Entry #12: Non Non Biyori (SoA 2016)

non non biyori 1

As a critic, one must be willing to take on every conceivable genre or type of show in order to expand their horizons of experience. Along the way, there will inevitably be genres that critics will be more fond of—and alternatively less fond of. Slice-of-life seems to be a genre I don’t dig much.

The only thing is, I’ve enjoyed slice-of-life titles in the past. Lucky StarYuru Yuri, and GJ-bu are among my favorites of the genre… however, none of those titles have surpassed a 7 out of 10. It always seems to be an uphill climb for slice-of-life’s, as a lot of the fundamentals I’m looking for in a creation of entertainment tends not to mesh well with the “point” of said titles within that genre. I understand that the point is not always to develop the characters, to focus on deepening bonds between characters, or having the story be important whatsoever. I get that, I really do. But those are all flaws to me, and without them present (though, the lack of a story is a tolerable), it isn’t as impactful to me. That’s the way I see it. And that’s why you’ll likely see lower ratings on Tamako Market or Yuyushiki

And Non Non Biyori.

Season One:

It’s a show about cute girls doing cute things. However, there’s also a heavier focus on the environment, too. No, not like “Save the trees!” or anything like that. It only encourages the feeling of exploring a world so devoid of people, building structures, or man-made entertainment expos. Non Non Biyori takes place “out in the country.” Its lush greenery and wild atmosphere is somewhat of a spark that differentiates it from others of the genre. It also looks great. It’s one of the finer looking slice-of-life titles that I’ve seen in my lifetime. The characters aren’t exactly the most vibrant, but the detail in the background and the environment, the way everything sways together in beautiful symmetry, is enough to tempt me to use it as a desktop background.

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Not only with its appearance, but Non Non Biyori also has a little variety within its cast of characters. The ages of its main cast vary from seven to around fourteen. It also distinguishes the characters apart from one another due to those ages (and uses it for comedic purposes). This is yet another way the anime stands out from others; whereas the standard seems to have all characters roughly the same age, Non Non Biyori tries to allow a little creativity come from characters of a different age. The youngest acts the most random and blunt. The oldest tries to act most responsibly (and fails). The newcomer idolizes the oldest of the group (for absurd reasons). Each character has their own personality and the show rolls with it, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, that’s where the praise for this anime ends. I find it interesting to note that, score-wise, this is among the most popular slice-of-life titles to date (according to MyAnimeList). I don’t get it. Non Non Biyori, in my mind, is average slice-of-life fare at best. There are quite a few things about it that I feel others of the genre do much better. A friend once described to me that the show has actual comedy. I didn’t laugh once. Didn’t even smirk.

So, yes, the comedy. The comedy in this show seems to derive from two things (mostly): making fun of an individual character’s one-dimensional personality, or awkward silences after something strange has happened. Haha, the teacher’s always tired. Haha, the oldest acts like the youngest. Haha, this bitch is obsessed with her senpai. Haha, another character is reacting by blankly staring at the events that are currently transpiring. There are a few other forms of comedy that arise from time to time, but these two specific types seem to make up the bulk of it.

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The characters aren’t much different. They have their one trait and that’s how they behave. Teacher’s always tired. Oldest acts like the youngest. One is obsessed with her senpai. Highlight them for comedic effect. The amount of development is sporadic, with some attention being drawn to develop Renge, the youngest one of the group, more than the others, but only by a little. By the end, the only noticeable difference among the characters is the closeness they have to one another, which is only different because one character arrives at the beginning of the series as a newcomer, so she has to start at square one. I didn’t much care for any particular character, although “Candy Store” gets points for both personality type and her connection with Renge in her earlier years (despite how short the flashback is).

As for the most subjective quality to decipher for a show, Non Non Biyori was disappointing from an entertaining standpoint. I would assume from how high the ratings were for the show that I would get a little more crunch from the content of the series. However, it decides to go the slow-paced, ambiance route of displaying pleasant views of trees and forest and lakes and mountains, while allowing the characters to experience the magic of the outdoors along with the viewers. There’s nothing wrong with this, but with how little I felt for the characters and the comedy that attributes to them, the feeling of wonder can only last so long. This is, to some extent, a boring title to me, and that’s unfortunate. There are times when it shows that it can be more than just a one-type comedy show, but it tends to get lost in the wilderness.

Repeat:

The reason I highlight this as “Repeat” and not “Season Two” is because while it’s technically a second season, it’s not actually a continuation of the first. This threw me through a loop when I first started it, but the second season is actually just a re-imagining of the first, with completely new content starting after episode two. All the development and/or closeness the characters had with each other by the end of the first season is now kaput. Though, Repeat implies that the events that happened in the first season are still bound to happen. The viewer just won’t see them this time around.

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This season is very marginally better than the first in almost every regard. I say almost because it still isn’t that entertaining. The comedy is a little better. The personalities of the characters are a little more realistic. The visuals and emphasis on nature are a little more concrete. The development is better, too… for a specific character.

They may as well call this season Ren-Chon Biyori!

Renge seems to have been appointed the idol of this show, because the camera can’t get enough of her. While in the first season the characters were given a relatively equal amount of screentime, Repeat has Renge star in almost every scene possible. While I’m slightly exaggerating, I certainly remember seeing Renge in this season a lot more than I did in the first season. She gets more development than the others, more of a reason to be shown, more charm to her character, and more interaction with other characters.She has essentially become “the only character that matters,” and the other characters suffer because of it. Komari, the oldest, and Hotaru, the newcomer obsessed with Komari, are noticeably less vibrant is this season than the first season. Komari’s behavior is now like that of an actual older, concerning parent, like she wanted to be in the first season, and Hotaru is just… there. They hardly do anything with these characters aside from a few scenes with other characters, but they’re never really “the star” on their own anymore. It’s more realistic, sure, but it doesn’t do much for the entertainment side of things.

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The comedy feels better because it doesn’t seem to rely much on tropes anymore. The situations are a little zany and get a gentle push from characters’ archetypes, but they end up becoming a little more creative. I smiled more than I did in the first season by a long shot. Still, it’s not nearly enough to suddenly deem this series “funny,” or even “humorous.” Again, it takes the slow-paced, ambiance route in terms of pacing—and again, that’s fine—but it makes the series dull without the proper means of receiving the empathy of the audience. It’s unfortunate that it has to happen that way, but Repeat still hasn’t caught my attention enough to consider it better than others of its type.

If I were to hazard a guess, I think people really enjoy this title for the emphasis on a calm, everyday life out in the country. That, and they find Renge cute. I can understand this side of things, as I found this to be one of the better aspects of this anime. The only thing with me is, and it tends to be this way with many slice-of-life’s, is that I don’t care. I don’t care for the characters, the humor, the lack of any development, and the environment because of all previously mentioned. I can understand the effort put through from this series to make itself stand out from the crowd, but I just don’t think it delivers. I’m certainly in the minority here, but that’s how I feel. Non Non Biyori didn’t have the impact on me as it did for many others. I wouldn’t consider this show “bad” as much as I’d consider it a show “not for me.” That being said, I wouldn’t consider it “good” either. It’s an average slice-of-life with some diversity in its setting and age-range of characters. If this tickles your fancy, go for it, dude.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

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