Nichijou is a comedy series that’s all too often been described as “hit or miss.” The structure of the episodes is such that the series cuts up bits and pieces of the longer joke segments and juxtaposes them with far shorter, often saccharine, segments that need no set up. In the first cour of the series, it was the jump rope segments that captured my attention, none of which were more than about 30 seconds long. They rely on brief physical comedy to break up the overall narrative of the show. The segments of Helvetica Standard and Short Thoughts also attempt to do the same thing, using different comedic approaches. This second half of the show has brought another series of fantastic little segments to spice it up. No, I’m not referring to this, although Nano and Hakase are adorable here, I’m talking about something a bit more “like love.”
“It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art, for me, is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery.”
-Belgian painter Rene Magritte
The above quote is an attempt to explain why one would juxtapose two seemingly unrelated objects in the same painting (in order to create a unique mystery that can only be suggested when the two images are placed side-by-side). Nichijou uses juxtaposition in a slightly different way. By cutting up its longer segments, and inserting random, seemingly absurd bits, it not only causes the viewer to possibly look at the whole in a different way, but also to look at the two separate pieces in a wholly different, more concentrated light.
In the first cour of Nichijou, they tend to pair up brief, often physically comedic, segments with longer set-ups with eventual payoffs or punchlines. It’s not as much of a contrast; these segments are simply used to break up the larger jokes (usually conversations between Mio, Yuuko, and Mai) with mixed results. Some of these hit, some of them don’t, however, they all break up the narrative long enough for the viewer to digest what has happened before returning to the larger joke. This changes in the second cour when Nichijou introduces an unlikely but nonetheless powerful segment: Like Love.
Like Love does what the Helvetica Standard and Short Thoughts segments of Nichijou were unable to do in that it provides a direct and highly effective contrast to the running narrative of the episode. The segments in Like Love are short, sweet, and simple. They are also poignant, and made more so by their juxtaposition against the more absurd segments, like the adventures at the Daifuku Fair, or simply awkward scenes like a failed confession (due to the fact that the one being confessed to is suddenly bald). These gentle moments are amplified by the fact that they are positioned next to absurdity and affect the viewer more because of this.
This is where Nichijou is most successful and, dare I say, why the second half of the season has generally been more highly regarded than the first. The poignant scenes (Like Love, a few of the pillow shots like the one featured below), and the comedic scenes (Mio suplexing Sasahara’s goat, a policeman, and Yuuko over her BL manga pages) seem all the more hilarious due to their contrasting directly with one another. It’s not a re-imagining of the whole, but instead, a refocusing on the individual pieces.
Much has been made of Nichijou, and not all of it is complimentary. More than one Fullmetal Panic fan has been heard bemoaning the fact that Kyoto Animation has spent so much time flexing their animating muscles in Nichijou instead of breathing the same life into a new action series, or more Fullmetal Panic. Others have complained that the jokes last too long, or simply aren’t funny. Based on the sales numbers, it’s looking like more Nichijou is less likely than a new Fullmetal Panic series at this point; however, this isn’t to malign Nichijou for where it went wrong, it’s to celebrate where it went right. Like love, not everything is going to be perfect, but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? In spite of its flaws, there’s a lot to love about Nichijou.