I remember high school. It was pretty good. Not a lot of drama. Met my first girlfriend. Made a few friends. Got along with my teachers. A quiet, normal, if not dull high school life. A fine time to laze my days away worrying little about my future. Looking back, I’d actually change quite a bit, but it’s not something I dwell on often as I’m not a fan of “what-if’s.” Something I didn’t do in high school was watch anime, and seeing Daily Lives of High School Boys took me back to those days when I would sit back and stare at the classmates around me as they enjoyed the youth they were destined to soil. What? I watch people. It’s fun.
It’s been five years since then. A lot has changed for me since then. I’ve developed a lot of characteristics I hope to carry with me until death, and my craft as a critic has progressed further than I could’ve imagined coming out of high school. I’ve seen over three-hundred anime titles, ranging from a variety of genres and lengths, and in that span I’ve learned a few things about what I expect out of shows and what typically makes me enjoy the experience. I’ve said many times in the past that I don’t really find anime funny, compensating for the worth of entertainment when it comes to comedy anime. Daily Lives, as it turns out, is different… at first.
One of the key issues I have with comedy anime is consistency, something that most very well lack. It’s not like I’ve never laughed at anime; I’ve laughed at quite a few. With as little as I laugh overall, it’s hard to label any anime in particular as “funny.” I like variety, wordplay, slapstick, exaggerated expressions, and a spice of cleverness that makes me surprised by the outcome of a scenario. Daily Lives is a refreshing dose of something different, but as different as it is, it becomes common when the same is shown with every passing scene. There is variety here, with a number of different expressions and platforms for comedy, but there is a consistent theme that makes the jokes easy to decipher. It doesn’t help when they play with ongoing jokes with little difference between them.
The only exclusion to this is with Yassan, the “Literary Girl,” as I feel her meek behavior is ripe for comedic value.
A friend of mine mentioned to me that he didn’t care for this sort of “self-insert, awkward” style of comedy that Daily Lives employs. Re-watching it again, I can definitely see this perspective. Many of the jokes within the series is that of an uncomfortable silence or reaction from characters involved in a misunderstanding. Some find this funny, I find it funny in the most extreme cases. I laughed a few times within the first couple episodes of this series. As the episodes piled on, I began to slowly tilt my head onto my palm and count the seconds before each boring skit was over, so that I may find potential in the next. Whether coincidental of not, the second half of the series felt a lot more blended in its brand of comedy than the first half. There’s a scene where Tadakuni, one of three characters among the main group, makes a comment about how he’s appearing less and less as the series goes on. Almost ironically, the best scenes in the show involve him.
Tadakuni is an interesting character in the sense that he’s the most “normal” among the boys of the show. Very rarely does he show himself to be random or idiotic, usually handling the straight man duties. Still, he has enough character to distinguish himself as someone not just “normal.” Many of the others, whether occasionally or primarily, service the comedy by being incredibly self-aware or totally loony. Without the balance that a Tadakuni character has, there’s nothing to really stop the constant assault of random, kooky, bizarre humor that either doesn’t make sense or comes across as awkwardly obnoxious. This may very well be why I didn’t care for the second half of the series… at all.
There’s also this relatable highlighting of girls constantly stereotyping boys for being rough, uncivilized animals only to have them act more so than said boys. Unfortunately, I feel this is hammered on far too thick to be seen as anything other than antagonistic. There’s a short skit at the end of each episode after the first few called “High School Girls Are Funky,” where female versions of the main male trio do things that contradict the stereotype that girls are soft, princess-like, and intelligent. It would be one thing if they simply acted unlike their gender, but instead they behave like entitled harpies, pestering anyone and anything that fell within their sight. I get the joke, they’re acting absurdly, but this is pushing the boundaries of why the third girl of the group, the one most like Tadakuni, would even willingly hang out with them. They’re unlikable characters hiding behind the guise of parody in unfunny segments that are focused on far too often.
Many would compare this series to Nichijou, as both have a focus on defying expectations and being far more goofy than need-be. While I feel Nichijou is, overall, funnier, I also feel its a better series due to the chemistry of the characters. Daily Lives has a nice chemistry among certain groups of characters, however the line between genuine bonds and comedic partnership shrinks with time. By series’ end, one who wasn’t entranced by the comedy will likely hold a feeling of listlessness that makes them question whether the series was truly worth investing in. Some of this could play into something I’ve begun to (perhaps unfairly) expect out of comedy anime: character development. I don’t want Clannad types of character development. Just something. Daily Lives has very, very little, oftentimes foregoing character individuality for the sake of bombarding the viewer with the same randomness that makes the characters feel less real. Nichijou had a little. Plenty of other comedy anime have some. Developing characters based on what kind of joke they’re normally associated with doesn’t really cut it.
Something I will praise is the insurmountable dedication to animation. Many of the jokes at play here would not come close to working should it not have splendid timing dedicated to the reactions. Character gags implementing a serious(ly stupid) aura are highlighted by darkness surrounding the eyes of the characters, usually signifying emotional trauma. Bodily fluids have a surprising amount of screentime, as spit and snot are occasionally jokes to break the mood. There’s a nice normality to the expressions combined with the ridiculousness of the mindset. I suppose those who enjoy absurdity being taken seriously will get a strong kick out of its humor, though I hope they enjoy it for long spurts. Characters are (intentionally) distinguishable based on hair and various accessories to their person, which are made for laughs on occasion. Everything feels very intentional, like a minefield of different ways to explore the craft of awkward/random comedy. The one complaint I have is that a lot of characters look exactly the same. Face-wise, that is. Boys look like girls, girls look like boys. Similar eyes, similar facial structure. It all kind of blends in unnecessarily.
If the success of a re-watch were measured in beneficial difference in rating, Daily Lives would be a tremendous flop. I didn’t enjoy the series nearly as much as I did the first time, and now even has a sandy texture to the creamy surface. There’s a lot to improve on in the series that I don’t believe the mangaka cared to change—most of which involved in the favoritism of their characters. Zany trumps normal, or so one could infer by the ending half of the anime adaptation. It leaves a lot to be desired from the potential of the cast as human beings rather than caricatures. If only it offered a semblance of wit to the themes presented along with the characters to make this daily life of high school boys all the more fulfilling.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.