If our society’s sense of humor and willingness to be entertained has come to a point where shows like Nichijou [Kyoto Animation, 2011] can no longer be appreciated, I would say we need to reassess how seriously we take ourselves. Like J.C. Staff’s Kill Me Baby, Nichijou, based on the manga by Keiichi Arawi (teach me how you got you name in both OPs, senpai!) brings an off-kilter, random brand of wacky humor to the table. It’s occasionally hilarious, often quite dumb, and but mostly just entertaining. And then, there’s the animation, which alone forces my hand in pushing Nichijou to a ranking of 6/10 (Ranking).
You’ve probably seen gifs and videos from Nichijou, even if you haven’t watched the show. I know, they’re splendid. But I’m here today to tell you that it’s not the same as having them crop up unexpectedly in the middle of the show. It’s far better to see the gloriously overblown wiener pursuit scene pop up in the middle of an episode than it is to see gifs of it. It’s far better to see the context surrounding the incredible running scenes or the dog bite scenes and watch the moment unfold on screen in mind-bogglingly excellent animation than it is to see just the punchline.
Characterized by really random situations and occurrences interspersed with…like, lots of other stuff, Nichijou defies summary and reduction in a manner like few others do. However, if I were to attempt to put this show into a finely tuned single sentence, it would read something like this: “A bunch of people overreact to everything.” And, when I say a bunch of people, I don’t mean just the characters of Nichijou, but all the animators who worked on the show. I don’t know how KyoAni managed to scrounge up the immense amount of money that must have been necessary to animate this show (and a comedy anime, at that), but a lot of times it feels like the studio came to its animators with a scene and said, “OMG THIS SCENE IS FUNNY ANIMATE THE CRAP OUT OF IT.”
And I’ll be damned if those animators didn’t do just that.
Admittedly, KyoAni probably saved a lot of money on the drawn out transitions between gags, but that doesn’t totally account for the hugely indulgent animation sequences that pop all over the show. There are a few moments that were clearly headliner sequences, but even little moments in Nichijou get great animation. If Kyousougiga is the best show I’ve seen to showcase anime’s potential as an artistic, stylistic medium, Nichijou is an expression of the gigantic flexibility it contains as a creative medium.
From faces to cinematography to basic visual variety, Nichijou does basically everything you could ever expect to see done by anime. Now, that’s an exaggeration of the highest degree, but the point remains: Nichijou is a superbly creative show visually. Even if I had found every single joke in the show totally unfunny (I didn’t) there’s still enough of an appreciator in me to be wowed by everything about the visuals. For this reason alone, Nichijou is notable. However, fortunately for both the show and its viewers, amazing visuals aren’t the only thing it has going for it.
Nichijou also boasts a wider-ranging cast that most shows of its ilk—compared to the focused comedic antics of Kill Me Baby‘s Yasuna and Sonia, Nichijou is a veritable zoo of strange personalities and distinctive looks. Part of this is the (again) hugely indulgent 26-episode run of the show, and part of it must be credited to Keiichi Arawi’s seeming inability to stay focused on set of characters for more than a single joke.
For Nichijou as a whole, that’s something of a blessing and a curse. On the good side, the constantly shifting focus means we don’t get bogged down or bored by one cast’s antics; on the bad, many of Nichijou‘s best moments actually come when the show commits to a longer narrative. The final two episodes each tackle a single plot line, which, while still split up by shorter gags, give the characters a lot more breathing room and resulted in some actual moments of impactful emotional payoff. Plus, there are some characters (pink tsun Misato, Yuuko, Mio, Sakamoto, and the Professor—and yes, I realize four of those are “mains”) of whom I wish I’d seen more, but I suspect that would be the case for anyone. It kind of comes with the rolling territory that is Nichijou.
At the end of the day, though, Nichijou is a creative romp on both the written and visual sides of the show. It’s fun, frivolous, and free-spirited. While the 26 episodes can be a bit of a slog at times, there’s always something about the show that is interesting and new.
While maybe not especially meritorious in terms of content depth, Nichijou is a wonderland of unbridled creativity and deserves at least a trial run. The humor won’t be for everyone, but the expansive ambition of the show is something that can be admired just as much as it can be enjoyed. As I said in the introduction, if we can no longer find at least passing entertainment in shows like Nichijou, we need to start considering how seriously we take ourselves.
Reasons to Watch:
- Top-level animation throughout the course of the series.
- The longer gags have a great payoff.
- Incredibly creative, occasionally brilliant in execution (the card tower scene is a little gem of comedic genius).
- “Comedy=tragedy+time,” has never been more true.