Nichijou – Episode 20

NICHIJOU HAS RETURNED. It feels like forever since I last watched Nichijou, but in truth, it’s only been a few days. I’m sure I’ve moaned about this before, but we’re getting to the point where just a little too much of my emotional well-being is dependent on a constant influx of new Nichijou. Without Yuuko, Nano, and the professor to keep me sane, this would have been a cold and treacherous season – after all, from the point where I’m writing this, I’m still waiting for the results of the worst election in US history. And that’s not even hyperbole! Not even close!

But politics suck and I hate them and I’ll reserve that talk for shows that warrant it. In the meantime, there are still good things in the world: seven of them, in fact. Seven episodes of Nichijou. LET’S GET RIGHT TO THE FIRST ONE.

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An intimate and atmospheric opening, focused on plants and trees encroaching on the neighborhood’s fences. A very warm and gentle start, so I’d guess we’re getting some kind of non-sequitur koan intro

Aaand we’re immediately disrupted by a Sakamoto sneeze

“It’s gotten colder recently.” Once again using the opening moments to establish continuity in the larger world through the passage of seasons. It seems like Nichijou will basically be following these girls through one full year of high school

Nano and the professor trolling Sakamoto is very good

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And we stop just short of the conventional punchline, ending with Sakamoto’s “first tell me why you’re doing this.” In a standard joke, that question (or really, a more mundane and snappy version of it) would be the setup to the girls offering some goofy one-line explanation. Here, Nichijou simply allows the absurd imagery to stand on its own, and cuts the joke off before it can resolve itself into a conventional gag. Nichijou often uses the reliable structure of comedies to add some structural congruity to its gags, but it can also undercut those assumptions to create unique structures playing on our existing assumptions

Oh dang, all four girls hanging out and helping Mio with her manga. A very mundane scenario, its normalcy and focus on established hobbies helping to further integrate Nano into the larger group

I really like the clear distinction in their casual winter outfits. Everyone has more layers, but they’re still all matching their personal styles

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Of course Nano’s key starts turning when she reads lewd things

The incidental character animation in this skit is extremely good. Nichijou’s animation is always phenomenal, but here it’s specifically being applied to more offhand character-acting gestures than usual. They’re clearly working hard to establish a steady platform with these girls

Also interesting how this is the second episode in a row and maybe ever where one of the main two (Yuuko and Mio) is being directly helped by the other in a clear way. They’ve always been friends, but their relationship has often reflected the antagonism inherent in comedy friendships. Recently, the show’s been going to greater lengths to actually demonstrate them being kind to each other for no other reason than they’re friends, and friends do that

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Oh my god, they are just showing off here. Another perfect physical comedy punchline, given the most exuberant execution possible. Basically a callback to the dog biting her hand, too

This super ostentatious cut from the planets back to the bead of blood on her thumb. KyoAni, you had way too much fun with this show

Mio why did you ask either of these two idiots to help you with your manga, how did you not know what was going to happen. They are fun friends but they are entirely useless human beings

Today’s interstitial is an office desk. And at this point, it’s easy enough to assume this one’s being used here to create dramatic space before we return right back to Mio’s room

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Oh my god, Yuuko just being stared down by her own terrible drawing

Mai’s bit here is very predictable, but it works well enough in concert with Yuuko’s very different failings

This Helvetica Standard’s art style is beautiful. I love the heavy inked borders they use for the background objects. The uneven line density really makes it feel like calligraphy more than animation

And a wonderful tiny betrayal of expectations – instead of stressing over his move, he’s simply being held away from the board by his opponent. The fact that everyone agrees this is normal is key, and his opponent being an old man also helps. The usual scenario here is “upstart player with something to prove fights grand master,” so having the grand master’s skill be physical plays off a couple of assumptions

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I actually got maybe the biggest laugh out of this segment just from watching Mio get slowly more hesitant to check Mai’s work. It’s the little things

Also interesting that basically the whole first half of this episode has been dedicated to this skit. I wonder when they’ll reintroduce Nano, and for what purpose

Ah good, we’ve returned to Mai’s excellent artistic skills

And now we get to cross the streams, with Mai’s terrific artistic skills helping Yuuko out of her predicament. What a good friend

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Apparently this episode is by Kigami, the godfather of KyoAni. Wonderful stuff

I like that we barely even see Yuuko knocking the ink back over, it’s just in the corner of the frame as she monologues on despair

Ah, there’s Nano

Alright, back to school. I was briefly curious if they were somehow going to dedicate this entire episode to this sequence

Oh no, Sakamoto is stuck in the bag. What can be done

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This is pretty much a perfect example of a Nichijou-in tonal sequence. This was a high-tension half, largely dedicated to Yuuko getting extremely anxious and Mio getting extremely mad, and so it’s buffered at the end by a sequence that’s basically the essence of peaceful comedy – a cat with a thing on its head, struggling to get the thing off. There are lots of shows that center basically all of their humor on characters being mean to each other, but it’s nice to see a show that embraces all the different forms comedy can take

Two of the minor characters getting a dedicated low-key sequence. And not even mid-level characters – this is… Tsundere and Mio’s sister? The show is working hard to make sure everyone gets their share

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This is like an everyday sequence from an entirely different show. Completely mundane slice of life tone, and the show gives us context on these two bit players’ relationship as if we’re already familiar with them. Apparently Mio’s sister used to be in kendo before she graduated, and Tsundere currently is

Oh my god, this tiny Yuuko sequence might actually be my favorite bit in the episode. No words, just a series of perfect expressions and great chewing noises as she slowly realizes she probably shouldn’t be eating the melon bread. Yuuko gets some of the absolute best deeply relatable material – she often plays the silly comic relief, but that means that she also works well for sequences depicting the small idiocies all of us engage in all the time

Why is this little ghost reading The Sirens of Titan

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Whoa, some extremely loose character art stylings for this Shinonome lab sequence. The characters often get hyperdeformed for reactions, but you rarely see them moving in such a two-dimensional way as Nano skipping down the hallway here

God, Sakamoto is such a believable cat. Temporarily startled when he sees Nano found him, but then he plays it off as luck as he licks himself. Cats are so good, and so inherently programmed to facilitate comedy

Interesting how some of the shots here seem to have deliberately incorrect angles. There’s no vanishing point in this overhead shot – it’s framed like Nano and Sakamoto are sitting on a floor that just goes up the wall

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The professor building a finding-proof hiding spot and then getting scared when she realizes nobody will find her is extremely the professor

Somehow the idea of Mai owning a dog is very worrying to me

A rare skit where Mai is actually the straight man, which is basically only possible because she’s in a skit with a dog

Mio can’t tell whether she’s more angry about Yuuko’s bad jokes or unhelpful behavior

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AND THERE WE GO! This was an unusually focused episode, and I really liked that. The show’s messed with its structure in various ways before, and dedicating basically half this episode towards one major skit, complete with a return finale at the end, made for a very uniquely satisfying structure. I also appreciated that the show totally understood the repercussions of that structure – the Mio manga sequence was high-tension throughout, and so all of the Shinonome lab material was extremely gentle to compensate. Nichijou continues to be in remarkable control of its own strengths!

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

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