Thursday, December 29, 2016

Azumanga Analysis -- Mizuhara Koyomi

Yomi is the "boring" one.  She is, in every possible way, the most normal of all the girls.  She has no wild fantasies, social repressions, or unnatural goals.  Not a flying orange cat or sentient pigtail to be seen.  Indeed, all of her character conflicts hinge on really normal things: losing weight, getting left out of a group trip, and getting into college.  This is of course due to her role as straight man, bearing the brunt of the weirdness of the others.  It's her job to react to them as only a normal girl would. Granted, Yomi clings too tightly to normalcy, and she would really benefit from loosening up.  Fortunately, Yomi never seems that bad about it.  She's got a dose of nonsense about her, like how she immaturely brags about her trip to Hokkaido, follows along when Tomo suggests a "victory parade", and allows Chiyo to "put her energy" into a good luck charm. 

As for Yomi's will, it's of questionable strength.  At times it seems like she's got an iron will, and at others, particularly when she's talking about food, her willpower wimps out, and Yomi finds some excuse to eat what she wants.  Strangely enough, her will hinges on normalcy.  That is, she knows Tomo is fully of nonsense, so she's strong enough not to budge an inch when Tomo starts telling a story about mold monsters.  

Basically, if Yomi knows that something is the normal, cultural way to do things, she's pretty confident because she knows what to do.  Where she loses confidence is in areas that are more open ended.  What is the best way to diet?  Who knows?  Therefore, Yomi struggles.  However, I will give Yomi points for actually deciding to lose weight.  Despite not reaching her goal, Yomi has at least picked one out.  Which is more than can be said for most of the girls. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Azumanga Analysis -- Mihama Chiyo

It may seem strange to talk about Chiyo so soon.  She's the core character of Azumanga, and perhaps the closest to being the main character (though arguably Sakaki's equally close).  The trouble is, Chiyo has the most potential.  As a result, she's the least predictable, and the least analyzable.  Defining someone so young isn't generally a good idea.  Especially since Chiyo herself is so childlike and open-minded.  She can literally become anything at this point.

Except for a loser, of course.  Chiyo has perhaps the most natural ability of any of the Azugirls, with her intelligence, independence, cooking skills, and social grace.  The non-involvement of her parents seems to have influenced her to become her own person at a young age, and there's even a hint when she wakes her parents that she may possibly be more responsible than them.  Or else her independence at so young an age made her lonely for companionship.  Her sheltered, wealthy existence also renders her open and unassuming, so she is one of the least likely of the Azugirls to judge other people.  She's not the least judgemental, but we'll get to that when we get to it. 

Likewise, Chiyo has the will to do well.  However, her will is very much based on her abilities.  If she were a less intelligent person, her insecurities would overwhelm her, because she doesn't have a Tomo or Yukari-like will that can withstand inabilities.  Granted, Chiyo's so young that her will hasn't really be tested at this point, and her sheltered childhood prevents her from seeing all potential obstacles to success.  Which may not be a bad thing, so long as she sees some success before life inevitably teaches her a lesson.

Chiyo's contribution to the group is the group itself.  She is the glue that holds it all together.  She inspires Yomi's and Sakaki's protective sides, provides an outlet for Tomo's silliness, has a strangely equal friendship with Osaka, and...doesn't actually interact with Kagura that much.  Sure, she's happy Kagura is part of the group, but for some reason the two aren't shown doing much together.  Kagura and her have little in common, and Chiyo has other protectors.  I will point out the cuteness of how she and Kagura were napping together in the back of Nyamo's car during their last trip to Chiyo's summer home.

I'd imagine that Chiyo's friendship with Kagura is an extension of her friendship with Sakaki.  Both of them are athletes and helpful, sensitive people.  Sakaki, however, along with Osaka, is Chiyo's closest friend.  Chiyo is the first person to see beyond Sakaki's outer shell (careers survey), and is her closest companion in her quest for cats.  Chiyo is also the only person to see Sakaki really give in to her love of cute things, of course because Chiyo herself is a cute thing.  She's also the only person that Sakaki directly tells about her love of cute things.  Kagura and the other girls might suspect Sakaki only loves cats, but Chiyo knows the full story.  By the end of things, Sakaki looks much more comfortable and open with Chiyo.  Despite their differences, this friendship shows the signs of being the most long-lasting. 

Osaka is second place for Chiyo (as much as a person like Chiyo can have a "second place"), because of one important characteristic: she's immune to Chiyo's cuteness.  The other girls unintentionally patronize Chiyo because of her great adorableness.  Osaka, however, doesn't react to it at all.  This enables the two to communicate on a more level field, because neither is "older" than the other, in a sense.  It's the same situation with their lack of athletic skill, and they can fail together in PE without pissing the other off.  Thus, when the other girls in their second year marathon run up ahead, Osaka is right there by Chiyo's side at the back of the pack.  The only thing that makes them unequal is Chiyo's aptitude. 

Other than that, the two are able to have the most normal of Chiyo's relationships.  Because Chiyo has skipped ahead in class, she doesn't have someone her age to grow with.  Osaka's mental youth lowers her to about Chiyo's level, so they can experience life with a similar sort of fresh-eyed wonder.  Simply put, while the other girls advise Chiyo from above, Osaka walks by her side.  Indeed, the gap between their intellectual abilities isn't even that large, given that Chiyo seems to know at the end of it all that Osaka's way of thinking has value.

But Chiyo is such an open individual that there's basically no one she can't get along with.  Unlike the other girls, she makes less of a distinction between friends and best friends.  That's part of her young age, but also who she is as an individual.  I don't feel that Chiyo's openness will shut all that much, not even as she ages.  It would take a seriously bad incident to make that happen.  Chiyo loves new and challenging things, as proven by her statement that high school classes are more "fun" than grade school classes.  So does the fact that she wants to go to America.  Plus, the broad range of people and attitudes she discovered in high school have a positive affect on her ability to appreciate those who are different from her. 

Arguably, Chiyo is the most similar to Yomi.  They're the two most intellectually driven of the class, and the two most responsible -- and the two Tomo copies from the most often.  Also, while Chiyo has more adventures and humorous moments with all the other characters, the person she's most often seen with before or after a comedy scene is Yomi.  Yomi also makes attempts to protect Chiyo from the oddity of other characters, but this is more or less a side effect of Yomi's own intolerance of the unusual. 

Tomo and Chiyo get along surprisingly well, though it's kind of telling that Chiyo helps Osaka study for entrance exams, and not Tomo.  Probably that's more Tomo's fault for not asking or taking studying terribly seriously, but it's indication enough that the closeness isn't there.  Which isn't to say that Chiyo doesn't appreciate Tomo.  Tomo's wildness and poor attempt at rivalry with Chiyo provides a perspective that Chiyo isn't that familiar with.  Chiyo is reasonable and observant, while Tomo is wild and persistent; Tomo's inner resource of crazy confidence is something entirely foreign to Chiyo's logical inner workings and gives her a perspective she wouldn't have otherwise understood.  Probably her friendship with Tomo enabled her to understand Yukari better. 

Over time, however, Chiyo seems to notice Tomo's worse aspects more.  She grows more Yomi-like, not able to really take Tomo's immaturity with the same openness that she showed in the first season.  This is especially evident when Chiyo reacts to Tomo's haircut.  Granted, Chiyo was going to get wearied to Tomo sooner or later, particularly given that Tomo prides herself in taking advantage of Chiyo's naivety and small size. 

Still, Chiyo is able to appreciate Tomo for herself, and she wants Tomo to succeed just as much as she wants the other girls to.  She's willing to encourage Tomo's desire to become a cop by dressing as Tomo's suspect in the costume race, and by trying Tomo's running strategy the year before.  And that's who Chiyo really is, the support of the other girls.  She'll do anything to encourage the others to do their best.  She'll help them study, create good luck charms, try Osaka's charm as though it matters, provide a summer place for them to go, and provide a listening ear whenever the other girls have something to say. 

While Yomi is more often the direct straight man, Chiyo's role is similar.  She's quite often the comic victim, either of a direct prank or just of someone's oddity.  Her reactions are there to provide a childlike perspective and emphasize the weirdness of everybody else.

Which makes analyzing her kinda boring.  Her existence is for others.  The episode dedicated to her spends a large amount of time focusing on how she observes everyone she meets.  Even her choice to go to America renders her a pillar of strength for the others in their struggle to go to college, since she doesn't need to take entrance exams. 

Chiyo doesn't crave approval, but it makes her feel good when others feel good, which is why she's so upset around sports fest times.  At those points, she knows she can't contribute much to victory.  What she never seems to get is that her presence alone is enough to want to make others try.  It motivates Sakaki, makes Osaka feel better about her own ineptitude, and causes the others to want to do well for her sake.  All of them wanted to hear her give a speech at the first sports fest, and nobody questioned Chiyo's right to give one.  Not to mention Chiyo makes the competition feel bad about beating a little girl and steals the judges eyes at the chearleading competitions.

It's like at the Yukari-forced basketball game, when they renamed their team from "sea slug team" to "Chiyo team."  Chiyo is the support of the girls, but she's also their flag and standard bearer.  As much as she wants the others to be happy, all the girls equally wish her the same, and contribute to her esteem in their own way.  If Azumanga is a soup, Chiyo is the broth, which flavor both contributes to and takes from the flavor of the vegetables.

My favorite Chiyo moment is when she and Osaka are on the roof, and Osaka proclaims that she feels on a day like that day, she could jump off the building and fly.  Chiyo immediately grabs onto her sleeve, fearing that Osaka might actually do it.  What makes this moment so special is that normally Chiyo is the one who needs protection, and here she's taking on the role of protector in the only way she can.  See, all the girls, Osaka included, are tougher than her in one way or another.  The only way Chiyo can alter someone's behavior is by her heart.  Here Chiyo is showing her vulnerability by revealing without words that if something happened to Osaka, it would hurt her very badly.  Osaka doesn't get the message at the time, but it only makes the scene cuter. 

Indeed, protecting Chiyo's emotions is something all the characters do at one point or another.  Sakaki works hard at sports fests for her, Kagura tries not to risk Chiyo finding out that Santa isn't real, Yomi drags her away from Tomi's weird stories, Tomo leads the graduates in applause for Chiyo, and Osaka provides her with a friendship free of the biases an older person would have in befriending a child.  Heck, their graduation ceremony even ends with everyone worrying about Chiyo crying. 

It's a symbiotic relationship.  Chiyo loves the others wholeheartedly, so they love her back.

My runner up Chiyo moment is when she and Osaka are walking hand in fin during the second culture fest.  It's an especially nice moment, particularly since neither of them really notices how cute Chiyo is to everyone around them. 

Chiyo has too many potentialities to count.  She -
- becomes a scientist in a world far removed from the other Azugirls.
- becomes a Japanese politician who changes things for the better.
- becomes prime minister.
- becomes a philanthropist well known throughout the world.
- owns her own chain of companies.
- joins the UN.
- joins WHO.
- does any number of ridiculously successful things.

Mihama Chiyo's ending:  ----- The World is NeoHappy -----

Because this is a cartoon and not real life, we can give Chiyo a cartoonishly large amount of successes.  And we should.  She goes to America, where she graduates from Harvard ridiculously quickly.  She then goes for her PhD while working in a computer technology field, after which she sets up several pharmecutical research centers, at the tender age of 22.  About this time she realizes she's been working too hard, and starts doing more travelling with her American husband, who is ten years older than her.  They do a lot of good around the world, primarily in technological and medical fields. They even visit Japan for Nyamo's wedding, as well as arrange a summer vacation with everyone. 

After setting up a computer manufacturing company with a range of stores throughout Europe, America, and Japan, Chiyo discovers that she's pregnant with twins.  These two are her only children, a boy and a girl, and they, like their mother, are independent at a young age.  They fight sometimes, so it's harder for Chiyo than it was for her own parents.  Chiyo does not have any more children, but continues to travel and work in science.  She remains as close as she can with the other Azugirls, and surprisingly does a good job of including them in her life.  She remains their standard bearer, and any time something goes wrong, at least one of them is always there for her.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Azumanga Analysis -- Kagura

To me, Kagura is the most real of all the girls.  Despite the fact that Yomi is supposed to be more normal, no real person is 100% normal, and thus Kagura's quirks make her more real rather than less.  Both Yomi and Kagura are characters that serve to emphasize the true weirdness of all the other girls, but Kagura has a stronger almost-arc.  She's also, along with Chiyo, the most likely to succeed of all the girls.  In terms of natural talent and self-will, she has both aspects of success.  Despite not being academically inclined, Kagura is athletic.  Her self-drive is unmatched, so despite being lesser than Sakaki, Kagura knows that working hard on becoming strong will help her achieve her goals.

Unlike the other girls, Kagura both has goals and goes after them.  Kaorin, Yomi, and Osaka don't appear to have any specific future plans, and while Chiyo, Sakaki, and Tomo have some idea, none of them appear to know how they can reach their goals or ever make any direct progress toward them during their time in high school.  As confirmed members of the "Go Home Club", the other Azugirls are taking the time to enjoy their youth as they see fit.

Not Kagura.  Kagura has a greater awareness of her own flaws, and thus pursues what she has with direct action.  She wants to be stronger, so she jogs.  She wants an athletic future, so she joins the swim team and trains hard.  No one has to tell Kagura to do any of these things.  She knows it must be done, and does it.  The second summer vacation discussion on yukatas implies that Kagura even may be making these choices above her family's desires for her to be more feminine.

This also relates to the Kagura vs. Kaorin conflict I mentioned.  Kagura wanted a rivalry/friendship with Sakaki, so she makes it her goal and works toward it.  Since Sakaki never goes out of her way to make friends, Kagura puts in all the effort by repeatedly approaching Sakaki, inviting her to mini-challenges, volunteering to walk home with her, and protecting her from kamineko.  None of the other girls, not even the teachers, has this ability to choose what she wants and then get it.  They lack either the talent or the will. 

This is why, despite all her flaws, Kagura is going to succeed in life.  Barring some horrible accident, Kagura will become a professional athlete.  Actually, since she understands sports better than people, she's probably going to have issues when it comes to dating. 

Azumanga Analysis -- Chihiro

Hey, guess what?  I found the backup of my Azumanga analysis files!  And that means the next girl is...Chihiro?

Uh...I have nothing to say about her.  Besides the fact that I think it's funny Kaorin never discusses Sakaki with her, and she's constantly being dumped on in favor of Sakaki.

Chihiro's ending: ----- Okay! -----

Chihiro gets a high paying office job with lots of responsibility.  She's still friends with Kaorin, but is ultimately busy with her own thing and hangs out primarily with the fast pacers.  She's married with one daughter, who loves her mom despite the tough schedule to work around.

Or stuff.  Whatever.