This collection of 5 episodes makes Azumanga Daioh Collection 3 my favourite. It gives Chiyo-chan her own special episode, introduces Kagura, continues to show Sakaki as a closet romantic, and has some exasperating but funny moments with Tomo-chan.
The trail of dust billowing from wildcat Tomo rushing towards school, eagerly awaiting the beginning of a new school year and a class shuffle opens this collection. The whole gang is reunited, though there is a scare when it looks like Osaka is not in Ms. Yukari's class. However, Kagura, the athletic girl who rivaled the tall Sakaki in the previous sports festival, is now in their class. She's very competitive, but doesn't reckon on Sakaki's quiet demeanor. But she butts head with Tomo, whom she dubs "our school's well-known wildcat idiot," which leads to a string of insults and scuffling between the two-"you know that behinds are more useful than idiots!" Kaorin, Sakaki's admirer, realizes Yukari is planning in advance to win the next sports festival. With Sakaki and Kagura, how can she lose?
The episode on Kagura and Sakaki shows the differences between them, Kagura being more extraverted, competitive, tough-minded, while Sakaki is more demure, polite, and gentle. It's Kagura who discovers Sakaki's problem with cats and decides to scare off any cats that approach them. The sight of Kagura going "Garrrh! Garrh!" is sort of cute, as is a sequence when Sakaki, trying to get the biting cat off her hand, accidentally slaps the cat right on Kagura's face. Sakaki on the other hand, is torn between showing her true colours of being a girl who loves cute things and trying to retain her cool front, for which Kagura admires her. But Kagura and Sakaki share a concern for Chiyo-chan, especially when the latter is hit by a fly ball pitched by Kagura and hit by Sakaki. Sakaki forgets running bases and rushes over to Chiyo to see if she's okay.
The Chiyo-chan's Day episode, which was a special in the second manga collection, details a day in the life of Chiyo-chan from her POV. From the time she gets up early to make her own school lunch to classes, to helping clean up the classroom, doing her homework, and taking her dog for a walk, Chiyo-chan, despite her 11 years of age and a junior at high school, proves to be a responsible, lovable, enjoying time spent with her friends, and wants to work hard on her swimming without using a kickboard.
More than ever, she and Sakaki have gotten closer due to the latter's fondness for Mr. Tadakichi. Sakaki's like an older sister, tall, quiet, and kind, but there's a magical moment at the park, when recalling an earlier mention of Chiyo missing doing jump rope, Sakaki holds one end of a jump rope, Mr. Tadakichi the other end, to the delight of Chiyo-chan.
The episode on finals is among my favourite. Yomi, fed up with Tomo not making an effort to study, refuses to help her. After calling Tomo, Osaka, and Kagura numbskulls, the three pool their efforts to study, to no avail. Osaka has two great moments, one involving Bruce Lee, pronounced Blue Three. She wonders what happened to Blue One and Two and wonders if Jackie Chan is Blue Five. A bird flutters down on her head before flying off again. Birdbrain, I wonder? Later, she aggravates her teacher by asking her that since American families don't take their shoes off, what happens when they step in dog poo and walk around the house. The three end up getting really bad grades, but their combined total scores are 103, to which they respond to Chiyo-chan's 100%: "42, 30, 31. All total, 103. The knuckleheads win! We ain't knuckleheads no more!" They then do a loopy dance and hooting that left me wondering which one was Larry, Moe, and Curly.
Tomo's carefree character is best seen in the finals episode. When both Yomi and Chiyo tell her she should try harder before exams, Tomo laughs it off, saying "I haven't been doing anything after all this time, so there's no point to start this late in. What will be will be." She then laughs heartily. Later, she says that despite being saddled with academic disadvantages, that things will work out in terms of passing some entrance exams.
As for Yomi, she is the most mature and responsible of the group, but it takes Tomo-chan's antics or even calling her "baka" (Japanese for stupid) to get her goat, which involves a verbal or physical altercation. In fact she beans Tomo on the head with an eraser when the latter's sweeping sprays dirt on her. Her telling her friend to get on the ball is all in vain.
Finally, it's another summer vacation at Chiyo-chan's summer house, where there's a nearby festival, giving us a chance to see the girls and their teachers in colourful yukata, or summer kimonos. And in this episode, we learn it's just as bad to get Ms. Kurosawa drunk on sake, as she proceeds to tell them about male-female relationships.
Art studies include that quiet romantic Sakaki, and her admirer Kaorin. The magic continues!