Do you like to save your favorite part of a meal for last? Have you ever wished you had a talking cat? Or maybe you find yourself causing a literal explosion whenever you bump into someone or something? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then we have the anime just for you: MY ORDINARY LIFE. Also known as NICHIJOU in Japan, this slice-of-life anime is anything but ordinary, as it paints an extraordinary picture of seemingly normal lives.
MY ORDINARY LIFE is a comedic 26-episode series produced by Kyoto Animation that originally aired in 2011. The show is based on the 10-volume manga of the same name by Keiichi Arawi. Set in suburban Japan, its main plot revolves around people’s everyday lives. Like most slice-of-life anime, the story unfolds through a string of isolated events. However, what sets MY ORDINARY LIFE apart is a healthy mix of the mundane and the bizarre within those moments. Furthermore, this anime also reminds us that we’re never really alone and that we all go through similar problems. Being relatable in this regard makes MY ORDINARY LIFE more than just a fun look at life; it helps us reflect on our own lives, and often encourages us to be more optimistic.
Spoilers for MY ORDINARY LIFE follow.
MY ORDINARY LIFE’s Odd Bunch of Protagonists
Although this anime features an ensemble of different characters, it tends to focus on two main groups in particular. First, we have beloved high school students: lazy Yuko Aioi, short-tempered Mio Naganohara, and poker-faced Mai Minakami. Then there’s Nano Shinonome — a worrisome robot — and her juvenile creator, the eight-year-old Professor. Later in the series, they take in a black cat, who they name Sakamoto. The seemingly mature cat gains the ability to speak when the Professor makes him wear a red scarf. Collectively, it seems unlikely that these characters exist in the same universe, but we quickly realize that they do.
Connected by a Fish
In the first episode, Nano awakens the Professor as she prepares a breakfast of fried fish. While the Professor complains about not having omurice (omelette rice), a stray cat snags the fish. Nano runs off to chase the stray, only to bump into a stranger. The impact creates a massive explosion, causing debris to fly in different directions. A DRAGON BALL Z-esque cloud of smoke forms within the town. Cars are flipped. Toys are lost.
Elsewhere, we see Yuko and Mio walking to school. In the middle of their morning conversation, the two seem to hear thunder, despite the sunny weather. Suddenly, Yuko is painfully greeted by a wooden kokeshi (Japanese doll), which appears to have fallen from the sky. Then, an akabeko (traditional toy cow) crashes down on her. At this point, you’d be surprised if Yuko didn’t get a concussion from these intense collisions. As though to soften these blows, the bizarre barrage concludes with a salmon landing on her head. Here, we realize how the students are connected to Nano and the Professor — that salmon was their breakfast from just moments before. This strange parallelism sets the tone for MY ORDINARY LIFE, a show filled with randomness and ridiculousness.
More Relatable Than You Think
However, before we get too in-depth with how crazy this show can be, it’s worth noting how it still manages to be relatable. Every moment in MY ORDINARY LIFE starts off as just that: ordinary. Staying true to its slice-of-life nature, all of the show’s arbitrary moments begin with portraying everyday events. Whether it’s worrying about friendships or obscure names for beverage sizes, MY ORDINARY LIFE captures everyday problems well.
High School is Hard
Ah, high school. It can either be the longest, most excruciating four years of your life, or the shortest, most pleasant. Although the high school experience is highly subjective, we are still able to relate to our student protagonists Yuko, Mio, and Mai. As a result, MY ORDINARY LIFE does a great job in highlighting what it’s like to be a modern-day high school student — and all the struggles that come with it. Personally, this takes me back to days of adolescence, school lunches, and doodling on homework. Although this also makes me feel ancient, I don’t mind the trip down memory lane.
Moreover, what I love about this show is that it doesn’t “romanticize” the high school experience. Instead, the show dramatizes it in all the right ways. For instance, when Yuko greets Mai on the way to school one morning, there is no response. At first, Yuko does not think much of this, as she knows Mai to be extremely deadpan. Through the duration of their trip, however, Mai continues to ignore Yuko and her jokes. Yuko descends into a full-blown panic attack, where she unpacks every and any explanation for Mai’s unresponsiveness and incessantly apologizes. Eventually, Yuko realizes that Mai had just been wearing earphones the whole time.
This entire sequence paints a perfect picture of the typical, youthful longing for friendship. Yuko’s internal hysteria underlines our natural desire for acknowledgment and reaffirmation. If that doesn’t scream relatable high school angst, then I don’t know what does.
The Struggle of Fitting In
Another very “real” topic that this anime touches on is actually linked to its less-realistic character, Nano the android. In nearly every episode, Nano struggles with her identity and often yearns to be more human-like. She is most concerned with keeping her robot identity a secret. The irony of this, however, is the fact that her most defining feature is a large wind-up key on her back.
Naturally, while Nano exists as the Professor’s caretaker in a human-dominated world, Nano feels increasingly out of place. As a result, she frequently pesters the Professor about making adjustments to her appearance so that she seems more human. To Nano’s dismay, the Professor rarely obliges. Instead, Nano discovers other odd modifications to her body; for instance, an arm that produces desserts, or a hand that can physically skyrocket. In response to Nano’s wind-up key, the Professor shares that she refuses to remove it because she finds it “cute.” Nano’s self-consciousness heightens when she attends high school, and she becomes more insecure about her robot-ness. Nano struggles with self-acceptance until she realizes, by the end, that she is capable of leading a normal life, despite not being human.
Collectively, this anime ends up hitting home more than you’d expect it to because of the themes it highlights. We are able to identify with the characters, no matter who or what they are, simply because of their circumstances. We can see ourselves in them because of the everyday problems they face. Nevertheless, despite how wildly their situations tend to unfold, there is still a significant connection between viewers and MY ORDINARY LIFE. In this way, this anime creates its own unique sense of normalcy.
Life is Extraordinary
On that note, we can finally discuss how this anime makes life so hilariously epic. MY ORDINARY LIFE likes to play with the element of surprise and frequently plays the “random” card. Furthermore, when I say things are “blown out of proportion,” I mean that literally. Whenever someone reacts, makes a decision, or collides with something, there is a high chance the moment is accompanied with an explosion. This explosive gag, paired with intense music and an abrupt change in art style, is how this anime elevates everyday life.
Yuko’s Wiener Win
A scene that MY ORDINARY LIFE is most well-known for is probably Yuko’s wiener win. Towards the end of their lunch period, Yuko passes on important wisdom to Mio: to save the best part of your lunch for last. For Yuko, this is her beloved octopus-shaped sausage. As she grasps the sausage with her chopsticks and raises it high, it slips, and suddenly the world changes.
Time slows down. A chorus of deep, operatic voices sings in the background. Yuko’s panicked screams evolve into determined grunts. She stares down her descending sausage and looks as though she is about to transform into a Super Saiyan. Yuko glows an ethereal blue and her hair is pushed back by an intense gust of wind. The poor sausage travels impossibly throughout the classroom, constantly in and out of people’s reach. Eventually, the two-minute ordeal ends with Yuko’s success, and she eats the sausage, as per the three-second-rule.
It is because of moments like this that I love MY ORDINARY LIFE so much. Even though that entire scene was about two minutes long, I am dazed by the fact that it was only three seconds in the anime world. What’s more, this show took something as ordinary as a slippery sausage and turned it into a moment comparable to a NARUTO fight scene. A nice touch is when the drawing style visibly changes for the characters’ reactions by exaggerating their features. These elements, in addition to silly sound effects and “instant replay cuts” define the absurdity that this anime is. The best part? Every episode has moments like this.
Why Isn’t a Small Called a “Small?”
Every now and then, however, there are moments that aren’t as action-packed, but equally as foolish. For instance, in Episode 16, Yuko decides to stop by the local coffee shop. After inspecting the menu, she nervously orders an “espresso-T,” which is repeated to her as a “tall espresso.” Immediately, Yuko is floored by this terminology.
Nonetheless, Yuko changes her mind and attempts to order something else. She is corrected and caught off-guard yet again. Her facial expression changes dramatically and her knees buckle. She grips the counter and trembles. In response, the cashier also becomes flustered. The confusing ordeal goes on for a few minutes; it’s full of sweat, smoke, blurry vision, and ridiculous jump-cuts. Yuko tells the cashier to “just do whatever.”
We cut to Yuko waiting patiently for her order, alone and defeated. Sad piano music sets the tone, underlining the feeling of loneliness and the subtle shame of what just transpired. Her order finally arrives — a single shot of espresso. She buries her face in her hands when she realizes how small it is. When she takes a sip, she shakes at how bitter it tastes. She leaves the coffee shop and it begins to rain on her.
What I love about this entire ordeal is the fact that this was a result of mere confusion about cup sizes. This incident illustrates an awkward, realistic exchange and highlights its most painful parts beautifully. The realization of making a mistake is enriched with a violently red-faced Yuko and profuse sweating. Explosive sound effects spike her increasing level of confusion. These important details are what make MY ORDINARY LIFE so entertaining, yet true to life as well. Collectively, it is moments like this that the anime is able to remind us how extraordinarily funny life can be.
What This Show Teaches Us
If there’s one huge takeaway from this unique slice-of-life anime, it’s this: life is as exciting as you make it. With MY ORDINARY LIFE, we definitely see the consequences of that mindset. Granted, we may not explode when we bump into each other, and we probably don’t want that to be a thing that happens to us in real life. However, seeing everyday events in this light definitely encourages us to be more optimistic about life. By putting a positive spin on even the most mundane moments of our lives, this anime pushes us to think more creatively and open-mindedly about our surroundings.
Moreover, MY ORDINARY LIFE manages to be a very enlightening series. Although ridiculous and funny on the surface, this show holds many teachable moments we can all learn from. In addition to being a slice-of-life anime that merely “captures” life, it also provides a lot of helpful tips in navigating through it. Although illustrated in the most absurd ways, this show holds many gems of wisdom if you look hard enough. Whether it’s being understanding of others or accepting your true self, these important lessons are definitely there.
Overall, if you’re looking to watch a slice-of-life anime that is far from ordinary, then I highly recommend MY ORDINARY LIFE. With just the right amount of action, comedy, and thoughtfulness, this series hilariously reminds us to have more fun in our lives.
Featured image courtesy of Forbes