Nichijou – Episode 13

It’s time for more Nichijou! Today we actually will arrive at the series’ halfway point, which is certainly a tragedy. There basically aren’t any shows like Nichijou out there – even if there are other witty comedies, Nichijou’s execution seems impossible to match. It dedicates all the genius and resources any TV production could muster to jokes about friends walking into pies, or cats being adorable. It is a rare and precious thing, and so all I can do to celebrate it is BURN RIGHT THROUGH ANOTHER ONE LET’S GO YEAAAAH.

Nichijou

Still in the summer heat, evoked through the classic cicadas, sunlight, and environmental pillow shots. We eventually hone in on Nano putting out the laundry, possibly the most idyllic and low-ebb touchstone of all Nichijou. Nichijou more or less has a keyboard of touchstones ranging from the most peaceful and everyday of tonal markers to stuff like the principal suplexing a deer – its overall effect is the act of playing a song on that keyboard, using contrast between keys to create a greater overall effect. Time to stop before this metaphor gets entirely away from me

We finally get the professor catching Sakamoto with the rope-box trap. And Sakamoto’s reasoning is perfectly cat-like: “eh, whatever. They can trap me in this basket as long as there’s food in there too”

This sequence is set up as a characteristically conventional moment at the lab, leading to Nano doing the classic “these guys” sigh and then noticing the life she actually wants – high schoolers just outside the gate

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Oh my god, the professor hugging Nano and telling her not to leave. I might have to add the professor to my favorite anime characters – she’s simultaneously everything that’s great about recent parent-child shows, and also a source of elevated, surreal comedy in her own right

The melancholy of Nano in the show’s OP is possibly the only meaningful narrative thread there – the only consistent and unfulfilled concept is Nano’s desire to go to school

Yuuko arrives at school half-dead. Another sequence that relies very heavily on Yuuko’s voice actress; the unnerving music is doing what it can, but Nichijou’s generally minimalist faces don’t necessarily lend themselves to extended jokes of presentation like this. Instead, it falls on Yuuko’s voice actress to convey just how sickly her character is

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“When you see my magic, you won’t believe your eyes…”

“Your trick is out in the open!” This is actually more of a Yuuko-style gag that Mio’s handling. Yuuko’s generally the one who gets increasingly hysterical about the world around her, but this gag relies on Yuuko for the setup, so…

Man, the contrast between this dove’s lovingly animated wings and its utterly simplified overall design. Nichijou has insanely animation-friendly designs, but its staff just can’t help but show off their absurdly strong anatomical mastery from time to time

In classic Nichijou fashion, the joke slowly shifts from Yuuko’s sickly state to screwing up her magic trick to the unfathomable complexity of whatever joke Yuuko was trying to do. And then the wand actually becomes a relevant punchline prop

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Why were the old interstitials replaced with a piece of toast in a tissue box. Why has this happened

Nano’s journey to the store begins. These Nano/professor sequences are more grounded than the standard – setups aren’t leading directly into jokes, they’re just being framed as slice of life vignettes. I assume we may be reaching the point where the show’s actually going to push Nano’s story forward, and wants to set up a tonal space that can convey lasting consequences

Professor happily moves directly from lying through her teeth to throwing a tantrum

This red light-green light sequence of the professor sneaking behind the professor and then collapsing in a tantrum as she turns is a nice visual gag. The framing is about as minimalist as it can be – faded white background, and the tile of the market used largely to clarify the characters’ movements away from the screen

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Today’s interstitial is a printer printing out fliers, for some reason. Some structural congruity in moving from the Shinonome house’s blowing laundry to the curtains blowing in the background here

Yuuko gets a full minute and two separate skits dedicated to her getting an 80 on a quiz. Poor Yuuko

Kinda funny how animating faces in slow motion is so much more work-intensive, since you can’t get away with as many of the shortcuts used to signify stuff like blinking or gasping

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I really wonder how compositional meetings for this show played out. How did they decide which way to tonally balance all the episodes? Sequences like the interstitial shots could truly go anywhere, and be used any number of times – did they just plot out the amount of “energy headspace” they thought each sequence would consume, and then scatter the lighter, more incidental moments in such a way to give each episode its own tonal personality? It feels like episodes of this show would require more drafting than a show that’s simply pushing a narrative forward

A Helvetica Standard, but this one has a more classically Nichijou style of punchline. It opens with a stupid pun (which commenters have indicated may be the reason Helvetica Standards often come off as so bizarre to me), but rides the other party’s pratfall reaction until it becomes a new reality. Placing the emphasis of a joke on the “wrong” segment to such an extent that it eventually becomes the new focus is a classic trick of experimental comedy – Kaufman loves it, Mr. Show loves it, Stella loves it, etc

Nichijou

The show working hard to evoke the sensation of an ominous storm. And then we get a perspective shot looking up at the ceiling, to orient us in the professor’s headspace

An extreme focus on subtle body language in this sequence, echoing a more traditional KyoAni production. The professor’s slumped posture as she wanders around Nano, her clenched hands under the covers. The focus is very different for a sequence that’s attempting to place us so close to one of the characters emotionally, as opposed to having us observe their antics from a safe distance

The professor dissing on Sakamoto

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Ah, of course. This sequence ultimately segues to the professor’s true fear – that of Nano going to school and abandoning her. The life these characters share is totally unrealistic, but Nichijou brings this conflict to life through a combination of our long-term understanding of these characters and how grounded the key dramatic sequences are. They’re doing silly slapstick most of the time, but they still feel like people at this point, and so a correctly staged scene can still meaningfully convey their anxieties

“I’m here. It’s okay.” Oh my god these two. This show is going to kill me

The professor realizes that sometimes she can be strong for Nano too, and that gives her the confidence to actually ask if Nano wants to go to school. A legitimately earned character moment for a believable child character. Dang

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The show destroys its own “things we think are cool” structure to accommodate Yuuko’s bragging. It doesn’t even jump out of the initial intro frame

It’s appropriate that the show uses these repeated 80 score gags in an episode that’s largely preoccupied with stuff outside of the main three. Their lessened overall presence allows this gag to stay consistent without becoming overbearing

Oh good, someone took the bread out of the tissue box

And we conclude on that sunny day and the dove flying free. Congratulations, Nano

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And that’s another Nichijou! This was easily the show’s most emotionally substantive episode yet, focusing largely on subdued scenes that really brought Nano and the professor’s relationship to life. Even these hyper-cartoonish characters can have relatable interior worlds, as long as the show is good enough to articulate them. And Nichijou can certainly do that!

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