Reviewby Nick Creamer, Apr 4th 2017
Sub.Blu-Ray + DVD - The Complete Series
Whether you're a high school girl, a robot, or a tiny professor, just getting through the day can be pretty tough. Take Mio, for example - she wants to become a great comic artist, but for now, she's busy enough keeping her erotic fiction from somehow appearing on her class tests. Or Nano, whose worries about being discovered as a robot are constantly compounded by the giant key sticking out of her back. Or Sakamoto, the talking cat who keeps being used as a plaything by a child who's also a mad scientist. Whatever your problems may be, you can be certain things will only get more ridiculous in the world of Nichijou, where even ordinary lives are anything but.
Nichijou's had a rough ride making it over here. First produced in 2011, it was initially slated for release by Bandai Entertainment, before Bandai shut down their Western release arm. Stuck in limbo ever since, it's been inconsistently available via streaming, but only now available on R1 release. The wait has likely been long and tortuous for those familiar with the series, but now a western audience finally has the opportunity to discover Nichijou, one of the finest anime comedies of all time.
Nichijou's setup is only a few steps removed from a conventional slice of life or situational comedy premise. With a title that literally means “everyday” and often translated as My Ordinary Life, the series details the theoretically mundane daily events of a few high school girls, along with some of their scattered associates and the inhabitants of a nearby laboratory. There's Mio, the reasonably straight-laced one, Yuuko, her enthusiastic and kind of stupid friend, and Mai, the inscrutable third pillar who always seems busy carving tiny Buddhas. Over at the laboratory, we have the professor (known only as Hakase, which just means “professor”), a child genius who created the humanoid robot Nano. The professor and Nano are quickly joined by Sakamoto, a cat given the ability to talk by a scarf the professor invented.
That cavalier description of the ridiculous Shinonome Lab should give you some indication of how Nichijou treats its world. The very first episode features Nano stumbling down the street, bumping into a pedestrian, and exploding in a giant fireball. Then we're right back to mundane shenanigans, as Mio and Yuuko wonder what will be on their next exam. Even Nano herself doesn't seem to mind being exploded, ultimately appearing more concerned over where one of her hands flew off to. Serious events don't have consequences in the Nichijou universe, they have punchlines. Everything is part of the gag.
Nichijou proceeds in a series of loosely connected skits, as Mio and her friends, Nano and the professor, or some other denizens of their bizarre town go about their daily lives. Sometimes these skits take place in mere moments, while others can span close to half an episode. Sometimes skits will reflect on each other, while others stand out as marvelous standalone non-sequiturs. Eventually, we learn the boy whose hair only grows in a mohawk is actually the son of the dumpling salesman, whose gyrating sales techniques swiftly got him arrested. The boy who always rides a goat to school used to attend kendo lessons with the girl who's so tsundere that she can only express her love while firing a bazooka at her crush. The teacher who can't help sweating nervously while saying anything is actually the big sister of the go-soccer club's rising star, unrivaled in his ability to juggle soccer balls with go pieces on them, because that's apparently what you do in go-soccer.
By layering absurdist comedy over a charming and surprisingly human cast, Nichijou succeeds in making the ridiculous mundane and the hilarious believable. The professor may have built Nano, but over time, their bond becomes as endearing as any other family's, echoing the warmth of stories like Yotsuba or Bunny Drop. Most families aren't composed of a tiny scientist, a robot girl, and a talking cat, but anyone can relate to the fear of a child as her best friend leaves home. Our daydreams may not include extended sequences where our friend's hair ornaments become the key players in an elaborate plot to rule a sky kingdom, but we all understand getting in trouble for falling asleep in class.
Beyond its inventive gags and endearing cast, Nichijou's not-so-secret weapon is its absolutely unbelievable animation. Produced by the consistently impressive Kyoto Animation, Nichijou embraces a more simplified style of character art than usual, which allows for incredibly creative bending and stretching of character animation. Simple gags like “I need to get my incriminating doujin art back from Yuuko” aren't just elevated by execution - the execution can be the joke all by itself. From its wild faces to its remarkable character acting to its natural aping of entirely different genres, Nichijou is a visual wonder from start to finish.
Nichijou's simplified art style can actually downplay just how impressive and beautiful the show can be. The art of comedy rests heavily in a specific comic's understanding of timing and expectations, and Nichijou's ability to shift from gorgeously articulated setup to sudden deadpan punchline makes it almost unique in animation. There are sequences in Nichijou that dedicate just as much fluid animation and directorial vision to ideas like “Yuuko is trying to order a coffee” as other technically meritorious shows would dedicate to a climactic battle between gods. But Nichijou's beauty never feels gratuitous - the show knows when to hold back and when to lean in, ensuring its execution remains fresh throughout.
Nichijou's sound design is nearly the equal of its gorgeous visual execution. The show switches confidently between musical genres depending on the tenor of specific skits, dancing between orchestral instrumentation, goofy synth effects, or even old-timey horns reminiscent of early Disney cartoons. The sound effects and melodic motifs that accompany specific skit categories help strengthen the show's sense of tonal congruity, and the voice acting is a delight as well. Mariko Honda in particular deserves some kind of award for her work on Yuuko, whose perpetually manic shenanigans must have resulted in some pretty hoarse nights.
As a tumultuous collection of madcap skits, Nichijou is an unparalleled success. Jumping from slapstick to wordplay to absurdism to parody to every other style of joke, the show demonstrates both a keen understanding of comedy's fundamentals and a restless interest in exploring the art form's experimental edges. Blessed by some of the most beautiful animation in recent memory, nearly every gag is elevated to some kind of surrealist beauty. Beyond that, the show's sense of heart is nearly as strong as its sense of humor. If I have any complaint, it's that the show could have leaned more heavily on the emotional bonds that form the backbone of the show's final arc. Between all of its absurd gags, Nichijou got me to love its characters - it's very in the spirit of the show to present their passing as just another day, but it makes it hard to say goodbye.
Funimation's release of Nichijou is about on par for a license rescue. The show is presented on both DVD and Blu-ray discs, with the Blu-rays compressing ten episodes onto one disc. There wasn't any noticeable degradation in quality for me, but it's possible that more discerning viewers on higher-end setups may notice some issues with the compression. Outside of the show itself, the collection includes a full bonus episode, trailers, and the textless opening/closings (including the many endearing songs that populate the show's second half). There's no dub and no other digital extras.
Overall, I recommend Nichijou to anyone with an appreciation for either the weird or warm ends of comedy. The show is frankly brilliant - gorgeous, heartfelt, and guided by a remarkably keen sense of humor, it's equally at home executing a classic pratfall to perfection or turning a series of bizarre non-sequiturs into a gag you never could have imagined. It's a remarkable and easily rewatchable achievement. Having just finished all of Nichijou for this review, all I really want to do now is go watch some more Nichijou.
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A+
Art : A
Music : B+
+ Inventive and beautifully realized comedy full of charming characters and remarkably creative scenarios
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