Nichijou: Cuteness overload with postmodern humor

Posted on June 25, 2013

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How do you deal with those dull, boring, uneventful days in your life? Read a book? Take a stroll in the park? Or perhaps a nap would do? Sometimes we just can’t help but ask for something more; something to give color to our otherwise monotonous worldly existence. Sometimes we’d rather trade our painfully ordinary lives for something else in hopes of having more of this so-called “fun.” And then there’s Nichijou.

Starting out as a comedy manga by Arawi Keiichi, Nichijou was turned into a 26-episode anime by Kyoto Animation (the one that brought you the likes of Clannad and Hyouka). True to its name, (Nichijou translates to “ordinary life”) the anime’s development is underpinned by the essence of an ordinary life. A bunch of students going to an ordinary school, living in an ordinary neighborhood in an ordinary setting… until its unique brand of humor pulls you in into its utterly wacky and crazy interior. Offering new ways of tickling your funny bone, and overwhelming you with its sheer cuteness, all while reminding you just how daily life could be interesting with just the right perspective, Nichijou is easily the perfect thing to watch after a long, tiring, stressful day.

Comedic Value: 8/10

Nichijou is a very unique attempt to convey humor to its viewers. Its style is so unique, it could be said that it’s somewhat postmodern in nature, challenging established conventions in creating comedy anime. On the whole, Nichijou is an anthology series; episodes are disconnected from each other, plot-wise (although there is an element of continuity with Nano Shinonome, a major character in the series). But then, these very episodes are composed of “anthology” episodes as well; a bunch of mini-episodes which are structurally set apart from each other. Yes, Nichijou is pulling an Inception on us. What’s also interesting is that there is no fixed time duration for any episode. At all. Some mini-episodes take some time, while some end almost as soon as they began; there’s no element of predictability with these nuggets of humor. Another thing worth noting is the presence of short segments in-between mini-episodes that are of no real connection to the stories; they’re just randomly there, apparently for messing with the viewer as he/she tries to figure out just what the hell is going on. We have the “Short Thoughts” segment, which is interesting for not making much sense, the “Like Love” segment, and of course, its trademark “Helvetica Standard.” All of these “intermission” episodes give us no real clue as to why they’re there to begin with; and there’s really no reason to try wrapping your head around Nichijou’s sheer randomness. You’ll just end up gawking at the screen, more or less confused but with a big smile on your face; and that is what Nichijou is pretty much after.

As to the actual humor employed by the story, Nichijou has something valuable to offer. The characters are just so fun to watch, with their silly randomness, making mountains out of molehills as they try to deal with their daily lives. First, we have Aioi Yuuko and her friends Mio Naganohara and Mai Minakami, who make cameos in each episode with their goofy student antics. Then we have Nano Shinonome, the Professor, and Sakamoto (a talking cat), who comprise most of the household humor employed in the series. Furthermore, we have Izumi Sakurai, the cute and easily frightened teacher, Kojiro Sasahara, a flamboyant, “rich boy” kind of character, Yoshino Naganohara, Mio’s adorable older sister, and so much more memorable characters. Each of them presents a different kind of humor to the viewers to provide a sense of diversity, while establishing a sense of community at the same time, which is simply wonderful to think about. Oh, and did I mention they’re all so cute?

Despite Nichijou’s bold crusade in introducing a new kind of humor, it does fall short on its comedic value at times. All throughout the series, it’s always been kind of a hit-and-miss to me. There are criminally funny scenes, followed by not-so-funny ones, and then we have those utterly random scenes which are so random my mind totally shut off, and that includes my laughing mechanism, leaving only that sense of total bewilderment. Such risks do come with this “postmodern” kind of humor, but then, with Nichijou primarily being a comedy anime, I was compelled to knock off some points for fair judgment.

Still, all in all, Nichijou is a massive sniff of fresh air. It brings something new to the table, while still retaining much of your good ol’ comedy. This show gives you that warm, relaxing feeling as you watch it and get to know the characters more, putting a smile on your face as you go along.

Character Setup: 10/10

There is so much to love with how the characters are developed for the purposes of the show. There’s just no getting tired of having to watch the same personality over and over again, because there is plenty to choose from; we’re dealing with a whole community of humorous characters for crying out loud. And they all stand out, thanks to a sharp contrast from character to character, giving them that ideal sense of individuality despite the sheer number of characters in the show. Random elements are also employed in character development, giving those cute Nichijou citizens more pizzazz. A principal-slash-wrestler taking on a deer? Check. A bespectacled “rich boy” riding on a goat on his way to school? Check. A tsundere with easy access to military equipment? Check. An airhead older sister who makes jam with salt-cured fish? Check. A bunch of people wearing daifuku helmets? Check. A student who is an MVP of igo soccer (whatever that is)? Check. Nichijou hardly runs out of surprises with its diverse cast of characters, each with their own quirks and unique personalities. Bravo.

Art: 10/10

Did I mention they’re all so cuuuuute? Nichijou is given life with wonderful art. With its rich colors and expertly drawn backgrounds, Nichijou gives you a sense of mundane-ness with its peaceful-looking artwork, while giving you that random, wacky, cartoon-ish feel at the same time; a perfect blend, and a perfect complement for an anime like Nichijou. The characters are also drawn with great skill; sure, they look simple, but it takes a little subtlety and distinct drawing style to bring out the cuteness gene in the characters, which is another driving force of the series. You won’t just be laughing and smiling here; you’d also be sightseeing as well, thanks to Nichijou’s art.

Sound: 10/10

Music and sound effects are well-employed in the course of the show. It gives every single moment in the series plenty of impact, leaving a stronger impression to the viewer. It also provides the necessary mood, depending on the development of the show, which is amazing. The voicing of the characters are beautifully done as well. Long story short, splendidly done.

Replayable? Definitely.

You’ll find yourself reliving your favorite parts again and again, relishing on its humor and the sheer cuteness of the characters. This also helps you introduce the show to your friends by showing them the best bits of Nichijou, which can’t be that hard to find. And then you guys can relive your favorite parts together. Go on, spread the Nichijou love.

As freebies, here are some of my personal favorites:

Overall: 8/10

Nichijou is one of Kyoto Animation’s less famous works. Nichijou doesn’t deserve this treatment. It offers a fresh brand of comedy that caters to viewers of any age. It also boasts of rich artwork and memorable characters. Sure, it has a flaws here and there (most notably on how funny the scenes are), but Nichijou is nevertheless a brave attempt to deviate from the standard formula in making people laugh. Nichijou will mess with your noggin, get rid of your stress and put a smile on your face instead. It will make you think twice about trading your “ordinary life,” too; after all, Nichijou makes ordinary life seem very colorful and entertaining. Perhaps we can apply that perspective to our own ordinary lives as well?

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Posted in: Anime