Anime Review: Non Non Biyori
- Slice of life
- Subtle comedy
- Target Audience: Young Girls (middle school aged)
- Suitable for all ages.
Non Non Biyori (Literally "Non Non Weather") is a lighthearted slice of life series about four girls in a tiny countryside school in the village of Asahigaoka. It is at points difficult to tell what the premise is exactly as it seems like there are several, but there appears to be two major ones that are ongoing throughout the series. I have named them after the characters they revolve around.
The "Hotaru premise" is about fifth grade student Hotaru Ichijo, who is a new student in this school who moved to Asahigaoka from Tokyo, and tries to adjust to countryside living compared to living in "the city." This includes the concept of household doors that don't lock, sharing a classroom with students of different grades - in fact, her school has only five students altogether - and friends having pet racoons that run wild.
The "Renge premise" surrounds first grade student Renge Miyauchi (or Ren-chan to the other girls) and her childlike maturing into realizing how big the world is. Despite being immature - well, actually pretty normal for her age - but she can also be quite philosophical. It's appropriate that the show begins with her saying that she "can't help but feel that she lives in the country." and ends the series asking Hotaru "Do we live in the country?" At six years of age, the small countryside village and farm life is really all she knows.
The follows the lives of Hotaru and Renge and their two friends Natsume and Komari Koshigari, two sisters who are also in their class. Natsume is in grade seven and a bit of a troublemaker, and Komari is the oldest of the four girls at grade eight, yet also smaller than both Hotaru and Natsume... both in terms of height and overall physical development, which is a common source of humour throughout the series as she's often mistaken by others for being a child. Hotaru, on the other hand is significantly developed and often mistaken for an adult, with her teacher once declaring in the mandatory beach trip episode that every slice-of-life anime must have "Are you sure you're ten?"
The Koshigari sisters also have an older brother Sugaru the eldest student in their school, however he often is used for visual gags and support and has no speaking lines. The fact that you never hear him talk is also a common source of humour. But despite his lack of dialogue, he still is very much a character as much as anyone else in the series, which is very difficult to do. He's virtually non existent at first, but as the series progresses, we do learn more about him slowly.
The title of the series actually refers to the dialect of the region, where it often sounds like people are finishing their sentences with "-non." I mean, there is a very clear difference in dialect between Hotaru who is from Tokyo, and her new friends in the village. Her overly formal speech often seems out of place, but her friends love her dearly, often trying to fit in with her city image, or trying to stay on top of current trends to impress the city girl. Likewise, Hotaru simply just wants to fit in with the countryside, and learn how things work in the country, what plants are edible, contribute to the labor and fit in with the girls.
Fanservice Scale: 2 (Very innocent, with maybe the odd joke referring to puberty or bust size.)
The humor for the most part is subtle and charming. It plays to each characters personality types, for example, Renge's active imagination, or to the fact that Suguru, the only boy in the class, does not speak at all. His silence is often used as a recurring gag. It is usually trope based or meme based, and plays to the strength of each character (or sometimes to their weaknesses). Many of the jokes are dialect based puns that don't exactly translate well to English. But the subtle humor is what works best in this series, as they don't distract the audience from what is going on. After all, you don't require comic relief in a comedy.
What doesn't work as well in this series is the manzai style physical comedy. Normally it can work well in many series, but often seems out of place. It's just too extreme, to boisterous. It's funny, but it distracts the audience from the series. It does take quite a bit of set up, and yet falls flat (sometimes literally, as in the pic below) and just tends to be the least funniest moments in the series. Despite all the set up for it, it just never seems to work.
Did you enjoy Non Non Biyori
The series did do well both in Japan and Internationally, and a second season has been announced, though no release date yet has been announced. I would recommend people to watch this series. Even though it wasn't one of my favorites, it was still enjoyable, and worth taking a look at. Are there better series out there? Yes. Are there are other series more deserving of a season 2? Of course. Does that make this a bad series? Not at all. Giving this a 4 out of 5 still gives this series a strong showing.
Do you agree? Disagree? Have anything to add? Wondering why this Article is so late after the series? Comments are always welcome and encouraged.
The series can be watched on the legal streaming service Crunchyroll in select regions.