Arawi’s Art of the Absurd: Nichijou, Helvetica Standard, & City

I read a lot of manga (Japanese comics) and there are a ton of different series that I just love to sink my proverbial teeth into. I tend to read across genres in general, but especially when it comes to manga, which means that I often enjoy a supernatural romance as much as a sweet slice of life or a historical samurai story. But, my favorite genre of manga has to be absurd school stories. This sounds incredibly niche, until you realize that there are tons of series that fall into this category, such as Haven’t You Heard, I’m Sakamoto; My Neighbor Seki; School Rumble; Himouto! Umaru-Chan; The Disastrous Life of Saiki K…Need I go on? Of course, this list hasn’t even begun to cover other types of school stories, such as Assassination Classroom, School of Horns, My Hero Academia, Tomo-Chan is a Girl, etc. But, my point is, I can’t get enough of those absurd school stories. These are the sorts of tales where weird things happen and no explanation is ever given. A car drives away with a girl’s shoe, a boy pretends to be possessed by a fox spirit to reconcile old friends, a student attempts ikebana at his desk, using only his feet…you get the idea. Being a kid is hard enough, but when you have to add other complications to the mix, such as unrequited love, insane psychic powers, or a really distracting deskmate, everything gets harder to handle (and way more hilarious, too!) Perhaps this is why I enjoy Arawi’s work so much. Keiichi Arawi is the creative mind behind some of the funniest manga series I’ve ever read.

Nichijou is a personal favorite of mine. The series revolves around a group of high school girls– Yukko, Mio, and Mai. Yukko is clever, but lazy, often going to great extremes to get out of doing work (when it would almost certainly have been easier to just do the work in the first place!) Mio is a deeply self-conscious (and somewhat uptight) artist who is constantly hiding her work, and quiet Mai is….well, perhaps its best if you just read the manga and see for yourself. There’s also a new transfer student, Nano. But, Nano’s is secretly a robot (please ignore the giant key sticking out of her back), created by a child genius…who also happens to have a talking cat. The plotlines are completely bizarre and had me laughing so hard that I cried. From the principal fighting a deer, a student who claims its perfectly acceptable to ride a goat to school, talking animals, a missing wallet, an unbearably super-hot chef’s choice chicken bar, a mysterious old man in a top hat…This is one of the funniest and most bizarre series I’ve ever experienced. Best of all, you can choose from either the manga or the anime, as we have both in our collection! While I usually recommend the anime, since the series is always funnier with color and sound, I really do suggest checking out both, as the manga includes storylines that never made it to the screen.

The anime version of Nichijou features mini segments called Helvetica Standard. These are random plotlines that only last a few minutes and rarely have anything to do with the main story. You can read these stories and more in the Helvetica Standard books–also available in the library’s collection! There are two volumes, Bold and Italic, and each has its own collection of original artwork, bizarre stories, and more. Inside these pages, you’ll find bear attacks (or was it just a mascot??), games gone wrong, a man who loses his glasses (and his mind) and an increasingly ridiculous story of a tengu who steals Death’s scythe. If you’re looking for more weirdness, I recommend checking these two out after you finish Nichijou.

Finally, that brings us to City. City is the newest offering by Arawai–about a couple of young ladies and the strange people in their community. Nagumo is a struggling college student with major money problems. When repeated attempts to borrow money from her friends fail, she has no other alternative but to get a job. Other quirky characters include Nagumo’s roommates, an unbeatable Granny, The Man Who Is Too Nice (and grateful people who keep kidnapping him), The Tekaridake Theatre Troupe, and more!

If you’re looking for something light-hearted, bizarre, and laugh-out-loud funny, then I cannot recommend the works of Keiichi Arawi enough!

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.