is the way their hair is drawn and maybe their eyes or mouth -- until they're shouting or being expressive, when I wasn't sure who was who. (At least once, I didn't know if it was a student or the teacher.)
One exception was Chiyo Chan, who at the age of 10, was placed in high school. She was also wealthy and had a summer home that the girls and their two teachers went to each year. She didn't seem to get any bigger over the four years.
Another is Sakaki, who was the tallest. She was quiet, brooding one who actually wanted to be friends and included in things. She also wants to pet stray cats, but they always bite her hand. It's a running gag, which takes an interesting turn later on.
Yomi is the second tallest, has lighter hair, and wears glasses (sometimes you can see her eyes through them). Her main concern is her weight, although her later concern is getting into college or university.
Tomo and Osaka round out the cast, except that Osaka is not her real name, it's where she's from. They except her to have a certain attitude (in the English translation, it might as well be a Brooklyn attitude), but she isn't like that at all.
The format of the books looks like four-panel vertical strips, two columns to a page. Each column had its own title, but I stopped reading those for the most part. At least once in each book, the format would switch up to a more traditional comic format, which was welcome. The biggest problem I had was the small print was sometimes a killer on my eyes, even with reading glasses. Yes, I used my phone's camera's zoom lens a couple of times.
While I enjoyed these books, they weren't anything great for me. They had good moments and I'm not sorry I read them. The four books are the entire series.
I'm assigned to this school until the end of the month, so I might try to sneak in a few more books. Oddly, one comic I considered taking out was checked out by a student before I had a chance. (I can't deny the students -- it's their library!) However, it's supposed to be back this week. I'll make an exception for Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy because I've read the first book and there were two graphic novels on the shelf. However, I didn't want to read the second without re-reading the first to get familiar with the characters again.