Post Reply Non Non Biyori: Next Level Slice of Life
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Posted 12/6/13
Written by Dai_Loli

Non Non Biyori: Next Level Slice of Life

Having just moved in from Tokyo, Hotaru Ichijo's arrival into the rural town of Asahigaoka is a drastic departure from her life in the big city. You see, Asahigaoka is not just any small town, it's basically just fields to grow vegetables, vegetation and a few buildings here and there, it could hardly be deeper into the boonies. Buses drive by every two hours, the closest video store is 10 stations away, there are no convenience stores to speak of, no one locks their front door and the school has a total of four students, all crammed into the same class and pretty much asked to self-study all year long while the teacher snoozes the day away. Actually, make that five students now that Hotaru transferred in.

Three of the kids in class are siblings and the fourth one's older sister is the class teacher, so the school is really like a small family reunion. Renge Miyauchi is the youngest in class, she has Lucky Star's Konata's horizontal eyelid syndrome, thus making her seem uninterested about everything, but she still acts like a kid and says the darndest things. Natsumi Koshigaya is the youngest of the three siblings. As the tomboy of the group she is full of energy but has terrible grades, her egotism is also through the roof. Komari Koshigaya may be Natsumi's older sister, but you wouldn't guess so by her small height. Try not to make mention of it, though: she's very concerned about it. Even though she strives to be as mature as possible, Hotaru ends up falling for her cuteness. And lastly, older than even Hotaru, is the bespectacled older brother of the Koshigayas, Suguru. More on “him” later, if he can even be described as a person.

And that's the whole setting for the show! You've seen slice of life anime where the protagonists could be doing a lot more with their lives but, in Non Non Biyori, there really is nothing better to do than just enjoy an uneventful life! By now, you should know what stance you have when it comes to slice of life series, so if you're not into them I doubt this one will change your outlook, but for the rest of us, though, this is definitely an intriguing title.

Actually, I feel Non Non Biyori transcends slice of life anime, it is so self-aware of its status that it almost becomes a satire of the genre. A lot of the gags come from the very fact that the characters live in such a remote town that they are completely disconnected with the rest of the world. The students are forced into working at the rice field every year to help the teacher's family who can't afford to hire actual workers, hearing about someone who rode in a plane once is an exciting event and a noodle shop at a train station is a big deal.

Another point for the satire argument would be the older brother's very existence (told you I'd come back to it!). I feel there's a trend where more and more animes have an entirely female cast with no male characters in sight, and when they do appear, they aren't even given the right to have a face because “oh my god what would the viewer think if his girls-only anime had a guy in it?” Biyori blatantly makes fun of this trend with the older brother character who is nothing more than a background object to be freely manipulated. He never speaks, his eyes are never visible, he has next to no screen time and is devoid of personality. There is more than one scene where Natsumi toys with his body to publicly humiliate him and he just takes it without flinching!

A nice touch that gives the show its flair is the episode structure. We've seen a lot of slice of life anime based on 4-panel comics but Non Non Biyori's source material is regular manga, so this keeps the episodes more cohesive with a guiding line to the stories, allowing for more development and attachment to the characters, not to mention the gags don't feel forced “because it's the fourth panel”, allowing for interesting build-ups.

Speaking of the gags, they can be surprisingly well-crafted. Granted, there are parts of episodes where the show just wants you to feel warm inside as expected of this genre, but when it comes to laughs, it goes the extra mile. There are multiple notable scenes where most shows would just be content with a cliché “lol that's kawaii” setup that would merely make you chuckle and end it there, but Biyori adds that next level that just catches you off-guard with that unexpectedly mean burn, role reversal, creepy realization or awkward silence. It doesn't always end with you laughing, but it springs forth emotions you didn't see coming. There's even a scene where I went from almost crying to laughing out loud to almost crying again within 50 seconds, and it was just a silent zoom on a character's face! I couldn't help but be impressed.

If you're into the mellow feel-good vibes of slice of life anime, its light-hearted yet smart humor and are curious to see how a show can add its own unique spice to the genre, look no further for your seasonal dose than Non Non Biyori!
cosham 
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49 / M / Sussex UK
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Posted 2/22/14
I liked it, a bit sorry its finished.
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