Nichijou, Vol. 10

By Keiichi Arawi. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

I haven’t reviewed Nichijou in full since its first volume, it not being the sort of series that lends itself to deep discussion. This is the final volume, though, and I think that it’s worth looking at to see how far the series has come and how abstract it is now. The creator almost seems to be hiding it with the final cover, which features the cast in class paying attention stoically, but it’s meant to contrast with the first volume, which had a random deer on Yukko’s desk. The cast does still feature, and there is, believe it or not, character development of a sort, particularly in the ‘flashforward’ chapters, but for the most part Arawi has honed his surrealist art skills here, and knows what his audience wants: randomness and reaction shots from Mio. We get those in abundance in this volume.

Let’s look at that character development. Some of it can be seen at the start, where Mai and Yukko team up to prank Mio over and over again in a game of musical chairs. But then this is followed by a chapter, seemingly set moments later, which features Yukko rapping for pages on end and embarrassing her friends. Nichijou is not a title you want to read if you get frustrated by randomness – it never stays in one place too lo0ng, it’s quite happy to toss aside reality when it wants to, and in the ‘short panel collection’, sometimes the stories are only a panel or two long. The flashforwards, however, are a bit more developed. We saw one of them in the prior volume, showing a Professor who’s actually attending school, and Yukko apparently returning from America. Here we see more, as we have Mio as an actual manga artist, with an overworked assistant, begging for last-minute help from Mai, who now teaches preschool. This is mostly fascinating because of Mai, who has always been the quiet stoic “troll”. She’s still quiet here, but seeing her smiling and showing genuine emotions is both startling and heartwarming.

In the ads afterwords, Vertical mentions Helvetica Standard, the two-volume series coming out in the fall that’s connected to Nichijou (it’s the manga Yuna is reading all the time), but it’s apparently more of an artbook with occasional comics and diaries. The “successor” to Nichijou is Arawi’s current work City, which Vertical has also licensed. What these licenses tell me, besides the fact that Nichijou must have sold better than I expected, is that it’s Arawi’s art that seems to be the big pull. There are some startling frames in this volume, particularly in the aforementioned “Mio reaction shots”, where he really goes the extra mile in making things weird yet fascinating. In the end, Nichijou oddly reminds me of Short Cuts, the old manga series by Usamaru that Viz released back in the day. The characters are fascinating, and we like them, but in the end you tend to read Nichijou for the art and the really, really weird humor. It’s been an experience.

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  1. Like a lot of people, I adore the Nichijou anime and consider it one of the most brilliant shows ever produced. Obviously, the success of the anime owes a lot to its studio, Kyoto Animation, so I wonder, in your opinion, does the manga live up to the TV show it inspired? Should I head out and pick up these volumes?

    • Sean Gaffney says

      Hrm… I’m not sure. With one or two exceptions, I’ve found that those who watch an anime before reading its source inevitably tend to prefer what they experienced first. It’s the same going from manga to anime as well. Nichijou the manga is a lot more random and surreal than the anime, and has less heartwarming moments. If you enjoy gag comedy with no purpose, it’s a lot of fun. If you want more out of the characters, with one or two exceptions, I’d say the anime is better.

      • That’s an astute observation. I’m an avid anime watcher, but an infrequent manga reader, and as you suggest, I typically just look at the source material for shows I’ve really liked. Probably the quintessential example would be Sankarea, where I really liked the anime, yet found the manga to be worse than disappointing. It was complete garbage!

        Anyway, I like Nichijou enough that I’ll give the manga a whirl, if only to be supportive of art that I truly appreciate. Thanks for the advice.

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