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[Anime Review] Nichijou

In order to keep my anime education going, I was finally forced to stop rewatching Gurren Lagann and watch something that isn’t really shounen anime, but instead a more comedic, slice-of-life genre of show. And then Nichijou was placed in front of me. So, uh… here we go?

Nichijou is an anime characterised by it’s lack of plot and focus – not in a negative way, it simply presents a ton of tinier stories in an episode rather than one focused narrative. I like this a lot – we’re introduced to our main groups of characters first: the schoolgirls Mio, Yukko and Mai, and the scientist, Professor Shinonome, her robot Nano and their talking cat Mr. Sakamoto. These two groups of three form the main plot, mostly centred around Nano wanting to go to school and, despite the large key on her back, try to pass as a normal girl and hide the fact that she’s a robot.

However, in the midst of these two groups, we also get little insights into background characters and their own excitement, troubles and worries as we delve into their lives. Of these backstage stories, I very much enjoyed the Go-Soccer club story, as well as the Fey Kingdom skits. If you’re looking for a concise, consistent narrative, you won’t find that with Nichijou. It does tell a story, but it takes 26 episodes to tell a story worth about 3. That’s not why you’re watching it – it’s a clipshow of sorts, where random skits are applied to different characters, and each one reveals a little more of a character’s backstory, develops the world a little further and, crucially, makes you laugh.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the skits, but most of them hit the mark for me. They walk a fine line between absurd and interesting, and they’re always able to get a smile out of me, if not a belly laugh. However, further amusement can be drawn from the revelation that Nichijou actually tells a chronological story – background objects will be references to previous skits, such as the edited daruma in the Shinonome household, which actually becomes another hilarious plot point much, much later in the show. The fact that everything is connected, that there is indeed a series of little miracles, shows that the people working on this genuinely cared about the attention to detail, and so I can appreciate the show all the more.

Sadly, this isn’t the case for the characters. As is natural for something like this that focusses on so many characters, much like Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, they’re underdeveloped. There’s definitely room to grow here, as most of the characters are pretty much archetypes of their particular role – the most telling one of these is Misato Tachibana, who is tsundere taken up to 11. Yes, she’s funny, but it would’ve been nice to see a bit more of these characters. Nichijou’s greatest strength is arguably not used to its fullest potential: to go anywhere and see any character’s life at any point, so long as it’s entertaining, could mean that we could see aspects of a character’s day-to-day life where they’re not so strongly fulfilling their archetype. However, the wide array of characters does mean there’s bound to be a few that you like – despite her cuteness, though, I can’t say there’s much love for the professor, since her childish tantrums are only funny once or twice. After that, they grate like a sous-chef looking for a promotion.

That said, most of the main characters get a decent amount of characterisation. I could write an essay on Yukko especially, on how she holds her friends in much higher regard than her, why she doesn’t believe herself to be the kind of person who could be a star in a TV show because she lacks interesting qualities, why she has no goals in life and how she hides her low self-esteem behind a constant facade of overexcitement and silliness. Not all the characters get quite that much development, but everyone’s interesting to watch and what I really liked was that the characters don’t always remain static. Some of my favourite scenes are the arguments between characters, because it’s actually quite human – we don’t always get on with our friends, especially not if you’re me and all of your friends refuse to come puppy-kicking with you on a Sunday morning.

I think Nichijou is the kind of anime that you grow into. I wasn’t particularly fond of the first half – it was perfectly entertaining, but I couldn’t quite see the point of it. It was only in the second half that I took more of an interest, and I pretty much binged the last 6 or so episodes. Nichijou is certainly something that takes time to become interesting – it’s funny consistently, but I would argue that the value of the skits, and the way they blend together, only becomes apparent from episode 12 or 13 onwards.

Another consistent thing is the production value. Nichijou, like a university graduate at a job interview, presents itself well; the animation is fluid and nice to look at, and the various animation styles keep things really fresh: there’s plenty of dramatic style changes for some of the funnier scenes, and they really serve to emphasise the mundanity or excitement of certain situations. Overall, the art definitely serves to make Nichijou funnier, and I can appreciate the effort that went into it.

I won’t discuss the OP and ED for too long – the first OP and ED are really good, but I wasn’t as fond of the second half’s OP and ED. That said, the ED in the second part plays a new song nearly every episode, so it was at least a bit fresher than hearing the same thing over and over. However, the first OP’s song is the kind of thing I can hear over and over without tiring of it. I don’t know why or how, but I definitely like it. We’ll just call it the kind of song you label as a guilty pleasure and move on with our lives.

So, yes, Nichijou. The antics, the heartfelt moments, the characters, the art… there’s a lot of strengths that this anime plays to. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that most people drop it in the first few episodes, because it really is very different to things I’ve watched so far, and had I not had it recommended to me, I might not have watched to that crucial 10+ episode mark that got me properly invested. It’s worth investing your time into, and you might just find it a hilarious, insightful look into the silliness of the everyday. After all, our everyday lives may in fact just be a series of miracles…

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