This is review number three hundred and forty four. This anime is part of the Winter 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Nourin or “No-Rin”. It’s a twelve episode anime about an idol picking tomatoes at a farm somewhere. Wait, that actually sounds interesting. This anime sorta kinda almost had the same idea but it’s different. Yeah, let’s read on.
This anime is about a group of students in an agricultural school. Kousaku is a big fan of this idol named Yuka. One day, this idol decided to give up her bright career and simply vanish. She ended up being the new transfer student in Kousaku’s class, but something is different. She isn’t the peppy idol she comes off in TV. In fact, she’s a kuudere and she now joins this eccentric cast doing farm chores and having fun in the process.
Taking the Pants Off
Nourin has a really interesting premise, and I immediately fell in love with it. It combines the idol theme with agriculture. That’s like Love Live doing a crossover with Silver Spoon. It has a lot of potential to be good, and I initially wanted to see this because of the premise. I fell in love with the first episode as well, because everything is established beautifully in such a short amount of time. The status quo, the characters and the general story is smartly setup in just the first episode. It’s a sign of smart writing, and I was excited to see more of this show. I want to see how it develops, because it’s hitting all the right notes this early on. Unfortunately, things began to look worrisome as you progress. You realize that this is a comedy anime, and the plot is stretched thin pretty early. The wonderful premise it started out with turned into something awful. It is a clear view massacre of a promising potential, and it’s a shame because this anime does have the elements of a really solid show. It featured the agriculture aspect strongly, the interesting characters and the hilarious comedy. This anime actually got me to laugh at some of its jokes, and it’s such a shame that it crumbled right at the end. This is one of those shows that have strong individual elements, but the anime can’t seem to find a sweet spot that balances all of these elements. An idol theme anime in a farming setting already feels dumb, but the show overcame that so it’s heartbreaking seeing it not reach its full potential at the end. It sucks, because this anime really did put in the effort. It’s not a bad anime, but it could’ve been a lot better if the show achieved balance with its strong elements. So, what exactly went wrong? Well, let’s find out.
This anime is about a guy named Kousaku Hata that attends an agricultural school. He is a massive fan of this popular idol girl named Yuka Kusabe. The show actually convinced you how endearing his love for the idol is in the first episode, and I find that very charming. He’s an absolute fan, but his world came crashing down when Yuka suddenly decided to retire out of nowhere. She didn’t have any big explanation. She simply decided to just quit, and Kousaku is taking the news badly. In an inspired plot twist though, Yuka suddenly appears at his school. It turns out that Yuka is now Ringo Kinoshita, and she’s a kuudere that will now attend this agricultural school with Kousaku. He is elated, but he realized that Ringo isn’t the same shining idol that he admires. Something happened to her to suddenly turn all kuudere, but Kousaku is ready to make her feel at home. Hopefully, Yuka will come out of her shell and give one of her biggest fans the best moment of his life.
It’s a really incredible premise, because the characters are really endearing. In the first episode as well, it was established that Kousaku use to send Yuka some of his vegetables. They’re all phallic things like eggplants and cucumbers, but its subtlety hinted that Yuka is attending school because of those vegetables. This is possibly one of the most adorable premises ever, because it has a lot of potential to be good. The romance aspect is amazing just imagining it, and the fish out of water story involving our idol feels very promising. I’m down three hundred forty plus reviews, and the premise of this show just makes me smile like an actual anime fan. Just thinking about the show hitting the right notes as great as the first episode simply makes me want to hug the world. Yes, sweet flaming Pikachu, thank you for this anime.
But….life has a way of disappointing you.
The first three episodes were good, because it featured all the elements of the show strongly. The comedic interaction between the main characters is just really fun to watch. It’s the kind of comedy that can make anyone laugh. It’s the accessible kind of comedy that people can actually find funny. Comedy is a very subjective genre, but the setup of the jokes is just right. I think the screenshots alone are enough to convince you of that. I mean, take a look at these:
They’re pretty funny, and that’s just screenshots of the show. The comedy works a lot better animated, because the characters really work off each other. The show uses Kousaku as the perverted straight man while the rest of the cast pile on him. The two girls are fighting over him and it usually results into some inspired moment in the show. I remember the two girls having a contest at the rice field trying to see who can plant the most rice, and then this damn thing happened:
The comedy plays it fast and loose, with very little logic, but it isn’t off the hinges so much that the story loses its focus. The show just dedicates some time to crazy jokes like these, and it works splendidly in the anime. With the other guy stirring the pot in the craziest way, the foursome’s dynamic is pretty amazing to watch. Unfortunately, you slowly realize that the comedy is slowly overshadowing the rest of the series. It primarily crushed the main premise. The idea of the idol adjusting to life at the school, and Kousaku trying to figure out why she quit being an idol stalls pretty early on. There is no development past the first episode, and the idol girl is just reduced to a harem character that has a crush on Kousaku. She just functions for the comedy, and then things starts to crumble afterwards. Now, to be fair, the comedy is still strong. It can carry the show easily, and the characters are interesting enough to have them do comedic skits throughout the entire run of the series. Knowing that the story stalls though, it makes me want to not hug the world anymore.
Anyways, the show’s plot suddenly thins though and the comedy really got out of control. The show used to have a more focused narrative and the crazy comedy just appears from time to time. Things gradually change when you realize it doesn’t have a plot to keep it focused anymore. Normally, the characters are thrust in a situation related to the main premise. The comedy took over though, so it ran out of narrative early on. The show then resorts into what most Comedy anime with very little story likes to do. They cram more characters in the show to keep it fresh and interesting. I never understand this approach, because we already have solid characters in this anime. Adding more characters just for the sake of comedy is a signal that you really just ran out of sh*t to do with these characters. Episode Five is where the plunger really flew out of the sky. It introduced a character that is obsessed with BL, a character that loves Kousaku, and loggers that has no social skills. They are interesting to a degree, but the whole thing just feels ham fisted. It’s contrived comedy, and it’s slowly straying off the more focused comedy it started out with. I soon realized that the entire episode is actually a parody of Shounen shows where a group of bad guys have a cool name like “the big four” and they all try to challenge Kousaku to something. It didn’t make sense, because parody is never in the list of things the anime does. For no reason, the comedy is now doing parodies and it just signals more bad stuff to happen later on.
The Big Four characters do add something to the show though, but their introduction felt sloppy. Its contrast the way the first episode is setup. In literally just one scene, you are convinced that Kousaku is a weirdo that loves Yuka a lot. Seeing five characters suddenly introduced for the sake of parody is not something I expected this anime to do. It feels like the plot has dried up, and the show is just pulling stuff out of its ass. To be fair, I think the light novel is on the same trajectory. It really just makes me sad. Instead of seeing the idol premise develop, we are treated to BL jokes and parodies. What the hell happened? This is what most comedies are reduced to if it doesn’t have a steady plot to keep it focused. The comedy slowly becomes the biggest problem of this anime, even though it gives us gold moments like this:
After episode five, the show really plunged into stupid. The format is now self-contained episodes focusing on one problem resolved in the same episode. The main premise is dead at this point. It doesn’t even try to work with it anymore. In fact, the show actually featured the idol story in one scene of a random episode but you can tell very little f*ck is given to it. The show finally addressed why Yuka is there, and the vegetables Kousaku sent her is brought up. In a strange twist though, Yuka also thanks him for the letters, but Kousaku has never sent her letters. The weird guy only sent her phallic vegetables anonymously, and it means that someone else sent her the letters. This leads to a blow off so annoying that I feel stupid falling for the first episode. It was just so wonderfully presented, but then the show betrayed itself. It’s weird, but I think the whole bit is also a parody of something or a commentary on the whole cliché idea behind the premise. Either way, it’s insulting and stupid because you do much with the main premise. Yuka trying to adjust to farm life sounds pretty cool, and she could’ve represented the city life that the country students clamored for. One of the best elements of this anime is how it features farm life, and it’s somehow worked into the story. Of course, it’s a bit dumb because the students are forced into hard labor while we hardly see any adults with them. The main idea of a laidback life of farming is beautifully presented though, and it could’ve worked a lot better if Yuka’s city life is brought up with it. Imagine a popular idol used to taking food for granted suddenly being taught how to raise her own crops. It’s a good enough idea to really make the anime special. She could even break into song from time to time. It’s sad how the show never really see it themselves.
The farm life aspect is only used as weird filler in the anime though. It’s not really a big enough focus to be considered a plot point in the show. Some episodes just have characters planting rice, but the main focus is still on their comedic skits slowly losing out of control. It’s serious enough to really keep the anime grounded, but it doesn’t really develop into anything meaningful. I admire how the anime even dedicate slow serious moments to the farm life element, but it’s really just shallow banter at this point. They’re showing it just because, and it doesn’t really mean anything. The show is putting importance more on the characters acting perverted and funny, and less on the laidback underappreciated beauty of farm life. It’s there though, but the anime doesn’t use it to make the experience unique. How exactly can you be sold to a heartwarming scene when we just witnessed the characters play beach volleyball during a tropical storm? Yes, that really happened and it kinda ruin any sincere moment born from the farm life element. It’s truly heartbreaking how much potential is wasted in just that one element alone.
The show has comedy and farm life as its main elements. It also has one more I like to call the basic school life. This is where the class goes to school, play around in their dorms and just do normal things you’d expect in a normal school. The big twist in Nourin is that the school is an agriculture school, but it isn’t really that different. The main appeal is still the same. We have students living their colorful school life, and they interact with the eccentric people in school. The big four introduced in episode five, where things all went to hell, becomes recurring characters and they play a big part in the school life aspect of the show. The standalone episodes even featured various school staffs including the principal of the school losing energy because he hasn’t eaten an eggplant in days. There are also some scenes of characters being assigned tasks by teachers and it’s often worked into the plot. It’s also not a plot point though, because nothing really develops. Things are just randomly established, and then it’ll be worked into the comedy of the show. Some episodes culminate into a cooking battle while others peak into a scene involving the eccentric characters crashing the episode. I like the school life element of the anime though, because it features the best character in the show. I’m talking about Kousaku’s homeroom teacher, Natsumi Bekky. She is a forty year old woman that tries to act cute, but she’s doing it in such a trying hard way that it comes off as sad. Every scene she appears in is just comedic gold, and I love her for that. In her first appearance, she talked about oiling herself and how much she enjoyed it. She just talked about it in her cute voice, but then she realized she’s old and the poses come off as sad. She then slumped into a depressing state that just shut the entire class up. She’s just an incredible character. She’s nothing original, but the comedic timing involving this character is really the high point of the show. I remember she appeared in a bikini, and the class just let out a collective panic seeing an old woman in a bikini. It’s amazing.
The individual elements are really strong. There’s enough in each element to really make the anime special. The strong characters of the comedy, the sincerity of the farm element and the grounded routine of the school life can combine into a really amazing anime. I’ve seen it done before as well, because Winter 2014 also featured a familiar anime like Nourin. I’m talking about D-Frag that combines Shounen, club themed anime, comedy and school life romance into one of the best shows you can ever recommend to anyone breathing on this gawd damn earth. Nourin doesn’t know how to balance all of its strong elements though, so they’re just presented sloppily in the entire run of the show. The sad part is that we already have an amazing premise to glue all the elements together. This show has all the components to be a solid 9 out of 10, but it doesn’t really know how to do it. Slowly but surely the comedy overpowers the show, and the balance is ruined. If it just worked on the premise a bit more, then this anime would’ve been a lot more amazing. I understand that not every show can be as good as D-Frag though, and that fact makes me sad as well.
The characters looks promising at first, but they eventually settle into their expected stereotype. Kousaku is the perverted straight man taking the butt of all the jokes, Ringo is a kuudere, Minori is the childhood friend and Kei is the other guy. A lot of comedies have another guy in the mix, and they do a lot of things the main character won’t do like appear in a speedo and creep people out. Kousaku is endearing at first. His love for Yuka is adorable, but you also know it’s an unhealthy obsession. It is enough reason to root for him when he does meet Yuka somewhere down the line. Without a story though, he slowly crumbles in cliché. He soon becomes that guy two chicks are fighting over, but his perverted attitude still gives them reason to slap him in the face. I’ll give points for the ending though where the show forced him not to choose anyone, and he is promptly beaten up for that. I feel a bit robbed though, because I was hoping for more scenes of him and Yuka. We never really see a scene where the obsessive fan confronts his idol. Kousaku confronts the kuudere Ringo, and it feels unsatisfying that this is ignored by the anime. Ringo is your classic tsundere, but she also has this subplot of being Yuka. The show never really reveals why Yuka left the idol industry and why Ringo never confronts the problem. I sort of imagined Ringo going crazy at one point and then Yuka would show up in front of her, a la Perfect Blue. Sadly, I have more imagination that this anime. Ringo just becomes “the other girl” fighting for Kousaku’s affection, and she just plays it up as the classic kuudere. She is a lot more interesting that than though, but the anime doesn’t want her to achieve her true to potential. As a kuudere, she is unaffected by things but she still have enough expression to blush in front of Kousaku. That’s it, really. That’s her role. The most famous idol, who suddenly turns kuudere and runs in this remote agricultural school, just has no reason to exist outside blushing for Kousaku. Really? She deserves more than that, doesn’t she?
Minori is the classic childhood friend. She likes Kousaku, but he doesn’t see it, and she knows everything about him. Like any classic childhood friend, she has reached a level of compatibility with Kousaku that contrasts his relationship with the other girl. While he is learning stuff about Ringo, Minori is someone that has already cleared that stage. She isn’t really an interesting character though. She’s one dimensional at best, because the show doesn’t really need her. She’s just a character meant to give us fan service and give us comedy from time to time. She would’ve been useful if the love triangle was smartly utilized. Unfortunately, the show didn’t really do much with the love triangle other than give us childish scenes of the girls fighting over Kousaku. Kei is also a character that doesn’t really need to be there. He adds more comedy to the scenes, but that’s about it. I love his role in the first episode as this serious guy that is as perverted as Kousaku. He had a scene explaining how panties are valuable because they are unseen, and I like that. He’s weird, but also supportive. As the anime crumbles though, he crumbled with it. His role becomes questionable, and he’s overshadowed by the supporting characters. I do love that the big breasted pink hair girl loves him, and she goes adorable tsundere around him, but she’s actually more interesting than Kei. She’s like the unofficial fifth member, and I think she has more value than Minori or Kei. I just think she’s more standout than the other main characters, and I think it’s because she has a farm animal around her from time to time. Granted, the random goat Kei has is pretty cool as well but I think she is a lot more memorable.
Silver Link made this anime, and it’s fascinating how they can’t seem to break away from simply being an OK studio. They have some really good things in their lineup like Watamote and Non Non Biyori, but they just can’t get any traction. I think it’s because majority of their work is just middle tier at best. They can’t seem to understand the potential of their shows, and they become forgettable. Strike the Blood, Kokoro Connect and Dusk Maiden of Amnesia all have great potential in them as well, but Silver Link often misses the mark on these great titles. It’s like they put effort on it, but they inadvertently sap the potential away. You can put Nourin in that list of shows with great potential badly mishandled by Silver Link. Now, to be fair, maybe the light novel f*cked up the plot but this studio should’ve known better. If Shaft has Akiyuki Shinbo, then Silver Link has Shin Oonuma. This guy used to be Shinbo’s assistant, and then he branched out becoming his own director. He directed a lot of Silver Link shows, and I do think the guy has talent. He obviously learned a lot from Akiyuki Shinbo, but you can also tell that it isn’t enough. Silver Link isn’t really all that different from Shaft, so it’s really how the shows play out that matter. Shin is a bland director, and I think he doesn’t even understand his own style. When he broke off with Shibo, you can tell this guy just floundered around. Instead of becoming his own man, I think he is just overwhelmed by it all. To kill the potential of Nourin takes talent, or a clear sign that you lack it. He can’t seem to understand the potential of the shows he is directing, and I think this guy is actually holding Silver Link back. Give other directors a chance at doing Silver Link shows, and I think it’ll shine better than anything Shin directed in the company.
Sight and Sound
This anime actually did a name drop by mentioning Kippu in an episode. He apparently drew the mascot image above, and I hope that’s true because it does have his distinct style. Kippu is a decent character designer, but he mostly excels in drawing moe sexy characters. I don’t like the faces of his characters, because they all look the same uninspired crap but he make up for it with some great body designs. He just has a good idea of how to make flashy sexy characters, and there is enough effort put behind each character to really tell them apart. The thing I like about his designs is that he loves chubby characters. Even though his slender characters, like Ringo, look amazing, he also loves his chubby characters. It’s not just big breasted characters as well. I’m talking about characters like Minori that has a bulky body and wide hips, but he makes it work by making her sexy as hell. I’m personally a fan of slender moe characters, but I also think Kippu’s design is original enough to really admire. I think his design shines a lot more in the anime called “Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon” where the detail work and the chubby characters really looks appealing. He mixes his designs smartly, and this gives us a range of wonderfully designed characters. The faces still look rather uninspired though. The hair design is simple, and the faces aren’t that attractive compared to the insane detail put on the body and the outfit. It’s funny how the legs have more details to them than the faces, and I think that’s just part of his style. It’s cliché, but not really. Art is weird. In Nourin, I do love how he designed Yuka. She’s always on the cover of the LN and she’s adorable. The right blend of bright colors adds innocent to her design, and it makes the moe sexy really come through nicely.
Animation is decent. It’s not really a standout, but it is good enough to deliver the jokes in the show. I love the chibi scenes that slowly crowd the screen, and you can’t help but take screenshots of them. I do give Shin points for making the comedy work. The screenshots are funny, because he crowds the screen until something weird comes out of it. It soon becomes a “caption this” kind of moment where you can’t help but laugh at how it all transpires. The comedy is also paced nicely that the stupidity runs rampant, but it’s focused enough that the joke isn’t lost in the shuffle. The punch lines are still delivered with care, and I do admire that. The laidback scenes feels forced though and facial expressions are a bit bland. One of the reasons the sincere scenes comes out contrived is because the animation lacks detail to really make us care. It’s in the script, so it has to happen. That’s how most of the scene felt like. There is also supposed to be romance here, but it isn’t properly told in the anime. This is Shin’s weakness. He’s bland. He can’t make a scene work, and he is supposed to make it work. He’s supposed to put in the effort, but you can tell he doesn’t really care. The lack in interesting establishing shots, photo traced backgrounds and lack of cool camera works gives the impression that he either doesn’t care or he lacks the talent to tell us that he cares. Animation isn’t easy though, but someone who worked on Baka Test should know how to do comedy right.
The anime’s OP is Himitsu no Tobira kara Ai ni Kite by Yukari Tamura. It’s an idol themed song, and I don’t really like it. I don’t like how most idol songs have stupid pandering lyrics, and this one is no different. It does have a catchy chorus made more special by Ringo’s cute voice, but the verse is just really stupid. Idol songs really just do “I love you” in different iterations, and I’m quite sick of it. This one has the same feel, but the chorus is decent enough to listen to. The OP features pretty much the main idea of the show. We have the characters enjoying school life while shots of Ringo appear form time to time. There are also some scenes of the forty year old teacher, so that’s pretty cool. The anime’s ED is Mogitate ♥ Fruit Girls by Yukari Tamura and Kana Hanazawa. This starts with “chuchuchuchuchuchurupapapa” and I immediately skip it when I was watching the anime. This is one of those forced cute songs stuck on for no reason. I think it’s for fan service, but I don’t really get it. The lyrics are also a bit dirty with the singers asking you to pluck the juicy fruit. I cry I bit knowing KanaHana had a part in this song. It’s a decent song, but the novelty is a bit lost because it is pretty contrived. The singers have great voices, but it’s wasted on this damn song. The ED sequence is just Ringo and Minori in fruit underwear being cute. Yeah, not much more to say.
6/10 “The comedy is good, but it could’ve been better if the story is given much more care. Instead of a great anime experience, we are handed a good one and it’s a disservice to what this anime could’ve become.”
The potential this show had could’ve really elevated it into something outstanding, but it slowly crumbled into mediocre mess. The characters are decent and the comedy is alright, but the story could’ve been a lot better. I do recommend that you try the first episode though, and I hope it makes you want to hug the world like it made me want to do. If you like comedy, then I think there’s enough here to give you a good comedy experience. I also urge that you see Bekky at least once, because I do think this show is worth checking out just to see her go batsh*t insane. At its best, this anime is a decent comedy show. At its worst, it’s just simply forgettable.