Daily Lives of
High School Boys
Anime Review by Karen Gellender
If Daily Lives of High School Boys doesn't make you crack a smile the first time you see it, you probably haven't watched much recent anime in the high-school life genre. If you have the time and inclination to fix this problem, go watch Lucky Star, K-On!, Nichijou, and either A-Channel or Yuru Yuri (your choice!) Now, notice how Daily Lives has suddenly become hysterically funny? Behold: the power of satire.
While focusing on the recent glut of slice of life anime in particular, Daily Lives of High School Boys (or "Nichbros", as it's popularly called online, a play on Nichjou) makes fun of many of the trends in modern anime. Even though we actually like some of the shows it frequently enjoys skewering, such as K-On!, it's still fun to see someone rip apart the cliches that have become alarmingly common on Japanese TV these days. There's also plenty of fourth-wall breaking, just in case you thought there was any danger they were taking this satire business too seriously.
The action follows high school students Tadakuni, Hidenori, and Yoshitake, three more or less average boys from Sanada North High School who seem to have an awful lot of time to kill. Tadakuni is the everyman, Hidenori is the otaku (we'd say he's the smart one, but that might be too generous; at least, he wears glasses), and Yoshitake is a trouble-maker with dyed blond hair who usually serves as Hidenori's partner in crime. When the latter two aren't busy playing pranks on the more naive Tadakuni, the three boys often amuse themselves by acting out elaborate pretend games. It might seem harsh for us to say that they all need to get lives pretty desperately, but the trio would probably be quick to agree with us; they harbor no illusions that they are cool.
However, as they attend an all-boys high school, they have neither the opportunity nor the social skills to pursue girlfriends. Completely mystified by the opposite sex, the boys completely over-think and bungle their few interactions with girls in a series of amusing ways. If anything, the boys' attitude toward girls can best be described as primal fear. Now, you may want to smack these guys and remind them that girls are people too, not absolutely terrifying monsters, but there's a small problem: most of the females on this show happen to be absolutely terrifying monsters.
From little sisters to big sisters to students from nearby Sanada East High, the girls of Nichibros are almost unilaterally violent sociopaths. Tadakuni's little sister (always called "Little Sister!") frequently beats up her brother and his friends with incredible brute strength, while other girls scream constantly and get violent with little provocation. Even the female teachers clearly can't be trusted.
Furthermore, almost all female characters are drawn with their eyes hidden in the shadow of their bangs, making them look extra creepy. One of the only females regularly drawn with proper eyes is Ringo from East High, who is best known for beating the North High Student Council President to a bloody pulp during the cultural festival. Apparently, even having pupils doesn't make you safe to talk to.
Of course, this is all part of the satire. Having girls beat up guys regularly in anime, while the reverse is a definite no-no, has been going on for a long time. The whole "girls beat the guy half-to-death" idea reached new heights of popularity with Love Hina a decade ago, when Naru and friends practically turned punishing Keitarou for his accidental peeping into a new spectator sport. On this show, the trope has been pushed to its logical extreme, so virtually all females are depicted as frightening bullies. It's funny if you know what's being made fun of and why, but those not in the know may be disturbed by the fact that all the females here appear to be rampaging, eyeless beasts.
Just in case the girls weren't scary enough, most episodes end with a "High School Girls are Funky!" segment that features female counterparts to the three main characters who are, naturally, loud and terrifying. These segments more directly lambast high school girl shows like K-On! and Lucky Star, making allusions to the K-On! movie and filled with biting quotes like "Knowing nothing and having no common sense is what makes high school girls cute!"
While the show obviously has the satire part down pat, whether or not Daily Lives of High School Boys is laugh-out-loud funny is hard to say. Like a lot of intentionally off-kilter comedy, the funniest part of any joke usually isn't the punch line- if the sketch even features a punch line- but the bizarre road the show takes to get there. Anime fans who like offbeat anime comedies like Cromartie High School will find this right up their alley, but those looking for a more traditional comedy may find it a bit lackluster. Some of the sketches are more amusing pontifications about the life of a high school boy than jokes, and while that was fine with us, it's not a laugh a minute.
Still, you kind of have to love a show that tells you point-blank during the first episode, "This isn't one of those shows where you have to remember everybody's names." We don't remember everybody's names, and yet, we have no trouble whatsoever remembering to watch this show whenever a new episode comes out. It's funny how that works.
Reviewed by Karen Gellender, April 2012
Below: Scenes from Daily Lives of High School Boys.