I know it’s been an infrequent exercise to post here during the fall, but many things have happened, and in keeping with my principals, I absolutely refused to write anything that would be hasty as a result of being done while half-asleep, or with half a mind on it. That said, I’ve kept busy with some animation fare on the side, and something caught my attention the other day once again: Nichijou. Now, I did write a review on this wonderfully comedic SOL back at the beginning of this year, but something worth touching on came to light again: The music score. And it was this video that prompted it all:
Nichijou is many things, from the daily misfortunes of Yuuko, to the silly misadventures of the Shinonome laboratory gang, but something that helps pull together its absolutely superb usage of the visual medium is its wonderful, classically inspired score. It just so happened one afternoon that browsing around for something to listen to, this footage of the tracks that was recorded popped up in my Youtube feed, and the level of attention and skill in the music is really, really impressive…and worth a piece.
In a very real sense, the classically-inspired music makes Nichijou a (relatively) modern throwback to the classical era of Western animation, between the score being very much involved in the storytelling, and the short set-pieces that occur in the show, as “snapshots” of the ordinary, extraordinary lives the inhabitants of the universe lead. As a result, it was worth delving into some samples to really get an idea of how this works. First though, here’s a clip from a classic Looney Tunes short:
Of course, this is the famous clip from “What’s Opera, Doc?”, the 1957 Chuck Jones masterpiece which is really a masterclass in the medium. Of course, this segment is a riff on “The Ride of the Valkyries,” and overall uses Richard Wagner’s opera in a clever parody. While this specific episode could recieve an entire piece on its own, the point it illustrates here is the combination of both score and motion in storytelling. Elmer Fudd’s rabbit-themed rendition of the famous “Valkyries” piece is both humorous and very much in character- but it is accentuated by both the brilliant use of the visual medium, and the music which serves to add an almost unspoken heft and exaggeration to all of Fudd’s movements- and Bugs Bunny, a character whose trickery would not nearly be half as fun without the visual game he brings. Watch the clip if you haven’t- and the episode if you wish to- and note this is the historical cloth upon which Nichijou rests- and the framing for the content to come.
“The Card Tower”
Anyone who has watched the entirety of this show will probably recall this segment well- and it is an excellent example of where the score meets the storytelling here. The premise, as the picture here shows, is a gathering among friends where principally Mio and Yuuko attempt to finish building a card tower. It’s a simple premise, but the animation and the score turn this relatively mundane activity of friends into an incredibly tense scenario. Take a listen:
The tension provided by the backdrop of strings, plus the main cello and woodwinds playing, and the french horns combine to make a storytelling statement of a situation that in flux and yet fraught with absolute concentration and anxiety as the final piece of the tower finds itself needing to be put in. It’s actually very interesting how great scores can often key you into the mood of a scenario even without the visuals- and this piece does an excellent job of it, as the mood shifts constantly through it.
In turn, the actual scene finds itself enhanced by the music’s inherent storytelling properties- and when parlayed to the visual scenario laid out on top of it, it becomes the backbone of something that is truly remarkable- and very funny- from a technical standpoint:
This is the entire short, animation and all. You can see how it all comes together here!
There’s Trickery Afoot- “Kitsune to Tanuki no Omanuke na Bakashi Ai”
Whenever this bassoon theme begins plays, silliness and unforseen misfortune may await. Someone of an iconic theme within the show’s OST, this track illustrates another flexbility in Nichijou’s music- a track that is played in several different scenarios, scenes and episodes, but is versatile enough to fit the given moment that is demanded of it.
Indeed, this song does a remarkable job of stirring up mental images of various mishaps that occur through the course of Nichijou, and has a strong mental imprint that it makes on a viewer, both with its distinct, simple woodwind melody and the images it is associated with, which very often tend to be Yuuko’s misadventures.
Unrequited Love: Hyadain’s openings
It would seem amiss to not actually talk about the two extremely catchy openings Nichijou possesses in a piece about its music, but in a very real sense, they are much different from the classical-type pieces that serve as the show’s backdrop. Japanese composer Kenichi Maeyamada, whose stage name is “Hyadain”, uses voice synthesizers to great effect in both the show’s openings; and as a result he performs for both the perceived male and female voices in the songs. Delightfully catchy as they are, they are also good examples of an anime composer at work. This is ““Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi-C,” the show’s first opening:
What’s notable also is the level of detail packed into the intro; seemingly innocuous visual bits find their way into segments of the show and it’s actually a fun little game to see where they actually come into play.
While this piece is but a sampling of Nichijou’s musical depth and the various ways in which it employs its sounds, it may have stirred up memories in the minds of those who know the show, and perhaps inspired a deeper look for those that were unaware of what this comedic “slice of life” has to offer. A great score can elevate a show, be it from good to great, or even from painfully average to slightly above that mark. In Nichijou’s case, the music becomes an integral part of the stories it wants to tell, and in turn, everything is enhanced by the rich tapestry that forms the backbone of the humor in the show, especially when combined with the animation, evoking the influence of the classic cartoons of the West. From set pieces to ones that are versatile in their usage throughout the show, and down to Hyadain’s openings, this show’s magic is no doubt contained in its melodies.
Are you a big Nichijou fan? Love music? Leave a comment!