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Nichijou: An Anime Review
Despite its blocky look, Nichijou «My ordinary life» is a marvel of animation. Perhaps it was the animation crew that ran the whole production, as the plot is almost non-existant. This despite a whole lot of consepts and people who could have made interesting plots. We have a robot who wishes to be human, made by an eight year old girl, a talking cat, a girl who likes to draw gay porn, and so on. But it is in its plotlessness that this show shines most brilliantly, by either making something so epic or cute that it will make you laugh at the stupidity of it, or just showing something calm and familiar, without the scene being connected to anything. As a cat owner, i can empathize:
So our story follows first and foremost three young high school girls. Yuko, a happy but lazy girl, always late on her homework and always being way too exited about things. Mio, the seemingly most normal one, but with an incredible temper and a hobby of drawing manga, especially gay manga. Mai, a silent girl who likes to prank the other two in extremely elaborate ways.
Then we have another set of main characters often separate from the first three. These include Hakase, a child genius, and two of her creations, Nano the robot and Sakamoto the talking cat. They live a strange but amusing family life, and the only connection between the two groups of main characters is that Nano is in the same class as the three girls, although they are not best friends. The stories follows the three girls and other characters at school, and the homelife of the professor, cat and robot. At least that is where most scenes take place.
As mentioned, the plot is close to nonexistent. Some themes may carry on through an entire episode, but only rarely, and there always the minute long fragments, which never ties in to a greater whole, possibly except expanding the world. This is not really a problem, as Nichijou is more of a collection of moments rather than a story of any kind. There are no great explorations of the human condition or epic battles, but it is a show that makes me smile, that forces me to smile against my will. Because of the show's nature, however, I do think that watching fragments of it on Youtube may be just as entertaining as watching an entire episode.
There is some progression in the story, however. The two groups of people get to know each other, and start appearing together in the later episodes. There are also other characters who gets skits to themselves: for example the polite and Sasahara, a farmers boy with an air of aristocracy, and a tsundere girl named Misato, who always shoots him when he says something stupid or embarrasing. These weapon-scenes are where the show really blurs the line between reaity and imagination.
While we at the end of the show have a long list of characters, it never feels like too much. We get to know them all, and they are moving nicely through the little stories at their own pace. The main advantage of not having a plot is that the characters can just be themselves, no need to force them to be somewhere or do something. Just place them somewhere and watch the story unfold. Most importantly, all the characters are enjoyable, there are none I do not like.
The animation is the most impressive part of Nichijou, and largely what makes it shine. So much of the jokes lies in the the movement, in the always changing artstyle to depict the mood, that I can not imagine the anime working without it. The camera is moving in really complex ways, and though the style is usually simple, sometimes we get a truly beautiful shot. The creators experiment with the art, always, I think, having fun. The love for the craft really shines through. The fact that what we are shown is constantly dancing on the line between realism and fantasy only helps to make the art shine. Watch this scene, for example. Almost no dialogue, just having fun with the idea of breaking open a pumpkin:
Sadly, this show did not do too well. Sales of the DVD have been low, and some blame this on the lack of fanservice, which for me is a plus. The show could not measure up to for example Lucky Star, although I believe Nichijou by far surpasses it.
This show deserves to be watched. There is such a joy coming from every frame, either calm or dramatic, and its humor is something quite different from most I have encountered. Nichijou has wonderful characters, good animation and my honest respect. It is a splendid way to spend an evening when you feel down, and really, a good anime does not need to be more than that.