This is review number two hundred and seventy. This anime is part of the Fall 2013 lineup. I barely managed to get this far but I’m just glad I can still push out reviews at this point. I’m close to finishing this lineup. I just have a few big ones to take care of. Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is called Non Non Biyori. It’s a twelve episode anime about a bunch of cute girls in a small village where they attend school and one of them has a pet raccoon. It’s a really awesome show. Let’s read on.
This show is about four girls living in a countryside town far outside of Tokyo. It’s a laidback town but also pretty small. The school only has five students with different grades and they are all in the same class. Four girls and one boy spend the day together with their lazy teacher. It mostly revolves around the girls as they enjoy life in the countryside. There are beautiful scenic places to play in, a bunch of activities to engage in and enjoying a laidback life completely different from the busy city life. It’s a slow and relaxed one but that doesn’t mean that the girls don’t have their fair share of goofy and funny moments.
Taking the Pants Off
This is the obligatory slice of life anime that pops up in every season. They’re all the same. It involves a group of girls, usually four of them or three and rarely five, going to school and spending time together. The formula doesn’t change. You make them as cute as possible while the girls go about their everyday lives. I recently grew an unhealthy hatred for these shows because I was writing the same thing over and over. I also grew impatient of them because they’re just so slow. I once reviewed one of them without watching the final episode and I felt guilty about it that I stayed away from this kinds of shows ever since. I take this needlessly complex hobby of mine seriously, damn it. With my voting poll, I was actually happy that I was able to avoid slice of life shows for a long time until I saw one at the bottom of the poll. Technically, it’s not the bottom but it does have weak votes so I wasn’t excited. Non Non Biyori looks like another one of these slice of life shows and I can tell I’m really going to dislike it. Well, I was wrong. After watching half of its episode in a day, I loved the fact that I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong though. Non Non Biyori also employed the same done to death formula of a group of cute girls doing random stuff trying to be funny. The thing that makes this anime amazing is that it did the formula perfectly. All the good things that a slice of life show should possess were nicely utilized by this show. It had engaging characters, smart comedy and a unique theme to set it apart. I absolutely love it and I now remember why these slice of life shows are so popular. It’s simply because they are entertaining without even trying. It’s simple. I hold to heart the saying that “simplicity is the greatest sophistication” and these damn slice of life shows is actually proof of that statement.
If you’ve seen a slice of life show then you’ve seen them all. The focus is on the everyday life of the main characters as they spend time together doing fun activities and poking fun of each other from time to time. The focus is on the friendship the characters develop as you are immersed in a slow pace show full of everyday normal things. The appeal is on the conversation of the characters where their colorful interaction makes the mundane subjects into colorful and rowdy moments. As the friendship grows, more chances for comedic moments are achieved and more personal moments are established as well. More characters also enter the fray and it expand the moments from just four girls into a bunch of colorful characters interacting with each other and making viewers laugh. Oh gawd. From K-on to A-channel to unknown ones like Hyakko, I’ve seen way too much of these kinds of show. It gets better as you keep watching them because you’re slowly connecting with the characters as you watch their friendship grow. It gives a refreshing experience with its laidback personality. These anime share the same downsides as well though. The slow pace makes it a bit boring at times and they easily become repetitive. Some shows counter that with cuteness but this becomes a downside as well for others. Of course, some of them rely too much on cliché that they basically give nothing new. These newer batches of slice of life shows have found a way to keep things interesting though. They mostly add a unique theme to the story. It used to be about girls in a club but that horse died early and it was beaten way too many times to be appealing anymore. (Oddly, KyoAni employs this dead horse on ALL of its show though) Now, they’re all gimmicky stuff that provides a fresh content. It can be a show about a weaboo in love with Japanese culture with a friend in love with American culture. It can also be a show about a bunch of girls practicing to become popular girls. It’s not that groundbreaking but it does make the whole formula feel new and unique. Non Non Biyori is about the relaxed lifestyle of four girls in the countryside with all the good elements about being out of reach from the city.
The whole laidback country lifestyle is main hook of the show. It’s a really wonderful one as well. It uses a lot of countryside themes that paints a really different life than ones living in a suburb or a city. The residents know each other so most don’t lock their doors. A lot of people are out tending rice fields so the town is mostly quiet with the drowning sounds of cicadas crowding the streets. There are few stores and a convenient store is unheard of. These small oddities are one of the interesting things about the show. It immerses the viewer into a part of life that is mostly unknown to them and I love that slice of life appeal of the show. The setup of the anime also involves one of the characters actually living in the city of Tokyo before moving into the countryside and some comparisons are often the main theme of the show. It would point out that you don’t have to wait for hours waiting for the bus, you can’t find edible plants on the street and there are no unmanned vending stores where you just drop money in a coin box then grab the vegetable that you want. This whole thing becomes more engaging because of how the characters make the topic look cute and innocent. They have a “country bumpkin” appeal to them wherein they would enjoy these simple things in the countryside. They would also light up whenever something new is introduced to them. It’s pretty damn cute when you see a character go “wow, you’ve flown in an airplane before!!” and it’s that sheer innocence that draws you into the show. Seeing them enjoy their simple life has a cute appeal to it. When they would walk long streets to go to a candy store or just enjoy paper airplanes in the woods, the countryside lifestyle was given a really engaging appeal by the show that I bet you’d want to visit such a place as well. I sure as hell want to but I sort of kinda live in the countryside and riding cows has long lost its appeal.
The theme of countryside is just part of it though. The show actually captured the beautiful side of it through the visuals and the alluring nature sounds. I’ll discuss them later at the section below but there is also another theme employed by the show. It also features certain activities you’d experience at different seasons. The anime actually goes through a year and the characters experiences the four seasons. They do different things at each season and some of it highlights the beautiful lifestyle on the countryside. They’d forage in Spring, go to the beach on Summer, play on a pile of dead leaves in Fall and make snow houses on the Winter. They do a lot more but you get the idea. It’s a simple thing but the show manages to make it a bit magical and enticing that you’d want to experience the same things as well. It is all the more impressive because of how engaging the characters are at these simple activities. The show was also able to setup smart comedy skits using the simple premise and the colorful characters. It comes full circle and the show just becomes easy to watch because of all the strong elements.
The comedy of the show comes in two ways. It is all about character interaction though. The first one involves all the main girls spending time together. There are a lot of moments where they poke fun of each other as they go about doing different kinds of activities. This involves the colorful interactions of the characters being the main appeal of each scene. They would do something together and their quirky personality just makes each scene that more entertaining to watch. It’s a bit hard to explain but with each character having a unique personality of their own, the simple situation of even picking up herbs in a forest can become funny. Someone would turn weird or the timid character would be teased and it would end up becoming funny one way or another. The gag is often pulled from certain situations involving the character. One of them has a height problem so that will be poked at by the show. An energetic character would often play a joke and it would back fire on her. The youngest character would do something weird and it’ll look cute but funny at the same time. The way the characters interact with each other is really just bright and playful so the comedy often comes out naturally. Of course, there are also smartly timed situational comedies in the show. The anime is often split up into different scenarios so there is often a build up before the punch line is presented. I love the fact that the buildup for each joke is slow and deliberate. It doesn’t stray away from its simple-ness and the execution is just smartly presented. There is one scene where a character dreamt of an eight legged alien and peaked out the window to see two other characters buried in snow with their limbs poking it out. I know I don’t give the joke justice but you’d be surprised how the show handled it and I’m sure you’ll be laughing heartily at some of the funny moments of the show as well.
The second form of comedy in the show involves just two characters. The jokes are mostly the same. It’s a bunch of situational comedy that stems from the quirky personalities of the characters. The execution is also a huge plus but this one differs because it also takes into account the relationship of the two characters. Some characters are close and the anime uses that relationship to establish the scene. The familiarity of the characters to each other coupled by the smartly timed comedy makes it an interesting part of the show. The focus on just two characters means that their relationship is decently explored while the slow and deliberate gag is slowly being setup before the anime presents the punch line. I personal like it because the show can get a bit sentimental during these moments. After the gags are presented, the anime would often go soft and show us just how much the two characters care for each other and I think that’s just cute. As you see more scenes involving the two characters, the audience also becomes attach to them and this makes each moment that much more entertaining. I personally like seeing any character talking to Renge, the youngest character in the show. She has a pretty adult sense of humor wrapped in an adorable veil that often catches you off guard. As you see more scenes of Renge with other people, you often anticipate what kind of nonsense she’ll dish out next. There are also these scenes involving the super energetic character of the show getting lectured by her mother that has its own wonderful comedy simply because the audience can relate to a mouth beating from their parents.
As I said though, it’s the characters that really made this show special. Any slice of life anime depends on the characters and it’s constantly carried by them. I remember Hyakko was a dry experience even though the jokes were decent simply because the characters just didn’t seem interesting enough. A slice of life anime like this one lives and dies by its characters. With that said though, it’s also no surprise to find them massively generic. Achieving a balance among the characters means that certain archetypes are employed and you just simply add to that. I’ve never seen a show deviate from that. In a group of four girls, there is always an energetic one, a timid one, the seriously tsundere and the weird one. You can take one out but the formula is still the same. You start there and you just build on it. The way you add to the characters is what makes them engaging though. The main characters of this show are your typical formula characters as well but the anime did a good job of fleshing them out and making them interesting. There is the energetic character, Natsumi Koshigaya. She talks loud and she is very hyper. She also likes to play jokes a lot and her lazy personality gets on the nerves of her mother. I personally love how low brow this character is because she would often cheat or plays mean tricks but it would often backfire at her. The way she would be forced to face the consequences is what makes her character pretty fun to watch. She is the youngest sister of Komari Koshigaya. Komari is smaller than her sister and she has developed a complex over that. She doesn’t like the fact that she is small and that she is underdeveloped. She would often hate it when people mistake her for a child and she desperately tries to make herself look more mature but, when it fails, she crawls back into acting like a kid. I like her character because of how her stubbornness about her height bothers her a lot. She tries to act mature but her other friends out mature her and it’s interesting to see her have a fit. She is often obsessed with Hotaru Ichijo. Hotaru is the timid character of the group and she also recently moved in from Tokyo. She has a taste different form the others and she is also the outsider looking in that audience can relate to as the girls do activities you can only see in the countryside. She has a wide eyed enthusiasm towards new things that I find fun to watch because it makes the experience that much more amazing. Jumping into a pile of dead leaves isn’t as fascinating as when someone explodes in excitement first like Hotaru does. It’s cute. She also loves obsessing over Komari. Her small stature comes off as “moe” to her that she wants to pet her and hug her.
The last character, Renge Miyauchi, deserves a paragraph of her own mainly so I can put the GIF above. Renge is the youngest of the group and also the cutest. She has a childlike innocence to her but she also thinks like an adult. She has a good sense of what adults do and it gets filtered in her wonderful childish head. I remember one scene where one of the characters addresses her in her first name and she replies “why are you dressing me in my first name? What happened in the several minutes we’ve been together to make you call me by my first name?” in her serious and cute voice. She is just an unpredictable character and she is one of the best highlights of the show. I particularly like her songs. Again, the GIF above is her singing and it’s cute but also retarded in an endearing way. Her absolute cuteness really defines her but the things in between that blob are what make her the standout character of the anime.
The rest of the characters are as interesting as the main cast. The show manages to balance everything out where even side characters get a chance to deliver some truly funny moments. A lot of them also grow on you as you are slowly introduced to them like the girl’s teacher. She is Renge’s sister and she is a lazy person. She would sleep in late, assign manual labor work to her students and even try to push her duties to her poor students. I love this character because of how unashamed she is. She is just a really lazy person and she would prefer sleeping in all day. Another character is Natsumi and Komari’s older brother. He doesn’t speak and he is mostly seen in the background. Most scene does involve him in the gag but he often just loom in the background with a fixed expression as he plays along with the activities the girl are doing. This character is really inspired because the show would point out how weird he is and often tease at different scenes where he would finally speak but he doesn’t. The best indicator was when he got stuck on the floor in the first episode. There are also a bunch of standout characters like Natsumi and Komari’s mother, the candy store owner and other young girls of the village. Towards the second half, the cast grows and they eventually become more involved in the show. They all start out generic but the various scenes and jokes really make them as fascinating as the main characters. Some of the gags are also pretty damn memorable when the side characters pull it off with one of the main characters. It just goes to show how perfectly balanced the show is that even side characters can provide the colorful interaction that makes it engaging and entertaining to watch.
I’ve had my fair share of slice of life shows and I was really ready to hate this one. I was also expecting this review to be as spiteful as those otome anime reviews I do but I’m really glad I was wrong. Non Non Biyori has reminded me why the slice of life genre is so popular. The cuteness and the jokes and the colorful characters provide an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Sure, some shows are truly unbearable and Non Non Biyori also possesses the same repetitive and boring pace that slice of life is known for but it’s still a great stand out. Silver Link is on fire. This small studio is doing all the right things to get itself noticed. It is seemingly challenging itself and its slowly getting the right kind of attention to help itself grow all the more. I used to think that Kokoro Connect was a weak showing by this studio but they just gradually build up from there. They soon struck it big when they released strong shows like Fate/kalied, OniAi and recently this goddamn amazing show called Watamote. They are on the rise and it won’t be long before their releases become consistently strong. I’m excited because I can see firsthand the rise of a really promising studio. Their accomplishments thus far just tell you of really great things in the future. I can’t wait to see more shows from Silver Link.
Sight and Sound
Atto’s character design is a lively colorful look that matches the vivid details of the beautiful scenery the characters move around in. The anime pretty much captured the appeal. The characters have cute faces accentuated by their expressive eyes. The face of the shape adds to their cuteness and the eyes pretty much capture the personalities of the characters. Notice that Renge has a more sarcastic face while Hotaru has more of a timid face. Atto’s design basically edge out the anime because of the use of really bright colors and a more detailed design on the hair. Silver Link isn’t that much into detail but they make up for it content and that’s alright by me. The cuteness permeates throughout the anime though through everything the character does. I would’ve loved to see Atto’s bright illustrations in the show but I also don’t mind Silver Link’s choice of adaptation. The adults are also nicely animated. They are also a bit cute but they have a really decent design that makes them standout. I am also a fan of the outfits the characters wear. They don’t wear the same clothes and they often have stylish clothes on but never straying far form how their personality is portrayed. It isn’t as flashy as how Atto would do it but the anime was able to make the characters standout visually as well.
The one thing that really makes this show special is the visuals and the wonderful scenery. I love how the director is mindful of often showcasing the beauty of nature first to capture the mood of the anime. In the opening moments of the show, you are treated to different shots of nature. The green filled area with a concrete road, the CG rendered cars passing and the way the characters interact with this setting. It’s an intricate style that most directors don’t bother to do but it’s a really effective way of storytelling to get you caught up in the slow paced nature of the anime. You can easily tell the show is set in the countryside because of how intricate and stunning the portrayal of nature is. The color green is abundant but you also notice how each shade of green differs and seeing them sway in the mind is so impressive, I find myself captivated by it. The director is also smart of using different camera angles to elevate the cinematography of the show. Each scenery shot is smart that it features the tall mountain ranges, the houses engulfed by the greenery and the concrete roads treading through it. As you watch the show, you are treated to a lot of captivating settings that the show can easily relax you. Slice of life always has a strong visual but it takes an experienced eye to truly make each scene matter and I applaud the director for being such a good job of it.
The animation is pretty decent. It isn’t as complex as you’d hope but there really isn’t much to animate as well. The show is mostly dialogue that sets up the joke and a punch line that doesn’t require much action. Some situational jokes are funny though because of how the characters act in it and I do appreciate that. The facial expressions are also nicely animated as you appreciate how a character reacts in certain scenes. There are scenes like running and skiing in the anime though and they are decently animated. It gives each scene justice but really not enough to make it stand out. The show has a slow pace though and the various laidback scenes involving characters just walking and talking does look pretty good.
The anime’s OP is “Nanairo Biyori” by nano.RIPE. I’m not a big fan of nano.RIPE but I do love how they make music. They make really catchy rhythms that I especially like. I’ve been a somewhat fan of theirs ever since I heard the opening rhythm for the OP of Hansaku Iroha. The song is pretty decent. The singer’s voice has a unique quality to it that does standout. It has a cute verse that explodes into a really catchy chorus. The OP sequence features all the characters playing and having fun as they spend time together in school and other places. It also features the seasonal theme of the anime. I particularly love the cinematography of the OP where the camera pans and sways to present the wonderful visual appeal of the show.
The anime’s ED is “Non Non Biyori” by Miyauchi Renge (CV: Kotori Koiwai), Hotaru Ichijou (CV: Rie Murakawa), Natsumi Koshigaya (CV: Ayane Sakura) & Komari Koshigaya (CV: Kana Asumi). It’s sung by the main characters and I really love this song. The simple novelty of hearing Renge sing is a huge plus but also hearing the different personalities of the characters come out in every verse they sing is a really nice touch. I also like the simplistic music accompanying the song. It has a simple piano with a simple wind instrument that brings out the beauty of the lyrics. From the verse to the chorus, this song is really catchy that I find myself listening to it countless times. The ED sequence features the girls in a bath naked together. It ends with them having a slumber party. It’s pretty cute and it highlights the slow pace that makes the anime really engaging to watch.
8/10 “It has colorful characters and a strong comedy. It’s a slice of life you will truly enjoy.”
I wasn’t expecting much from this show but it’s a really wonderful treat. The characters are all likeable, the comedy is smartly presented and the visuals are pretty impressive. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a slice of life anime and I’m glad Non Non Biyori can get me to like them again. If you’re a fan of the cute girls doing cute things stuff then this anime is a must watch. If you like comedy in your anime then you’ll like this show a lot. If you generally just like the whole slice of life deal then you’ll love this anime as well. I highly recommend it.