Why Azumanga Daioh is Funnier than Lucky Star

Azumanga Daioh

After watching a whole batch of Azumanga episodes this weekend–and finding myself unable to stop–I think I finally figured out why, despite their structural similarities, it’s a whole lot funnier (to me) than Lucky Star. All the caveats that apply when analyzing humor of course are in full effect.

  • Slapstick antics. I noted on Hung’s blog (which is itself an Azumanga reference!) that it really seemed to me that the verbal humor of Lucky Star is tough to translate, and that there’s a reason action movies and lowbrow American comedies tend to succeed overseas. Azumanga Daioh of course is filled to the brim with culture-specific, puntastic humor, especially any time Osaka opens her mouth. And, like Lucky Star, there are plenty of food jokes.

    But Azumanga Daioh also has Chiyo-chan falling over in a penguin costume. And getting hit by a volleyball. And Tomo getting slapped around by Yukari-sensei. And Sakaki getting assaulted by cats. I double over and curl up in laughter every time I see any of that. I guess I’m a man of simple pleasures after all!

  • Surprises. The sense of comic timing, overall, seems so much better in Azumanga. It may be because the five minute episodes are much closer to their original 4-koma roots, and so preserve their setup-punchline structure better than the more diffuse stories in Lucky Star. But I’m surprised how surprised I still often was at the conclusion of a sketch, even though I’ve seen the whole series before.
  • Visual Inventiveness. I think it’s a shame that the vaunted Kyoto Animation, who brought such lifelike and fluid work to Haruhi Suzumiya and Kanon, is animating a show that so far has little visual panache apart from the opening dance. Azumanga wasn’t particularly high budget or impressive on a technical level. But it had not only genuine cuteness but a sense of surrealism that lent the show even more unpredictability. And those facial expressions! Of course, most of this can be chalked up to the manga artist rather than the anime studio.

To be fair: I do think I like the second episode of Lucky Star a little bit better than the first one. I still find Kona amusing, as well as the cynical idol in the closing sections–though I hope the writers can find a way to make the characters more memorable. Azumanga Daioh did not immediately grab me on first viewing either, though I definitely found it instantly funny on a deeper level; however, it took the time to make the characters not only distinct, but lovable, to the point where I was shedding bittersweet tears at the series’ conclusion.

A comedy that is able to do that without angst or drama is quite briliant indeed, and if Lucky Star intends to follow in that tradition (as it seems to be), it’s got some ways to go.

13 thoughts on “Why Azumanga Daioh is Funnier than Lucky Star”

  1. Wait. Isn’t it unfair to compare the two series right now? I mean Luck Star just started and Azumanga Daioh has ended.

  2. While I agree generally with the points you’ve made, I can’t help but point out that most of the observations you make about Azumanga Daioh couldn’t be made just by watching its first two episodes. Drawing comparisons between it and Lucky Star like this (at this point) seems rather premature to me, though I do admit your points are valid. I mean, this becomes clear enough just from the specific examples of scenes in Azumanga Daioh, which I assume you found most memorable due to choosing to reference them and not others, are all from later episodes than the first two.

    I realize I might sound critical, which isn’t really my intent – I suppose my only point is that it’s a bit early to be stating “Why Azumanga Daioh is Funnier than Lucky Star”… when you compare a 26 episode finished product to the first 2 episodes of another, I think you’re bound to come to the same conclusion…

  3. I agree with Rift’s point that two episodes of a 24 episode series is clearly not a fair comparison to an entire 26 episode series. There’s still a lot of time to pass before we really can be actually critical of Lucky Star, so as it is, these first impressions are really just that. Though Azumanga Daioh was more “endearing” to fans after its first episode than Lucky Star was, and I don’t think it was just because the latter was assumed to be something that it was not.

  4. Well, I probably was a bit hyperbolic in my title–I probably should have appended “(so far)” to be more precise. However, contra Rift, I do think a lot of the virtues I noted in Azumanga Daioh are apparent in the first two episodes. (Slapstick humor in the very first sketch with Yukari, for instance; the surprising punchline to Kimura-sensei’s answer to why he’s a teacher; etc.)

    I freely concede however that that may be informed more by hindsight than anything else, and it’s true that Lucky Star has plenty of time to win my affection. One of the benefits of being a pessimist is that it’s a welcome and nice experience to be proven wrong. :)

  5. Lucky Star is really broken up. It comes in short bursts, but Azumanga Daioh lasts longer – each eps is clearly made of 2 halves, unlike Lucky star, which has no sense of continuity at all. It just feels like there are many short segments before the commercial break. However, eps is really funny since a lot of references are recent.

  6. Hmm. Actually I always thought Azumanga was a lot more broken up–when it was originally broadcast, it was shown in 5 minute episodes rather than the whole 20 minutes at once. There are, however, motifs that usually run through each 20 minute episode and somewhat more continuity through the whole series. Lucky Star’s sections tend to be longer on the whole.

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