You wouldn’t expect an anime that calls its subject matter boring to be any good. The Daily Lives of High school Boys, rather surprisingly, gets away with it.
In a genre where everything is dramatic, every other episode has a life changing event and every emotion is so over blown that its nearly a weapon of mass destruction, you wouldn’t expect a realistic depiction of everyday life. I don’t mean to say those are bad things, no they help make things intense and engaging- which works well for action packed stories. But when you try to force a story on ordinary, everyday life into that genre, your not going to have it easy.
So when The Daily Lives of High school Boys begins with a dramatic theme song, with flashy good looking characters and the general stereotypes that plague anime, you are lead to assume the anime has already failed its name. However this is a decoy. And a joke. And also satire.
You soon come to realize that the theme song is the only serious thing about the show which tricks you into expecting something serious [making the jokes more hilarious]. Its also a jab at the theme song of other anime shows which often get ridiculous and take themselves far to seriously. This ploy is a lot of things rolled into a deceptive little package, something this anime uses to maximum effect.
Another thing the theme song does [when compared to the show] is make you question if the story you see actually happened [even though you know the stories in anime can’t actually happen] or if everything you see are the writings of a character in the theme song. You never really know and that makes the whole thing more interesting.
The character who may or may not be writing this possibly real story only appears in two episodes in the series. The series may have many Meta questions but it does manage to do what it promises effectively. The characters and their lives are not held hostage by plot, story arches, stereotypes or the show itself.
These characters live, you see only parts of them. They might have done more interesting things before the time period of the show, but you don’t see that because your only being offered a glimpse into their lives. The “main characters” [if you can even call them that] are just ordinary. Other people might be more interesting. some times, the bored camera/camera man /story teller [?] will forget all about the main characters and follow the more interesting people.
Structure is fleeting, stories might take an abrupt or unsatisfactory end [just like in real life]. In other words the characters do not exist to entertain anyone. But that fact is made more complicated through the comedy sketches the show ends up creating [which is the entertaining part of the show]. For something so complex the show makes a lot of deliberately lame/cheesy jokes.
The show might seem very difficult to understand from my description but the show is very easy to follow. You don’t realize how secretly complex and intelligent the show is until you try and describe it. What you do get when you watch the show is a very real, honest and frank take on life as a high school boy. Characters can be very similar and not fit into an real roles, characters can be insecure, cruel and happy endings are not always guaranteed. They aren’t always the same and are very unlikely to remain the same after the duration of the show. Sex, dating, swearing may exist but characters never use them to further a plot. They simply exist. Characters may come across them and react like normal human beings would. Myths from third grade, cooties and other byproducts of growing up in an all boys school also exist. The characters often lapse in and out of mature and immature behavior. Much like the real world.
The only time the dramatic and overblown nature of anime enter is when jokes have to be told [or described] or when characters themselves use it. You see the characters know they live in a world where anime exists. They know how it works and they use it in the way they try to tell stories- the same way a kid who watches a TV show might use tropes from the show in his own stories. The characters also often break the third wall and joke about anime and the way this anime works.
The show also introduces high school girls and use them to make fun of itself and criticize sexism in anime. The show is aware of its subject matter and it is also self aware. The show never stops with the Meta questions. The main character who reappears in the last episode has a dream about meeting a girl after his exam. It is unclear if he dreamt only of the girl but the entire show. It also raises the question if having an enjoyable high school experience is also a fantasy. But make no anyone who has gone through high school can relate to the characters and the comedy is the main selling point of the show, no matter how many complicated questions they squeeze in everywhere.
The show knows how to have fun, with the genre, with its narrative that makes something considered ordinary fun, with its many questions, it its story and with High school life. Its a thoroughly enjoyable anime comedy which handles its subject matter with a loving touch and raises a lot of question about the genre.