Nichijou is a four-panel comic-based anime produced by your favorite friends at Kyoto Animation, the producers of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and K-ON!.
This show is full of dry humor and occasional display of brilliant wit. It’s one of those shows that will bring out chuckles after chuckles regardless of your comprehension of Japanese or Japanese culture.
This review, however, is an action-packed gore-fest. So, continue reading only if you’re prepared to deal with the consequences.
Nichijou, or Ordinary Life in English, recently finished its 26-episode full season run.
Each episode is divided into multiple sub-sections that sometimes share characters from the main batch but can serve as a standalone piece much like the randomly animated “skits” from Saturday Night Live. Despite that, the show does develop characters over time as well as maintaining continuity but as is typical of a slice-of-life anime, lacks an overarching plot.
Generally speaking, Nichijou can be simply defined as a slice-of-life, high-school, 4-coma, bizarre-humor, family-friendly anime. Some of you who are more versed in anime might be wondering how that can be any more different than shows like Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star. To that I would respond with unceasing punches to the face of the said questioner. How is it different? As the punches jab at your chubby face, you might be wondering why you asked a rather silly and obtuse question and how much you deserve being wracked by this author’s fury of fists. Before I finish you off, I should explain myself in more detail.
For starters, here are some of the things completely absent from Nichijou.
*panty-shots – it is completely plausible that no character wears panties in this anime but we wouldn’t know that because it cannot be confirmed one way or another
*mention of breasts – apparently they also do not exist in the Nichijou realm. Also plausible is that they have no effect on anything in the Nichijou world.
*harem – If you wanted an harem anime, you should not be watching Nichijou. This show’s comedy is a lot less sex driven.
Okay, having said that, let me tell you why it is different from Azumaga Daioh and Lucky Star.
*Is centered on mainly female characters
*Set in high school with most of the events occurring at the school
So… the point being, they may just as well be externally similar but I am not done crushing you with this baseball bat.
Nichijou distinguishes itself from the other slice-of-life in that it is almost always consistently funny. Its humour, as I mentioned, is not bound by a deep knowledge in Japanese culture or language, although it helps, it is funny in the way Family Guy can be funny without you actually understanding that their entire joke relies on one of the many 80s TV shows or movies. For Nichijou, however, its jokes are not based on any preconceived notion but rather direct interaction between characters or between a character and an environment. In its own way, the jokes are timeless and go well beyond the bounds of culture or knowledge, at the same time retain the many layers it is built upon.
An example of the simple but complex yet nonsensical joke structures of Nichijou can be observed from Nano, a humanoid robot that appears exactly like a human except for the giant winding key sticking out of her back. In the second segment of the first episode, Nano can be observed cooking fish which is soon snatched by a stray cat. Nano’s initial reaction to the cat, instead of chasing it, was to attempt to conceal the giant winding key on her back and denying that she’s not a robot. After giving chase, she immediately daydreams about how the cat might be stealing the fish to provide for its litter of kittens. Snapping out of that daydream, Nano realizes that she was running into a path of a pedestrian. Upon impact, the view pans out to a horizon of buildings where the assumed impact point becomes the focal point of a giant explosion where the bubble of the explosion quickly swallows the town and its buildings. This all happens in the span of one minute and 35 seconds with no gratuitous explanation whatsoever.
This scene is simple in that there is no prerequisite knowledge to understand how ridiculous the series of events was. And it is complex in that, Nano’s desire to hide and blend in as a human being and the irrelevant nature of her functions as a robot. Overall, one important factor in Nichijou’s comedy which will continue for the rest of the series is that it never intentionally tries to get a laugh out of you.
This is more apparent in subsequent segments where its purpose is to move from one segment to another, often depicting irrelevant scenery with mellowed out 5-second harpy tune.
Another positive aspect of its humour is that it cannot get old. It just exists for the sake of existing and not necessarily to amuse you. Fortunately, because of that, this show can easily amuse a five-year old or even a 30 something adult.
If you are of the type that are interested in the opening and ending themes of shows, Nichijou gets a well-deserved attention. Both opening themes (one for each half seasons) are created by Hyadain, who gained fame for posting his remix of tunes from the classic Nintendo games such as Super Mario Brothers and Zelda on the Internet via Nico Nico Douga (think Youtube of Japan). His songs are extremely upbeat and fast tempo’d featuring a back and forth duet of male and female voice, the latter being a pitch corrected version of his own voice but well-done nonetheless. To wind down from the show, the ending theme for the first half of the season is more of a lullaby appropriately titled “Zzz” by Sayaka Sasaki. Ending themes for the second half of the season is more of an eclectic mix of covers of folk music and old Japanese school songs sung by the cast and Sayaka Sayaki.
Overall, the show is very enjoyable. Its simple character design makes animation smooth and colorful without excess. Each episode is like a parachute drop, with the episode along with the opening theme starts you off to terminal velocity until you pull that ripcord and outcomes the parachute, slowing you down to a gentle lullaby of a theme song to finish you off to a landing.
I recommend Nichijou for all ages, which is something I probably will never be able to say again on this blog.
Overall Rating: 4/5