Studio: Silver Link
Length: 12 Episodes x 25 minutes
Season: Autumn 2013
Release: Streaming (Crunchyroll)
Non Non Biyori is all about being out in the sticks – living in Japan’s serene countryside. The quiet little village of Asahigaoka is a very close-knit community, with a little village shop, farmland and a single combined elementary and middle school. One morning, the four students of the school turn up to find that they have a new classmate: Tokyo transfer student Hotaru Ichijo. It’s time to forget that busy city life, for you’re in for a rumble in the country.
This is a slice of life series that focusses on the four main girls in that class, with relatives and a couple of villagers forming the main supporting cast. This cast is almost entirely female, and while this is nothing special, it’s fascinating how the show portrays them. A lot of modern anime tend to focus on the fanservice in order to give a hook to the male audience, but Non Non Biyori mostly treats these young girls with respect, actually making the characters seem like children of their actual ages. There are a few lapses, such as a beach episode and Hotaru’s obsessive crush on her friend Komari, but for the most part it’s a welcome break from the perverted norm. While each character does bring a lot to the show, it’s first year elementary student Renge Miyauchi that steals it. Her childish innocence and charm are unbeatable, with her morning greeting of “Nyanpassu” and a sweet episode in the first half of the series where she gains a new friend. Fans have quickly taken to her, spawning some hilarious tributes on video sites.
Sadly, Non Non Biyori’s slow pacing lets it down, making it difficult to watch over an extended period. It reflects the quiet, laidback setting, but can feel boring at times. This is certainly not going to appeal to fans of high octane action shows, but feels suited to someone who just wants to relax after a long hard day. It seems to work best either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, when you really don’t want to be jumping around the room screaming your head off.
It does work in its favour when you have the time to take in the artwork. It’s beautiful in a very simplistic way that seems to bond the show with its natural setting. One particular episode has Renge and her family trek up a mountain to see the first sunrise of the New Year, which captures the image of the sun rising above the nurtured fields perfectly, as the blacks and greys tint to orange then brighten to pale hues. And it’s this use of colour that makes the show perform well artistically.
While it is very laidback, there’s also plenty of entertaining comedy, coming not just from Renge, but from the interactions between the members of the Koshigaya family and Hotaru. Fans of Fullmetal Alchemist will welcome another anime that brings in height jokes, with the sister pair of Komari and Natsumi having a similar mechanic to the Elric brothers. Komari is the smaller, older sister, who often struggles in not being able to do things that her younger, taller sister can do because of her height. It’s not played to the same beat as in Fullmetal Alchemist, but offers a few smiles and giggles here and there. The aforementioned paring of Komari and Hotaru is the better one if you’re looking for true laughs, as Hotaru struggles to hide her obsession with her friend from everyone. When her friends come to visit, Hotaru has to hide away hordes of Komari plushies; the result is obvious, but very satisfying. Komari and Natsumi’s older brother catches either your humour or your sympathy, as he struggles to maintain any form of presence among the four girls. He’s often shunted out, but this makes him great for being a butt-end of some of the jokes. The characters do bring this series to life, though, and it would be dead in the water without them.
With this batch of comedy, Non Non Biyori shows that it can be an entertaining slice of life series that shows off the beauty and simplicity of living in the Japanese countryside. If you can get around the incredibly slow pacing, there’s plenty here to enjoy.
7/10 – Good