If you have read some of my previous articles you might have noticed that one of my favorite genres is comedy. And it is not a surprise that is a genre that translates very well into anime. The freedom given by 2D animation lets you create worlds and situations that might not be available on a 3D production (if it’s not a practical effect or green screen). But not all anime comedies are created as equal, those that succeed to become classics have something special that made them rise above the others even if they were not financially successful or popular during its airing time. And so, I’ll be talking about two shows that fit this criteria and hopefully you might want to see them after reading it. I am talking about Nichijou and Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou.
Nichijou is a slice-of-life show that mainly focuses on the daily antics of three friends: Mio, Yuuko and Mai. Their stories intertwine with other characters such as the young genius Hakase, her robot Nano and their talking cat Sakamoto. With every passing day, the lives of these six, as well as of the many people around them, experience both the calms of normal life and the surreal.
Beyond being a mere meme, Nichijou is probably one of the most ambitious works by KyoAni. Different from other adaptations, Nichijou is one of the rare examples of a surreal animation that was also popular. The idea of a slice of life with high school girls is nothing new and you could probably come up with ten different shows with the same premise, but this show is completely different. Taking on the dullness that daily life can be, Nichijou stretches the boundaries of reality and show us an abnormal world that is not surprising for the characters. From screams that pierce the solar system to imaginary sports that don’t make sense, the show will not give you a break and will twist your perception of reality, at least in the show. But it is not done in a dull way, Nichijou is first and foremost a comedy which helps to ease you into this madness. The range from where the jokes arise has something for everyone: Japanese slapstick to Keaton-esque silent comedy.
One key piece on the popularity of Nichijou relies in its animation. Full blown creativity in every scene and seems that expenses were not spared in the production of the show. The style is completely different from what KyoAni is known for and remains faithful to the manga, but the studio added a complete different dimension that even some jokes that normally could come up as dull became entertaining. Another critical part is the music / soundtrack. For such a chaotic show, the balance between the quiet background noises that go along with everyday life and the bizarre sketches makes for memorable scenes. The reach of Nichijou' soundtrack surpasses the show itself, even if you have not seen it, you probably have encountered parodies of the two openings in the wild.
There are flaws with Nichijou and some of them were more apparent after rewatching the show for this review. There are jokes that drag too long and don’t have a satisfying ending, worst case is that some of them are repeated more than once during the show. One of the best examples of that is the running gag about the origins of Mio’s hair accessories, the first time is kinda funny the whole setup, the second time is boring and when it repeats for a third time even when it goes for an over the top action scene, I don’t care anymore. There are a lot of weak sketches that do not hold up a second watch, I found myself asking why I didn’t remember some of them, but after they ended the reason was simply they were not funny. The strong sketches are really good, but the ratio between the good and weak ones is almost 50:50.
Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou.
The story revolves around the daily lives of Tadakuni, Hidenori Tabata and Yoshitake Tanaka of Sanada North Boys High school and their various interactions with other students of and around their school and their coming of age endeavors.
Affectionately known as “Nichibros”, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou is probably not as popular as Nichijou but it deserves a place as a great absurd comedy. I did not see the show during it’s original run and remained ignored until I gave it a try a couple of years ago. I remember laughing hysterically the majority of time. Now after a second watching the experience was similar. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou has the sort of comedy I like: over the top and absurd in every way but aware of its silliness. The timing of every sketch is on point, they know how not to drag along a joke and the payoff is almost always an entertaining conclusion. While it’s a sketch show, it also semi-episodic given that there is a loose plot that connects most of the characters. The protagonists not always interact with themselves or are the main focus of the show but that helps with the variety of jokes. The best example is the student council is first seen as composed of tough and intimidating guys but in reality they are helpful and caring people and have a background history with some of the characters that affect their relationship. They quickly evolve into a jack-all-of-trades group that help with any request even if they come from people outside of the school. This gives Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou a more solid structure than mere wacky jokes thrown at the screen and expecting the audience to laugh at them.
Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou is also part of a dying type of show, or at least one that has not received the same kind of love that their female counterpart have. I’m talking of male-driven comedies, although the show also has female characters, most of the sketches derive from things that concern the life of male high school students: Getting a girlfriend, coping with body changes, hanging around with your friends. The show is really explicit showing the difference of life between a male and female high school student. Although it pushes it to the absurdest way possible to the point that one of the bullies that use to torment the boys is now a “cute” girl. Another shows with a similar tone are Detroit Metal City and Cromartie Hight School.
Voice acting is one of the strongest point in Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, you can feel that the actors are really enjoying their work and every character acquires its own personality from their actors. While I haven’t read the original manga I am 100% sure that some of the jokes in the show are improvised or are completely different from the original source. It gives a sense of originality to the show which otherwise could be another run of the mill comedy.
Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou is not the perfect show, my main gripe with it is that it feels restrained and closed. There are three main scenarios where the sketches are located: High School, a river bank and the room of one of our main characters. The majority of gags occurred there, and other scenarios feel wasted or not used enough. The show could also have worked better if it had explained some of the background stories of some characters, expanding just a bit why they behave the way they are. I know it’s a comedy but that does not excuse leaving important questions unanswered.
It was difficult to compare both shows, from the surface someone could get the idea that they are similar but after watching both you get the idea that they were aiming for different results. The legacy of Nichijou cannot be denied, both artistically and technical, the show is a model for what Anime can bring to an audience. Taking risks and creating a complete surreal universe while maintaining cuteness is an achievement that should be appreciated. But, as far as entertaining value and rewatchability factor goes, I’m gonna give my general recommendation to Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou. The jokes hold up pretty well, you don’t need to know a lot about the media to understand them and even some of them relatable. Don’t confuse this as saying than one is better than the other, but if I had to choose what show rewatch again, I’ll go with the one I laughed the most.
Both shows are available where anime is. The manga of Nichijou is licensed by Vertical but also available where manga is hosted.