Nichijou Volume 1
Story and art by Keiichi Aarawi
Gag manga releases in English are few and far between, and have been known to fail to connect with western readers as a whole. Nichijou’s first volume manages to be uproariously funny thanks to the amount of energy and passion put into the manga. The concept that ties the entire book together is it’s entirely surreal, it still manages to keep everything within the confines of a mundane world, not too unlike our own.
The best example thus far is the relationship between Nano, a robot with a wind-up key sticking out of her back who wishes to lead an ordinary life, and Professor, the child prodigy who created her. The series spends much of its time concentrating on the mundane aspects of their lives, such as doing laundry, and going to school, despite how abnormal they themselves as well as everyone else around them are. One moment the characters will be eating a snack, the next Nano’s hand gives way to a cinnamon roll or some other snack.
In another scene, the principal is fighting a deer with a student. Yuko is the only one who reacts to it, while the rest of the school continues about their studies, completely unaffected. The synopsis on the back of the book describes the manga as a “just-surreal-enough take on the” genre, and the more thought applied to this tagline the more accurately it describes the book. Somehow, Nichijou manages to blur the line between ordinary and surreal mainly through how carefree it feels.
This is not to say there is not tension in the manga. One chapter involves the most ordinary character, Mio, and her less than ordinary hobby of drawing BL (boys’ love manga) of her crush. This ultimately ends in a chase scene between her friend Yuko and Mio down a school hallway in order to keep her bizarre hobby a secret, and her regular, mundane life itself at stake. The artwork for this chase scene becomes kinetic and the panel layouts more dynamic.
There is no singular protagonist in Nichijou, it instead wisely chooses not to linger on any one gag for too long. Chapters will at times switch between subplots and different protagonists. The end result is rather effective and entertaining.
The characters with primary focus in the first volume are a trio of students: first there is the aforementioned Mio and Yuko, and their deadpan friend Mai. Mai’s biggest irregularity is carving religious-themed, wooden figures for no apparent reason. Mai also tends to be the character who often propels plots chapter plots forward through her passive-aggressive antipathy towards others that often goes unnoticed by the rest of the cast. While Mai is the most silent, she often times seems to be the most aware of the cast instead choosing to involve herself only occasionally with the other two to stir the pot. Meanwhile she is present for many events in the volume’s main plot.
Nichijou’s first volume is a fantastic read, though it might not be apparent based on the title. The characters have plenty of layers to them and there is always something happening in the stories to maintain investment, as well as plenty of busting-a-gut-laughing to be had. Despite being a light read Nichjou is one of the more engrossing manga I have read in a while, perhaps thanks to the fact it is so light. There really isn’t a lot of manga that does comedy as well as Nichijou.