Early during this summer, I stumbled upon two videos detailing the intros in Nichijou, this raised my interest, and here I am, reviewing the show. It was a long way coming, and I have a lot to cover, with this being another character driven show, so let’s just dive on in.
Nichijou(My Ordinary Life) Review
Length: 26 Episodes
Studio: Studio Kyoto
Nichijou is a slice of life show that revolves around a group of high school girls who lead pretty ordinary lives, but odd things occasionally happen. Also see Azumanga Daioh, the most well known example of this subgenre, and Lucky Star, which was made by the same studio as Nichijou and is universally considered to be worse. The set-up is eye-rolling, and the only main difference is a lot more male characters, poorer sales, and it trying really, really, really hard to be quirky as possible.
However, there is one problem with a show that tries to get laughs out of you by taking something normal, and tilting it on its head, and that is being funny. Jumping straight into the problem, Nichijou just falls flat for 80% of the time. It is hard to explain humor, but the most common problem is having a punchline that was probably lost in translation. Trying to destroy a pumpkin and then end the scene by saying that it is really hard after you suplex it, simply lacks anything resembling humor, aside from the fact that that is an abnormal situation. But I think that is what the show is relying on, making its launch pretty much doomed from the start. I got the impression that this series wanted to create a world full of dozens of characters, all who have odd things happen in their lives. That is a noble effort, but just by setting out with a unique idea does not mean a good show. If you want it to feel like a world, you need to make sure that you acknowledge the existence of every recurring character you have. I mean, there is a character whose only trait is that he has an afro, and another character whose personality is lifted shamelessly from another one in the same show, but she goes from a teacher to a coffee vendor. I mean, you introduce her right next to the teacher character!
Speaking of characters, let’s just go over them, because a lack of humor could be saved by really interesting primary characters, shame they are not here to save this show. The cast is comprised of two trios, the first containing Yuko, a hyperactive, lazy, and childish girl with short brown hair. Mio, a manga artist who likes to draw Yaoi, can summon copious amounts of energy energy at various points in the show, and has blue pigtails with origins explained through pointless interluding dream sequences involving an airship kingdom, Seriously, these people made airships boring, and I have a massive stiffy whenever a piece of media includes one. And Mai, a quiet glasses wearing black haired girl who often dresses up oddly in another failed attempt at humor, makes jokes that have no rhyme, reason, or good execution, and carved Buddha statue because… She feels like it?
These three do not endear themselves to me, from their boring designs, lack of depth, and the fact that they never really do anything that shows that they enjoy similar things. Yuko constantly cheats off the two, and offers bad humor, which is intentional, but just annoying instead of it being funny due to how bad it is. Mio is the most normal, and is only interesting when she overreacts to a situation, which is not showing restraint, it is just not having anything to show between the good bits. Mai, on the other hand, is just weird, shoots plates with dogs, and I think might just live in a box since we never see her house.
The other trio, who joins up with the first one during the second half of the 26 episodes, contains Nano, a human-looking robot who serves as the awkward girl who is desperately trying to act normal, despite a giant screw on her back, and a body filled with pastry machines. The Professor, an 8-year-old girl who made Nano, who acts like she’s 5, and has an obsession with sharks, but never builds an army of shark-men, because that’d be too cool. And Sakamoto, a black cat who can talk thanks to a scarf made by the Professor, but never really serves a purpose, other than to be abused by the Professor. I actually do like the Professor’s character, at least in theory. A cheerful, yet extremely lonely child with a brilliant mind, who forces herself to be joyful to obtain a childhood she could never have, assembles a mechanical sibling, rents a house for herself and her machine, but then grows lonely enough to bring in a talking cat. Speaking of Sakamoto, I love the idea of talking animals, but he’s just boring after a while, lacking any really solid characteristic other than being the most mature out of the trio.
Just breezing through the rest, we have Takasaki, a teacher whose only trait is that he wants to get romantic with the shy and awkward teacher, Sakurai. But Takasaki is easily flustered when talking to girls, and need to listen to Makoto, Sakyrai’s little brother for advice, which he never brings up during the show, at all. And Makoto is ian Igo soccer player, a sport which involves coins and a soccer ball in the most convoluted mess of a sport since Blitzball. But there is a club for it, which is run by Kanzaburo, the richest kid in school, who had jets to take him to school if he feels like it. Oh, and there is a girl with a bow in the Igo Soccer club, named Haruna, whose largest contribution was going “Eeeehhhh?” a few times.
This chain of characters is largely unconnected with the rest of the plot, and while I do like the awkwardness between the two teachers, that is mostly because out of all the subplots, it is one of the most consistently good. And I guess Haruna is also responsible for the completely pointless segments called Helvetica Standard, which only last about half a minute, but it contributes nothing to the world, characters, or plot. It is just to confirm that there is manga in this world. But here’s the thing, you could probably combine every scene involving their situation, which never amounts to anything, and fit it into two to three episodes, and since it is spread throughout the series, it must’ve been annoying to keep track of everything during the original run back in 2011.
Then we have loose characters, like another trio, which contains two characters that are only in about, maybe 11 scenes, and were kept from the world until the second half of the series. The only one who has any character, is Misato, a pink haired girl who pulls heavy machinery, gattling guns, rocket launchers, bombs, the works, out of her arse when Sasahara “annoys” her. Sasahara is a farm boy who acts like an aristocrat, rides a goat to school, and has a butler, somehow. Both Misato and Mio have a crush on him, but as for a reason… He’s the eldest, which is important in Japan, I think. And he is attractive, I guess, but he is never a focal point, and is just a static character who we never really get to know, but never really want to, since he is ignored for the bulk of the show’s middle.
We also have Tsuyoshi, a guy whose hair naturally forms a mohawk, but he is hardly a rebel, he wants to be a scientist for crying out loud. His father, who is obsessed with a mascot who dances and is just a guy whose head is one big white afro… Did I mention that this show is deep in Japanese culture, and is hard to get at times? I mean, what do straw men mean, why are some reactions so small and some so large. There is a big gap between an odd face and screaming through saturn’s rings. We also have Nakamura, who is apparently a teacher, but looks like a 12-year-old boy, despite being a woman in her 20’s. She is obsessed with finding what makes Nano tick, and she was introduced via the second intro, in a very intimidating tone. But she amounts to nothing, like pretty much this entire show. I get that they probably planned a sequel, but this show does not so much as end, but stop, and these throw away characters do not have much of an arc, it gets as far as the first or second act, but then it stops. And I doubt that the payoff would even be worth it, since the show just started to drag around episode 15 for me.
I have heard that there is an abridged 12 episode re-edit that aired in Japan, but I cannot find it anywhere, it sounds like it would be better by removing a lot of what didn’t work, but I cannot find out. The show is divided into parts, with the total being around 110, but only about 40 of those are worth keeping, so if it was edited well, it could take all of these problems and I could forgive a lot. But no, the characters are all pretty boring 2D cutouts that never do anything that is notably unique, besides the Yaoi bit. And it really does not feel like a living world, since many people do not do anything for about 2 months, or even during the 12 months this show covers.
Speaking of which, the show is really bad at establishing time in general, most of the show takes place in school, and only about 5% of it takes places on a Sunday, Japan’s weekend day off for students. And there is never a get together that happens with the main trios that could not just happen after school. I know it is a played out trope, but couldn’t these girls go on out somewhere for their Summer break, or could you even mention it?
Before I rant on more about how the show’s structure could have been reworked to mimic that or one episode where it took a day, and then had all the stories of that episode take place simultaneously, crossing in little ways, let’s jump to the animation. The character designs are particularly bland in this show, featuring some very boring designs to the point where a hairstyle that is blue pigtails held together by wooden cubes, is the most unique design in the show, by far. And the expression make me very, very, very depressed.
I love lively characters and animation that appears to ooze artistic creativity and freedom, but the expressions all feel very hollow to me. I think it is just how token and consistent they are, when in comedy anime, I like lively and unique expressions that do not make a ton of sense with the context of the show. I often collect screens of great expression that I see in anime, I did so with the last two that I praised, but I never did so one single time with Nichijou. However, in terms of movement, it is very nice and fluent, but feels very bland due to the unambitious artstyle. I do have one nice thing to say, I like how breasts are only seen once in this show. Not in the form of nudity, this show is very clean when it comes to that or language, but I mean that none of the female characters have breasts and are as flat as pancakes. On one hand, it is a unique take that makes the show look more unique. On the other, it is odd how they are stating how women with anything above an A-cup are merely a non-existent entity in this town. I understand that we only see about 6 women who are above 18, one of which is just a picture.
It at least looks competent, but Kyoto animation has made some great looking stuff, and this looks like they phoned it in visually, and everywhere else for that matter. It is sad how this show can contain an intro that I can say that the intro is the best part of about half the episode. I enjoy seeing some scenes, like the friendship argument, deer wrestling scene, and a lot of the Professor and Nano bits, but I cannot recommend the anime itself. It is rare when I find a show that I can claim to have good ideas that are worth watching, but not good enough to grudge on through hours of bland, unfunny, and boring scenes. Just watch this English fan-dub of the first intro and this RAW of the second intro, since nobody subtitled it yet. Both of which are the most visually pleasing parts of the show, and the music in them is done by Hyadain, who has some extremely energetic songs that have become a cult hit over the web. Or the whole versions done by Hyadain, which are subtitled here and here.
In the end, I do not feel bad that Nichijou did not get a release outside of Japan beyond Crunchyroll, I feel like it deserved its poor sales in Japan by just not being very good. If you are curious, go and watch it, but something that is trying to be funny, but isn’t, only serves one purpose, to be observed and learned from.