Wednesdays Watching Anime – Nichijou
October 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
This week, we’re looking at OP1 for Nichijou, “Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi-C” by Hyadain!
I’m honestly surprised that I haven’t chosen Nichijou for this series, before today. Then again, that’s the story of Nichijou: exceptional, yet still the subject of some disregard.
Nichijou comes from a long-practiced subgenre of anime, comedic slice-of-life. Often, slice-of-life is meant to evoke more bittersweet aesthetics in the viewing audience, especially mono no aware, but shows like Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, and School Rumble mostly ditch the musings on the transience of pleasant moments in life in order to push the madcap energy of adolescence to the fore. These anime are structured around humorous vignettes, usually establishing the personalities and relationships of an ensemble cast before presenting them in different combinations and contexts that surprise and delight. Nichijou is the most extreme extrapolation of this structure, putting its generally grounded characters into various situations that owe no debt to conventional reality. People always bring up Azumanga Daioh, because people love to bring up Azumanga Daioh in reference to practically anything, but I think that Nichijou‘s closest relatives are Teekyuu, Tonari no Seki-kun, and Plastic Nee-san, a divergent splinter of the slice-of-life subgenre that foregoes almost all character and context in order to cram as many jokes as possible into a runtime ranging between two and seven minutes. Nichijou has the energy and the desire to pump out that kind of anime, but it’s also beholden to a stable and sensible universe of fiction in a way that the shorter gag-style shows aren’t.
I like Nichijou a lot. I like the humor, which relishes in its strangeness and in sometimes letting its jokes go on a bit too long. Even though the OP tries to overwhelm you with a dozen different characters doing wacky (or at least inscrutable) things, I like the core of characters upon whom the anime focuses: Yuuko, Mio, Mai, and Nano. I like that the first three girls exist separate from Nano in the plot for the majority of the episodes, making Nano seem to be just another throwaway character like Koujirou the goat-riding rich kid, before their encounter makes the trio into a quartet. I like the art and animation, which seems like the peak of Kyoto Animation’s inventiveness before a house style had fully codified in subsequent shows like Free! and Tamako Market. I like the music, because Maeyamada Ken’ichi has a real sense of playfulness as his stage name Hyadain and because he honestly hasn’t contributed to many projects on his own. Both the male and female voices in “Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi-C” are his, do you know? He works a lot with synthesizers and the like, as I understand it.
Most of all, I like Nichijou because it is something of a relic from an era now past. It’s a full-cour anime of twenty-six episodes, always a risk after the anime bubble of the mid-2000s, with no source material or franchise to back it up. It’s a weird and awkward anime, full of unapologetic otaku in-jokes, from a studio that’s now known for making flawlessly cute and easily accessible trifles. Most notably, it’s a failure on the order that production companies simply refuse to let happen these days, the first volume of its thirteen-volume set selling less than a thousand DVDs and Blu-rays total. Some blame a price point of 7980 yen, which would have been $105 in 2011, and some blame the echo chamber of the internet, which sometimes makes niche audiences sound like the mainstream, but either way it immediately became a dinosaur in the world of anime.
You know what, though? I like dinosaurs. They’re majestic.