Nichijou Episode 0 (OVA)Posted: July 8, 2012
The Nichijou OVA aired way back in early 2011, a full three weeks before the greatest anime of all time graced television screens everywhere in Japan. But back in those dark times, the foolish creatures of the Earth hadn’t yet felt the embracing warmth of the great Nichijou. And thus, this OVA was panned by everyone. Panned like the rivers of California back in the 1800s. I went panning, too, and I ended up with no gold at the end of a long, harsh 20 minutes.
Basically, nobody liked it. At the time of this post, the Nichijou series has a rating of 8.43 out of 10 on MAL, putting it at 114th place overall. On the other hand, the Nichijou OVA is ranked at #2217 with a score of 7.19. Yes, that’s two thousand, two hundred and seventeen. Now you may say that MAL and other anime sites do some strange statistics hocus pocus with shows longer than one episode. And you’re right. The scores of people who have seen the entire show are weighted more heavily than the scores of people who dropped Nichijou after a single episode. In this case, the OVA is only one episode long, so the scores for it should be lower overall. Furthermore, one could argue that people who were turned off by the OVA never made it to the TV series. But look at that massive difference. The point still stands – people think that the Nichijou OVA is worse than the TV series. Much worse.
Even I thought so. Me, the self-proclaimed and others-proclaimed King of Nichijou and #1 Fan of all things Nichijou!
But that was B.N. (Before Nichijou), and this is A.N.N. (After Nichijou Nichijou). While the Nichijou OVA has not changed, I have grown older and wiser. And as a result, I have become confident that another pass at Nichijou Episode 0 will open my eyes to the magic I had been unable (or unwilling?) to see sixteen months ago.
Part 0.1: “An Everyday Compliment”
Synopsis: Yukko lies about her test score, but Mio really wants to see… and grabs the paper from Yukko’s hands! But what she sees is not the thirty-two she expected, but a big, fat ONE. ONE POINT! And it’s not like those IPPONs in kendo anime where the crowd goes wild, either! So Yukko gets depressed, and Mio spends a long time cheering her up.
This was, quite honestly, one of the more boring segments of Nichijou…
…for OTHER PEOPLE!
Much like the more famous Yukko v. Mio insult-to-friendship scene of Episode 14, the appeal of this very first scene doesn’t lie in the random humor that has come to define Nichijou. Instead, this is another staple of Nichijou: taking an ordinary scene that could have appeared in your standard slice-of-life show, spinning it a bit, and piling on the exaggeration via expressions / reactions, animation effects like slow motion, dramatic music, and more.
These put emphasis on the thoughts going through the characters’ minds. As Mio piles more and more praise onto Yukko, we are shown clips of Mio reeling in a fish. This is in no way subtle: the analogy is very simple and it’s obvious that Mio is trying to trick Yukko into thinking that getting a BIG FAT ONE PERCENT is not so bad. Likewise, the rest of the scene is not subtle either, and it’s not meant to be. There’s nothing hard to understand what’s going on, and there is no ‘hidden’ joke to it all.
But flomu, you’re not subtle either. It’s plain as pancakes that you’re trying to say “LOOK, NICHIJOU ISN’T UNPREDICTABLE AND RANDOM”
I’m glad you caught on, Watson. I’m tired of hearing “Nichijou is random” or “I just don’t get Nichijou” when a good portion of the shorts are dedicated to predictable, albeit extravagantly exaggerated, events.
Okay, I get it. But what’s so funny about it?
Okay, I lied. The The facial expressions and the dramatic music that pops up when Mio rips the failed test from Yukko’s hands are unexpected and thus funny. Mio starts shivering so much and for so long that we as the audience can feel her nervousness. It’s the “oh shit, I did bad” feeling. And this is what Nichijou is all about. The random facial expressions, backgrounds, and music are dedicated solely to invoking some emotion in the audience while leaving us distant enough to laugh at Yukko’s misfortune and Mio’s desperate attempts to salvage the situation.
Think of what this would be like for a
worse different slice of life anime. If this were Azumanga Daioh, it would be laughed off in a couple of seconds:
Ha ha ha Osaka got a 1! She’s one of the Bonkers now!
Short and snappy, maybe half a minute at best. But Nichijou delivers a full nine minutes on this exchange between Mio and Yukko… and never drops its over-the-top style. For me, at least, this means it never gets boring. I can’t imagine trying to watch nine minutes of inane banter without anything to hold my interest. Oh wait, I already did.
In conclusion, my attention span is small and Nichijou keeps the tension high so I can stay awake. And laugh the whole time.
Part 0.2: “An Everyday Cold”
Synopsis: Hakase has a runny nose and wants to wipe it, but stupid NANO won’t let her! Nano keeps getting tissues and telling Hakase what to do! It’s so annoying! And Sakamoto is being a pussy like usual, telling Hakase to not take the medicine and go play instead and then wimping out once NANO starts asking questions. But at least Hakase gets to eat some crunchy pudding! It looks awfully like medicine, but CRUNCHY! CRUNCHYROLL!
This scene ranks about a 9/10 the second time around, and probably a 7/10 the first time. It’s certainly enjoyable to watch this small girl and her robot and cat family go back and forth about taking medicine, and the sheer stupidity of it all is side-crackingly funny. The black cat with the red scarf seems to be the only sane thing around, since the robot can’t even hide medicine and the blonde girl is stupid enough to eat it. But hey, it’s funny to watch a cat make wise-cracking tsukkomi comments. And to comment about such an ordinary event in such a ridiculous environment is just crazy.
Did you see what I did there?
Well, neither did I, the first time I watched this episode. Without any prior knowledge of Nichijou, a first-time viewer would be hopelessly lost. Why is the cat talking? How are these people related? Why does the girl have a screw on her back? And why is the little girl called “Professor?”
These are all very valid questions, but Nichijou’s characters are not introduced – not here, nor in the 26 episode TV anime. Sure, there are scenes that focus on individual characters, but never is any one character put on screen with a placard bearing their name, age, birthday, blood type, social security number, etc. Still, this is a bit much. It takes time to become familiar with the characters, and without knowledge of the backgrounds of and the relationship between Nano, Hakase, and Sakamoto, this scene loses some of its appeal.
It’s interesting to see the differences between the Shinonome household scene and the Yukko-Mio scene. Here, both part 0.1 and part 0.2 focus on really mundane topics, but the way they’re executed is completely different. The Shinonome scene focuses more on the strange relationship between a robot, a genius girl, and a cat while the school scene lays the exaggeration on thick, blowing an ordinary occurrence into something of utmost importance.
Part 0.3: “Everyday Reservations”
Synopsis: Yukko, Mio, and Mai are at a train station with nobody else around. So it’s TIME TO GET FUNKY!! Yukko starts wiggin’ out by doing some cartwheels, and Mio tries but fails in usual Mio-can’t-do-athletics form. Mai comes up to the line, draws a circle with her hand, and stares straight forward. Then, Yukko and Mio so that weird sumo game on the train and the three form a triple bunk bed.
This is what I live for. Scenes like part 0.1 could make a great show, and those like part 0.2 could make a fantastic one. But where is the random Nichijou humor that everybody has come to know and love? The facial expressions showed up in part 0.1, and the hard tsukkomi of Sakamoto got some laughs in part 0.2. But the sheer brilliance of this train station/train scene elevates Nichijou from a perfect 10/10 to a 100/0. That’s an infinite score right there, folks. You don’t get any better than that.
Everything about it is perfect. Your average slice of life comedy would have stopped after Yukko cartwheel. Maybe Mio would have made some snappy comeback at Yukko trying to play the fool’s part. Nichijou takes it further, putting Mio into the fool’s shoes as she rolls around on the ground, thinking that she has flawlessly executed a cartwheel. And it doesn’t stop there – Mai’s trollish nature comes out as she draws a circle for no apparent reason. This strange act goes entirely unnoticed by Mio and Yukko, and the audience is left confused… and trolled. Mai wins.
I once read a chapter of Gintama that focused on the tsukkomi/boke humor in manga and anime. Sorachi basically said that if the onscreen character performs a foolish act / plays the boke part, a tsukkomi character should butt in, pointing out to the boke and the audience what exactly is wrong and funny. In the case where a tsukkomi character does not appear, the audience itself acts as the tsukkomi. This kind of humor is everywhere in Nichijou. When Mai does something strange, we think “what in the world…?” And when Yukko lies down on the floor to form the triple decker bed and thinks, “I feel left out,” the members of the audience snap, “Well, duh!” Not every joke or pun makes it across the language gap, and some of Mai’s actions are just incomprehensible. But the very action of playing the straight man’s part is satisfying. It’s funny.
tl;dr you’re supposed to say “what the fuck?” and like it.
I dare you to find a single frame of bad animation.