Nichijou – Episode 3

The Nichijou train continues, as I fire off a series of staid, thoughtful reactions to three girls dunking on each other and a robot with a giant key in its back. This episode was framed from the perspective of Nano and the professor’s cat, and cats are good, so this was a good episode. I also spend some time rambling about the various dramatic roles played by the three high school characters. There’s lots of jokes to laboriously critique today, so let’s get right to it!


We open with a cat batting at its poorly constructed cage in order to get at a bird. It’s an interesting example of Nichijou’s very specific design sense – the cat is very simplified in its design, with the head especially being basically just two eyes and a few triangles. Additionally, there’s no shading beyond a simple gradient. But in spite of that, the cat feels incredibly “catlike” because its fluid animation obeys the bone and muscle structure that isn’t even really discernable in the design. Simplified, archetypal designs hide the bulletproof anatomical and animation expertise that make the sequence work

In contrast, the birds are conveyed in a semi-realistic style, which serves the purpose of distancing us from them emotionally. The cat’s simplified design turns it into a relatable character who’s driven by clear emotions; the birds, in their near-photorealism, are more “animal,” and thus more like scenery

And the scene concludes with a simple physical gag, like a much more peaceful version of a Looney Tunes skit. Nichijou is an endlessly confident production, applying brilliant craft expertise to the smallest of ideas


Some congruity in the bird pecking on the ground leading into the next scene. Small transitions

Yuuko trying to get a reaction out of Mai

For the first time, these blurred-out suburban transition scenes actually contain characters from the show – first the cat still in the box, and then Nano and the professor crossing in the opposite direction

A very long slowroll, as this show is so fond of doing. Mai just letting Yuuko stew, presumably thinking about something else, while Yuuko tries progressively more absurd methods of getting Mai to respond

Yuuko’s voice actress is really working to hit these low note punchlines


Alright, so they’re actually constructing some kind of narrative out of the interstitial shots this time – now it’s an old man accidentally watering the cat-box

“I’m sorry I ate your main dish!” A double-layered absurdist joke – the base idea that Yuuko somehow ate every single element of Mai’s lunch, transposed against the punchline of Yuuko actually carrying replacements for all these stolen foods on-hand

Great escalation through this Buddha statue bit. Yuuko’s a very powerful idiot

The affectation Yuuko puts on when asking Mai for her homework, too. This is a pretty wild performance

Mio’s the straight man, Yuuko’s the energetic goof-off, and Mai’s basically the wildcard – deadpan, kind of absurd, often the one who escalates things for the punchline. Mio is the setup and Yuuko/Mai are the alternately manic and surreal payoffs


Of course, Yuuko gets caught up in Mai’s silly manga. It’s sort of like K-On in that any pair of them have a very specific dynamic. We haven’t really gotten any Mio-Mai material yet, but I assume that would be more slow-paced, and based on Mio slowly being overwhelmed by absurdism

Weirdly, the final punchline here has basically nothing to do with the setup – it’s “I forgot my homework, but it turns out I’ve been forgetting my homework for years,” as opposed to something that builds on the manga gag. A setup-undercutting non-sequitur again

This “I have to raise my hand, but only in such a way that he won’t actually call on me” gag is very relatable. And again, visual execution adds to a very simple joke

And the punchline is double-undercut by first the classmates distracting the teacher, and then another one of the interstitial moments. I know they’re separate adaptations, but it still feels difficult to believe a comedy this structurally creative could come from the same group that made something as flat as Lucky Star


This one interstitial shot keeps tracking the passage of the day, lending a sense of focus and temporality to the various disjointed gags. Nichijou does some pretty specific structural stuff

After Nano decides she can’t take care of a cat, the professor brings it home. “You can’t just take cats home.” “What? But he’s cute.” “That is true…”

“I invented a ribbon that allows him to speak!” The professor just wanders off to the other room and makes science happen. This is how science fiction should be

Nano and the professor’s solemn realization that a cat who can talk kinda sucks is great. And for the hundredth time, I am so, so thankful that Nichijou doesn’t actually explain its own punchlines – it lets everything breathe, and drags things out not in order to make Bigger Laffs or explain everything, but because many of the setups are unspoken jokes that require establishing a specific steady context


This joke also obviously plays on our existing expectations about cat personalities. “It’s great that I’ll be getting my food for free, but you guys need to understand exactly how much I want to be petted”

A tiny Helvetica Standard about… a tengu who can’t pay his rent? And that is literally the joke – no playing off anything about tengu nature, it’s just “this tengu can’t pay his rent.” Motherfuckin’ understatement champions here, making jokes out of segments that ain’t got no jokes

Is this absurd horror straw-man segment just totally nuts, or am I missing a ton of cultural context here

And we end with a fairly conventional segment, where the base character beats play off each other – Mai, the inscrutable one, easily crushes Yuuko at arm wrestling, while Yuuko just keeps applying more and more energy to her excuses, each of which immediately get cut off by Mai’s deadpan victory


The dynamic of the three leads almost gives a craft significance to the “rock-paper-scissors” ad break. Three different comic tools that interact in specific ways, but can be given energy and creativity through execution

The dramatic twilight lighting really sells Yuuko’s final defeat

And that’s it for number three! It turns out I actually had a lot to say about this one, but don’t worry, I’ll be reduced to stammering hysterics soon enough. Nichijou is stronger than all of us.

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2 thoughts on “Nichijou – Episode 3

  1. The strawman scene was my favorite of the episode.

    Of course, we at first assume it’s something like a voodoo doll (with an appropriate reaction by the Principal). Until it’s opened up and is revealed to be exactly what the Principal feared, Natto.

    Natto is a nasty bean-based food that most people hate. It would be appropriate to compare it to Brussel Sprouts or Lima Beans here in the states.

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