Nichijou – Episode 1

Hey everybody! Today I’m embarking on a quick-thoughts journey through KyoAni’s most lauded comedy, Nichijou. Writeups for this one have been requested in the form of notes as opposed to full episodics, so this time you get all the nitty-gritty minithoughts and immediate reactions on everything as it’s going on. It might actually be best to read these alongside the episode itself, if you get the chance. Doing notes writeups would generally mean less content than the full articles (they’re much cheaper after all, meaning I can’t afford to spend many hours on them), but it turns out I had a million things to say about the first episode, so this one’s still a massive pile of writing all by itself. But enough preamble – let’s get right in to the first moments of Nichijou!


So from what I’ve heard, this is probably Tatsuya Ishihara’s best show. Based on Chuunibyou and whatnot, it does seem like he’s pretty comfortable with comedies. Let’s see what we’ve got!

So we’ve got two idiots in the classroom

I… don’t really know what the punchline is here? They rev each other up through fighting spirit, and then we jump to a shot of them on a mat with “I wish I was a simpleton” transposed over them. I assume it’s some conventional dramatic format that just doesn’t translate, and the fundamental joke is the standard “idiots sure make things look easy”

And here’s the wind-up girl and tiny professor. A farcical world from the start

The robot girl is embarrassed when a cat notices her key. That’s one of the styles of humor I’m expecting here – exchanges based on a surreal dream-logic, where your first concern about a cat stealing your breakfast is that it doesn’t accuse you of being a robot


The framing of robot girl’s crash is extremely well-composed. The shift from a closeup shot as she runs at the camera to a mid-distance one emphasizes how silly her flailing looks (good character animation) and how harmless this situation is, and then that undercutting is itself undercut by the giant explosion. Snappy and well-directed

Jeez, this OP sure is gorgeously animated

And the OP tonally implies that the robot girl will be the show’s heart, a somewhat more low-key and sympathetic character in a sea of madness

The girls walking to school. This show is layering its comedy pretty well so far – this sequence here opens with farcical physical comedy (the explosion blowing dolls and salmon down the street, a joke only possible because of this show’s very sharp visual execution), and then transitions into silly banter that weaves in elements of the physical comedy. There’s also the inherent joke of all these events taking place in the same universe, where the girls are just trying to make average banter while robots explode a few streets away


Comic rule of three with the salmon. And cutting off her reaction is also good; there are very few punchlines that aren’t improved by being cut off, making another joke of how little respect the show has for the catharsis of its characters

“Acting normal in an absurd world” is already becoming a comic theme. The students walking to school, one in an old-fashioned wig and one riding a goat, no one saying anything

Boke and tsukkomi with a made-up phrase like “selamat pagi” sorta works, since it underlines the artificial nature of the format by applying it to literal nonsense. The dash of surrealism in this show’s humor definitely helps it stand out, though my first thought was to just let the second “selamat pagi” go with no recognition and no frustration whatsoever. But I’m more a fan of anticlimax and low-key unjoke formats (part of the reason I love The Lost Village), while this show clearly likes to go for the jugular. But it’s actually hitting its mark with wit and execution, so going loud is perfectly fine

The teacher had a Buddha statue put in her locker. She’s established in about three seconds as an easily bullyable person


“I guess I can understand what it’s like to have unrequited feelings for someone.” Again, there’s an inherent joke in the ways these main characters spin farce into generic conversations. As if this is how they’ve learned to parse their ridiculous world

Nichijou doesn’t just have “silly faces,” it actually frames each major reaction shot in a different visual style. KyoAni really doing good work here – this show’s very loose version of reality allows them to get pretty inventive

And the robot just ended up on a roof somewhere

An extended visual gag of the robot stuck on the roof. Good comedic pacing here. The show knows when to let a good visual linger

There’s also the subtext of “there was a giant explosion, but its greatest consequence was the robot girl losing her shoe”

Following a scene of a girl tossing a disc for a dog and then shooting it out of the sky with a scene of characters discussing the proper way to eat lunch seems very Nichijou


This extended visual gag with the wiener, my god. Only KyoAni can get away with “what if we made an attempt to keep a hot dog from falling on the ground the most visually dramatic sequence ever.” The humor isn’t from “we’re taking this very seriously” – it’s the phenomenal execution of just how serious it is. Having a more expansive aesthetic toolset really broadens the style of jokes you can land

It’s interesting how some of the smaller interludes, like the professor and robot playing rock-paper-scissors, are made to intentionally feel like 4koma interludes in a positive way. The lack of backgrounds here intentionally places this sequence outside of the show, because it’s intended as a bookend of the show’s first half

More surrealism. Mio playing jump rope with two men with eggs for heads. A now consistent format – a very simple punchline that only emphasizes the surreal assumptions of the base scenario

The show really likes its greyscale deadpan punchlines


Yuuko overthinking the principal’s old jokes is a nice one; extending the punchline beyond itself and injecting pathos through her sympathy, heightening the absurdity

It’s kinda funny that this student body is in general acting so much more grounded and normal than most anime high schoolers, but it makes sense for the comedy – the show needs a bed of normality to contrast against its surrealist touches

And here’s the format in miniature again: the guidance counselor is beset by grounded, understandable anxiety about her speech, ends up steadying herself with the already-silly “don’t bring your goats to school,” and then is lifted to absurdity by a student actually fighting back against that request. And then that is again undercut by Yuuko pointing out that the complainer is Mio’s crush, emphasizing the tonal disconnect between the standard high school behavior and goat-battle

They’re getting a lot of mileage out of this goat


Mio’s shock at the fire alarm contrasted against the urgent, panicked voices of the students, with this ominous building music in the background. Good stuff

“Helvetica standard,” a weird sub-show within the show proper. One very tiny joke

The guy that the grim reaper ran into reappears as the teacher in the following scene. Small things establishing congruity between the show’s more absurd and more grounded edges

“I don’t have any special features, but my toe comes off.” Structurally, this show does what Lucky Star never could – turning its collection of scattered, disconnected gags into a strength, by making the non-sequitur transitions part of the joke

The only reason she has a key is to make her toe launch. Of course. Obviously

“I can’t go to school like this.” The sad robot. Again, quick transitions between pathos and farce


And that’s it! This was an excellent comedy premiere, and comedy craft is just inherently fun to dig into, so I’m definitely enjoying the ride. We’re covered through a bunch of episodes of Nichijou, so I hope to see you all again soon!

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3 thoughts on “Nichijou – Episode 1

  1. “Selamat pagi” isn’t a nonsense phrase, it’s Indonesian for good morning!
    …I’m not sure exactly what this means for the joke though, I haven’t seen the show

  2. You should see the video Mother’s Basement made on the op, not only is it gorgeously animated, but everything make sense in it, i was quite surprised!

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