Friday 5 April 2013

Anime REVIEW: Nichijou

Nichijou Title Card Anime

Not every anime series you come across may have a cohesive plot. Similarly, not every anime series makes a whole lot of sense either. But what happens when you combine nonsensical comedy with episodes made up of short sketches? The end result is Nichijou (which translates as "Ordinary/Regular Life"), a 25-episode series from Kyoto Animation based on the manga of the same name by Keichii Arwari. It originally aired in Japan back in 2011.

Nichijou follows the average day to day lives of a group of high school students and various other characters that populate their town. Only upon closer inspection, the activities these characters engage in might not be so average after all. Various hi jinx ensue between hyperactive slacker Yūko, short tempered yaoi artist Mio and silent but eccentric Mai. Among the weird and wonderful students attending their school is Kōjirō Sasahara, a farm boy with an aristocrat complex who rides his goat to school and Misato, a girl who can seemingly pull an arsenal of weapons out of thin air.

Nichijou Yūko Aioi Mio Naganohara Mai Minakami
Mai, Yūko & Mio

Elsewhere, an eight-year old genius has created an android schoolgirl who is virtually indistinguishable from real humans other than the key sticking out of her back and the weird and wonderful "features" her creator has bestowed on her. Joining them is a stray black cat named Sakamoto, graced with the power of speech by the Professor's inventions.

If I had to describe Nichijou in one word, that word would probably be erratic. Sketch-style slice of life animes usually have a surreal element to them, but Nichijou strives to take that one step further. Even amongst the goat riding, gun wielding and often over-the-top characters, segments are split up via unrelated title cards, clips of egg-headed men spinning a skipping rope and skits that go by the name of "Helvetica Standard". It can take a few episodes to fully adjust to the bizarre off-the-wall style of the show, and the jokes sometimes take a bit long to set up/overly wordy. But when it's funny, Nichijou is side-splittingly funny. 

Nichijou Nano Shinonome Hakase Professor Sakamoto
A pre-adolescent professor, a robotic schoolgirl and a talking cat: What's not to love?

However if the erratic pace of Nichijou is an issue for you, it's advisable to stick it out until the middle of the show where things start to meld together a lot more. At this mid-point Nano finally gets her dream of attending school, meaning she interacts with Mio, Yūko and Mai on a regular basis - quickly becoming the fourth member of their group. Where the first half saw the Professor/Nano/Sakamoto sequences completely segregated from the rest of the show, at this point they start to integrate and we see all of the characters interact together. Nano's arrival at the school also introduces a great new character in the form of Ms. Nakamura, a science teacher fixated on studying Nano's not-so-subtle robotic nature.

Nichijou Kōjirō Sasahara
Comic genius.

With a huge cast of characters on show, there's literally something for everyone. School-girl fans with be satisfied with the constant bickering between Yūko and Mio, broken up by the abstract nature of Mai's sense of humour. Elsewhere the Professor (or Hakase if you want to go by her Japanese name) and Nano will surely satisfy the moe-lovers watching. There are even adult characters getting amongst the humour, such as the eternally shy Izumi or the attempts to win her heart from Manabu. However if there's one brilliant character that's sorely underused, it's Sasahara. His early appearances are among the highlights of Nichijou, but following that he sort of skulks into the background until the very end. If there was one side character who needed more exposure, it's him.

Nichijou Manabu Takasaki
Oh Manabu, one day you'll win the fair Maiden's heart

Nichijou is a series whose humour can often be hit or miss, but the glory of a sketch show is that if you don't like one thing, there's still hope you'll find pleasure elsewhere. With a wide variety of characters each offering their own jokes, bizarre cutaway segments and art that's permanently gorgeous to look at, if you can get behind Nichijou's unique sense of humour, it's a show that you will undoubtedly have fun with.

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