Like Seinfield or the juvenile novels of the '50s, the popular shojo (girl's) series Azumanga Daioh (2002) isn't really about anything. Based on the manga by Kiyohiko Azuma, the broadcast series follows a mismatched group of seven girls through their three years at an ordinary Tokyo high school. Chiyo is a cute prodigy who skipped five grades; Sakaki seems oblivious to everything except stray cats, which always bite her. Kaorin appears to be fixated on Sakaki; although she worries about her weight, Yomi is the most normal member of the cast. Osaka acts spaced-out,Tomo declares she's a "loose cannon," and Kagura is an outstanding athlete: this trio proclaims themselves "The Knuckleheads" when they face major exams. Hard-drinking, potty-mouthed English teacher Yukari resents the popularity of saner coach Nyamo, even though they're friends and former classmates; Kimura, who teaches because he likes to ogle teenage girls, is the only major male character.
Azumanga Daioh presents no sustained story arc or character development: each episode is a collection of more or less random incidents involving the girls and the three faculty members. The stories focus on everyday activities: classes, exams, festivals, field trips, athletic events. The characters don't pilot mecha or battle demons or lose their clothes or face major emotional crises. The normalcy of the girls' lives is the main source of the series' appeal. (Rated 13 and older: cartoon violence, minor profanity, alcohol use, minor risqué humor) --Charles Solomon