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11/1/13

NICHIJOU: ANIME SERIES - REVIEW


Based on an ongoing manga from 2006, the anime series of Nichijou followed a group of high school students as well as a robot girl, a child scientist and a talking cat as they embarked on very small but very significant (to them, anyway) random situations which they handled, more often than not, rather strangely.

Early on, I wasn't sure if Nichijou even had a story or an arc to it. The first few episodes of the series really prioritising slapstick goofiness and emphasising the over-the-top reactions of the characters to certain minor events like bumping into someone or dropping a tiny sausage. It feels like a very cartoonish comic strip, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The humour is a wacky mix of observational, sarcastic and OTT slapstick with the occasional mini slice-of-life "moment" breaking up the episode. Every so often, you get a quiet, detailed but blurry shot of a street as a breeze moves a drape or something like that, before they cut to the next scene. It's odd and super subtle compared to the rest of the show. You also get the odd mini joke, poetic-ish side thought or even a mini cartoon within the cartoon called Helvetica Standard which is usually completely out there and has nothing to do with the actual episode. Oh, and later on, a character's pigtails even become the subject of a full-blown mini adventure spin-off within a few episodes. All this makes Nichijou pretty unique but also, at times, a bit uneven and busy, especially when character arcs are finally introduced and followed-up on. Luckily, Nichijou is very funny throughout and its main characters are adorable enough that you can't help but stick around and see what they're about to do next. The characters in question include Yuko, who always forgets to do her homework and can turn nasty when insulted; Mio, who has a crush on a goat-riding rich dude (don't ask) of whom she draws sexy manga in her notebooks; Mai, the smart quiet one who likes carving wood sculptures and making the most deadpan jokes; Nano, the friendly robot girl who wishes to be normal yet can't escape her Inspector Gadget-style nature; The Professor, a pain-in-the-ass little girl scientist who blames everything on her cat and eats like a bear; And, last but not least, Sakamoto, the talking cat who always tries to act grown-up but often gets distracted by cute cat things or loses his temper.

These main characters are all completely likeable and three-dimensional enough that they're not just defined by one thing they do, they actually have very different sides to their personalities, sides which can sometimes conflict with each other. The focus in the series sometimes moves to some of the secondary characters like the teachers, who are actually really fun, a potential villain (she's not entirely necessary, to be honest), and other students you care very little about. Certain subplots are quickly abandoned like Yuko's secret girl crush on Mai or the rivalries between the principal and the vice principal at the school, usually that's for the best but sometimes it's a little disappointing. The best moments in the series come when a joke is milked for ages or when the episode really gets as anarchic as it can (see the deer-wrestling scene below). The way that silly, tiny moments build-up to satisfyingly epic scales is funny as hell. Most of the issues that the characters have throughout end up being resolved very differently than you'd expect. Subplots either come to an anti-climactic halt, fizzle out or go down another path altogether. Not all characters get what they want, which is typically a bummer, but they all kinda come together and form new friendships, which is pretty sweet. In the end you're left with a slightly bittersweet, but mostly positive vibe. As the show started developing its characters a bit more and giving them things to do and goals to reach, you did feel like Nichijou did care a lot about its characters. Although it is pretty inconsistent as a series, it still has enough laughs, enough heart and enough good-looking animation to keep you watching it and enjoying it.

Overall, while there are admittedly a lot of anime comedy series out there about high school students doing random things, Nichijou is one of those that tries something a little different and, in the end, manages to be somewhat unique and completely enjoyable. It's one of the good, underrated ones and I do recommend it.

Cute, funny stuff.

And if you disagree: Sakamoto told me to say that.

Totally his fault.

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