Thoughts on Nichijou

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Small disclaimer: the images placed within this post were found via Google search.

Nichijou is the quintessential comedy/gag anime for the current generation. Loaded with wacky reaction faces, overexaggerated freak-outs, and random resolutions, it has the components to be one of the most recognizable comedy anime out there. And it has, to some degree, attained a cult following across the message boards, becoming infamously tied to 4chan as common reaction images/gifs. Chances are, if one were browsing online for anime-related posts and images, Nichijou would probably be the first, second, and last couple images one would find. For what that’s worth, it makes watching this anime feel almost like a myth of legend.

If one were to judge Nichijou as a genre, I think it does its job well enough. I’ve found myself smirking at a few of the situations presented to me, while also being charmed by some of the interactions between Mio and Yuuko. The amount of energy and timing with the jokes are a vast point in its favor, creating an environment where nothing is off the table. As a comedy, the point is to make the audience laugh. I believe Nichijou won’t have much of a problem doing that for most people. However, I am not “most people.”

One of the major flaws I found in One Punch Man was that it repeatedly told the same joke over and over again with little variation surrounding the intended purpose of said joke. Similarly, Undertale had a single focal point that it based its humor around, much in the same vein as One Punch Man: breaking expectations. It’s funny because it’s not what you expected to happen if it were taken realistically. Nichijou is another one of those shows where the primary focus of the humor, aside from overexaggerating emotions and blank stares, is to break the viewer’s expectations. The scientist made all of these revolutionary machines that interact with the human world but she’s a little kid who acts like an idiot??? A teacher tries to give off an air of maturity and responsibility but is actually emotionally immature and prone to being hasty with his decisions??? If I were to devise a guide book for this series, rule #1 would read as follows: “If a character says ‘This would never happen,’ it will likely happen within the next few seconds.”

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Giving credit to where it’s due, Nichijou isn’t the most one-dimensional comedy I’ve seen—however it still remains so narrow in its path that one can’t help but grow tired of the series by its halfway point (or in my case, the 33%-way point). It becomes one of those “Either you love it or you hate it” situations, where if you enjoy this series’s comedy as if it were gospel, there’s no issue, but if you don’t, there’s not a lot left there to give you. Its primary focus is comedy, and while its determination to stick with that is admirable, a little effort in developing characters and their relationships with one another would also be appreciated. Nichijou does this to some minimal attempt, but still layers it within the confines of its comedy, evoking a sense of faux pas to go along with the viewer’s understanding of genuine development. Even so, any indication of development among the characters doesn’t occur until around the halfway point, and assuming you’re even paying attention by that point, it may be too little, too late.

While the comedy isn’t for everyone, the commitment to making its brand of comedy as comedic as comedically possible is something well worth praising. Animation and voice acting(!) are Nichijou‘s bread and butter. Some may not be accustomed to the bland blockiness of the character designs, but I like the non-serious tone they evoke while simultaneously giving them a distinct style. Design, as distinct as it is, looks childish compared to the overall quality of animation. Going above and beyond to make every joke as bombastic and otherworldly as possible, whether it be body slamming goats, shooting lasers through planets, or creating entire scenarios only to reveal it to be a dream, Nichijou has the weapons available to rival One Punch Man in terms of flashy, all-out animation. The icing on the cake is the voice acting, which is perfectly suited to the wacky situations present. There’s a particular scene where Mio is sitting in the classroom when Yuuko arrives with lunch, only to find out it’s nothing like Mio asked her to bring. This proceeds into a four to five minute argument between the two with nary a break within that span. The argument was so heated that I couldn’t take my eyes away, and my ears were assaulted with the high-pitched squeals and almost comedic yelling between the two. Their seiyuus have some serious chops if they managed to go through that entire scene without a break. Now I wonder how many takes it took them to get it just right. Nevertheless, it was impressive.

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I’d just like to dedicate this paragraph to the character I find the least likable/appealing in the entire anime: the kid professor. I have never liked the stereotype/cliché of a child genius, especially when they act as if they aren’t a genius at all. Perhaps I’m ignorant of the subject, but wouldn’t that high level of intelligence imply the understanding of things such as “maturity” or “decency”? Not being able to control emotions, I can understand. Acting like a spoiled kid and prioritizing sweets and not understanding why she can’t always have them doesn’t give me the “genius” impression. I realize it’s part of the show’s humor, but it’s a long-standing feud I have with the idea, one that has yet to show me anything aside from “They’re revolutionary in their field but off the job they’re really kinda stupid???” I’m sure someone will argue with me on this, saying “Okay! Shooting lasers through planets because a dog bit you on the leg is fine, but a child genius acting spoiled is too unrealistic?!” I just don’t like her, man! Sakamoto’s a cool cat, though.

Characters are a bit of an interesting case of analysis. Most of the characters are jokes, but still give off the vibe of normal people. Usually, they’re either jokes, normal people, or a combination of both. Mio is more of a normal person, while still somewhat of a joke, while Yuuko is more of a joke, but still somewhat of a normal person. Their friend Mao is entirely a joke. This main group of three makes a delightful trio of comedy troops, assuming you like the comedy. If not, their closeness is still prevalent, depending on the situation. At times, one has to wonder why Mio puts up with them, especially during the scenes where they “help” her with her manga-making, but other times they seem like they couldn’t be closer. This is a very limited window, however, as most of the time it’s just comedy. Most of the characters most of the time are mostly jokes. They may act like normal characters, but how can one not be a joke with a blonde mohawk? It’s a target on the chest.

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Because it is so one-dimensional, Nichijou‘s most present flaw is whether or not it can rope in viewers with its comedy. The mood doesn’t encourage a lot of development or emotional empathy with the characters. Most of the empathy relies on relating to the situations happening… in absurd ways, but they’re happening regardless. Any attempt they make to be sweet or impactful is hard pressed, as the viewer will come to expect a joke or some gag to pop up to ruin said moment, only to be confused when it doesn’t happen. Kind of like giving a dog a treat every hour for a few days, then randomly stop upon the fifty-seventh hour, only to start up again an hour afterwards. It’s disjointing to try and create a sudden atmosphere of closeness between characters when they’ve always been a joke and nothing but. Some have better success than others, though I can only recall a single moment where a scene genuinely touched me.

As said before, Nichijou is a “love it or hate it” kind of series. Its focus is on comedy and little else, creating a safe space of humor for those who revel in the genre. If one doesn’t find that humor charming or at all funny, then it’s not something worth watching. That one-dimensional mindset is risky business, as it can result in the series being labeled either a very successful comedy or a very boring anime. At least it has 4chan‘s support.

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