I finished rewatching Nichijou recently, and I’m happy to report back that it is indeed one of anime’s best comedies. I was worried a bit, having watched it when I was newer to anime, but I was incredibly satisfied watching it again. Over time I’ve actually come to like anime comedy more, adjusting to certain Japanese humor trends and finding comfort in the somewhat stale jokes that are so rampant.
Nichijou kind of makes me regret enjoying that average anime comedy. The gap between the quality of the two is so large that it’s not even comparable. Gone are the stupid boob jokes, the stale gags, and the no-effort boke and tsukkomi roles. Nichijou might use jokes that are similar to those in other anime, but it’s constantly working to make everything feel fresh. Even its running gags almost always have different punchlines, something I can’t remember seeing even in the other anime comedies that I enjoy so much.
Nichijou works by constantly varying its jokes. It can quickly go from subtle, environmental humor into over-the-top, joke-every-second humor and yet it never feels unnatural. By changing the format of the jokes instead of just the jokes themselves, Nichijou manages to keep itself constantly fresh and unpredictable, which is central to successful humor. There are plenty of gags where I expected something over-the-top to happen for the punchline, only to get something a bit more understated but just as funny.
The show’s visuals are a key part of this. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but KyoAni really sells this show. There are a huge number of jokes that work so much better than they otherwise would, just because KyoAni knows how to sell gags. What would otherwise be mundane scenes are made much funnier by animating way more than you would expect. A great example of this is the famous sausage scene. It would be funny on its own, and I’m sure it’s funny in the manga, but Yuuko’s exaggerated motions while trying to catch the sausage really add to the joke.
And much like the humor as a whole, KyoAni varies the actual animation style constantly. The way things are animated changes to fit the needs of the jokes, not just in terms of the amount that’s animated but also in terms of what is animated and how they do so. The use of speed lines and smears depends on the joke and we see the coloring change constantly. The timing is great too, as the jokes never go on too long to the point of awkwardness, which is a sign of strong direction.
I don’t want to say that there’s no good comedy in anime outside of Nichijou. I’m a big fan of Nozaki-kun, I greatly enjoy Jintai, and there’s plenty of shows that I enjoy the humor of. But the general state of humor in anime is pretty poor. There’s not a ton of variance and originality, leading to stale jokes and obvious, stilted punchlines. It’s unfortunate because so many series seem to think that they need some level of humor and levity, which may be true. I just wish they were a bit better at it.
What makes me really love Nichijou though, is that it’s great beyond its humor and visuals. It would be good enough for it to be a seriously funny show, but it also beats most other anime on an emotional level. I loved seeing Nano finally enter school, and the final arc where Mio gives up on Sasahara is great as well. I think that’s what really makes Nichijou stand out. Though its name might imply it’s a slice-of-life, it gets far too absurd for it to really count in that genre. And yet the moments where it does are amazing, just as good as any of the funnier moments.
I don’t want to put down the jokes though. So many amazing jokes contributed to this wonderful show. A short selection of my favorites include any gag where Mio’s manga is seen, the deer gag, the Fay Kingdom gags, gags about the weird stuff the Professor puts in Nano, and almost any gags with mohawk kid.
Watching other comedy is kind of disappointing for me now, because it’s never on the same level as Nichijou. In slice-of-life shows, comedy is more about the mood so it’s fine, but it’s incredibly disappointing to see bad comedy in action shows and the like. I can’t say I regret rewatching the show, but I do wish that the rest of anime would at least try to catch up.