The Infinite Zenith

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

Non Non Biyori Repeat: Whole-series review and reflection

“Living in a rural setting exposes you to so many marvelous things – the natural world and the particular texture of small-town life, and the exhilarating experience of open space.” —Susan Orlean

Non Non Biyori Repeat draws to a conclusion as a full year elapses after Hotaru’s arrival in Asahigaoka: in the anime’s final quarter, focus is given to particularly endearing moments in Renge’s everyday life, whether it’s her naïveté when it comes to monsters or hitherto unseen talent at arithmetic, or her journey towards learning how to ride a bike with Kaede’s supervision. Things as ordinary as a cell phone turn into an adventure when Komari’s short stature prevents her from reaching a cell signal, and Hotaru is shown to have a side more consistent with her age at home, even though she’s mature in front of her friends. When winter passes Asahigaoka and spring returns, everyone prepares to welcome the return of warm weather with a picnic while flower-gazing, and Hotaru expresses anticipation at her next year with Komari, Natsumi, Renge and the others in Asahigaoka. Ultimately, the decision to split one year’s worth of events in Non Non Biyori into two seasons allowed for the sequel to depict the notion that while the events of the first season were happening, there were numerous other memorable moments that were not depicted. Consequently, Non Non Biyori Repeat suggests (successfully) that in the journey that is life, there is value in cherishing even the smallest of happy moments with friends.

Continuing on in the same manner as the first season, Non Non Biyori Repeat excels at depicting aspects of pastoralism. Although shepherds and sheep do not figure in Non Non Biyori, the anime as a whole constitutes a pastoral work. It shares numerous characteristics with literature of this genre, depicting life in a peaceful, open and rural environment as the seasons pass. Complex aspects of everyday life are simplified, and society is in harmony with nature, exemplified in the girls’ everyday adventures and the anime’s frequent use of stills to stress just how calming and beautiful Asahigaoka is, almost to a fault. Although the girls do experience things that urban citizens experience (the joys of cell phones, school, chores, learning to ride a bike, sharing time with friends, disappointment, and the life cycle, to name a few), these events are placed in a idyllic rural environment that serves to really bring out the details and emotions in each of the aforementioned experiences. Consequently, Non Non Biyori (and Non Non Biyori Repeat) is widely regarded as an enjoyable slice-of-life, for exploring a variety of these events and adequately conveying the tenor of each moment to the audience. This experience is one that’s relatable, capturing all of the ups and downs in life that help the characters mature.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • So here we are, three days after the finale aired, and armed with twenty screenshots of the final three episodes. Here, Renge is playing with Konomi, a third-year high school student who was a graduate of Asahigaoka Branch School, and though she had a more limited presence in season one, she, along with other secondary characters, make more frequent appearances in Non Non Biyori to make things more dynamic.

  • The biggest draw about Non Non Biyori Repeat is being able to portray different facets for each character (e.g. Natsumi’s extensive, practical knowledge on nature). In Renge’s case, she expresses pure shock at the fact that Natsumi and Komari can become monsters by “pulling off” their fingers, suggesting that, despite being mature for her age, Renge is still a child at heart.

  • On the whole, scheduling and weather conditions precluded any opportunity to ride my bike over the last summer, but I’m still certain that I can ride my bike after two summers without having done so. I still recall learning to ride a bike for the first time and got the hang of it in around 35 minutes.

  • Renge catches a cold, so Komari and the others pay her a visit. Kaede also shows up, displaying some tsundere-like tendencies when Natsumi teases her about caring for Renge and when Kazuha asks her about the materials she’s supposed to be delivering. Hilarious this may be, it’s not too surprising that Kaede worries about Renge.

  • Kaede’s dedication in helping Renge learn to ride a bike was most heartwarming to behold, illustrating yet another aspect of the bonds that the two share. On the whole, scheduling and weather conditions precluded any opportunity to ride my bike over the last summer, but I’m still certain that I can ride my bike after two summers without having done so. I still recall learning to ride a bike for the first time many years ago and got the hang of it in around 35 minutes.

  • With Renge having learnt to ride a bike, she and the others finally set out to a region two stations away for viewing autumn colours. Hints of autumn are starting to make their way into Non Non Biyori at this point as the Autumnal Equinox approaches and passes. Summer’s finally over now, and fall is in full swing: from the top floor of the Information Technology building on campus, it’s possible to see a vast number of trees turning a golden yellow as the days cool.

  • The autumnal equinox this year was yesterday, and this Sunday, it’s the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, so I’ll be partaking in a dinner and moon-viewing (with mooncakes). In North America, the super-moon will coincide with a total lunar eclipse at 2207 MDT. Such events are extremely rare, and the next one won’t be seen again for another eighteen years.

  • Komari’s reaction to using a mobile phone is roughly similar to my reaction upon discovering all of the new features present in iOS 9; this simultaneously reflects on the isolation in Asahigaoka with respect to technology, as well as how awesome iOS 9 is. Curiously enough, the only reason I was able to find the time to write this post today (as opposed to tomorrow or the weekend) was because I finished grading the second assignment for the iOS programming course I’m TA’ing. I encountered some difficulties with the iOS Simulator, but thankfully, reinstalling Xcode 7 on the MacBook Pro appears to have rectified the issues.

  • My supervisor (also the iOS programming course’s instructor) asked me to prepare a lecture on debugging in Xcode for yesterday at the beginning of the month. Despite the preparation, giving a lecture was somewhat frightening, but in the end, things went reasonably smoothly, and I can breathe easy for the present. Returning to Non Non Biyori, it would appear that the phone signal in Asahigaoka is so faint that one must be standing in a very specific spot, with the phone at a specific height, in order to actually connect to the network. In her attempts to use the phone, Komari falls and nearly sprains an ankle, then swallows her pride as a senpai and asks Hotaru to carry her to accomplish something as simple as sending an SMS.

  • Throughout season one, Renge maintained a very cool, quite presence in Non Non Biyori, only succumbing to her emotions once when Honoka left suddenly during summer break. Here, Renge responds to Hikage’s persistent efforts in trying to sneak a peek at her New Years’ cards. The Japanese custom of sending New Year’s postcards is similar to the Western practises of sending Christmas cards, but rather than for the oft-parodied purpose of gloating about one’s own life, Japanese cards are sent to inform relatives that everyone is doing well (and the practise is suspended if there’s been a death in the family).

  • After yet another one of Hikage’s ill-conceived efforts at field-craft fails, she resorts to force to try and see what Renge is drawing. Ever-prepared for her sister’s antics, Renge uncharacteristically unleashes the hundred-hand slap on her in one of the noisiest scenes of all time in Non Non Biyori. It was incredibly funny (read “I laughed so hard tears appeared in my eyes”) and eventually led me to create another “Guile’s Theme Goes With Non Non Biyori video. Later, it turns out that Renge’s drawings are quite ordinary.

  • Hotaru is quite embarrassed whenever her friends mention how mature she is, and insists that at home, she’s like a small child. Humour thus is derived from the fact that she’s not kidding, when audiences are given a bit of insight into how Hotaru acts during New Year’s Eve.

  • Continuing with the trend of Non Non Biyori Repeat depicting different aspects of the characters, being able to see Hotaru act as one might reasonably expect someone of age eleven adds credibility to the anime. It was refreshing and fun to see the characters behaving in different ways, as it suggests that everyone is more complex than might initially be apparent: this is where Non Non Biyori Repeat excels. By filling in the gaps between the first season, one gains the impression that life in Asahigaoka is, though simple, one filled with joy and excitement.

  • It was somewhat of a surprise to learn that Non Non Biyori Repeat‘s run did not capture more winter shenanigans, but that does not detract from the show. On the whole, the predictions I made for the second season were quite close to the end product (I missed one or two elements), although the timeframes were completely different. With this trend in mind, I imagine that my speculations for Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? (i.e. the second season) will mostly be accurate, with variations in the specifics.

  • Spring returns again to Asahigaoka, and Renge’s faerie costume is seen once again, signifying that Non Non Biyori ends a short ways after the first season’s finale. Here, Renge comes across the “Legendary Sword” that made an appearance in the first episode. Hotaru remarks that it’s quite surprising how quickly a year can pass, and when I look back a year, I had just finished delivering the Giant Walkthrough Brain and was gearing up for my first year as a graduate student.

  • At Renge’s request, everyone visits the local bamboo grove to cut bamboo shoots for sashimi. Renge meets Pechi, Hotaru’s dog, for the first time here. I think Pechi is a shiba inu (but someone will have to correct me if that’s not the case), bringing to mind the first time I met my friend’s shiba inu. This was back during my final undergraduate year, and at the time, said shiba inu was still a puppy.

  • Renge wonders if they’ll find Kaguya-hime while cutting bamboo shoots: Kaguya-hime no Monogatari is a famous Japanese folktale about a bamboo cutter who finds a miniature princess inside a bamboo stalk and comes to raise her as their own. It was adapted in Studio Ghibli’s Tale of Princess Kaguya: I think I watched it back during March.

  • The soundtrack to Non Non Biyori Repeat, like that of its predecessor, is beautifully composed and succeeds in capturing the relaxed, languid atmosphere surrounding Asahigaoka. It was released yesterday, retails for 2500 yen (27.76 CAD on account of terrible exchange rates) and consists of thirty-two tracks on one disk. I’m looking greatly forwards to hearing the music for myself; tracks that were playing during Kaede helping Renge learn to ride a bike, or when the girls were watching fireflies are amongst these tracks.

  • Non Non Biyori Repeat ends where Non Non Biyori began its journey, wrapping events up with a delightful picnic underneath the Sakura tree to end things on a high note. Audiences have expressed an interest in a third season and an OVA. Because the manga’s ongoing, a third season is possible (whether or not it will be adapted will be left for time to decide), and an OVA is also likely. Should an OVA be released, it will continue on with the Okinawa trip.

  • For the present, though, Non Non Biyori Repeat draws to a close. I’m finding that this approach of reviewing anime seems to be quite efficient with respect to finding that balance between my thesis work and the things in the rest of my life, so for the present, I will continue to blog about a single show per season in detail, occasionally dropping by to review other shows where time permits. At some point in the near future (before the year ends) will be talks on Okusama ga SeitokaichouKnights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet 9Wakaba Girl, and perhaps a few other series. For the present, though, I’ve finished Metro 2033: Redux (the same day I visited Beakernight), so I’ll be looking to get a talk out on that quite soon.

It was a most pleasant surprise to realise that, despite being branded as a “Repeat” of Non Non Biyori, Non Non Biyori Repeat is able to fill in the gaps between the moments of the first season to present a novel second season. No moments are rehashed, and though familiar, Non Non Biyori Repeat presents entirely new content to the audiences. While most series tend to do this with OVAs or films (K-On!, Hanasaku Iroha and Ano Natsu de Matteru, to name a few), Non Non Biyori Repeat does so with an entire season’s worth of space. The fact that the anime is able to continue on with the same atmosphere of the first without compromising originality is worth mentioning; in fact, the second season is able to explore more serious topics such as death, disappointment and the significance of persistence without breaking the anime’s mood. Non Non Biyori Repeat is an anime that remains true to its settings, and concludes on a symbolic, satisfying note: the first season began with Hotaru flower-gazing with her classmates under a Sakura tree, and a year later, she’s now acclimatised to life in Asahigaoka with her friends, reinforcing Non Non Biyori‘s overall theme, that life is about cycles. Coupled with stunning visuals and a beautiful soundtrack, there’s no reason not to watch Non Non Biyori Repeat: this is an anime that can be recommended for all viewers.

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