What makes a comedy not only good, but timeless? The Daily Lives of High School Boys might have nailed down the formula by blending irreverence with characters too stupid to chew their own food. Nick and Jean-Karlo catch up with the high school boys (and girls) to see if they're still surviving their day-to-day lives.
This series are streaming on Funimation
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Jean-Karlo, usually I try to come up with a witty way to start these columns and justify whatever we're talking about, but I think in the spirit of today's show we should just get meta as all hell instead. Funimation recently added Daily Lives of High School Boys to their catalog, that reminded me it exists, and by god we decided to watch it. That's the story, dear readers.
... Oh, I'm sorry, you say something?
Alright listen here you little shit.
Anyway, this show, colloquially known as Nichibros was a bit of a cult hit back in the olden days of uh, lemme see here...2012. And you know, there's nothing more fun that checking out a comedy one liked from nearly a decade ago!
As its sobriquet implies, Daily Lives of High-School Boys was lovingly compared and contrasted to that other "normal" slice-of-life comedy Nichijou. And for good reason; while Nichijou has a much more dynamic presentation, both shows tend to focus on ridiculous exaggerations of daily life mixed in with all-too-relatable daily fumbles that make our characters seethe.
It's a style of comedy that's definitely become more common in the past few years, but there wasn't much quite like it in anime at the time. Like there are entire cold opens to episodes that I'm pretty sure are just barely-animated improv by the lead cast:
Funfact: Not only would director Shinji Takamatsu go on to do something similar in Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto but would also straight up make a magical boys anime a few years later.
Prediction, letter of intent, same difference.
At any rate, we have a collection of boys, each one dumber than the last. None of them are himbos, they're just high-schoolers. Which is to say, each one is as sharp as a bag of wet cotton balls. From left to right, we have Hidenori, Tadakuni, and Yoshitake.
Hidenori and Yoshitake are very much the stars of this program. There's a larger, even wackier ensemble cast but those two are the driving forces of chaos and awkwardness behind this whole thing. Tadakuni, on the other hand...
On the outset, it really feels like this show wanted Tadakuni to be the protagonist, but even in-universe he acknowledges he gets left behind. And not without good reason. He's just too bland--I mean, at a glance, I can't even differentiate him from some of the other boys in the show!
Later in the series, whole skits go by without the guy.
He's useful in early gags as the straightman to his best friends' inanity, but like a lot of absurd comedies the show outgrows the need for an everyman launching pad for its jokes. And in expert fashion they turn THAT into a joke before having like five straight episodes where he never appears.
Maybe it's because I'm not good at bingewatching comedies like Daily Lives, but in Tadakuni's defense I struggle to think of much in the way of anyone's personality in this show. Like, Tadakuni is definitely the wet blanket among his peers, but outside of the gags the characters get involved with I struggle to think of what makes Hidenori or Yoshitake stand out besides their hair.
But at least they're good gags.
That said, I'm gonna be That Guy™ for five minutes and point out that shaving your nipples off only works as a bit if your characters actually have nipples.
Look, we can't put nipples on these characters. This is a Daily Life anime, not some fanservice fest!
...ok but you know what I mean.
If anything, this anime is a Beastie Boys song turned into a Japanese cartoon.
And I get what you mean with the characters. There's definitely a flattening of personality that happens when the whole cast is delivering similar comedy, but I'd say Hidenori stands out for his sheer awkward energy. Especially when he meets the best character in the whole show:
Ah yes, one of the best running gags in the show. Yassan there is a girl trying to write a novel and only speaks in cryptic chuuni dialogue. She crushes hard on Hidenori, who just can't be bothered with such a weirdo.
She is absolutely wonderful, and the horrific, guttural noises she makes every time she appears is the highlight of any episode. Bless this mess and her incredibly dumb crush.
Like any good show about idiots, there's no romance here. Only stupidity. So even though there are some other girls in here, there's no romance to be had.
Oh there are DEFINITELY some girls here.
Ah yes, High School Girls Are Funky. The Daily Lives equivalent to Nichijou's "Helvetica Standard" segments, Girls Are Funky focuses on a trio of idiots whose main concern seems to be they're not the main focus of the show. It's a good underline for the entire Daily Lives show--you just don't see "slice of life" shows like this about boys, mostly about cute girls doing cute things. And the girls definitely want their chance to live like the K-ON girls...
The one flaw in their plan is that they are wretched little gremlins who bring sorrow to all those who cross their path. Needless to say, I love them.
It helps that one of their number actually ties into the main show! It turns out, Habara was a childhood bully of many of the main cast. And while she might be ashamed of her past as an Archdemon, she hasn't quite shrugged off her savage nature...
If there's one thing you should take away from this show, it's that the smallest teen girls are the most dangerous.
That's another running bit: the rivalry of the student council of the school, and Ringo, the student council president from another school--voiced by everyone's favorite 5* oni servant, Aoi Yūki! And she's just as brutal here as when she's a spider!
She's also part of maybe my favorite one-off joke in the whole show, where she just challenges the guy to a fist fight in the middle of the school talent show and the whole school roles with it.
"God Knows" ain't got nothing on this.
Something, something, "Guile's Theme Goes With Everything."
That leads us into the Student Council; unfortunately, the president and vice-president don't have names so we just have the bearded Motoharu there and the cap-wearing Toshiyuki.
And yeah, the vice-president looks like he's 40. Par for the course for high-schoolers.
I haven't seen the live-action adaptation but by god I hope they cast an actual 40-year-old to play him.
The student council are largely there to have some one-off adventures that don't involve the more prominent cast, but they intermingle plenty too. My fav bit from them is this oddly pointed bit of commentary:
I feel like the student council takes the spotlight plenty, but that might be because I kept expecting Tadakuni to get involved again.
Who needs Tadakuni when we've got Kamen Rider Jr?
I remember the time Kamen Rider Jr stood amongst the army of 10 in battling the feared Archdemon...
I wonder whatever happened to that guy...
Toei doesn't want the world to know about the time Kamen Rider lost a fight to a girl. But we know, and we remember.
Heck, Toei barely lets girls be Kamen Rider, but I digress. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
But really, Nichibros' strength in comedy isn't so much individual characters as it is cheeky winks to the audience and solid timing. It's a comedy that's willing to let sheer awkward silence be the punchline to a joke, and it works surprisingly often.
Yeah, as I sit here I struggle to talk about the characters because there just isn't too much to them. It's how they're used that really makes Daily Lives stand out. Which is also why this show was a bit of a hard watch for me this week. Like I said earlier, where Nichijou has a lot of over-the-top gags like Nano the Robot Girl or the tsundere girl that pulls out the howitzer, Daily Lives is content letting you peer into the lives of a bunch of idiots and their attempts at killing time. I guess you could call it a cringe comedy? Its humor comes mostly from characters internally screaming from awkward social encounters, which doesn't really make for gripping entertainment if you're just spelunking the whole thing in one go.
It's definitely a better fit for small bursts, since each episode is a collection of a half dozen skits apiece already. But at the same time it's such a unique style of humor that I had to appreciate it.
That's basically Daily Lives' take on that one episode of Nichijou where the girls are stuck at a temple during a rainstorm. See why these shows get compared so much?
Actually it's been ages since I watched Nichijou. Tell me, is there also a horror episode in the middle of that one?
Well, there was a bit involving dogs...
Also as far as I remember Nichijou didn't have an oddly consistent habit of referencing Dragon Quest. Like it shows up a LOT.
The boys are just keen on you making sure you don't waste your hard-earned cash on bootleg Gundam products!
Now that you mention it there's lots of good messages in this show. Like "chew your food you idiots."
"Don't shake the crane machine, you're not Kiryu Kazuma".
And of course "Running with toast in your mouth is for chumps."
Yeah, blood can't live off of bread alone. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all!
Seriously though. Chew your food.
At any rate: definitely enjoy Daily Lives of High School Boys as you properly chew your meals of choice. Or, y'know, whenever you're not eating too. The manga is also being brought over stateside by Vertical, and apparently it's got a few skits that weren't adapted to the show. The manga sadly ends on a cliffhanger and it doesn't seem like it'll be continued anytime soon, but if you absolutely need your fill of idiots doing idiotic things, this is the best way to get your fix.
I won't say that all of the show has aged gracefully, but overall I think it works just as well, if not better, now in the age of self-aware shitpost humor,. If any gags you saw here made you laugh, I guarantee there's something here for you.