The Infinite Zenith

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

Hotaru Had Fun: Non Non Biyori Repeat OVA Review

The dark clouds fading for my mind
No pain will last forever
The seasons pass and the sunlight will shine
On my life again

Seasons, Dragonforce

A year ago, I was settling into my schedule as a second-year graduate student. My thesis paper was then a collection of unfinished Microsoft Word files, with only the background and motivation sections’ basic structure outlined. I had not yet begun writing any of the conference papers, and my project had just passed the milestone where I had generalised an algorithm describing protein interactions for use in Unreal Engine. At around this time, Non Non Biyori Repeat was drawing to a close, and in an off-hand remark, I mentioned that an OVA would almost be certainly within the realm of possibility, dealing with the Okinawa trip in full. It turns out that I only receive partial credit for this prediction: an OVA did indeed come out, although it does not deal with Okinawa in any way. Instead, this OVA is set in the tranquil and serene village of Asahigaoka, detailing the adventures Hotaru partakes in as the seasons progress. She frolics in the snow by winter, bakes cookies with Kaede by spring, helps Renge and the others drive Komari’s dreams in a positive direction under the summer season, and during the autumn, collects wild edibles under the brilliantly-coloured foliage.

The central theme in Non Non Biyori‘s first season is the wonder conferred by the four seasons (the second season presented more elements on life experiences); each season is distinct and confers a particular set of elements to be enjoyed. However, in the Non Non Biyori Repeat OVA, Hotaru is shown as having a ball of a time under different circumstances: whether she’s on her own, spending the afternoon with one person or all of her friends, things wind up being quite memorable even if what she’s doing seems quite unextraordinary. This exemplifies the magic that is prevalent throughout Non Non Biyori and other Iyashikei — being set in the countryside gives Non Non Biyori an even more laid-back tenour. It represents opportunity to step away from the high pace of life in the city, inserting audiences in a place where time itself appears to stand still and giving them a chance to appreciate things that might otherwise be missed.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The twenty images accompanying this post were originally 1024 by 578, which is much lower than the resolutions I prefer watching shows at; technically, these additional episodes are considered to be OADs rather than OVAs, but nonetheless, they are of a sufficient quality such that the beauty surrounding Asahigaoka is not lost, as demonstrated by this opening image.

  • It is unsurprising that Hotaru is the star of this OVA, as her name adorns the title. While taking a walk with Pecci, her Shiba Inu, Hotaru marvels at the snow and stops for a few moments to partake in snow activities. Although I cannot say I’m fond of days where whiteouts and slick road conditions make it difficult to commute, there is a magic about clear, sunny days following a snowfall.

  • Here, Hotaru marvels at a particularly large pane of ice that’s formed on the creek. Even at the lower resolutions, subtle details, such as Hotaru’s fingers turning pink in the brisk air, are visible, attesting to the effort put into Non Non Biyori. It was quite pleasant to learnt that Rie Murakawa, Hotaru’s voice actor, also provides the voice to GochiUsa‘s Megu Natsu. As Megu, her singing voice evokes imagery of rabbits having a ball of a time in a large meadow.

  • After crafting a snowman, Hotaru builds a smooth surface to slide down. There is a hill at my old elementary school where students would do just this by winter, and although there was a fence at the bottom to prevent anyone from reaching the road, the school made it clear that students were not supposed to sled down this hill during school hours. Even with this in mind, students would slide down the hill anyways during lunch break, or else bring a full sled and partake on weekends.

  • En route to Hotaru’s house to spend the day, Komari stumbles across the results of Hotaru’s handiwork and promptly gets caught in a cascade of bad luck. After slipping on the ice pane Hotaru had found, she falls down the hill and smashes through the small igloo that Hotaru had built earlier, narrowly missing being drenched in the frigid winter creek.

  • Though quite shaken, Komari makes it to Hotaru’s house and promptly requests that they spend the day indoors on account of all the hazards. There is dramatic irony here, given that Komari is completely unaware that Hotari is indirectly responsible for her woe.

  • Asahigaoka takes on a lively green colour as spring settles in. Infinitely peaceful, the landscape is rife with opportunity for adventure, and Hotaru sets off the visit Kaede after her mother has to head off, promising Hotaru that they will bake cookies another day.

  • Kaede (known by her nickname “Candy Store” amongst the other characters) senses that Hotaru’s got a desire to bake cookies: she tries to purchase ingredients for such from Kaede, and so, the latter decides that, in light of the lighter business on this day, she will help Hotaru out.

  • The cookies wind up being quite delicious: edible flowers can be used on cookies to impart a special flavour, and in North American recipes, Lavender and pansies are commonly-used flowers for such a role, although, as Hotaru and Kaede demonstrate, sakura blossoms can also be used.

  • I’ve always longed to visit the Japanese countryside, having seen many photographs, accounts and depictions in fiction. I suppose now is a good time as any to mention that next summer, I’ve got plans to visit Japan. The specifics are not known yet, but it looks like I’ll be fulfilling one of the items on my list of things that I wished to do; back during the depths of 2014’s winter, I wondered if travelling would be a viable countermeasure against lovesickness and in particular, whether or not visiting Japan would cure said lovesickness.

  • Two years hence, I’ve experienced enough such that lovesickness isn’t too frequently on my mind, and I’d rather it stay that way for now: we return to Non Non Biyori and note that it’s now summer. Everyone’s completing their summer assignments together, and after Renge remarks that Komari’s got errors here and there in her work, Komari decides to take a kip.

  • Komari’s misfortunes in the OVA are adorable rather than piteous, and here, she drifts off with the aim of collecting her thoughts. I’ve found that short rests of around 15 or so minutes can be tremendously effective in restoring one’s energy, far more efficiently than any energy drink. I do not particularly enjoy energy drinks or coffee, for that matter, in bolstering my vitality.

  • Feeling bad for Komari, Renge decides to help guide her dreams such that when she wakes up, she’ll be feeling happier. Dreams are highly complex processes whose mechanics are not well characterised, and as Renge finds out, their application of stimuli have a range of effects on Komari. The comedy in this section, however, comes when it turns out that their efforts have an appreciable, positive impact on Komari, at least until she wakes up.

  • I was rather surprised to learn that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura (I know her best for her role as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, Tsubaki Sawabe in Your Lie in April and VividRed Operation‘s Akane Isshiki); as Natsumi, her voice is much deeper here and consequently, I could not immediately recognise her. I’ve heard that some folks dislike Sakura for her voice for its acoustic properties (read “too squeaky”), but I find it appropriate for the characters she voices. Furthermore, she can do other roles quite well.

  • Autumn has become a season I’ve grown to love: that nature is able to put on such an incredible display with its yellowing leaves is impressive. A few years back, I remarked that the transition from light to dark, and warmth to cold was a bit of a disheartening one, and in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, the crickets sing a song lamenting the end of summer. However, as Non Non Biyori graciously illustrates, there is joy and wonder to be found in all seasons.

  • On a pleasant fall day, Hotaru, Komari, Renge and Natsumi make to explore the woods in their area, picking wild edibles as they go. The page quote is taken from Dragonforce’s “Seasons”, one of my favourite songs from any of their albums for its composition and lyrics. I listened to it extensively during the summer of 2013 and fell in love with the song. In contrast with their other songs, which feature their signature speed electric guitar and percussion, Seasons is a much slower song that speaks of cycles and recovery. Here’s a bit of trivia about Seasons I did not know until now: the song is about the end of a relationship (which is something that, with the Flood of 2013, made the summer a more difficult one).

  • After being attacked by a flying squirrel (genus Petaurista in Japan), Komari loses her haul and promptly gives chase, finding the squirrel in a tree. In this here OVA, Komari sees more than her share of misfortune, although these are relatively minor and drive humour. Despite their name, flying squirrels do not carry out proper flight, and instead, make use of a membrane to glide very precisely. Aside from fruits and nuts, their diet also consists of fungi and some insects.

  • Komari’s indignation soon turns to amazement when she learns that the flying squirrel had sourced food for her offspring. This is the wonder of life, although my inner former biologist will note that flying squirrels typically mate during the Spring months of March and April. With a gestation period of roughly forty days, and reaching developmental maturity in two and a half months, most flying squirrels will be able to go out on their own during the summer months, rather than autumn as shown in Non Non Biyori.

  • The autumn sights around Asahigaoka are absolutely beautiful, with the foliage exhibiting yellows, oranges and reds. The differences in colours are a result of different pigments becoming visible once chlorophyll synthesis stops; carotenoids form a yellow or orange colour, while anthocyanins result in red. It is hypothesised that anthocyanin pigments result from evolutionary strategies where red pigmentation dissuaded insects from consuming the plants, but owing to the ice ages, the reduced threat of insects in European forests meant that fewer species needed to produce a red pigment, whereas in North America, the arrangement of the mountains meant that even with an ice age, there remained a need to ward of insects.

  • So ends the latest Non Non Biyori OVA, which acts as yet another gentle, refreshing installment. As I’ve now accumulated a fair number of posts regarding Non Non Biyori, I’ve created a new category to make these posts easier to find. I’m now largely caught up on all of my shows, and are in an excellent position for the start of Brave Witches: the first episode releases tomorrow, although as it’s a weeknight, I definitely will not be able to put out a post on the same day. I imagine that Saturday will be the earliest I can get that post out.

With another excellent Non Non Biyori OVA now in the books, I’m reminded of the shift in the seasons where I am. It’s definitely feeling like autumn, with the days shortening and giving way to much cooler skies. The leaves on the trees have begun turning gold, orange and red in earnest, giving rise of a particularly beautiful landscape. It’s the perfect time of year to go for hikes: it’s neither too hot or cold, and the number of insects are declining, as well. Thoughts of the seasons invariably lead my mind to recall Non Non Biyori‘s first season, and it suddenly strikes me that it’s been three years since that released. In that time, I’ve grown to appreciate the seasons more, and I do wonder on occasion if the large number of Iyashikei anime I watch has contributed to a differing, more open-minded outlook on the seasons themselves. With this review reaching its conclusion, I wonder if a continuation will be likely; the manga is ongoing, so there is no shortage of source material, and consequently, I hope that said continuation will probably be a “when”, rather than “if”.

2 responses to “Hotaru Had Fun: Non Non Biyori Repeat OVA Review

  1. Flower October 4, 2016 at 23:21

    This was a positively lovely review. It is always nice to come across other people’s reflections about the aspects of Non Non Biyori that really help to make it what it is, yes, but also help draw attention to things it is actually trying to do and are easy to overlook – the ole missing the forest for the trees saying works here.

    Thank you for the post! ^^

    Like

    • infinitezenith October 5, 2016 at 20:42

      Many thanks for swinging by🙂 The remarks I make in this post were prompted by my experiences over the weekend: the weather proved fabulous, and I hiked in a park where I used to frequent on bike. There’s this grove of trees a ways off the main trail, and before, I passed by it while on bike. However, this time, as I was on foot, I decided to take a moment and explore a little further. It was surprisingly pleasant; the park’s quite busy, and despite being in the park’s centre, the grove was surprisingly quiet (can you believe that this is right in the middle of the city?).

      I listened to the sounds of the breeze and took in the yellows of the leaves for the first time, and then it hit me: I’d always been so busy biking the trails that I usually just skipped the grove of trees, but when I did make an effort to take things slow and explore, the result was worthwhile. Of course, this isn’t to say that people should operate at the Speed of Akari™ all the time, but I think spending some time to savour things is definitely something we could do more frequently.

      Like

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