Bingo Review 24: Nostalgia
I was a teen from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s. I have also had a book on my TBR shelf, the first part of which was published in 2000, both my last bit of high school and first bit of college, that covered a group of girls during their high school years. Thus it seemed fitting to look at Azumanga Daioh Omnibus for the Nostalgia square. As with many comics and manga, it was originally published as a series of 3-4 panel comic strips, each usually a stand alone scenario, but often connected or related to those around it.
This whole thing had the feel of a gently entertaining reminder/joke about the common experiences, stereotypes, and stories from high school, both the real and fictional. I, as the girls in this strip, did not have the literarily traditional horrible experience of these few years. The strip focuses on a core group: Sakaki the tall and unapproachable looking girl who is actually really just wanting friends and cats, Chiyo the child genius (she’s 10 years old and starting high school), Tomo the goof who never shuts up, Yomi the kind normal one who just can’t seem to get things to go quite right for herself, and Osaka the requisite transfer student whose actual name no one remembers or cares about but she transferred from Osaka so that’s her identity now. On the one hand, these character types became standard in the high school comic/manga/anime type story. The thing is, this one does not go all fantasy or sci fi and as such maintains some bit of realism, and second, this series started 20 years ago, meaning it basically invented those tropes.
This series has some nostalgia factor not just because of its literary classic-ness; it’s actually also in a lot of the background. For example, there’s a scene where one of the girls has never used a classroom computer before; this was a very real thing in the 90s. I remember my high school computer lab (we had no computer in the actual classrooms that I can remember) and the computers in the campus library at college that first fall. Compared to my desktop at work or even the campus labs and classrooms where I now teach, there really is no comparison; it’s just so different. There are also no cell phones in this story, none of the students drive cars (a few might have bikes), and the world seems a lot simpler when all you have to worry about is what you want to do after school or over break, where you’re getting into college or how well you do on the entrance exams. These things seem huge at the time, but compared to what comes next, not so much.
Granted, this is all set in Japan where I did not go to school, but a lot of the general plotlines and experiences like focusing on a class activity for a school event or studying with a group to prepare for midterms or finals, these are things that are common to almost any high school experience. The mild amusement and fun that everyone has even as there are some individual moments for everyone of struggle seem just right for my own memories of the same time. Even in the end where you get the feels abou leaving all your friends you know and head off to different things, it’s really all kind of here.t