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!