Non Non Biyori Repeat: Review and reflection at the ¾ mark
September 2, 2015
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“Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming!” —Joseph B. Wirthlin
After nine episodes have passed, Non Non Biyori Repeat has settled into a familiar pattern of portraying seemingly mundane or even inconveniencing everyday events as being an adventure in its own right. Things like summoning up the courage to dive into a river, turning a hunt for a bag at the bus depot into a memorable walk, woodworking, reminiscing about earlier days, catching fish, fashion and moon-viewing are presented in loving detail, allowing different combinations of characters to have their day in the sun together. The pacing remains as languid as ever, giving Non Non Biyori Repeat ample time to really draw out a moment and depict all of the subtleties that might otherwise be missed. In other words, Non Non Biyori Repeat remains quite (unsurprisingly) unchanged since the halfway point, but nonetheless manages to continue finding new content to explore to keep the anime a worthwhile watch every week.
Given that it’s almost next to impossible to pin down when the later episodes are happening relative to the first season, Non Non Biyori Repeat is painting the notion that life in Asahigaoka is timeless. This is one of the main attractions in Non Non Biyori, and Non Non Biyori Repeat continues to illustrate that there are some life lessons and experiences that stand independently of how far science and technology has progressed. Whether it’s trying new things for the first time, finding an old memento that evokes memories of one’s youth, or trying to cover for one’s mistakes out of fear for the repercussions, these are all experiences that the audience can relate to with ease (in most cases). For this reason, Non Non Biyori is something that succeeds in evoking a pleasant reaction in the audience and consequently, is a fine example of how crafting moments and themes that are universal can make a slice-of-life stand out above the rest.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Almost everyone’s built a fort out of a couch and cushions as children, imagining themselves to be in a castle against imaginary invaders. The joys about Non Non Biyori‘s unique setting means that there’s actually the space to turn such things into reality. Active imaginations are very much a part of childhood, and can remain thus in Non Non Biyori, since Asahigaoka is far removed from the ceaseless energy of a larger urban centre.
- After Hotaru accidentally leaves her handbag on the bus, she goes with Renge and Hikage to the bus depot to retrieve it from the lost and found. While such things are normally seen as an inconvenience and irratant, especially for people who’ve places to be, in Asahigaoka, life is so slowly-paced that the girls see it as an adventure of sorts, and here, stop to enjoy some pomegranates along the way.
- Later, Hotaru finally summons the courage to dive into the river from a bridge, creating yet another cherished memory with her friends. The river in my AO is around 1.3 meters deep on average when it passes through the city centre, and although it’s legal to enter the waters and boat in it, jumping off our bridges into the river is prohibited by law. I took a stroll along the river today after a tempura-and-teriyaki chicken lunch, before heading back to buy some No. 35 side cutters so I can build Gundam models with greater ease.
- Hotaru comes to greatly treasure her time spent with her new friends, as well as her memories of her old friends back in Tokyo. While it’s subtle and hardly explored explicitly, Hotaru’s transition from an urban to rural lifestyle is marked by the occasional bit of longing for the city, although as she spends more time with Komari and the others, she gradually becomes more integrated with their group.
- I’ve never taken any woodworking courses during my days as a junior high or high school student, so I cannot undertaken carpentry-related tasks. Here, Natsumi and Renge team up to build something in their class’ carpentry unit, and although the pair struggle to come up with something, Renge eventually devises a rather clever contraption to prevent people from sleeping. She promptly and successfully tests it on Kazuho, illustrating that despite her active imagination, Renge’s also very practical.
- Curry day is the Asahigaoka equivalent of pizza day at my old schools, and upon seeing Renge as the server, the girls recall their old memories of another eventful curry day. It’s said that our minds can immediately recall memories from a smell alone, where a certain olfactory receptor is triggered in response to an odor in the environment. This occurs because of how the neurons are wired and evolved for survival factors. Therefore, it’s plausible that the combination of seeing Renge serve curry evokes this memory amongst Komari and Natsumi.
- Thus begins a recollection of the girls’ most infamous recollection of curry day, where Kazuho and Hikage bring a baby Renge to school on account of their parents being unavailable. As before, Kaede seems quite reluctant to look after Renge. These events are set some five years prior to present day, so at this point in time, Kaede is only fifteen, and Hikage would be around ten. Kazuho is also shown and is presumably close to Kaede in age (by around +/-2 years, implying she’s 22 at present, old enough to be a teacher).
- I’ve noted previously before, but it’s worth reiterating that I greatly enjoy playing with children, and they seem to get along fine with me. Baby Renge, playing with Konomi here, remains by far one of the most well-received aspects of Non Non Biyori; I would imagine that different viewers would each have their own reasons why, and I’d be quite curious to hear what they are for everyone. For me, I just happen to like children a great deal.
- While not all of us necessarily recall doing so, our parents may often remind us of what we were like as children. It’s sometimes endearing and sometimes embarrassing, usually in varying combinations of both, and here, Renge does seem to be more inclined towards causing chaos. Given her excitement and fervent desire to explore, it’s probably her first time at Asahigaoka Branch School, and here, she demolishes a tower of blocks that Natsumi (aged seven here) is building.
- This bit of reminiscence culiminates in Renge disappearing off to explore the remainder of Asahigaoka Branch School, discovering the pot of curry and spilling it. In one of the child-care courses and food safety courses I took back in junior high, the proper procedure is to store such items above a child’s reach or in a secured area to prevent such accidents from happening.
- Later, Komari comes across an old photo album of her with a stuffed bear that’d accompanied her practically everywhere while cleaning her room. When she does find it, it brings back memories but is also in a deplorable state, hence her asking Hotaru to help her repair it. With this, it appears that while my speculations about the second season were not entirely correct, some of the events that I saw in the manga were indeed featured in Non Non Biyori Repeat.
- Besides Renge, audiences also get to see what Komari looked like as a baby. This figure caption also allows me to remark that some stuffed animals I received over the years (a fair number of bears, including a panda for graduation, and a rabbit) are still around my room and reasonably well-cared for, even if their ages are showing. Make of that what you will.
- Komari proves to be remarkably understanding after seeing all of Hotaru’s Koma-plushies. They manage to fix Komari’s bear, and Hotaru creates new plushies in Kaede, Kazuho, Natsumi, Hikagi and Renge’s likeness, as well.
- After noting that their garden’s pond is a little barren, Yukiko tasks Natsumi with finding some fish to fill said pond and also offers her five hundred yen to do so. Given that fishing is right up Natsumi’s alley with respect to know-how, she promptly agrees, but also cleverly delegates a portion of the task to her friends under guise of a fishing competition.
- After catching what appears to be a large fish, Natsumi asks Renge to inform Kazuho and Kaede to provide additional support. The time it takes her to reach them and return suggests that Natsumi and the others have been fighting against this fish for quite some time, and even having extra hands there appear to be ineffective in reeling the fish in.
- In Survivorman, Les Stroud often mentions the importance of having a fishing tackle while one is out in the wilderness, given that in some areas, catching fish with improvised gear can be quite difficult and having good equipment may mean the difference between life and death. Natsumi ultimately decides to leave the others fighting for the fish, and she decides to retrieve the fish in a most unconventional manner, diving into the lake to grab it.
- Another moment from the manga makes it into Non Non Biyori Repeat as Hikage helps Natsumi adopt a more feminine appearance and manner. This is a storytelling element that’s quite common in anime and manga, where some female characters exhibiting preferences for more male behaviour are given a chance to see what it’s like to be more feminine and eventually find it too difficult to keep up.
- Hikage and Natsumi later accidentally eat the dango that were being saved for that evening’s moon gazing, and after a duel of words between the two, they decide to make some more and attempt to apologise, as well. In Chinese culture, moon gazing during the Mid-Autumn festival is accompanied by mooncakes rather than dango, and originates from farmers in ancient China making use of the autumn full moon to gauge when harvesting of crops should occur.
- Renge munches on gohei mochi (mochi-on-a-stick) while the others gaze at what is likely a supermoon. I say this is a supermoon because of the episode’s timing; last Sunday, there had been a supermoon, in which a full moon coincides with its closest approach to Earth in its orbit. I was in Banff and had just enjoyed a delicious steak dinner, and the moon began rising after we returned to the parkade, peeking out from behind the mountain. By the time we arrived home, the moon had come out, and the night landscape seemed much brighter than usual.
- As punishment, Natsumi and Hikage are tasked with preparing the gohei mochi, which is particularly famous in the Kiso Valley and Ina areas of southern Nagano, as well as the Aichi and Gifu Prefectures. While Asahigaoka’s precise location has never been disclosed, this snack allows us to narrow down the regions in Japan where Non Non Biyori is set. With this, the fourth of my five Non Non Biyori Repeat posts come to an end, and I will return later this month to do a talk on the final three episodes.
As we enter the final quarter of Non Non Biyori Repeat, and still having seen no signs of the other seasons, it would appear that Non Non Biyori Repeat will follow the same trend as its predecessors; the final three episodes of Non Non Biyori Repeat is almost certain to deal with the days as summer gives way to autumn, and then winter. The preview seems to illustrate this, as we see Renge biking with yellowing foliage in the background. While I would have hoped to have more episodes set in winter, this is merely a minor bit of nit-picking at this stage, and moving into the anime’s last three episodes, I am certain that Non Non Biyori Repeat will end on an excellent note. It will be a little disheartening to see the last of this anime (even if there could be an OVA of everyone’s trip to Okinawa), but the plus side is that Non Non Biyori will definitely leave viewers feeling relaxed and with warm memories after it ends.