The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Non Non Biyori Repeat: Review and Reflection at the halfway point

“呢枝簽話呢!” -Sam Hui, 搵野做

We now come to the halfway point of Non Non Biyori Repeat, and as with its predecessor, the second season continues to find new avenues to explore to keep things fresh and interesting. Curiously enough, I am forced to redact my earlier statement that I was completely off with some of my predictions: it seems that at least some of the speculation on what Non Non Biyori’s second season would entail turned out to be correct. For instance, Renge does make a teru teru bōzu out of herself (using a paper plate as the mask and a white raincoat) to ward off some persistent heavy rain. To catch the sun’s attention, she makes use of a bucket and spade to make some noise, but scares Komari into tears when the latter encounters her while returning a manga. Renge also learns about the cycle of death and life after she adopts some tadpole shrimp: adorable and heartwarming, this moment demonstrate that children are definitely aware of and understand these more mature topics. Later, Natsumi predicts Komari’s fortunes with a loaded instrument, and both of them strangely enough become reality when the latter experiences an array of misfortunes with water. Later, while hanging out during their school’s anniversary, a rainstorm hits Asahigaoka: the group drops by the Candy Store and make okomomiyaki with Kaede. By episode six, Hotaru and Natsumi spend a rare moment together, eventually finding a common conversation topic, and also visits a field filled with fireflies after a disappointing turnout with the fireworks.

Non Non Biyori Repeat demonstrates that the familiar, languid atmosphere in Asahigaoka is nonetheless conducive towards exploration of different topics. The inclusion of a death-related one, and subsequent depiction of the life cycle was a meaningful story to portray: Renge becomes saddened when her tadpole shrimp die off, but subsequently is overjoyed to learn (with Natsumi’s help) that life is a cycle. Whereas her old tadpole shrimp had died, their descendent continue to live on, showing her the majesty of life. The other stories are, though not quite as moving, nonetheless very rewarding to watch, portraying some more commonplace elements of children’s lives. Hotaru’s anticipation for the fireworks, ensuing tears from fear that she’d let down her friends and Kazuho stepping in to find the silver lining in the form of fireflies serve reflect on a classic lesson learnt from childhood- that sometimes, while people might not necessarily find what they seek, what they discover in its stead can be as, if not more rewarding. These subtle elements meander their way into a calming slice-of-life anime, reminding audiences of the things they themselves might’ve experienced and learnt when they were much younger. These messages are but a handful that add depth to Non Non Biyori Repeat, allowing the show to continue offering a new experience with every new episode.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There’s a surprising amount of content to actually talk about in Non Non Biyori Repeat: far from lacking the novelty of its first season, Repeat capitalises on its familiar setting to explore topics that are more diverse and even thought-provoking in cases, ultimately adding a new charm to the anime that sets it as unique, but equally enjoyable as the first season.

  • I might have mentioned Teru teru bōzu elsewhere before: these handmade dolls (lit. “Shine Shine Monk”) are used to ward off rainy days, and became popular during the Edo period. Hanging them inverted is supposed to invite rain, and if fair weather does result, eyes are drawn in. Here, Renge feels that the standard variants she’s created might not be enough to have an appreciable impact and winds up making herself into a teru teru bōzu with a paper plate and white raincoat.

  • While viewers have the advantage of dramatic irony, Komari sees Renge as a onryō reminiscent of Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water and flees for her life. While she later denies it, the event is sufficiently frightening to bring her to tears, and adding insult to injury, when she reaches the Miyauchi residence, Kazuho is also sporting a mask (but with the hopes of lifting Renge’s spirits).

  • It seems that, as of late, a growing number of blogs out there are picking up on the inherent strengths of slice-of-life anime such as Non Non Biyori and speak of such shows fondly. This increasingly demonstrates the anime community’s gradual acceptance (or at least, begrudging tolerance) for anime about daily life: moé has long been (erroneously) decried as the bane of the anime industry by a small but vocal group of English-speaking fans for whatever their intents are, but it appears that such claims no longer seem to be widespread.

  • The weather does clear out, and Renge finally has an opportunity to ride her new bike. It’s been quite some time since I’ve gone biking: most of my free time, I lift and hike for fitness. Note that Natsumi, Komari, Hotaru and even Renge are not wearing helmets. Where I live, the law requires that all minors wear a helmet while on a bike, but for safety’s sake, it’s just better to wear a helmet while biking.

  • The spotted bellflower (Campanula punctata) is known as Hotaru bukuro in Japan. They are edible and give a sweet taste, bloom during the summer months and are native to Korea. In a callback to the Renge flowers mentioned in season one, it turns out that these flowers also share a name with Hotaru: Komari refers to them as “Hotaru flowers”.

  • Early in the fourth episode, Renge collected some tadpole shrimp (of the Notostraca order): these flat organisms have remain largely unchanged in morphology since the Triassic, and have a lifespan of roughly 20-40 days. When they die, Renge becomes visibly saddened, and they are buried outside near the school. Death is a more serious topic that adults may encounter difficulty in presenting to children, which is partially why life-cycles for animals are a part of elementary school curriculum.

  • Tadpole shrimp lay their eggs in the sediment, and realising this, Natsumi risks missing the bus to pull some of the soil, returning it to the tank. Tadpole shrimp do not undergo metamorphosis, and so, the next day, Renge marvels at the presence of new “flatty-sans”. Her expression is one of pure joy, and through these visual cues, it’s quite easy to see that Renge has learnt that life is a cycle of birth and death.

  • The page quote is relevant to the discussion of fortunes in the loosest of senses: it comes from Sam Hui’s “搵野做” (lit. “Finding a job”), which speaks about a man who decides to finally seek employment and work hard when Chinese divination instructs him to do so. In his song, sung in casual spoken Cantonese, the man eventually succeeds and forces his son to do the same. The song typifies Sam Hui’s genius to compose music about social issues and topics that related to Hong Kong’s working class: the hanzi “簽” is a sign, referring to the wooden sticks on which the fortunes are written, and it is using one of these implements that Natsumi predicts Komari’s fortune, suggesting that he’d be unlucky with water.

  • Despite being splashed with cold water and even hit in the augen with twin streams of ice cold water (when Renge is learning about the joys of hydrostatics), Komari nonetheless enjoys their efforts after Kazuho allows the group to frolick in the pool, turning premonitions of an ill-fortune into another pleasurable memory.

  • This is the essence of youth, to be doing things for the sake of experience and spectacle. The reason why fortunes generally are seen as coming true is typically because of the vagueness of their statements, which would allow their claims to encompass a variety of situations. Thus, when Komari gets hit with water, she sees it as a sign that the fortune predicted things correctly: it is vague enough to include a vast range of inconveniences.

  • Hotaru spends the first bit of her day off (in commemoration of their school’s anniversary) at home waiting for a package and remarks that time seems to pass more slowly when one’s alone. I do not fully agree; this summer, I’ve spent a handful of days working at home, and time flies by all the same.

  • After the package arrives, Hotaru encounters Renge and the others. They go for a walk before a downpour appears, taking refuge at the candy store. The sudden onset of rain and everyone’s arrival turns the candy store into a very busy place, and this scene was quite active, with Natsumi, Komari and Hotaru talking over one another while Renge shakes herself dry and expresses excitement about using grass as a whistle.

  • After providing everyone with an assortment of clothes while theirs dried, Kaede prepares some Okonomiyaki and outlines some of the finer points to prepare it properly. Despite a bit short at times with Natsumi and the others, Kaede is very attentive and caring, being quite willing to keep engaged Renge and her friends while they wait for the rain to clear. Simple moments like these illustrate how minor inconveniences can be turned around with a bit of adaptability to make the most of things.

  • It is certainly true that Natsumi and Hotaru hardly spend any time together, and Natsumi inadvertently takes on more than she can handle when she mentions the anime Pretty Cute (a not-so-subtle callback to Pretty Cure, which I’ve never watched before): she finds it harder and harder to keep up until the illusion is broken, and Hotaru realises that Natsumi hasn’t seen too much of it. They later manage to find a common topic in reptiles when Natsumi learns that Hotaru is quite fond of them.

  • Despite lacking book smarts, Natsumi is reasonably knowledgeable about the ecology in Asahigaoka, knowing how to attract Tettigoniidae with onions, which plants are the Sorrel herb (it’s edible and is usable in a variety of things, ranging from soups to salads) and the various stages in a cicida’s life-cycle. This demonstrates that Natsumi is rather fond of exploration over study, and implies that with a more versatile education, her talents can be brought to bear.

  • We’ve just passed the halfway point of August, meaning that the days begin to shorten, the skies begin to cool and the world transitions towards fall once more. This means that there’s only an eighth of summer left, and before the month ends, I’ll aim to get a post on the Sabagebu! and Shirobako OVAs out. I forecast that at the absolute minimum, I’ll be able to complete the talks for Shirobako for certain.

  • Hilarious Hotaru’s reaction about the fireworks (or lack thereof) might be, it’s actual an honest, plausible reaction that someone around ten might have if they’re particularly empathetic with others and something disappointing has occurred, leading them to believe that they’ve let everyone else down. Despite the others’ attempts at reassuring her that it’s alright, Hotaru bursts into fresh tears nonetheless after Renge gives up midway. Fortunately, Kazuho is able to offer an alternative to fireworks: fireflies.

  • This scene was magical: with fireflies all around, Natsumi suggests dipping cattail leaves in the water to encourage the fireflies to come closer for a drink. The darkened world lit by a full moon, set to a very gentle background song means the elements come together to create a moment that could have come from a folk tale. It is scenes such as these that add a bit of flair to Non Non Biyori, and taken together, the first half closes off on a most enjoyable note.

  • The next Non Non Biyori Repeat talk will come out during the first week of September, after we’ve completed the third quarter. Moving forwards, I have no doubt that Non Non Biyori Repeat will continue to impress and heal in new ways. I’ve long since exhausted my speculations about the remainder of the season, and it turns out that some things did wind up happening. It’s likely that after Non Non Biyori Repeat concludes, there could be an OVA that depicts everyone’s adventures in Okinawa.

Familiar, yet so different, Non Non Biyori Repeat‘s been an absolute thrill to watch and even write about thus far. I have little doubt that as we move past the halfway point, this anime will succeed in providing audiences with something memorable with each passing episode. The first season dealt primarily with the seasons, and my impressions from three weeks ago have not shifted: I continue to maintain that the seasons will play a more noticeable role in providing new circumstances for Renge and the others. Fall and winter were only depicted after the three-quarters last season, but the passage of autumn, with yellowing leaves, and winter’s fresh snowfall might very well allow for different events and experiences to be shown. This could be immensely fun to watch, and illustrate that familiar settings can nonetheless feel very different as the seasons pass, which would reinforce Non Non Biyori Repeat‘s ability to truly bring Asahigaoka to life for the viewers. Such a message would hold the implications that slice-of-life anime can (and should) make use of their setting to complement their characters; rather than merely being a place for the events to take place, Non Non Biyori would exemplify how deeply the environment can tie in with the character’s everyday lives.

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