Conventional wisdom has always taught us that more is usually better. We think that the more expensive car should have more completely unrelated features, the better ice-cream sundae should have a bigger pile of fresh fruit on top, and the better statistics report should be able to pull more numbers out of it’s arse. We compare phones by the multitude of apps it can run, our enjoyment of horror films is based on how many different ways the various victims die, and we often rate anime by how many story arcs, characters, subplots and themes it can cram into it’s 26 episode season.
As the modern entertainment sector continues to emphasize excess and surplus, Nichijou is a much welcome, and frankly much needed throwback to a more old-school approach to entertainment. Nichijou’s frugal yet distinct style reminds us that something is perfect, not because there’s nothing more to add to it, but because there is nothing more to take away.
Nichijou brings to us a fusion of gag, moe, slice-of-life and slapstick comedy. It’s humor is very reminiscent of Azumanga Diaoh while it’s art style borrows heavily from the distinctly colorful palette of Lucky Star. Nichijou adopts a very light-hearted approach with it’s tone; it’s jokes are played fast and loose, and while there is a constant shift of pacing throughout each episode, Nichijou never seems to take itself very seriously.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about Nichijou is it’s production value. Frankly speaking, Nichijou is GORGEOUS to look at; it’s animation so incredibly fluid and it’s art so crisp and vivid that it actually puts other supposedly competent studios to shame. The artwork selects it’s palette very sparingly, with a result that is both vibrant yet easy on the eyes. This gentle tone is then frequently punctuated by segments of metaphorical (and in some cases literal) animation explosions, showcasing KyoAni’s talent with a huge variety of styles from gritty realism to crayon slapstick.
One can’t help but wonder if KyoAni isn’t deliberately showing off their workmanship with this anime. Many originally very short panels from the manga are translated into incredibly imaginative and stunning sequences of animation that simply scream “because we can.” Show off or not, Nichijou’s cinematography is nothing short of outstanding; it’s liberal interpretation of the original source material has really allowed the creativity of director Ishihara Tatsuya and the KyoAni animators to shine through like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
Special mention to Nichijou’s OP and ED songs, which are creative shorts (incredibly well sync’d I might mention) in their own right. As a fun fact, both of Nichijou’s OPs are sung by Hyadain, who is ONE guy. No female backing vocals at all, he does it all himself. Seriously I’m not joking, go look it up.
The aforementioned dynamic pacing forms the basis of Nichijou’s entertainment value. Each episode tackles it’s structure with a large degree of unpredictability. You never know what’s going to happen next, be it a humorous dialogue scene, a fast paced action sequence, an amusing random still image or a hilarious but completely unrelated skit. Despite this seemingly chaotic approach, Nichijou still manages to find a good balance between all it’s various styles so that no episode feels too weighted. While such a haphazard approach may seem counter-intuitive for a slice-of-life anime, this style ends up working greatly in Nichijou’s favor, adding another layer to it’s texture of absurdity.
The humor itself is very simplistic, almost to a fault, and one would normally attribute this as one of Nichijou’s flaws. That is of course until you remember that “Nichijou” translates to “My Ordinary Life” and as such, the simplicity of the jokes are a fitting homage to the show’s title and premise. Many of the jokes are simply exaggerated normal events like missing the train or a waiter forgetting your order, relying on witty dialogue delivery and clever timings to get the humor across. Some may consider this a hit-or-miss sort of comedy, which is only a fair judgement. All the same, you don’t necessarily have to laugh at jokes like these to appreciate them, which is one of the main reasons why slice-of-life can have such a widespread appeal (remember K-On?)
The characters are very likable, despite the obvious utilization of moe in many of their design. If you can shed that manly exterior and look past the few excessively “cute” scenes, there’s actually an abundance of things to enjoy about Nichijou’s characters. Conventional archetypes are few and far between in this anime, and all the characters harbor their own quirky habits and flaws that you’ll quickly grow fond of.
The best thing about Nichijou’s characters however, isn’t their individuality, but how they interact with each other. The personalities of various character groups clash, contrast and complement each other in extremely interesting ways; the conversations and activities of the two golden trios of Nichijou: Yuuko/Mio/Mai and Hakase/Nano/Sakamoto make up the abundance of material in each episode and just their hilarious adventures by themselves could probably carry an entire show. This is furthered by the great voice acting that the Nichijou provides; Nichijou is one of the rare shows where the seiyuus genuinely sound like they’re enjoying themselves. Dialogues are delivered with copious amounts of enthusiasm which really helps sell the spirited relationships that the various characters enjoy with each other.
With all that has been said though, I would like to come back to that idea I mentioned when we began, that idiom of “less is more.” The thing I love most about Nichijou, isn’t the amazing artwork, the clever cinematography, the light-hearted humor or even the imaginative characters. What I love most about Nichijou is the fact that, behind all the technicalities and production values, lies a very simple ideal. Everything about Nichijou revolves around this central principle of being enjoyable. All that it does, every scene, every character, every line of dialogue alludes back to this principle. Because at the end of the day, all Nichijou wants you to do is one thing; it wants you to enjoy yourself. With Nichijou, there is no story, no subplots, no recurring themes, no character development, no product placement, no lessons to be learnt, no obscure references to pander to a niche audience, no obvious fan-service pandering or ploys to sell related merchandise.
Fun is the only thing that matters, and it's this frugality, this ingenious simplicity, that allows everything to just click together like magic.
When you finally get home after a long tiring day, the only thing Nichijou wants to do is to give you an excuse to prop your feet up after and wash that blue feeling away as it slowly puts that grin back onto your face.