Nichijou wins a lot of points for being a gag comedy first and foremost, and one with a fair amount of a teeth at that–a refreshing change from its surrounding yon-koma peers that focus more on low-impact moe antics in lieu of hard hitting gags. It’s not that I don’t enjoy stuff like K-ON! (the KyoAni touch helps) but I tend to stay clear of yon-koma stuff, as a lot of it just doesn’t seem to be concerned with being funny.
Part of what gives Nichijou its teeth is how the characters are just plain mean to each other. Mio calling Yukko a moron is more or less a regular occurrence, and characters yelling at each other in the name of comedy is not infrequent. It’s not as if this sort of humor is uncommon in anime, but it’s personally not the sort of thing I’ve seen in a while. The show also thrives on real slow-burn absurd humor (leading some people in the past to think it’d be the perfect candidate for a SHAFT adaptation; an opinion I agree with if not for the fact that KyoAni’s animation is in top shape, as usual) but that’s less about the characters and more about how the situation unfolds around them. And right now, I’m talkin’ characters.
So yeah, Nichijou is great because a good half of it focuses on a group of people who are ostensibly friends but argue all the time. This, however, is also its downfall. See, in one of the later episodes, Mio’s having kind of a hard time, and her friends–Yukko, Mai and Nano–do something really sweet and touching to cheer her up. It’s a great scene with a lot of emotional weight; something of a change of pace for the show. That said, it could have been better.
For a better part of the show Yukko, Mio and Mai’s interactions are mostly comprised of them yelling at each other (or when Mai’s involved, the other party is confused more than anything else), and most of the time the interaction is between two of the three characters, rather than the group of them all together. There’s also the fact that Nano going to school is only a thing for a few episodes, and is then more or less forgotten about. Taking this all into account, it’s easy to see how that scene coming up way late in the show can fall flat.
While friends in real life certainly do argue occasionally, besides just establishing that these people are friends in episode one, the show doesn’t do enough to really sympathize them. Nichijou’s portrayal of more realistic characters who get realistically pissed off at dumb shit is incredibly refreshing, but it’s laid on too thick. The scene near the end of the show is a step in the right direction, but at that point it’s too little too late. It just doesn’t feel like an appropriate climax for a show that, up until that point, concerns itself with hilariously petty arguments over absurd things.
Of course, the Nano and Hakase segments are more in the vein of your typical moe comedy, and provide some cute laughs more in line with those short of shows. While the differences between these two aspects of the show aren’t jarring, it does feel as if things are balanced incorrectly.
And honestly, after a while some of the Nano and Hakase segments wore thin on me. Naturally, they get all the fanart.
(Merry Christmas btw)