Non Non Biyori Repeat: First Episode Impressions and Review
July 12, 2015
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“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” —Robert Frost
Non Non Biyori Repeat, the second season of Non Non Biyori, marks a welcome return to Asahigaoka, a serene village in rural Japan far removed from the bustle of major urban centres. However, there does seem to be a small twist on things: rather than picking up in Okinawa as originally speculated, the second season opens a few days before Renge is set to start elementary school. While Renge admires her new backpack and rides the bus on her own to reach the Asahigaoka branch school, Hikage prepares for high school in Tokyo. Unbeknownst to them, Asahigaoka will also see the arrival of one Hotaru Ichijou, who wonders if she’ll make any new friends at Asahigaoka school. Providing a glimpse into life prior to Hotaru’s arrival, Non Non Biyori Repeat‘s first episode illustrates the languid, laid-back life that Renge, Komari and Natsumi enjoy in Asahigaoka, a place where cell phones seem like Forerunner technology. While somewhat surprising, the decision to step back to just before the first season started allows Non Non Biyori Repeat to set the stage for first-time viewers, introducing them to the characters. However, to established viewers, these same scenes serve to remind them of everything that made the first season so enjoyable to watch. Through the long, lovingly-presented moments depicting the gentle scenery in and around the region, both old and new viewers alike are reminded of the pastoral beauty in Asahigaoka, setting the atmosphere for what subsequent episodes will entail.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This post is half the length of an ordinary post, featuring only ten images, rather than the usual twenty. The slow pacing of the first episode means that there are plenty of stills depicting the landscapes, and quite honestly, screenshots won’t do them justice. Thus, I’ll only offer remarks on some moments, such as Renge admiring her backpack from every angle and her brimming over with excitement about starting school soon.
- Viewers with an acute memory and ear for detail will notice that Non Non Biyori Repeat makes use of all-new background music in most of its scenes. This seemingly inconsequential detail expresses that the second season is more than a mere continuation, that Renge and the others will be encountering new adventures as the season progresses. Naturally, I am anticipating the soundtrack’s release, although this won’t occur until at least October, after the anime’s concluded.
- While subtle, lighting effects have improved slightly since the first season for some scenes to really convey a sense of languidness in the atmosphere. Other than that, the colour palette and landscapes have remained similar.
- Even though the first episode is focused around Renge, Komari and Natsumi’s personalities are hinted at in the episode quite nicely. Newer viewers will gain a modicum of insight into their characters, while veterans will immediately be reminded of what made the first season so entertaining.
- Owing to Asahigaoka’s small size and limited infrastructure, Hikage must attend high school in Tokyo. She’s given a flip-phone, and is immensely satisfied with its capabilities. I’m not sure if highly advanced flip-phones are still commonplace in Japan: ever since the advent of touch-screen based smart phones, flip-phones seem somewhat out of date, although it could also suggest that Asahigaoka is somewhat of a backwater as far as technology goes.
- Hikage somehow leaves her phone behind: she initially dismisses Renge’s shouts as the latter missing her already, but it turns out that Renge is shouting to return her phone. Such moments exemplify the sort of comedy that was present in Non Non Biyori, and as this season progresses, I look forwards to seeing what will happen next.
- Natsumi and Komari share a conversation, with the latter wondering if Renge will call her senpai. There is a bit of dramatic irony here: once Hotaru arrives, she’ll constantly be calling Komari senpai, although it seems that Komari is largely oblivious of Hotaru’s crush on her. This could be an element explored in the second season.
- Renge remarks that her uniform for starting school is haute couture, French for “high fashion”, without fully understanding what the term entails. Even Kazuha is at a loss for words when Renge mentions this, but yes, there is a charm about her uniform’s design. This is the first time we’ve seen this uniform: in the previous season, Renge wore a dress of sorts to school.
- The welcoming ceremony soon begins: the previous day, Kazuha was preparing the room and sent the others off to relax. It appears that Asahigaoka Branch School has been around for 105 years, and attesting to its age, another reference to its decaying floorboards is mentioned.
- Kazuha hands Renge a set of school supplies as the latter formally enters the first grade. The “legendary sword” Renge was playing with earlier in the episode was used to mark a path, although Renge wistfully notes the path from the day before is fading quickly, suggesting that things in life can be fleeting in nature. I’ve no screenshots of Hotaru here, but as the first episode is set right before season one, it’s not too difficult to surmise what happens next.
One invariably will wonder which directions Non Non Biyori Repeat will take from here on out. The second episode is titled “We Went to Look at the Stars”, suggesting that stargazing is likely to be involved. In the manga, Renge and the others take an excursion by night to catch fireflies; this is set a ways after Okinawa, and the preview does not seem to involve anything set in Okinawa, so at present, it’s reasonable to surmise that Okinawa will be left as an OVA for the future. As such, the second episode will likely be set a short ways after Renge and the others return to Asahigaoka during the middle of summer and continue the story from there. However, give that my speculation was quite far from the truth, it is possible that the anime could deviate from the manga. Regardless of how accurate my speculations were, with a solid start to the second season, I will greatly look forwards to Non Non Biyori Repeat each week; as the series progresses, the days will shorten, and autumn will return once more, evoking the seasons that Non Non Biyori depicts in such tender detail.