By Drew D. / June 26th, 2019
|Title||Non Non Biyori Seasons 1+2|
|Original Airing||Season 1: October 7, 2013 – December 23, 2013
Season 2: July 6, 2015 – September 21, 2015
|Genre||Iyashikei, Slice of Life|
As I continue my foray of getting back into anime, I find myself greatly appreciating the charm and simplicity of the Iyashikei genre. Iyashikei in Japanese means soothing or healing, and the purpose of this genre of anime is to relax its viewers. Depictions of natural beauty, emphasis on pleasant ambience through its audio and visuals, and an appeal for us viewers to take a step back and enjoy the simpler aspects of life are just some of the focal points that make for a noteworthy Iyashikei. And now I have the pleasure of reviewing and introducing to you seasons 1 and 2 of Non Non Biyori, perhaps the best example of Iyashikei anime and easily one of the best anime series I’ve experienced.
For those unfamiliar with Non Non Biyori, back in September of 2009, a mangaka named Atto debuted the manga version of this series in the Japanese magazine Monthly Comic Alive. The manga quickly attained popularity for its charming short stories featuring its appealingly memorable characters set to the backdrop of a rural, agriculturally lush village. Full volumes of the acclaimed manga were published to strong sales and soon after the release of the 5th volume in 2013, fans of Non Non Biyori were soon gearing up for the anime’s 1st season to be debuted later that year. The original 12-episode run was a major success and alongside the continued popularity of the manga, additional installments of the anime were produced. This includes two OVAs, or 13th episodes for seasons 1 and 2, bundled with the 7th and 10th manga volumes respectively, and, of course, the 12-episode 2nd season called Non Non Biyori Repeat. August 2018 saw the debut of the Non Non Biyori movie, which received such demand during its limited release in Japan that a country-wide release was soon implemented. Popularity of the manga and anime outside of Japan is also strong, resulting in the international licenses and releases of both. With the very recent announcement of a third season, fans worldwide wait with joyful fervor for the return of our beloved series.
Non Non Biyori follows the lives of four schoolgirls living in Asahigaoka, a fictional farming community in the Japanese countryside. Set to the theme that everyday life and the simplicity of country living can yet provide adventure, excitement, discovery, and joy, each story provides a charismatic glimpse into the wonderful lives of these girls. Each chapter of the manga depicts a unique story in the daily happenings of the cast and in similar fashion, each episode f the anime typically features two of these stories. One of my favorite aspects of this anime is that it vividly shows that everyday life can yield adventure and fun around every corner and reminds us viewers just how jam packed a single day can be. Something as simple as walking to the local candy store, spending a day at the beach, or trying to hide bad grades and run away from an irate parent all have their humor, lighthearted troubles, and abundant charms. And that’s the real magic of Non Non Biyori, conveying the hidden joys and simple pleasures in life through the everyday.
What makes this theme, this one of joy and discovery within the simple, truly shine is its characters. Non Non Biyori easily has some of the most lovable and memorable characters you’ll find anywhere. Though their personalities may be a bit form fitting, their experiences, circumstances, and their reactions through it all make them so incredibly appealing. Taking place in a remote, rural village, our main cast all share a single classroom, despite being in different grades, which lends itself to the interactions of such a diverse group. Hotaru Ichijo is a 5th grader who has just moved from Tokyo to Asahigaoka. The stark changes in her environment and lifestyle are a common focal point to the stories involving her. For her, it’s the discoveries and the coming to appreciate her new home and new friends that define her character. Despite only being a 5th grader, she is the most poised and mature character of the group, both in her personality and appearance. This plays well with the contrast of Komari Koshigaya, the oldest of the group, yet has a childlike temperament and short, childlike appearance. While Komari is Hotaru’s senpai, Hotaru often fawns over Komari the way one finds a kitten or puppy adorable. Komari’s short fuse also lends itself to her unintentionally cute reactions. Komari’s younger sister, Natsumi, is a bit of a tomboy with her abundant energy and, many times, her aversion to anything schoolwork related, often getting herself and those around her in heartwarming shenanigans. And finally, there is Renge Miyauchi. I could write an entire piece on the brilliance of Renge’s character. Creative, perceptive, intelligent, unusually low energy until adorably excited, at times down right philosophical, and comedically blunt, Renge is a loving little sister, best friend, and force to be reckoned.
Every character has their appeals and what I find equally impressive as the characters themselves is how natural their interactions felt and how well they play off each other. Despite ranging in grade from 1st to 8th, so from about age 6 through 13, I love how effortlessly their strong friendships form and how they take to one another. Hotaru’s powerlessness at viewing Komari with adoration, Komari getting riled up whenever referred to as short or thought of as a child, Natsumi knowing how to push her sister’s buttons or getting others in trouble alongside her, Renge’s ability to seamlessly banter with everyone one moment and completely stump them the next, these interactions are what brings immersion to the stories and gives them their brilliance. Even the interactions with our main group and the many minor characters is just as brilliant. Kaede, who runs the local candy store, finds herself the butt of jokes and many times a means to move a story along, but she also has this unique relationship with Renge which is always a pleasure to see when it does reveal itself. Though few in number, these moments of character development, even between the major and minor characters, propels this anime over the top.
As wonderful as these characters and the stories they share are, I am equally impressed with the quality of the visuals and audio. Starting with the visuals, I am completely impressed with the way everything is depicted. The efforts by the artists to bring the Japanese countryside to life is outstanding, as they excel at immersing its viewers with the levels of ambience and moods they’re capable of producing. The characters’ personalities shine with the quality of the animation and their depictions are not just accurate, but are far more vivid. The adaptation not only keeps them true to their manga counterparts, but also adds the energy and emotions that may not always come through with the manga.
The audio is also astounding, adding to the already remarkable visuals. The Japanese voice casting is brilliant and every actress accurately voices their characters similar to how I had imagined when reading the manga. And, whoever cast Kotori Koiwai as the voice of Renge is a genius. I could not have imagined that better. She brings so much more dimension to Renge’s character than the manga could hope to achieve. Beyond the voicing, the soundtrack is as lovely as the visuals, pairing nicely to complete that country ambience that can soothe any soul. The melodies match the events perfectly, whether it’s comedic, solemn, or idyllic, each song complements perfectly without ever sounding intrusive. Even the moments of silence to appreciate the scenery or when only the sound effects, such as cicadas buzzing during summer mornings or the bubbling of a stream, are playing, the effect and significance it brings is simply incredible. Overall, the visual and audio aesthetics really take the whole anime to another level, to the point which I couldn’t imagine the producers doing anything any better.
Non Non Biyori is a gem. It won’t just succeed in relaxing you, it will do so exceedingly. I’m very glad to have watched it and I’m ecstatic that a third season is on the way (as of this writing). As strong as the manga is, with its unforgettable cast and witty stories, with all of the advantages of an anime adaptation and with such a high level of execution, I can say, after having read the first 5 volumes of the manga, that I enjoy the anime even more. Rarely does an adaptation match or outshine the source material, but this is definitely one of those few cases. If you haven’t had the pleasure or you need some relaxation, I highly recommend you give Non Non Biyori a watch, as I can assure you won’t be disappointed.
For more information on the Non Non Biyori anime and manga, please visit the links below:
Blu-Ray available on Amazon
English translation of the manga provided by Seven Seas Entertainment
For more nyanpasu
Note: Images featured in this review have been compressed
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