Bear with me on this review, because I start by going off on a massive tangent.
I don’t hate K-ON. I don’t think it’s any good either, but it doesn’t fall into a lot of the pitfalls that many of these ‘cute girls doing cute things’ anime regularly fall into. It’s one of the few 4-koma adaptations that makes a proper effort to construct a narrative with the jokes instead of simply carting each strip out in animated form with no continuity between gags. The jokes actually have punchlines as well, instead of simply tailing off into nothingness. In fact, there are even a few genuinely funny moments in K-ON. My problem with it is that much of its airing time is instead spent on cuteness fro the sake of cuteness. The ‘punchline’ simply likes to point out how cute it is that Mio cowers in fear over the prospect of ghosts, being dressed up in cute outfits, singing in front of the school and being the star of thousands of rape themed doujins. Sugoku Kawaii~!
I say this all because I want to dispel the notion that I arbitrarily hate on these kinds of anime. I just have standards. You have to have a narrative and a point to the dialogue, beyond just being cute or, even worse, dialogue for the sake of dialogue. Where as K-ON falls into the middle of my ‘cute girls doing cute things’ rating spectrum, smack down the bottom as my two most hated anime of all time sit Lucky Star and Hidamari Sketch. Meanwhile, at the top end of the spectrum sits Azumanga Daioh. However the Azumanga review (that I will probably never write but pretend for a second that I will some day) must be prefaced with the note that it took me a long time to warm up to Azumanga. The earlier episodes were decent enough, and Osaka was awesome throughout, but it wasn’t until about the halfway point that I really started to love the series. It wasn’t that the series was necessarily doing anything differently, but it took that long to warm up to the characters. I call this effect, in all my originality, ‘The Azumanga Effect’. The way the characters in a series grow on you over time so that, despite them not doing anything differently, you thoroughly enjoy watching them do pretty much anything.
Which, through a roundabout way, brings me to Nichijou (despite my best attempts with the Anglification of the seasonal charts, I’m fully aware that anime fandom are going to call this Nichijou and not Everyday Life). It’s the latest instalment in that genre of cute girls doing cute things, with unfortunately rather heavy emphasis on the cute. Psgels has a point when he says the characters do rather feel like they’re trying desperately to ram home the point of how cute they are. Neither does the anime feel like it’s properly utilising the absurdist slant to it. Guys with yellow mohawks walk about in the background but they’re not used as juxtaposition for anything as of yet. They’re just sort of there. The one time they did use the absurdist aspect well, when the Trigun cat had his monologue interrupted by his own impulse to chase the butterfly, was the best scene of the episode. But for the rest of the episode it felt like Kyo Ani were more interested in being cute than funny.
Nichijou is a pretty mixed bag based on this episode. I like the Shaft-inspired artsy angle and imaginative visual metaphors, quite far cry from anything I’ve seen Kyo Ani do before. Apart from the Trigun cat though, the characters were pretty ho-hum, albeit at least none of them reverted to lame stereotypes. Now it’s just got to give them proper personalities, combined with a proper use of the absurdist angle, the Azumanga effect could take place and we could have a winner. At the very least, the ending song is already a winner in my book, so long as the actual TV broadcast has animation to go with the ending song and not just a credit list.