Nichijou – Episode 4

What the hell it’s more Nichijou. The show has established as much of a rhythm as something this ridiculous can, but there’s still plenty of fun craft to poke at and uncover. Though comedy being highly personal is a general truism, I personally find the craft of comedy one of the most rewarding things to talk about. Comedy is like music, or language – there’s a clear rhythm to it, and internal narratives of tension and release that give it a real sense of cohesion and beauty. So let’s ponder the beauty of comedy as we watch a show about a talking cat and a girl with a key in her back.


So we open with the principal saying the school’s morality is in decline. Nothing even approaching a punchline here, meaning we may actually have something resembling a structure this time beyond “Nano and the professor find a cat”

“I became a student adviser to change myself.” This is an extremely bad reason to become a student adviser

And of course, her first challenge is dealing with the rich farm boy, who is literally eating a steak dinner with wine suspended from a string around his neck

We’ve got some consistent characters with consistent gags at this point – the farm boy’s landed gentry eccentricities, the over-the-top weapon-based violence of the girl who likes him, etc. The show will need to iterate on these staples in interesting ways if it wants to stay fresh, but it certainly hasn’t had trouble doing that so far. “Lol so random” is rarely that funny (and funny things that seem random are often based in clear craft and grounded betrayals of expectations), but you do need to be constantly inventive to stay funny. As I’ve said before, humor is like horror – it leans heavily on the element of surprise


“What is that frilly thing around your neck.” “Our everyday lives may truly be a series of miracles.” Oh wow, this exchange is so good. He’s basically playing the part of the regal but evasive suitor in a reverse harem, and saying the absolute nonsense but lofty-sounding non-sequiturs that are used to make those characters seem mysterious and philosophical. And they riff it in two directions, both elevated by the execution – the initial ridiculous line, which leads into a suddenly sunset-colored reflection on the light outside, and then his ‘well said’ laugh

Adviser asks if Mohawk’s hair is a little too much, and he cries that it doesn’t grow on the sides. This school is extremely good

This show has so many interesting shot compositions. It’s very good at creating a sense of space; there’s a solidity to its somewhat simplified designs that actually makes it feel less heightened than KyoAni’s more traditionally “beautiful,” effects-softened backgrounds, which is another way it helps gives its jokes impact – both physical impact, in that the characters seem to exist in a defined, weighted space, and dramatic impact, in that it further establishes the sense of normalcy that the show’s absurdity undercuts for humor


Nano essentially being the professor’s mom makes for a great dynamic

“I refuse to eat shaved ice for dinner”

Another almost wordless sequence, lead entirely by pacing, visual humor, and Yuuko’s various emotive noises. Mai performs her usual role, acting absurd in various ways as they take a test, and Yuuko is just slowly overwhelmed by being the only person noticing it. But as scripted on paper, that’s not even really a joke – it’s the way the show builds a sense of initial normalcy, undercuts it with one fairly mundane but completely incongruous piece of absurdity, and then lets Yuuko’s personality do the rest

And then Mai casually takes her hair off


The adviser gets a quiet scene to herself, which seems to exist pretty much solely to counterbalance the last sequence’s weirdness. Nichijou’s style of grounded world into absurd punchline is basically like a spring – it needs to be rewound to a conventional space before it can bounce out again. Nichijou’s understanding of this balance is one of the many things that separate it from conventional “ridiculous things happen, louder is better” anime comedies, where the mania is so loud and consistent that it becomes abrasive, and nothing has any sense of impact because there’s no diversity in tones

And of course, there’s also the unique ways the show gives dramatic structure to its episodes in light of its gag nature. There are always a handful of grounding constants for any given episode that keep being returned to – here we’ve got the adviser’s quest and this “red light, green light” bit


Oh right, and the consistent interstitial shots of the suburbs. Instead of the T intersection where they met Sakamoto, this episode has the rows of apartment complexes, with their lights shifting to reflect the passage of the day

I like how the hyper-sketchy style of Sakamoto’s reaction to getting gum stuck on him continues through the shift to the conventional shot afterwards. It’s a fairly common anime comedy trick, but it’s one of those things you can only really do in animation, and so it’s generally pretty effective

“It won’t be easy, but I’ll have to act as their parent.” Sakamoto embodies the great contradiction that makes cats inherently funny – they take themselves incredibly seriously, but betray that seriousness with their every action


More continuity – the mohawk guy attempting to push his hair down, the ‘red light, green light’ girl walking home and noticing kids playing the same game. The show following up these random sight gags by adding humanity to the characters involved is a really neat trick. As I keep saying, the more this feels like a coherent world, the more effective the ways it betrays that idea become

“Yuuko, don’t ever make a joke like that again”

Oh my god, Yuuko trying to have a human conversation with Mai is so good. Mai’s deadpan is fantastic, but I think it’s the intimate soft lighting that really sells this

They just keep fucking doubling down. Mai is the best shittweeter of all time

“I was joking again.” Mai stop you’re going to kill her


And that’s episode four! I hope you’re enjoying these semi-articles, because I’m certainly having a great time with Nichijou. Until next time!

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