What would you expect a collaborative effort between anime studio Sunrise and Square Enix to look like? Presumably some sort of fantasy-mecha-RPG kind of show, right? Of course. What else? That’s why, when these two companies actually did come together to create the slice-of-life, comedy series, Daily Lives of High School Boys, they quickly dispelled any audience expectations to that effect. And they did so by… immediately incorporating mecha and RPG elements into the very first scene of the series?! Hold on. That can’t be…
Wait, no, right! Daily Lives of High School Boys is a meta series, one that’s blatantly aware that it’s an anime with an audience– an audience that all too well knows the output of the studios responsible for its existence. Therefore, with a quick aside about Daily Lives not being “that kind of an anime,” such mecha and RPG elements are gone for good. This is not to say, of course, that references to such material are thereafter out of the question. Really attentive viewers will in fact spot plenty of references to Gundams and classic Square Enix RPGs if they keep an eye peeled at all times.
But this is really just icing on an already delicious anime cake (whatever that means (I should probably just delete that (seriously, enough with the parentheticals! (um… yeah, okay)))). The series is incredibly clever, absolutely hilarious, and frankly over all-too-soon. It’s the sort of comedy where anything can happen any time and it does. It’s reminiscent of Cromartie High School in that way, but differs from that series in its emphasis on more realistic comedic set pieces. To that end, scenes inevitably take unexpected, yet strangely natural turns toward the absurd.
The beauty of the series is that if a certain gag isn’t working for you, you can just hold out for the next skit. Because each episode is divided into a number of scenes or skits that are often wholly unrelated save for the fact that they revolve around a (rather large) core group of characters. This means that the series doesn’t have a narrative throughline, per se. But the series achieves a strange sort of honesty and realism with regard to its handling of the subject matter (i.e. the daily lives of high school boys). After all, nobody’s high school life has a clear and persistent narrative trajectory. Much of a high school student’s life involves simply hanging around with friends and getting into trouble. Only here the absurdity of high school life is comedically exaggerated.
That said, I feel like I’m not doing the series justice in this review somehow. But it’s nearly impossible to explain specifically why we find certain things funny, much less describe the extent to which something is funny. I could tell you I find Daily Lives of High School Boys hysterical, because I did, but that just doesn’t seem to cover it somehow? With their inherent subjectivity and major overuse in conversation, words such as that fail to truly encapsulate how funny Daily Lives is and how much I adored it. Suffice it to say that on more than one occasion, I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks. So that’s something.
Moreover, I am thoroughly impressed that Yasunobu Yamauchi, the original manga’s author, crafted well over a dozen terrifically individualized characters for the series. Truly, that’s an incredible number of characters for any anime to introduce, especially when it lasts a mere twelve episodes itself. Of course, some characters necessarily get more screen time than others. This results in a hilarious running gag in which the series’ central character, Tadakuni (the straight man of the group), finds himself almost completely absented from about a third of the episodes. As a result, Tadakuni himself verbally laments his being cut from the anime during editing even as the narration mocks him for it and/or patronizingly congratulates him on brief appearances.
One other thing I should mention before moving on to a discussion of NIS America’s recent Blu-ray release of the series is that you’ll want to be sure stay tuned after credits of each episode. There’s a sort of bonus series of post-credits shorts called “High School Girls are Funky.” With its equally wacky cast of female characters and the occasional appearance of other Daily Lives characters, it makes for an always entertaining contrast to the male-centered pre-credits skits.
Daily Lives of High School Boys is currently available in a two-disc Blu-ray Premium Edition set from NIS America. It comes packaged in one of NIS’s typical 8”x11”x1” (WxHxD) hardboard cases with a tableau on one side featuring the three central high school boys and a tableau of fifteen characters on the other. The case houses the two Blu-rays in two, double-disc slimline cases, and also contains the 32-page, collectible hardcover artbook, “Daily Guide for High School Life.” The “Daily Guide for High School Life” features eleven pages of character descriptions and artwork, a detailed episode guide covering each scene from Daily Lives and “High School Girls are Funky” individually, and five pages of miscellaneous artwork.
Unlike other NIS releases, which typically boast few disc-based special features in favor of the artbook, Daily Lives’ special features also include nearly 18 minutes of bonus scenes in addition to the usual commercials and textless openings and closings. These scenes were presumably included on the original Japanese home video releases of Daily Lives and play automatically following the conclusion of the final episode on disc 2 of this set. Additionally, I want to note here my admiration of the brilliant menu design of these Blu-rays, which are themselves hilarious given their anachronistically serious tones.