I put off this review because last season’s iteration of this show was a sequel, and I didn’t want to confuse people who hadn’t seen the original. The past few days though, I have found myself watching random episodes of it with the biggest smile on my face. It is just a perfect representation of a slice of life comedy, and it has some of the most heartfelt moments in anime in general. I’ve watched drama anime with “heartbreaking” scenes that can’t stack up to how sad I feel when Renge cries. At the same time the antics of the girls in the show are often more hilarious than some so called comedy anime. With my attention back on this fantastic show I couldn’t help but share it with everyone, so here’s my review of…
Non Non Biyori/Repeat
Yes this is a review of both “Non Non Biyori”, and it’s sequel “Non Non Biyori Repeat”. Both are relatively interchangeable, but thee first succeeded so well in its goals that it makes sense that the studio (Silver Link) wouldn’t change the formula. They follow the lives of four girls, and the people that surround them in the small farming town of Asahigaoka. Their adventures and their trials (menial as they may seem) are captured in a way that emphasizes the innocence of youth. The fact that they live in an fairly isolated rural town helps to emphasize this innocence, especially in the case of three of the girls who have never left that town. Both cours (seasons) of the show start in the spring, and take place over the course of a year.
We begin both seasons with Hotaru Ichijou moving with her family to the small farming town, because of her fathers job. When she begins school she learns that the school house is a single building, and every student from elementary school to high school is in one classroom. The other girls in the class, (Natsumi Koshigaya, Komari Koshigaya, and Renge Miyauchi), all take a liking to the new city girl in their midst. With four new friends Hotaru learns that living in the country is an interesting and rewarding experience. From this starting point both cours tell the tale of the same year of the girls lives, though with different tales in each.
Neither “Non Non Biyori” nor it’s sequel focus entirely on Hotaru. In fact all four girls can be thought of as the main characters, as each small storyline is based around one or more of them. The show has no overarching plot other than the progression of the day-to-day lives of its four protagonists. Despite the lack of a bad guy to defeat, or an obstacle to overcome this anime delivers big time in the story department. Just through short segments of comedic dialogue and actions this anime achieves a depth missed by some of the higher budget films seen today. With the story as segmented as it is though it’s difficult to give an accurate portrayal of an overall plot in a review such as this. To amend this problem I instead decided to introduce you to the four protagonists one at a time.
Hotaru as stated before is a city girl from Tokyo who moves to Asahigaoka due to her father’s work. Being a city girl some aspects of the country seem strange to her, but after some time she learns to go with the flow in her new home. Hotaru is the third youngest of the group, but her early development gives her the appearance of a young woman. Her character has an interesting duality in the way she’s a polite lady in the company of her friends, while having a childish side to her when with her parents. What’s further captivating about Hotaru’s character is her attachment to Komori, whom she refers to as “Senpai”. This obsession with Komori is so strong that she goes so far as to create a ton of plushies in the guise of her favorite senpai. In any other anime it would come off as creepy, but in Non Non Biyori it’s strangely endearing.
Komari is the middle child of the Koshigaya family, and the shortest as well. Due to her stature she has somewhat of a complex, and this in turn makes her want to be more grown up so that the others will look up to her. She tries a number of different ways to become more mature, but no matter what she tries she can’t beat the fact that she’s simply a late bloomer. Despite her complex, Komori is always willing to help out her friends and her sister. Even if it means helping her sister avoid the wrath of their mother by hiding her poor test scores. In her desire to be more mature she misses the fact that simply being a responsible young lady makes her plenty “grown up” for her age. Komari often plays the straight man to her sisters playful eccentric, but this gives the group a balance it otherwise wouldn’t have.
The youngest of the Koshigaya children is Natsumi, and she’s also the most lively. Natsumi is rambunctious and easy going, and this in turn gets her into trouble from time to time. From arguments with her mother over grades, to getting in trouble for her foolish antics Natsumi mostly plays the “fall guy” for the group. She gets terrible grades in school, and pulls pranks on the girls and her older brother often which gives her an impish appeal. Through all her faults Natsumi usually does right by her friends and family, it just takes some prodding from other for her to do it. Natsumi is also the only one of the group that sometimes gets Renge’s odd sensibilities, but this might be because she is very immature for her age.
If there was a star of the show, Renge would be it. She’s youngest of the group, and the teacher’s (Kazuho) baby sister. Renge could be described as “dead pan”, with her expression never really changing. I however would contest this as Renge shows quite a bit of emotion, just not always in her facial expressions. Being a first grader she’s very curious about the world, and often asks strange questions of the others. Oddly despite her age, Renge also seems to be the one to put the others in their place when they’ve done something bad. In her childlike sense of right and wrong she often chastises Natsumi and her sisters. Renge has some of the most heartfelt scenes in both seasons, and her reactions (both good and bad ones) are fantastic. If she isn’t your favorite character in the beginning of the show, she will be by the end.
Through these four girls is one of the best slice of life anime created. Segmented stories of discovery and friendship make up the bulk of this anime, and it is in these segments of their lives that we experience an innocence lost to us in our adult years. This is compounded by the shows overall mellow country feel. You get a feel for the slower pace of living in the small town of Asahigaoka, and this lends itself to the day-to-day storyline. In all “Non Non Biyori” and its sequel are stand out examples of excellence in their genre, and show us that you don’t need a crazy budget or huge overarching plot to win the hearts of fans. I would recommend this anime to anyone, and strongly suggest you give it a watch too if you haven’t already! I can promise you that the only time you will feel disappointed is when you realize that there are no more episode left to watch.
Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!