Happy New Year! 5 Characters I liked from things I watched in 2018

A quick pick of some good characters .

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Alright, so today’s a more informal post for the first time in a while. I’ve been banging out a lot of reviews, so with the year coming to a close and 2019 starting, it seemed like a fun idea to look back on 5 characters I really liked from things I watched this year. That could be movies or shows, East or West- but animated, as always. (Before anyone asks: Killua is an all-time favorite. There’s also a character piece I did. Check it out if you haven’t!) There was plenty to choose from, as it’s been an action-packed year of viewing, so here we go!


Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet):

Honestly, I could (and probably will) give the sweet little racer from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph films the full “What’s in a Character” treatment at some point, especially with 2 full movies’ worth of excellent character development, but Vanellope re-entered the scope of my mind with the sequel. A superbly fun character (voiced by Sarah Silverman, of all people) with a terrific dynamic that she has with Ralph, the regent of Sugar Rush is a surprisingly complex character, bundled into an adorable bundle of messy hair, a signature green hoodie, and boundless energy.

Yukko Aioi (Nichijou):

Nichijou, while a 2011 release in real-time, came into my life in a big way in 2018. While the many charming, quirky characters on the cast might all warrant some kind of mention, Yukko’s brand of terrible luck, persistent attempts at humor and futile battle against schoolwork all while never giving up is something to behold. Silly as Nichijou can be, it has smart moments of some pretty deep and touching stuff, and while Yukko isn’t a genius, she is someone who can be a great friend- and it’s through her actions that the robot girl Nano Shinonome is able to find comfort in the transition to being a schoolgirl, and her surprisingly up and down relationship with Mio Naganohara is a great joy of humor to watch unfold.

Anti (SSSS.Gridman):

Beyond the anime public’s adoring gaze upon Rikka Takarada and Akane Shinjo, the breakout character of this cast was none other than this man- a one-time kaiju whose initial casting drew a strong resemblance to Viral from Gurren Lagann. As time went on though, Anti’s varying hardships, coupled with his persistence in his goals (which originally was a single-minded, and I do mean single-minded obsession to destroy Gridman) found him both a strangely sympathetic character and a likable one who also delivered some major hype in a show you’d expect to have plenty of it. By the end of Gridman, Viral has undergone a complete character arc and transformation- and that, perhaps more than anything else in the show, is why he’s on this list.

Jack-Jack Parr (The Incredibles, Incredibles 2):

The youngest member of the Parr family had his big-screen coming out party this past year, where he transformed from a bit part in the original Incredibles film to a more active role, with a great deal of comedy and humor. From his backyard brawl with a raccoon to his unlikely heroics at the climax of Incredibles 2, Jack-Jack was about as humanly entertaining as you can make a baby character without him becoming annoying. No small feat there.

Kōhei Inuzuka (Sweetness and Lightning)

Father to the adorable Tsumugi in this sweet little slice of life anime, Kōhei struck me as interesting precisely because of his balancing act between being a good father (in the stead of his recently deceased wife) and his career as a teacher, which was handled with a lot of tact and care. While this show released back in 2016, it’s still worth going back to take a look (and here was my review of it.) This man’s selfless care, despite all the challenges he faces regularly, is a treat to watch, and a character archetype that seems far too scarce at time. Good dads (and parents) are never out of style!


So there’s my pick-5 for the past year. I hope everyone had a great 2018, and here’s a happy New Year as we get into 2019! I’m looking forward to another fantastic year here on AniB Productions, and to the excitement of my readers as they continue to grow. Feel free to leave a comment!

The Magic of Music: A Look into Nichijou’s score

Classically inspired, wholly well done.

Hey everyone!

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!

 

Review: Nichijou- My Ordinary Life

A delightful slice of life meets random unpredictability.

The Lowdown:

Show: Nichijou- My Ordinary Life

Years aired: 2011

AniB’s thoughts: After watching the slog that was Devilman Crybaby earlier in January (more on that in a future post), I needed an upbeat show, and this little gem delivered. Nichijou, in a simple way of putting it, is pure fun, but it’s also a great show in its own right. It stands out from the slice of life crowd with a superb grasp on how animation works on a fundamental level, channeling its ideas and concepts into a surreal sort of reality, but simultaneously captures its humor and charm just perfectly at the same time.

The single biggest aspect that makes Nichijou shine though, is that the animators behind the show clearly understood the root of the medium they were working in and used it to incredible effect. Not only is this show laugh out loud funny, but the slapstick and surreal individual moments are straight out of the animated school of humor piloted by the likes of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse.

I could talk far more at length about why this show is good, but aside from the stellar usage of animation, it also checks the boxes in terms of characters and writing. The cast of the show is charming as can be and full of personality, and even the various supporting characters have active roles that make it feel like everyone is involved in the bigger picture for everyone else. Plenty of strange and in-explainable things happen, but each one is just another daily occurrence on its own, and so the idea of these totally abnormal happenings in ordinary life is indeed preserved.

Interestingly enough, Nichijou, despite its 2011 release, had release issues stemming from Bandai Entertainment’s cancellation of their plans to do so, and while Madhouse picked up the rights, it was only to certain markets (not North America.) As a result, the series’ licensing state-side did not come until nearly a year ago at the time of this writing (February 17, 2017). Despite its late entry legally into the States, it’s certainly held up the kind of promise you’d hope for, and upon watching it, has a sort of timeless quality.

If you want a taste of a great show, not just for its genre, but in general, Nichijou’s a solid pick and a charming one to boot. Just as it claims, there are some extraordinary things that occur in the everyday lives of those in the show, and I’m happy to report that this description is in fact rather accurate. On to grading:


 

Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime, computer shaded. Although Nichijou’s basisc style is simple and straightforward, the amount and variety of techiniques they use in the show to convey the humor, surreal-ness of certain situations, and the interactions of people is an absolute joy to watch. The show’s conceptual understanding of the medium is simply outstanding, and watching the fundamentals shine in this show is an absolute pleasure.  5/5 points.

 

 

Characterization: There are two main groups of characters that eventually overlap in the story arc of Nichijou: the trio of schoolgirls featuring Yuuko Aioi, Mio Naganohara, and Mai Minakami, and on the other end, a young girl known as Professor Shinonome, her robot caretaker, Nano (who looks like a high school girl) and the cat the duo adopt early on in the story, Mr. Sakamoto.

Yuuko is the de-facto lead character of the show, though no one really is the “main protagonist” in a traditional sense. She’s a kind, energetic girl, but also a bit of “an idiot,” as Mio often reminds her, and a slacker in her schoolwork, reflected by her perpetual habit of not doing her homework and less than stellar test grades. Despite her shortcomings though, she’s a good friend, loves to be a comedian and engage in adventurous new ideas and activities, and enjoys good food. She often finds herself in the center of the strange, amazing events that occur in the ordinary lives of the people around her…

Mio is also a nice girl and at first glance, the most “normal” of the trio, but underneath her surface lies a fiery temper and impatience for bad jokes, ruined food, and anyone or anything that dares to cross her comfort zone. She’s noted for the two wooden cubes she uses to keep her hair in short pigtails, and has a secret talent as a manga artist, a skill that causes her a great deal of embarrassment in front of her friends. Additionally, she harbors a deep crush on Sasahara (another supporting character in this show), which in turn has some deep psychological effects on her.

Mysterious and mostly quiet, Mai’s a girl of few words but possesses a number of extraordinary talents and a fondness for carving Buddha statues. Her actions often speak louder than her often-mysterious words, but she’s still rather fond of her compatriots despite their drastically different personalities.

On the other end of the spectrum, the rather odd but charming trio of a girl professor, her robot and a talking cat are the other half of the main cast.

Nano is a robot caretaker, but she looks and acts like a generally responsible high school girl. She cares deeply for the professor, but often has random inventions installed inside her body without her knowledge from the former, which generally ensues in chaos. She’s also very conscious of the large wind-up screw on her back and repeatedly asks for its removal, but is denied as a running gag.

The Professor herself is a cute 8-year old girl in a oversized labcoat who despite her typical little girl tendencies and wanton love of snacks, is in fact a genius who already graduated from school. She’s a genius inventor, but in turn, many of her inventions often seem to have no practical usage and application, and most of the time, she prefers to play and snack around the house.

Finally, Sakamoto is a black cat who is found in the street by Nano early in the events of Nichijou. The professor invents a scarf so he can talk, in in turn, it reveals the voice of a 20 year old man who takes himself too seriously…and is ashamed when caught displaying his cat tendencies (like chasing his tail).

There’s a sizable supporting cast that also all gets a spotlight at various moments in Nichijou, but for the purposes of this review, it’s best to discover them all yourself, if you haven’t already. From Ms. Sakurai, the nervous schoolteacher, to the aformentioned Sasahara, who fancies himself a sort of nobleman as “the eldest son,” and so on, this delightfully quirky cast keeps the fast pace and style of Nichijou rolling along smoothly. 4.75/5 points.

 

 

Story quality: Nichijou does possess an overarching story, but in a unique twist, is often presented as a series of short daily stories and segments within the episode, often with a sort of randomness that is uncommon in anime. Usually at least one of these stories focuses on the schoolgirl trio and another on the Shinonome Laboratory group, but there’s also segments focused completely on side characters and some reoccurring meta bits, such as “Helvetica Standard” (try to figure out which character is reading this, actually). The sort of pacing is unique for an anime, but in a lot of ways, the humor is much more reminiscent of something like Looney Tunes with the usage of exaggeration in all contexts. While it is a funny show, some of the jokes might go over better if you’re familiar with anime and/or Japanese culture, but overall, it’s easy to grasp.  4/5 points.

 

 

Themes: Well…as its name suggests, this is about ordinary life, right? Yes and no. Mostly, Nichijou is random, goofy humor and some comic zaniness mixed in with its underflowing storyline, but if there was a more serious undertone, it’s about the many different interactions of people in both ordinary and extraordinary situations; the things observed and not spoken of, and vice versa, and perhaps the enjoyment of good friends, better company, and the twists and turns life offers. Mostly though, it’s best just to have fun with this one.  3.5/5 points.

 

 

Don’t insult the viewer: An engaging show that nails the fundamentals of animation all while avoiding fanservice and having a blast while doing it? That’s a solid show by any standard. Add in the super fun OP’s and some well-timed orchestral usage to augment the action like the old-time animated shows, and it’s downright impressive.  5/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 22.25/25 (89%): A unique slice of life show, Nichijou packs plenty of laughs; it’s a constantly moving show that flows with the random zaniness and a memorable cast of characters with distinct personalities and moments to remember, and oozes charm. If you’re looking for a great change of pace or a terrific genre pick, or even something that’s just plain fun, this show is a must-watch.


Like what you see? Have thoughts on Nichijou? Leave a comment!