Shounen – Comedy, supernatural
2 Volumes (complete)
Life is hardly ordinary. Whether in Tokisadame or in the real world, strange things — and strange people — are always around us. But if you don’t want to learn about the life of one man in particular, you could always check in on Yuuko, Nano, and all of their friends!
I had heard Helvetica Standard was related to Nichijou: My Ordinary Life, but I wanted to do a little research before picking this up. Unfortunately, the answers I received were all over the map. Some called it a sequel. Others made it sound like a how-to manga using Nichijou characters. It was an autobiography. A spin-off. A sequel. What the heck was it supposed to be?! No one could agree!
The answer: it’s a grab bag.
Helvetica Standard is made up of two full-color volumes: Bold and Italic, and they both have three major parts.
First is the section Nichijou fans are probably most interested in: one-page comics, the titular Helvetica Standard. You will see the return of many familiar faces like Professor, Mai, Tanaka the afro guy, and more. Plenty of new characters also make their debut, as there are quite a few comics dedicated to angels or spirits. These comics were drawn as advertisements or as short magazine extras, and they are much more random than Nichijou. Yes, that’s saying a lot considering the surrealism in that series. The strips are sometimes funny, sometimes lame, and sometimes are on the level of dad jokes. You know, bad puns that make you want to do a facepalm. Other strips are the sort of humor you can find anywhere. For instance, one teacher brings up a local spicy food restaurant to the coworker he has a crush on, but after she says she can’t tolerate spicy foods, he quickly says he can’t either.
It’s definitely always hard to collect these types of comics into one volume, as what might be funny while flipping the page of a magazine may not be funny when you are reading them over and over again. There are moments to chuckle at to be sure (I cracked up when a driver unknowingly found her car being challenged by a wrestler), but it’s just not a reliable source of laughter. I still think some comics have a cultural barrier, as I did not really get some of the jokes.
Helvetica Standard includes a lot of prose. Arawi recounts several stories from his childhood and beyond, and there’s a short story about an imaginary friend. No, not from childhood, but a weird box person. Italic includes a template where you can cut out the box man. Arawi shares some funny memories, but his is hardly an autobiography. A lot of these take place in elementary school. For those wondering how Arawi came up with Nichijou or why he became a mangaka, keep wondering. Instead, there’s a story about one boy running away in anger after being teased about liking a classmate, and another recounts when he and a couple of other boys were going to face corporal punishment from the teacher. I told you Helvetica Standard is a grab bag, and these accounts certainly are. I’m not saying they’re dull, but they aren’t worth getting excited about. They’re more about other people than Arawi himself.By now, you may sense that I’m not impressed with Helvetica Standard. But the third part of Helvetica Standard is arguably what it’s best as: a Nichijou artbook. Arawi includes pages and pages of illustrations. Promotional materials, box and magazine covers, and doodles from his spare time are reprinted in their original glory. It’s easy to forget how much other work authors have to do besides put out a new chapter on a regular schedule. Arawi shows off the deck of cards he drew, each with its own image, and a set of 100 mini unique mini-buttons. The illustrations he drew for Blu-ray releases are also included. You can even have fun in a Where’s Waldo? sort of way with some of his busier drawings, like the workers of the Fey Kingdom. Nichijou fans will see a lot of images they’ve never seen before, and I love how this isn’t just a collection of the rough draft versions of the manga covers.
Comedy series are not known for their beautiful art, but all the color images Arawi did are amazing. Watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, acrylics… he uses just about every colored art medium there is. I absolutely loved seeing the girls hanging out together or Yuuko being shocked by the world’s tallest stack of pancakes. It’s a stark contrast to the comics which feature a more simplistic style than in the original manga.
Of course, I would have rather had The Art of Nichijou and then a full volume of Arawi’s Helvetica Standard shorts and memories, but both have just enough to lure you in. Between the two, Italic is better if you want all these beautiful illustrations, Bold if you want Nichijou comics.
It continues from Nichijou. There are some footnotes included, but I still feel like I’m missing some of the punch lines.
Helvetica Standard is best if you’ve been wanting an Nichijou: My Ordinary Life artbook. Otherwise, while there are entertaining moments, the additional gags aren’t worth the purchase.
Nichijou: My Ordinary Life is also available from Vertical Comics.