Let’s just call it the “slightly surreal life” instead.
What They Say:
If you think this is going to be a typical story of school life, you’ll be surprised to know that the ordinary definitely doesn’t happen in My Ordinary Life.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga Nichijou by Keiichi Arawi which began running back in 2006 and is still ongoing with five volumes, the Shonen Ace series is the latest from Kyoto Aniamtion which will certainly get it some attention considering their slate of titles over the years. With this being a comedy series, it’s interesting to see what style of laughs they go for, and it certainly makes me curious as to what the upcoming PSP game will be like when it hits in Japan. The new TV series is directed by Tatsuya Ishihara who has directed a fair number of hits and misses over the year, from Clannad and Kanon to Power Strone and Tenchi Universe. Just from the first couple of minutes, you know we’re not getting a Key based series obviously, and it’s good to see him dipping his toes back into that after a few years of very serious series.
My Ordinary Life feels like a blend of a lot of other shows based on the kinds of characters that are involved in this high school setting. It has a bit of an absurdist feeling to it with how things happen, such as when a piece of salmon falls out of nowhere and lands on Yuko’s head as she and Mio are walking to school. The high school setting itself is a rather welcome change from the usual perfectly, modern and up to date schools we see as there’s a bit of a slightly lived in and worn down feeling as well as things that are just a bit out of date in a way. With the color palette used for the show, it adds to this atmosphere and helps it to feel more like a real classroom in a way. And these kinds of elements are mixed into other parts of the show as well which is rather welcome.
Because of how the original manga was created, where it uses both four panel strips and regular pages as well, My Ordinary Life has that kind of small and almost disjointed feeling to it at times that is rather charming. It’s reminiscent of shows like Lucky Star on a number of levels, but it goes a little further as well. One of those things is the introduction of a girl named Nano who is actually a humaniform robot, albeit one with a big windup on her back. She’s a surprising addition when she first appears, having just lost her hand, and is in a panic. Bringing that in as the girls go through their normal lives while dealing with exaggerated problems feels strangely right. There’s an epic moment when a piece of food is about to be dropped in class during lunch and the girls freak out over it, making it a huge and ominous moment. It actually works pretty well and I rather liked the brief use of a Mohawk kid as a slight foil for events.
After the first episode of the series, I have to admit I’m not really sure what to make of the show yet. It has a nice sense of character style and animation design about it that’s appealing, partially because it is different, but the actual show itself hasn’t won me over as it brings in several characters and a sense of mild gags that just haven’t clicked well. With the original manga being the type that shifted between four panel gags and lengthier bits, the dynamic of the show hasn’t been a problem as it reminds me of School Rumble and Lucky Star in how they’d shift stories easily within a single episode. Toss in the obligatory Azumanga Daioh type material with it and it all feels familiar, but not its own.
This episode hits some of the standards of a young ordinary life, such as the counting of steps up a long flight of stairs outside and the travails of making it to school on time when your mother steps out for awhile and doesn’t nudge you along like they usually do. Sometimes the ordinary becomes surreal though, such as for Mio at the start of the main episode where she’s being chased on her way to school by someone with a giant bear-like head from a costume. Of course, the girl has on a standard school uniform so you know it’s something else, but it has a strange surreal feel to it as she catches up to her and offers her various types of fish to her. It’s this type of surreal edge that has its moments, such as Mio’s corkscrew punches that she hits Noguchi with, but other times it just feels out of place.
Some of it can be pretty amusing at times. The good professor continues her modifications on her robot, including making her arm hold (or bake?) a roll cake which she most certainly did not expect to happen. The relationship between the two is cute, especially as more food making tricks are revealed to be within her. The continued modifications on Nano are likely to be a regular gag, one that I’ll admit works because of the way it cause her to act and interact with others. The moment she’s listening to music on headphones in a store and suddenly baked goods comes out of her forehead just made me laugh out loud in a way I didn’t expect. Te series continues to use some interesting bits of style to it, which is helped a lot by the kind of animation it uses which has the feeling of working the manga side with colors panels come to life, and that lets it make even further jumps into the surreal with how the characters view events playing out. Much of it is just their imaginations, which is cute and fun, and the short form nature of the storytelling helps to keep it properly contained.
Sometimes cute in small doses can work. While My Ordinary Life hasn’t exactly wowed me, it has had some very cute moments here and there. The prologue here is a perfect example of it as we see a small cat get out of its cage, fall out a window only to land on its feet (natch) and then to have a box fall on top of her, essentially caging her again. It’s short, sweet and puts a grin on your face. Unfortunately, you can’t really make a whole episode like that since it would basically be a series that’s akin to America’s Funniest Home Videos. Though perhaps there’s some merit in an anime version of that? Hmmm.
Life of a school student may be ordinary in many ways, but it has its unusual moments as well. Walking to school can lead to some interesting fun, such as when we see Mai walking along in her sleep, fully dressed and ready to go, but she looks like she’s sleepwalking since her eyes are closed but is presumed to just being her cool self, acting aloof and all. Mai’s skills are impressive as she can even handle crosswalks with the light changes, though I think it’d be a bit more believable if there was sound associated with the light like we often see. Things do build up with how Mai does this, and it does make you smile a whole lot, but like a lot of the show it doesn’t produce a laugh out loud moment. It’s all about the grins and smiles that we experience in our everyday lives and this segment has it, even if it is over the top with what’s going on.
One piece that did leave me with a bigger grin than normal involves a classroom scene where your enthusiasm for raising your hand to answer questions will affect your overall evaluation. Yuko’s way of dealing with it is cute since she halfheartedly raises her hand and prays and hopes that someone else is called. The way it unfolds is really very amusing, even if it’s been an age since you’ve been in school, since you can remember there being times when you felt like this. The teacher comes up with a few different methods of picking someone, each of which makes her cringe more, and she even views him as using red laser beams from his eyes to target students through a green filter view. The gags aren’t big, but it’s the mood it brings about that really made it work for me.
I haven’t exactly come to dread My Ordinary Life, but it’s a show that has left me kind of bewildered. I can see the approach they wanted to take, the kind of humor they wanted to achieve, with its similarities to Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star, but it’s the execution that has left it largely lacking. There’s some potentially interesting characters here, but the structure of the show and the lack of really focusing on them in any meaningful way has left us having a hard time even remembering who is who, especially since many never even say anyone else’s names. It’s not a huge cast, but it just adds to the overall disconnect that the viewer can find themselves feeling as the episodes go on and they’re all just one dimensional gags and atmospheric moments flowing across the screen.
One of the focuses on this episode is that one of the teachers that has been given the task of being a student advisor. She takes it pretty seriously in her kind of shy and inept way, as she walks the halls and nervously looks at everyone and sees ways she can advise them. One of the students is walking through the halls with a tray in front of him so he can eat and she takes him to task for that, though he talks his way out of it smoothly. The cute moment comes with the Mohawk kid as she tells him that it’s not the most appropriate cut for someone in school. Little does she know that he can’t actually grow it out on the sides and saying it out loud shames him, causing him to run off. This is essentially the kinds of things she runs into which pushes her shyness and nervousness even further. The kid at least has another gag later in the episode when he does pull his hair down that is amusing, especially his mothers reaction to it.
There’s a cute sequence with the professor and her robot that do a little dance together against a white background which then causes the robot to go haywire in a small way, leading to an awkward moment. It’s a great little scene that lasts barely 20 seconds, but was one of the highlights of the episode. And that kind of says a lot about the show. It’s so full of fluff and pointlessness that it’s hard to get enthused about. Some of the school daydream bits were cute, it’s certainly easy to remember those kinds of feelings at times when I was young, but they’re one-off gags that go by quickly which have no lasting impact. When the show works through what feels like eight or more gags in the space of the first ten minutes, gags that are their own short story sequences, the series simply feels far too disconnected.
A lot of My Ordinary Life is just so ordinary and uninteresting that the show really has a hard time keeping my attention because it’s so full of nothing. The only sequence that really kept me interested and mildly entertained was the one that involved the talking cat, Sakamoto, as he goes about his day with some of the girls, including the professor, and just has a grand old time. It’s the small moments here that work, unless elsewhere in the episode, in watching the surreal nature of the cat and his antics and interactions. Other than that, there are cute moments to be had, but nothing really sticks. I know the show has its fans, but this is a hard one for me to really get a handle on even after four episodes.
Simulcast By: Crunchryroll
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.