Do you remember your time in Highschool? Didn’t you just hate it when you were sent to stand outside the classroom as punishment and idly peered through the hall window, only to see your questionably odd principal sneak up on a deer and attempt to wrestle it? Or all those times your slacker class mate was not helping on a committee so you repeatedly shot him with rockets? How about the time when you ran faster than the speed of sound to take back some homework you scribbled pornography into and forgot? No? Nichijou My Ordinary Life is absolutely anything but, and one of the funniest and boggling anime I have ever seen.
It is the execution that makes this marvel work so well. Seemingly ordinary circumstances, punctuated by idyllic calming snippets of out-of-focus but everyday life in Tokyo, gestated with the five main protagonists and their progression of a school day or weekend that is just so incredibly inane and off-the-wall insane. They are a likeable bunch – three schoolgirls that are the definition of anti-social and further afield an eight year old professor and her one year old robot that cares for her despite her mean-tantrum streak.
It flips back and forwards between these people and their misadventures – and because of this the pacing is utterly bizarre. You can never really feel comfortable watching Nichijou and this is intentional. One moment the most hilarious thing has happened in an instant, the next a long shot or segues that takes its time arrives at the next sketch. Even these are interrupted by mini-snips of otherworldly weirdness as jokes do not even make their punch-line and we are left wondering.
Again this is intentional – experimental in a way as our concept of narrative is challenged. Nichijou can be likened to a sketch show, it does not all work but when it does it usually justifies the 22 minute episode – but it is so much more than that and ultimately too bizarre to be given any form of category.
In fact, the anime often breaks its own rules; it has no character development or consistency and no branching story. One episode they are on a camping trip – then stuck in an elevator in an existential crisis. The next episode is a Studio Ghibli inspired animation where a king suffers a villainous coup aboard an airship – what the hell!
WTF is going on here?
The animation is lush and colorful, and contextually adapts to the variety of bizarre situations – there is a lot of production value here for a show about nothing.
The randomness is all well and good but there is an underlying issue of cultural context. Nichijou has a fair amount of visual and word gags that only those versed in Japanese tradition or culture would understand, at times this is a really distancing element, but ultimately Nichijou is worth the visit.
Although I could never watch this series back-to-back it’s a heck of a thing to tune in and get a dose of insanity, so the shelf life for this series is certainly high – throw on an episode when a friend comes to visit for a truly WTF experience.
[rating=3] and a half
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton on Twitter here: @Kwenton
Nichijou My Ordinary Life part 1 and 2 is out now on DVD from Madman Entertainment
Kwenton Bellette is extremely passionate about Asian film and the resurgence of new waves taking place in Korea, Japan and China in the last 10 years. He joined the global site Twitchfilm in 2009, is the artistic director of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival is Melbourne and currently studies a film masters degree at Melbourne University. He is very excited to raise further awareness of the what he thinks is the most exciting film industry in the world.