As the year grinds to a close, I can’t help but appreciate how much my blog has improved throughout the past few months. I believe part of it stems from the quality of some of my posts, which as of recently I’ve tried to make as detailed, consistent and of decent quality each week. In fact, looking back at some of my older posts, there’s quite a stark difference between the Anime Reviews I put out nowadays, as opposed to some of my older ones, some of which I wrote while managing the tough deadlines put out by university. As a result, with the exception of a few reviews, there were some shows that I’ve previously reviewed which didn’t get the fair treatment or the level of appreciation put into them as much as others did. One of these examples was my review of Nichijou from just over two years ago. In this post, I’m going to revisit this series and finally give justice to a show that I felt I severely under-appreciated at the time of my review of it; that is, I’m not going to review the whole thing and re-rate it all over again, but I just wanted to touch up on some points I felt were lacking in my review of it.
Original post date: 18 November 2018
Post link: https://traditionalcatholicweeb.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/anime-review-vi-nichijou
The origins of Nichijou (in English, My Ordinary Life) began as a manga series written by Keichi Arawi, and later publicized by Kadokawa Shoten from 2006 to 2015 as part of their Shonen Ace series of magazines. In addition to the regular storyline involving our three lead female characters, the manga also packages several other short, non-sequitur strips such as Helvetica Standard, as a series of short comic strips reminiscent of those found in newspapers like Garfield, Mutts or Calvin and Hobbes. The manga series was eventually noticed by renowned anime studio Kyoto Animation, recently fresh off the production of K-On, and was released to the public in April of 2011.
Although the anime has received praise for its life-like storyline, setting, and the charming cast of characters on top of the bright and fluid animation, many fans clamoring for a 2nd season of this series were disappointed to learn that, as of 2020, no plans have been made for such, in part due to the series’ relatively low level of mainstream-ness in and outside of Japan and across the world. For many like myself, this series is one of those “diamonds in the rough”.
As stated previously, Nichijou‘s plot centers primarily around two groups of characters and exploring their lives living in the small town of Tokisadame. On one hand, there are Yuuko Aioi, Mio Naganohara and
best girl Mai Minakami, students at the local high school who embark on typical things that high school students would do, such as drawing manga, daydreaming, pranking each other, and having lunch on Saturdays; elsewhere there is Nano Shinonome, a robot created by child prodigy Hakase Shinonome and their adopted pet black cat, Mr. Sakamoto, who is capable of speech thanks to the miraculous inspiration of God through a red scarf invented by the latter.
In my Anime Review, I mostly talked about some of the plot lines that were present in this series, and didn’t really touch up on some of the aspects I felt made this series worthy of the 8/10 score I gave it. I’m sure those of you who are reading this might be thinking the same as well so time to refactor that sector of my review here.
WHAT I LIKED
- First off, Nano’s journey arc has to be the best thing produced by this series. Not only is it the closest thing this series can conjure up as a plot, but its execution was very well done. Though Hakase, the closest person she can consider as a friend, tries to rebuff her attempts to be normal and escape her own form of enforced “social distancing”, eventually she gives in thanks to her persistence, and her willingness. Her own experience is one that I feel matches that of every human around us; in particular how it’s within us to want to talk to, and connect with others, to be willing to make amends outside of our comfort zone and gain new experiences with others, and overall, it’s a sterling reflection of what it means to be human; not just to serve ourselves, but, as the Baltimore Catechism teaches, to go out and love, serve, and know God, in the hopes of seeing Him in Heaven. Come to think of it, I might as well tack that down as something worth looking into as a future post.
- Mai Minakami’s pranks towards Mio and Yuuko, but especially towards the latter; whether it’s beating her in a game of arm wrestling, ignoring her attempts to communicate despite the fact she has earphones on, or saying something retarded like “Where are my glasses?” while the sunglasses are right over her head. It fits in quite well with her character too; from a first glance, she appears to be a quiet, unassuming individual – a façade which is immediately shattered once you realize how much of a gangster she is – only adding to her likability. Oh, and not to mention, her equally mysterious pet dogs Oguri Cap and Pyon, they’re quite the savages-in-training who get one episode dedicated to their exploits and short segments showing the weird things they do around Mai.
- I really enjoyed watching the interaction between Yuuko, Mai, and Mio. Just seeing them do things such as go out for lunch, camp by the lake, or draw manga together once again was a testament to the series’ main theme of the necessity of social interaction; all of which culminates in them gathering at the Shinonome Laboratory to celebrate Nano’s birthday. In looking back at these moments, I myself was reminded of the various times me and my friends have gotten together to enjoy the facets of life; birthday hangouts down Eglinton Avenue in Toronto, strutting down Anime North, convening at one’s house to play board games on New Years’ Eve – Nichijou‘s characters really reminded me of those times which are unfortunately taken away due to a farce they call a “pandemic”.
- The end credits sequence following episode 14 and beyond is probably one of the most heartwarming things anime has ever produced. Something just feels great about seeing the citizens of Tokisadame, and from the distance our main characters, coming home from work, school, and playing games all amidst a beautiful summer evening, while a different ED song plays in the background, similar to what Lucky Star (ironically, another Kyoto Animation production) does. Truly, if there’s something that best describes the ideal summer, this sequence would be it.
- I would be amiss if I didn’t record the randomness of each episode, and the unpredictability of what is to come each episode, as another thing I liked about Nichijou. I kept looking forward towards what was to come each episode, not expecting what encounters Yuuko, Mai, Mio or the Shinonome Laboratory folks would go through in them, and how they’d impress me this time around.
- Lastly, the show was able to replicate the family-friendly, atmosphere typical of Kyoto Animation‘s works. There’s no need for episodes like beach fan-service or meaningless filler types to get the show going. All it needed was a healthy dose of cute girls not even doing cute things, but just going about the regular tidbits of a typical day as a high schooler. It’s a show that Traditionalist Catholics will probably find not just appropriate, but enjoyable.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
- Outside of Nichijou’s main duo of trios, the rest of the side storylines were plenty but mostly uninteresting. The weak point with them is that they were either uninteresting due to the characters’ circumstances, or downright boring. These included, but are not solely limited to:
- Makoto and Sekiguchi’s attempt to make their club, the “Go Soccer” club, popular. For reference, the game at hand involves players trying to play keep-ups with a soccer ball while simultaneously balancing a Go piece on top of it. Make that of what you will; eventually, they find one teacher, Mr. Takasaki, a former “Go Soccer” star himself, who they blackmail to get him involved in coaching their team. This part was pretty boring and quite non-sequitur especially the part where their teacher is revealed as having a crush on one of the teachers who so happens to be Makoto’s sister.
- Misato, a senior year student at Tokisadame High School, has a crush on Sasahara but in tsundere fashion denies any claim to that by… perpetrating war crimes against him such as shooting him with missiles or rapid-firing bullets from her machine gun. To be honest, at first seeing this was funny considering how the latter escapes basically unharmed, but it quickly lost its flair after several repeats of that same gag.
- Probably the closest thing to good from this was the subplot involving Tsuyoshi, a guy with a mohawk, trying to disprove the supernatural only to land himself in some uncomfortable situations such as being chased down by an elderly woman or causing damage to a Buddhist shrine.
- Actually, come to think of it, the whole romance segment that was shoehorned into this story felt forced. In one of the episodes, Mio is presented as having a crush on Sasahara, only to have that go nowhere and never be brought up as a significant point. Why having this point included in the series if it’s not going to play a major role in enhancing the character’s disposition is beyond my understanding. Compare that to Misato who goes full-out bombastic with her attempts to get his attention. Even then, I don’t think it was a good idea to have that stuff worked into the story.
I mostly went over some of the character traits of the various individuals presented in Nichijou in my initial post on the anime. Granted, I did that for quite a number of my earlier Anime Reviews, and now looking back at this, I felt this failed to capture the essence of exactly why I found them good or bad. So I’ll be clear this time around on that matter: Nichijou‘s characters are quite a mixed bag when it comes to how they were portrayed. Some characters such as Nano, Mai or Misato were given disproportionate treatment (in a good way) compared to other characters such as the teachers. We were able to learn more about their personal lives, their likes/dislikes, who they’re closest with, and most of all, sympathize with their inner feelings and thoughts. It’s for this reason that these characters end up being the ones I remember the most, and related to the most because of how they represented certain facets of human behavior. I’d honestly take them any day over someone like Sasahara, who is presented as a rich guy with some really atypical pursuits and manners, but no real personality or depth to his presence.
Needless to say, no matter how the characters themselves were written and contributed the story, one thing that I did genuinely enjoy from them was their attitude towards life. Each character approached living in a different way, expressing different attitudes and responses any time something came across their way. For example, Mai usually tends to do this through means of practical jokes towards her friends, to express her own amusement at the bright side of life; Yuuko lives a relatively carefree life, living by the “go where the wind goes” attitude, as seen through her lack of attention to her academics; ditto for Hakase, though for reasons other than academic ones; while Tsuyoshi emerges as a skeptic and exercises caution all throughout his steps.
I won’t be including an additional section on the music or my favorite moments from this series, since those I felt were sufficiently covered; I mostly wanted to cover plot and characters from this anime, as these sections were the ones I felt were badly neglected in my original Anime Review post. But in general, if I were to sum up Nichijou this day, I’d describe it as a slice-of-life anime that quite nicely lives up to its genre, as well as its name. If there’s one thing that I gained from watching this anime, it’s the example performed by Yuuko, Mai, Mio, Nano and Hakase; to always cherish the memories you have with the people closest to you, and to live your life to the fullest, so as to minimize your regrets – be they physical or spiritual in nature. Indeed, Nichijou really brings out the extraordinary in what appears to be just another ordinary slice-of-life series.