Jou-jou-yuujou magi magi kaichou!

This whole review could be the translation of that entire second half opening and pretty sufficiently describe this show. Other possibilities include me simply repeating “Omg, what is this?” as I close my mouth previously agape with shock and laugh my head off, tears rolling down my face. 

This show is to the slice-of-life genre what Gintama is to the historical genre. As I watched the first half of this show, I didn’t understand how the slice-of-life label could even be applied to this. It was too incredibly, insanely whacky to even begin to think it had some connection to daily life, despite the title. But like most anime fans who discovered this show, I never could put it down, and so I finally, at the end, learned why this is one of the best comedy slice-of-life anime ever made, certainly top 10 slice-of-life overall.

This is a great show, an easy favorite for anyone. It is truly entertaining. A wonderful, crazy, beautiful, wild ride! I can’t ask for much more than that.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 10

Omg, what is this?

Nano is a robot. Whose hands fall off. She has a key in her back. A key? A key. A key, like those wind-up mice keys you see in Western cartoons sometimes. Why does she have the key? Because it’s cute!

Or so the mad ass Hakase, the Professor, says. Lord have mercy, I never laughed at someone I hated so much in my life! Professor? She’s freaking five years old! What is this?? This child, this akuma, is a genius inventor. But she’s also a kid. So she invents flawless stuff, but it’s all idiotic and ridiculous. Nano is a perfect example. She’s a completely normal human female, excepting the key and the weapons and the random snacks stashed around her body. Wait, what? 

Nano wants the key taken off. It makes her different, not a normal girl. Plus it’s highly inconvenient. Can you imagine having some giant thing like that on your back all the time? She asks the five-year old demon lord—excuse me, professor—to take it off. A reasonable request albeit in an unreasonable show.

But noooo. Hakase be like “Ish cyute!” just in Japanese. So she won’t take it off. Cute? To hell with that! Why would you create someone and inconvenience them so? I was so mad at that maniac five-year-old, obsessed with her snacks and getting everything she wants. She won’t take the key off. Take the damn key off!

How do you sound like that? Hakase is played by Hiromi Konno, who has never played a more prominent role than this. Why I do not understand. She does a great job with this unusual childish voice. She slurs her words like you might expect a five-year-old to do—sort of. It’s actually kind of difficult to describe, other than just wonderful. It’s a great performance.

Clearly Hakase is the only one having a good time here.

Among the ridiculous gizmos Hakase creates is a handkerchief that allows animals to talk. 

Among the ridiculous gizmos Hakase creates is a handkerchief that allows animals to talk. 

Among the ridiculous gizmos Hakase creates is…ok don’t say it again. I read it. I just need to restart my brain.

And so we are introduced to Sakamoto. Sakamoto is a cat. He’s an ordinary cat until Hakase gets ahold of him. Then he can talk. Only to be pushed around by Hakase just like she does Nano. The cat suddenly has a lot to say, and he definitely says it. It doesn’t amount to anything—eventually Hakase will just ignore him as if he didn’t talk, which makes you wonder why she made him talk in the first place—but he does talk. He ends up in some odd and uncomfortable places, and it’s hilarious. I love when the inner cat takes over too. He be trying to be offstandish and talk a big talk, but he can’t ignore the feather for long. He goes cat-nuts and goes after the toys, murmuring to himself “How undignified!!” It’s great.

We have a brief interlude with a crow too. The crow gets to wear the handkerchief for a short time. And it talks. It’s insane. This voice is played by one of the few ultra-prolific seiyuus in this show, Daisuke Ono. Erwin Smith (AoT), Sebastian (Black Butler), Joutarou Kuujou (Jojo), Shizuo (Durarara!!), Fafnir in MIss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (though he mostly just says “humph!” there), Kalego-sensei in Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun!…I could go on. While Nichijou predates most of those titles…why did he play a crow for five minutes in this show?

Did I mention Nano has a key? And that that wicked witch of the East—sorry, Hakase—won’t remove it?

But this is nothing. Hakase and Nano account for a lot of the action in this show, whether it’s their goofy interactions at home or the lead-in or lead-out sequences where they do little dances and play rock-paper-scissors. But this is nothing. My jaw was already on the floor through the first few scenes with Hakase and Nano. But the madness truly began when we got to school.

The Three Stooges…I mean Mio, Yuuko, and Mai.

The only more idiotic school girl character I’ve ever seen in anime than Yuuko Aioi is the Aho Girl herself from the the anime by that same name. That I should even compare them should make you worry. What a complete moron! Yuuko is all over the place. The only thing you can predict about her is that she hasn’t done her homework. Everything else is the height of insanity.

Of all her mind-numbing behavior, her imagining those crazy scenes with Mio and the saga of her two wood cubes that hold her two pigtails is probably the craziest. You’ll probably hear me say multiple more times in this review that I’m having a hard time describing some aspect of this show. Those ridiculous scenes onboard the zeppelin definitely account for some of those instances. I just watched, silent and unmoving, as my consciousness melted and my brain cells one by one ceased to function. All I knew was that this was straight from that chasm inside Yuuko’s head, and that Mio was the center of it.

Mio Naganohara might be the most normal of all these people. She’s trying to smooth out the other two all the time. She has to keep Yuuko from failing her classes and Mai from being a total introvert. Not that it helps much. Those two really do just do their own thing. But among the three friends, Mio is probably the most “main” of the main character group. Ultimately the main storyline, if it can be said there is one, revolves around her. More on that later.

And Mai-chan…Mai-chan. Mio and Yuuko being her friends is the only thing that keeps Mai from being a total stranger to the universe. She’s extremely quiet, even when she speaks, and then says things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever to anyone but her. She’ll “joke” with Yuuko, and you really don’t feel like they’re conversing. Have you ever seen those videos where two smartphones talk to each other through their personal assistants? Mai’s conversations with Yuuko are much worse.

The interactions between these three are definitely hard to describe. It’s nonstop zany, ridiculous, impossible. Anything but what you’d describe as “ordinary,” which is weird because I knew that this show was about “ordinary life,” one way or another, from the title. But I fail to find words to describe it other than just ridiculous and hilarious. I literally couldn’t think in the middle of their conversations.

Aho.

The directors of this anime were obviously particular about their characters’ voices. I mentioned how peculiar Hakase’s voice was. But Mio, Yuuko, and Mai all have very unique voices as well. And it’s funny, none of the VAs are very well known. Mariko Honda as Yuuko, Misuzu Togashi as Mai, and Mai Aizawa as Mio have all done mostly just supporting supporting (yes I said it twice) roles. The most prominent anime most of them have done other than Nichijou is Future Diary, and that’s only Togashi-san and Aizawa-san, and again, they’re very much just the minimal of supporting characters there. Yet they all do astoundingly great work with these three nuts from Nichijou. I do not understand why these VAs never got more and better roles in their careers. If I was casting for an anime and knew they’d played these characters, I’d hire them on the spot, regardless of the role.

The “main” subplot revolves around a dumbass named Sasahara. He wears a frilly necktie, which everyone wonders about, rides to school on a goat, and has all the girls crazy about him. If you’re reading that and shaking your head trying to make sense of it, so am I. Still. Sasahara is really cool and calm, but he’ll say some of the most idiotic things, and do it in his cool-guy manner, so the girls still love him. He rides to school on a goat.

Mio particularly likes him. But so does Misato Tachibana. Here comes the creme-de-la-creme of the madness in this show. Tachibana-san is a tsundere. Yay. As you know, tsunderes can’t express their love for their crushes, or at least can’t do it in a normal way. They have to be angry about it: fake rage and all that. Tachibana’s expressions of love are definitely not normal—they usually involve explosions. Like, normal explosions. LIke bazookas, RPGs, machine guns, cannons. She’ll no sooner look at Sasahara than rage will cover her expression, and from the realms ethereal will produce a military grade weapon that most normal humans couldn’t even lift, whereupon she will proceed to aim it at the unmoved Sasahara and blast him with such a fury that would cause Megumin herself to faint before using her magic. Sasahara emerges unharmed of course, only he has no color. As in, the artists don’t color him in for several subsequent frames. What?

Weapons appear a lot in this show actually. Nano has them in her arms every now and then. Misato does the thing with Sasahara. There’s a lot of weaponry in the zeppelin scenes aforementioned. And in a number of episodes the characters will yell loudly in pain or frustration and simultaneous shoot large beams of energy out of their mouths, causing massive destruction to the solar system and the surrounding neighborhood houses. Normal, everyday life.

Nothing to see here. Just Mio screaming a laser beam from her face. Normal life and all.

I can’t finish this section without noting a remaining handful of unrelated characters. All of the characters ultimately have ties somehow by the end of the show, but these ancillary characters are as unrelated yet related as it gets. My favorite among these is the teacher who’s obsessed with finding out the truth about Nano being a robot, Nakamura. She’s a bit on the tough side, very committed, very energetic, very focused. She’s fun to listen to, and she triggers a lot of the crazy situations that occur in the second half of the show. Then you have Nakanojo (some odd play on one of the words for “girl?”), the guy with the mohawk. He attracts the attention of Misato’s friend, who thinks he’s a bad-boy, until of course she finds he no longer has the mohawk after a little incident involve Nakanojo’s dad, a costume mask, and some paint/glue. That aside. He’s an odd character. 

But his hairstyle also attracts the attention of their homeroom teacher, Izumi Sakurai. She’s as timid as you could ever imagine, but she tries to do her best at her work nevertheless, overcoming her shyness as much as she can every day. She, in turn, attracts the attention of another teacher at the school, who likes her and wants to go out with her. The interactions between this guy, Sakurai-sensei, Nakanojo, and Yuuko of course, make for a couple of the most side-splitting vignettes in the entire show. The male teacher is always trying to confess to Sakurai-sensei, but some hair-brained craziness gets in the way along the way, and it never ends up working out for the guy teacher in these scenes. It’s total madness. Oh yeah, the girl with the big hair bow. She’s as confused as the viewer about all this.

The principle of the school suplexes a deer

There’s a ton of them, and they’re hard to keep up with for a while, but this is an amazing set of characters. They come fully equipped out of the box and they prod our senses from the beginning of the series to the end. There truly never is a dull moment with these characters. The amount of creativity and imagination behind these characters is truly remarkable, truly noteworthy, and truly praiseworthy. They are one-of-a-kind, perhaps the likes of which we may never see again. People don’t often associate artistic quality with comedy, but these characters reach a kind of quality that will never be easily created again. I can’t praise them much more than that.

Artwork

Rating: 7

Another show with very simple drawing and very good quality animation.

You wouldn’t think animation would be very important in a show like this. And it isn’t. But when it does appear, it’s good. Weapons make up a lot of this, whether it’s laser beams from the mouth or the dozens of firearms Misato uses on Sasahara. But faces make up the next biggest portion of the animation in this series.

Ultra-simple drawings definitely don’t automatically mean plain or simple facial expressions. There are a ton of faces pulled in this show. Every character has their own unique basic expression, but on top of that are many different reaction expressions that are unique to each character. Except Mai. Mai has one expression. While not strictly “animation,” these facial expressions and the changes they go through in any given scene are fantastic.

With simple drawing comes simple coloring. This is one of a handful of shows I’ve ever seen with basically no gradations in coloring and almost zero shadowing. You don’t really notice it until you look at it carefully, but you won’t see shadowing on any character except in places like the hair behind the head or the darkened brow when someone is angry. The faces usually have accents to make up for this. Most of the girls’ cheeks have a spot of darker color here and there (also part of the multitude of facial expressions), but not the kind of shadowing we’re accustomed to seeing. Another unique but subtle touch on this show.

Mai Minakami when she’s really angry. And also when she’s very pleased. Or excited. Or in love. Frustrated. Sad. Happy. Yeah.

This unaccented or undetailed drawing and coloring made me wonder if this show was totally aimed at children. If you’ve never watched (listened to) this anime, you might get that impression just looking at the artwork. With the plain coloring comes very oversized heads, ultra-large egg-shaped eyes, and little bodies obviously meant to depict little children (even adult bodies are diminutive, even by anime standards). Of course having watched the show, I realize most people under the age of 18 won’t have much of a clue what’s going on half the time in this show, so the artwork stands in contrast to this. 

What’s with those still frames that appear between vignettes? Every show has a still scene, usually outdoors somewhere, that splashes up as a transition between character scenes, and each scene is different in each show. I guess this is supposed to contribute to the “normal life” feel of the show. It doesn’t add much to the show, but I noticed it enough to remark it. Another odd thing in a show about normal life!

The artwork is so curious and unique, despite its simplicity, that I caught myself thinking the artwork was a much larger driving force in this show than I initially thought. The characters and story threads are such overwhelming forces in this show though, so the artwork would have to be extraordinary to make me think this show was designed around the artwork. And since it isn’t, the characters and story do most of the work, and the artwork is just there. But that works here. My reaction to this plain style artwork is usually negative. Here it was not. Here I saw the artwork as unique and doing its job while staying out of the way of the more important parts of this work. This is a quirky and fun story being told through animation. That’s what the artwork provides here: an appropriate framework for this tale to be told upon. Whether I applaud a particular art style or not, that’s ultimately one of the biggest factors in anime artwork, and this show does it very well.

Story

Rating: 9

Whether it was intentionally designed as such or not, this show has two distinct halves. During the first half, the viewer is totally confused. Characters are introduced, madness occurs, and I personally spent most of the first thirteen episodes staring at the screen with my mouth open in total consternation. The one thought that stood out to me was “How on earth is this about ‘normal life?’” There wasn’t anything normal about any of this! Once I got to the second half, this began to get clearer. And it continued to become more apparent until the very end.

A few things were going on here that are really well done, things that I began to realize more and more as the second half of this show passed. The first thing I realized was that amidst the seeming total absence of sense and normalcy, amidst the seeming total absence of story, storylines really were being laid out in the first half. Mio’s situation with her buddies and Nano’s thread with the the Professor were really cleverly laid out, and I didn’t even realize it during the first half. Partly this was because there really was fluff adding entertainment for sure but also confusion. Mai and Yuuko are featured a lot, and they don’t really have storylines at all. Sakamoto talks a lot, and he doesn’t factor into the main storylines either. Misato’s thing with her weapons and Sasahara clouds everything, literally and figuratively. The author either intentionally used these entertaining vignettes with the non-central characters to hide his main storylines or simply created a very fortunate accident with his own wild creativity, but either way, it all works really well to conceal the main story threads until the end.

Another thing that cleverly began to reveal the main storylines was the characters all meeting each other. This happened very gradually through the middle portions of the series. But, if I remember correctly, I think pretty much everyone has met everyone else, in some form or another, by the time the series ends. This works really well regardless of the resulting degree of closeness these meetings bring between the characters. Most importantly, Mio and her buddies began to interact heavily with Nano and Hakase, inevitably bringing their storylines together.

It’s not good to tell lies Mio.

All of this is going on, and the characters are finally meeting each other, and the storylines are becoming clearer, as you near the end of this show, but it’s still hard to figure out what this show has to do with “normal life.” Nano going to school and the thing with her key really starts to peel the mystery off this question, but even the resolution to that doesn’t clear it up entirely (take the damn key off!). Then all of a sudden everything crashed together in a blaze of sweet glory.

Mio had expressed interest in the ridiculous, goat-riding Sasahara earlier on in the show. It seemed like another wild story thread at the time. Then Misato’s tsundere love interest in Sasahara becomes clear (weapons notwithstanding), and suddenly the two of them kind of get together—or at least Misato clings to Sasahara for a brief time in such a manner that makes Mio think they’re together. Mio sees Misato holding Sasahara’s arm as they walk through the hallways at school, and her heart is broken. She probably is misunderstanding what she’s seeing, but what she thinks she’s seeing is her crush walking arm-in-arm with his girlfriend. It’s a very normal kind of school girl misunderstanding.

The first lightbulb went on in my head. Suddenly a very normal anime rom-com kind of event occurred, something that’s pretty normal to the average young person: a first-love heartbreak. Suddenly the show changed ever so slightly to me. What was this rather dramatic event in this crazy show?

One of the funniest sequences in the show involves this little incident.

Mio’s friends, Mai and Yuuko, recognize that Mio is feeling down, so they set about to make her feel better. Yuuko comes up with another wild scheme. She and Mai set up a table at the end of an alleyway near their school, and hiding behind ridiculous full head masks, they accost a depressed Mio on her way home from school in their disguise. They insist she come roll the lottery wheel they have set up on their table. Mio looks at them with the kind of confusion I looked at this show with for most of the 26 episodes up to that point. They don’t say who they are, but Mio pretty much figures it out. How could she not? Between the craziness of Yuuko, the silence of Mai, and their closeness as friends, of course she’d know them anywhere.

So Mio decides to roll the lottery wheel. Of course she wins the grand prize! The disguised Yuuko and Mai usher her away before she opens the envelope they gave her as her reward. Mio walks away clueless, wondering what on earth just happened. She looks back, and sees Mai and Yuuko looking around the corner of the wall as she walks away. Mio opens the envelope. It contains a card drawn crudely but with care by her two friends. What had she won? A “voucher for a life-long friendship.”

My heart melted, and I saw it. I didn’t even need the final few minutes of explanation in the show to realize that everything was now complete. This was a story about friendship, love, peace: simple, normal, everyday life. Everyday life is a series of miracles, Mio said as she narrated the end of the show. And this story very, very much showed us that.

Overall: 9

This show went from a crazy, zany display to a beautiful, magnificent work in that single moment. It went from being a confusing but entertaining show to a top-tier slice-of-life anime. All the time I’d been watching, through all the zaniness and nonsense, all the non-normalcy and craziness, all of it really was about normal, ordinary life. This author wanted us to realize that if we’d stop and look, there really are all kinds of wonderful, extraordinary things all around us almost all the time. Life is not dull and mundane. Life is intensely alive, exciting, a wild ride. This anime does a beautiful job glorifying life.

I mentioned the artwork made this show seem like it’s for children and yet when you listen to the dialogue you realize kids wouldn’t understand most of this show. Most sources categorize this show as shounen, which is interesting. Certainly many things about this show make it seem like it’s targeted at children. Apart from the artwork, it’s about children, it’s about situations children find themselves in (among the normal situations I mean; not the ridiculous ones, which no one finds themselves in), and on top of that it’s very clean. There’s little to no bad language in either the Japanese dialogue or the English translation, which you’d expect to see in seinen or other older demographic shows. Nevertheless, I really do think adults would understand and actually enjoy this anime more than children of any age. It’s one of those tales that improves as the viewer ages. When you’re young, you see this as colorful, zany, funny, full of slapstick comedy and crazy situations. An adult will see all that, but will take far more delight in the beauty of the tale itself, not only the sweet undercurrent that runs through the whole but also how it ties together so nicely. There really is something for all audiences in this show.

This show is so positive it’s crazy. Maybe that’s really why it’s so hard to describe my reactions to this show. I was confused, happy, interested, fully engaged as I watched. But when it was all finished, I realized how positive this show was; the negative moments were all negated by more then equally positive moments that followed. And not trite, cliched positive moments either. No “ganbare!” left and right, no “life is better when you smile” bs, no “silver lining” business. The author’s positivity doesn’t need those superficial, forced, and insincere displays. That true positivity shines through on its own.

One of the bigger “aww” moments I’ve seen in anime.

Music! While I was really engaged in this show through the first half, from the first moment I heard the second half’s opening I was hooked. It exemplified the simple, energetic liveliness of this show. I would jump up and down with glee. All the other music was fun and fit well enough, but didn’t get my attention like that second half opening. I loved it.

This is a wonderful show. It’s full of hidden meaning yet 100% entertaining even if you didn’t consider any of that meaning. It’s well constructed, extremely positive, a very rewarding viewing experience. Among slice-of-life anime, it’s very unique. Slice-of-life can be all positive, but rarely is completely so. Add to that all the zaniness that makes this show seem like anything but normal life, even though it actually is, this show is nearly one of a kind. Among slice-of-life, I still have to give some of the more famous dramatic to semi-dramatic shows a bit of an edge in all-time rankings. The positivity of this show has its own kind of power, but it still doesn’t match the power of a Your Lie in April or a Toradora!, or even a Violet Evergarden if you throw that in the slice-of-life genre. 

That being said, this show has one advantage over those heavier anime: it could easily be anyone’s favorite. This show makes most avid anime fans’ lists of favorites, and usually is top 10. It definitely deserves that kind of recognition. I can go on and on about artistry and all that academic stuff, but ultimately anime must be entertaining to be truly great, and this show is ultimately entertaining above all. Throw out every complicated view of this show, you have a wonderful experience in the end. You don’t have to think deeply about anything while watching this show. You can just watch it, let it wash over you, and be glad you’re alive. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s anime.

The final frame.

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