Thursday, 15 November 2012

日常 / Nichijou / Everyday Life

From episode one, Nichijou struck me as a cross between Azumanga Daioh and Pani Poni Dash. Just look at the design of the Professor/Hakase – if that doesn’t look like Becky from Pani Poni redrawn by Kiyohiko Azuma like one of the Yotsuba&! kids, I don’t know what does. And fittingly, that’s how the humour seems to sit, as well – not quite the bewildering flurry of weirdness that is Pani Poni Dash, but certainly a few steps more surreal than even the frenetic first episode of Azumanga.
And like both of those series, my first reaction to Nichijou was confusion, followed by a knee-jerk reaction of not wanting to like it very much, and then finally as the series settled down a little into character development and stopped trying harder than it needed to, loving it. Well, okay, that last part is mostly reflective of Azumanga Daioh – it was what, in the end, was missing from Pani Poni Dash and could have made it much better.

Nichijou – a term that after learning it here I keep hearing in Japanese speech – means ‘everyday life’, ‘daily life’, ‘day-to-day life’ or any variation thereof you might like to choose. It means the ordinary and commonplace elements of one’s life, and thus the irony here is that the everyday lives of the schoolgirls here are extremely weird. At the centre of the piece sit the three friends, clutzy Yuuko, cheerful but hot-tempered Mio and quiet, mysterious Mai. They go to school and though other than Mai (who has a twisted sense of humour and odd fixation on religious carvings) they are fairly normal girls, very strange things happen around them – for example, Yuuko will happen to witness the school principal having an epic wrestling match with a deer, ultimately revealing that even the tiny bit of hair left on his balding head is a wig. Around them, things are weirder. A robotic girl’s everyday life features the sardonic talking cat Sakamoto-san and her eight-year-old creator, the selfish little girl they call Hakase (‘Professor’). One boy likes to ride a goat to school, accompanied by a butler, occasionally coming into contact with a girl from the kendo club whose tsundere character is so exaggerated that when she gets flustered she produces heavy weaponry and lays waste to all around her. Other segments involve the unfortunate boy whose hair only grows as a Mohawk, a teacher who wants to hunt and disassemble the robot girl, the various people who take a part time job selling little buns and have to wear a bun mask, the extended brilliant fantasy sequences set on a zeppelin Yuuko has about Mio’s hair and the misadventures of the ‘go-soccer club’. As you can likely tell, all very strange.
 There are also segments from the mangaka’s other manga, Helvetica Standard, which I must say doesn’t seem nearly as entertaining. The mangaka’s family name, Arawi, is also about the only place I’ve ever seen the rare ‘wi’ character, .
The series really comes into its own in the second half, when things become a bit more coherent and all the disparate parts come together – adorable robot Nano starts going to school, making friends with the main trio and uniting the two major worlds. The boy on the goat becomes the object of Mio’s affections, making for some of the cutest scenes, and her rival is in the kendo club with Mio’s big sister. Things start to make more sense in a larger context, and the humour is increasingly based on character quirks rather than random things happening, which works better, and the incredible overreactions become ever funnier, especially when Mio thinks her filthy yaoi drawings are about to be revealed.
Though seemingly nowhere near as big a hit as Lucky Star, I feel that this second attempt by KyoAni to make a simple-looking comedy series was by far the better, and when they segue into huge, absurd action sequences with sweeping cameras and explosive special effects, it works fantastically. I’m a little sad that the DVDs reportedly didn’t sell well at all, as that means we’re unlikely to see any more Nichijou, and it’s a much better property than Lucky Star overall. It probably just didn’t hook enough people in at the start, as after all I too took a long while to really get into it.
Well, KyoAni’s latest, Chuunibyou, is giving us the best of both worlds of KyoAni’s strengths – beautiful art/animation and humour – so I don’t think poor DVD sales will affect them overly. But Nichijou shouldn’t be seen as a flop. It just needs time.


  1. Despite my love for KyoAni, I just couldn't get into Nichijou. Like you said, the early episodes were just too random and "random" doesn't equal "funny" for me. I agree that once Nano starting going to school and the episodes became more coherent, I liked it better. But I really only liked the segments with Nano, Sakamoto, and Hakase, and a few with Mai, Yukko, and Mio - the gags with all the other characters I either didn't get or felt like they were trying too hard to make something seem hilarious when it wasn't that funny.  I guess I'm just not a fan of random and surreal stuff, which Nichijou has a lot of. So yeah, it unfortunately didn't go well with me despite how much I love KyoAni, which is a shame since Lucky Star is one of my most favorite anime and I love Azumanga Daioh as well. I didn't hate it but it's not something I'd want to watch again.

  2. Well, I'm glad you at least stuck with it and didn't give up too early - you saw what was on offer and it didn't work that well for you, which is fair enough. And those segments were definitely the best ones - though I also enjoyed the teachers and their little side-stories. 

    The randomness definitely put me off a tad, though I've seen way worse (like I said, Pani Poni Dash goes way further, way into 'too far') but hey, Lucky Star had a fair bit of that too!