So this week I’m doing another comedy series. This one is more gag-based and less plot-based than something like Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu. It ran this year, from April to September, and was definitely one of the top ten shows of the year (as my list should show). Nichijou means daily life in Japanese, and that’s pretty much what this show is about. Well, I guess it’s just a little bit different; it’s not your normal slice of life show like K-ON! or Lucky Star or Aria or Tamayura ~Hitotose~ but it’s instead much more focused on the comedy aspects of the show. To that end, it employs a lot of short skits and simple gags with a pretty huge cast of diverse characters (many of which appear pretty rarely actually).
Okay, starting with the characters now. There’s a giant cast of characters in this, but a lot of them appear pretty rarely (for example, there’s a Princess with all these attendants but she only appears in a few skits). So I’ll only cover the main characters that appear most often. That would be two groups of people, Yuko’s group and Hakase’s group. The first group of main characters is Yuko’s group. The group consists of 3 girls in high school, Aoi Yuko (affectionately referred to as Yukko), Naganohara Mio, and Minakami Mai. These characters are pretty entertaining, which is good since they show up the most in the show. They each have their little quirks, and while they don’t receive much by way of development it’s not really expected for them to develop. What’s nice is that the while the characters are fairly one-dimensional, they have just enough quirks that there’s a nice variety of gags the show pulls off so no one ever gets boring. Starting with Yuko, she’s pretty much the idiot of the show. Over the top, she likes pranks, and, well, she’s none too bright. She often gets into a lot of odd situations and has very exaggerated (and generally pretty funny) reactions to them. Such as in the first episode, when objects kept striking Yuko out of the sky. At first she doesn’t mind too much, but then she says something along the lines of “at least fresh products aren’t hitting me” and a perfectly sliced piece of salmon lands on her head. She yells “It’s salmon!” with a pretty wacky expression and the scene cuts away… I guess it sounds less funny in print, but animated it’s actually pretty hilarious
The next important character in Yuko’s group is Naganohara Mio. She generally plays the straight man to Yuko’s funny man (that is, she sets the funny man straight of their ridiculous notions) but Mio’s not without her own over the top reactions or quirks. She’s a fairly talented manga artist, but her stories are mostly yaoi (gay, particularly erotic in nature) and she always gets pretty embarrassed if anyone sees them. Her reactions are pretty exaggerated. At one point a police officer almost sees her yaoi manga… Then a guy with a top hat, then a goat almost eats them. So, consequently, she wrestles them all into submission. It’s those little crazy quirks that Mio has that actually make her somewhat similar to Yuko; those little things make the show a little interesting. More so because Mio often berates Yuko for that kind of idiocy.
Minakami Mai is the last character of this little group, and while she’s in my opinion the most funny, she’s not used that often. She has very few segments that involve her alone (though that’s partially because she’s kind of boring alone) and due to her nature has a person she doesn’t have very many lines. She’s a quiet girl that enjoys pranking people, and she trolls Yuko pretty often. Her pranks are pretty hilarious and the things she says are so funny too. She’s my favorite character (plus she has glasses, so…) because she just loves trolling Yuko and those segments are always hilarious.
The other group of main characters is that of Nano, Hakase, and Sakamoto. They live in Hakase’s house (actually, I don’t really know how or why she has her own house). Hakase is Japanese for professor, and I guess that’s kinda what she is. She’s a genius inventor, but she’s also a child (and mostly childish). Nano is a robot she built, who’s awfully self-conscious about her being a robot. Particularly the giant key in her back (which conjures up images of wind-up dolls), but funnily enough the key doesn’t actually do anything. Anywho, the last character in this little trio is Sakamoto, a male black cat who can talk thanks to the red bandanna on his neck. He’s kind of like Mio, a straight man to the crazy antics of Hakase and Nano (mostly Hakase) though he does have his moments of acting pretty much like a cat. Well, he is a cat, so that makes sense.
Other than those six, there are a ton of other characters in the show, like Yoshino who is Mio’s sister or Sasahara Kojiro, whom both Mio and Tachibana Misato have a crush on. A few of them appear more often than others (Kojiro and Misato appear fairly often) and they all have their own little quirks that make them pretty funny, so the show stays really fresh and different all the time.
Moving onto the plot, well, this is a little different to do. Since there’s even less of a plot here than last week’s Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu. What I’ll try to talk about here is the structure of the show and how it’s handled pretty well. Essentially Nichijou is mostly a series of short skits. The longer skits involve the two main groups generally and might take several minutes, but in between those are really tiny minute long (or less) skits with totally random characters (that aren’t really named or anything) that are usually pretty funny. In addition, a couple of the skits are oddly… They’re not really deep, but they’re not really funny either. Some of the smaller skits are just short slice of life moments, and I think it’s a nice change of pace from sometimes over the top and crazy comedy sketches that surround it. Another good way the show’s plot (which is essentially the jokes and gags) keeps itself fresh is the sheer volume of characters. While it gives you a certain core group to connect with and really get to know, it makes sure none of them get too boring by intermittently sprinkling all these other shorts with other characters that you’ll kinda get to know and enjoy.
One of the little eyecatch scenes that comes halfway through the episode. This one’s pretty damn adorable, Nano and Hakase playing rock-paper-scissors.
Moving on to the art, the art style used in Nichijou is pretty simple. Both the character designs and backgrounds are pretty simple. That’s not a mark against Nichijou, I think. It gives it a sense of charm and uniqueness. The characters are fairly distinct (though I think this is mostly accomplished via hair color and style, which is the most readily visible distinguishing characteristic) and their designs are alright. Obviously since the show takes place in the real world, there’s not really any fantastic character design in terms of outfits or anything, but I don’t have any complaints. The art style works for this series, but it doesn’t do anything spectacular or really distinguishing, art-wise.
One aspect that really struck me about this show (that generally doesn’t) is how high quality some of the animation is. It’s a slice of life comedy show, so generally you don’t expect really high-quality animation, but when the show goes over-the-top ridiculous (which it does fairly often), sometimes the segments get incredibly well-animated. One scene that comes to mind is when Mio thinks she gets rejected by her crush and so she goes running away pretty far (with Yuko chasing her shouting her name) and the running away scene is particularly well-animated. You’d think the contrast between the well-animated and regular sequences would be striking, but it’s actually kind of cool and funny. Surprisingly the animation is one of the better parts of this show.
Lastly, the music. The BGM is… yet again, kind of unremarkable. I say that a lot, but it’s mostly because it’s not something I look out for when I watch anime. The only times I really take notice of BGM is when it’s really good, and if I don’t notice it, then it’s nothing special. So Nichijou falls into this category again of having BGM that’s nothing special. However, the opening and ending themes are pretty good. The opening themes are both done by Hyadain, which I had never heard of before this show, but the songs are pretty good. They’re loud and exciting, which fits in well with the themes some of the gags in this show take. The songs are pretty catchy, and I like the animations for the opening that goes along with the show. What really struck me was the ending themes. The first ending theme is Zzz by Sayaka Sasaki, and it’s really cute song. Also, the animation is really well done. I just love how it’s handled in terms of style. It looks really cool. The second half of the series changes the ending themes to be more traditional Japanese music. Some popular folk songs, but most of them are random chorus themes for Japanese elementary and middle school students. They’d probably be more poignant for me if I were Japanese and sang these songs, but they’re still pretty cool. One really nice touch is that the ending theme they used for the last episode was the traditional Japanese graduating song. I thought that was pretty cute.