“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” –Antonio Brown
Shiori begins class with Renge and the others, receiving her first-ever bit of homework. She accompanies everyone to the Koshigayas’ place to work on things, and after she finishes, tries to help motivate Natsumi. Natsumi ends up joining the others for some dodgeball after everyone else wraps up. The next day, Natsumi expresses a want to start a school club focused around badminton, and everyone visits Kaede, who’d formerly played the sport. While Kaede is reluctant to help, she relents after seeing the look of longing on Renge’s face. Despite not having played badminton in some time, Kaede is still skilled enough to give Natsumi trouble, and while helping Shiori and Renge with the basics, a stray shuttlecock hits Kaede on the forehead. She is knocked down and reminisces about a time when she had looked after Renge, who’d been a toddler at the time: despite being poor with children, she gives Renge some crayons, and after persuading Renge to draw in a sketchbook, is surprised to see Renge draw her. In the present, Kaede decides to help Renge and Shiori practise badminton. Later that evening, Renge sets out more food for the neighbourhood tanuki, who’s got offspring following her now, Hotaru and her mother prepare dinner while waiting for her father to return, and Shiori tucks her baby sister in for the night. Meanwhile, Komari helps with cooking dinner under her mother’s supervision, and Natsumi calls Aoi and shares a conversation with her: they long to visit one another again and promise to do so in the future. It’s now been just a shade over a year since Non Non Biyori Nonstop finished airing, and the arrival of one final OVA (technically, an OAD), provides viewers with a continuation of the events from Nonstop to show how life in Asahigaoka for each of Shiori, Renge, Hotaru, Natsumi and Komari has progressed; while things are still more or less the way they were previously, subtle changes do hint at how even in a seemingly timeless setting, people continue to mature and learn as a consequence of their experiences.
By the events of Nonstop‘s OAD, Shiori’s become a part of the tighly-knit group of friends at Asahigaoka Branch Elementary School; thanks to Renge, Shiori is showing enthusiasm in pursing her studies, unlike the lethargic and unmotivated Natsumi. Excitement at attending school has now transformed into routine for Shiori, but it is clear that she has no trouble in getting along with Renge and the others, even offering her own unique brand of wisdom and non-sequitur humour wherever Natsumi is concerned. Similarly, after Natsumi yearns to participate in after-school badminton and attempts to get Kaede to provide instruction, it turns out that Kaede’s soft spot for Renge and children of her age encourages her to step out of her comfort zone: in a flashback, Kaede reiterates her dislike of children. Natsumi and the others prove quite rowdy while in class, leading to these sentiments, but even at this point, Kaede is quite partial to Renge and actively goes out of her way to look after her. Viewers thus learn that Renge’s uncommonly high skill in sketching comes from being exposed to the activity at such a young age. Similarly, even as a baby, Renge’s become closer to Kaede as a result: all of the time Kaede had spent with Renge had left an impression, leading Renge to draw Kaede as a way of expressing thanks. The closeness in their friendship is why Kaede is willing to do things for her, whereas with Natsumi, she’s much more reluctant, and while this drives some of the OAD’s humour, it also gives further insight into how things were in Asahigaoka previously: even in a place where days are easygoing and languid, change remains inevitable.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Previously, I focused discussions around the characters, and therefore, had very few screenshots of the landscapes surrounding Asahigaoka. Because this is the last Non Non Biyori post I will be writing for the present, I figured I could switch things up a little and show a moment of a misty, rainy day: it feels distinctly like Alaska, and while this OAD might be a swan song, Silver Link has done a phenomenal job with the visuals, with this scene here appearing photorealistic at first glance.
- Having not sat in a classroom for shade over six years now, I’ve not done anything that can be said to resemble homework (save the annual tax returns that I’ll start this month, and looking after my bills every month). With this in mind, during the move, one of my hard drives suffered a catastrophic failure; this was the drive that carried all of my music, vacation photos and old homework files. Ordinarily, I’d do what I could to recover said files, but at the same time, I also realise that I actually never look through my old files or photos, unless it’s to blog.
- As such, I’m not particularly worried about the loss of some of these memories: I’m certainly not going to use my homework files again, and the most critical of family photos, I have backed up to the cloud and on separate hard drives. Thus, we return to Nonstop‘s OAD, where everyone’s appeared at the Koshigayas for their study session. Looking back, while I’ve never studied or done assignments at a friend’s place before, I do have fond memories of going over to people’s places to work on school projects, and I’ve had people over for projects, as well.
- When it came to studying or doing assignments, I usually worked best on my own. This approach worked through the whole of high school, but by university, a few courses were giving me trouble. A group of friends determined that it might be easier to study together, such that we could ask questions and bounce thoughts off one another. In this way, I was able to survive organic chemistry, and I applied the concept to my data structures class with success. When the MCAT rolled around, my friends similarly got us together so we could review concepts and techniques together.
- It was ultimately this, in conjunction with consistent hard work, and taking breaks at strategic times, that allowed me to prevail over a foe unlike any I’d previously faced. In subsequent years, as I began taking more specialised courses, I reverted back to my old ways, but the methods I picked up from studying for the MCAT allowed me to be singularly effective. In Nonstop‘s OAD, Shiori has yet to reach that point in her life, but she demonstrates similar wisdom to Renge and, upon spotting Natsumi struggle with her assignments, suggests that she approach it as though she were doing something fun.
- Natsumi’s a hands-on learner, and dislikes theory, so the best way to engage her would be to contextualise a given problem and provide practical application of the theory. Conventional studying won’t work on her, and Shiori’s suggestion has merit here; in response to a physics problem, Shiori convinces Natsumi to visualise it as something she might do in reality. Curiously enough, I work best in the same way: while reviewing data structures, I pick things up the most effectively if I’m able to see how something is used in a real world context. For instance, to quickly explain the difference between a queue and a stack, I think of a queue as a playlist in my music library, where songs are played in the order they are added, while for a stack, it’s the undo ability in a text editor.
- The next day, Natsumi expresses a desire to be the captain of a badminton club, and while Kazuho is completely unmotivated to oversee such activities, citing the lack of equipment as the reason why their school won’t be able to host such a club, Natsumi is determined to start a club and make it to competition. This comes out of the blue, at least until recalling Non Non Biyori Vacation, where Natsumi had briefly played Aoi when they’d met. While Shiori and Renge are surprised, they decide to join, as well: while Kazuho isn’t particularly versed with badminton, she suggests visiting Kaede for a few pointers.
- Kaede is surprised to find Asahigaoka Branch Elementary School’s entire student body in front of her candy store, and when she hears of their request, she prepares to decline, at least until spotting Renge’s expression. Of everyone around, Renge is the one person who can change Kaede’s “no” into a “yes”: Non Non Biyori has long established that Renge means very much to Kaede, and Kaede has gone the extra mile for Renge on numerous occasions. In this way, Kaede ends up taking the entire class out for badminton lessons.
- It turns out that Kaede had dabbled in badminton while in high school and retains enough skill to smoke Natsumi. However, when Shiori unexpectedly hugs Kaede, she becomes distracted and misses a smash Natsumi sends her way. The resulting impact knocks her to the ground and sends viewers on another flashback. Originally, Non Non Biyori to me was an immensely cathartic and amusing series that capitalised on its setting to simultaneously create a few good laughs, while reminding viewers of how every season has its merits.
- However, as the series progressed, things like the expressiveness of children and their world-views were also shown in greater detail as well. The breadth of topics in Non Non Biyori even encompasses life and death, taking responsibility and learning how to say goodbye. This is the main draw of slice-of-life anime: they provide the opportunity to present life lessons in an accessible manner. Rather than preaching ideals to viewers, hypotheticals are explored, showing viewers the consequences of certain actions. This is all done with humour in mind; Non Non Biyori has always excelled with using pauses and spacing to give viewers time to process what had happened.
- By this point in time, I’ve come to greatly enjoy the insight viewers are afforded into Kaede’s past as a high school student: Asahigaoka feels quite different even though the scenery and aesthetic remains largely unchanged. This disconnect is a part of life, and I take comfort knowing that the thrill of adventure is balanced by the presence of the familiar. For instance, earlier this evening, I sat down to a delicious dinner from my favourite Cantonese restaurant. Although they’re now a much lengthier drive away, their food remains as excellent as ever. While we enjoyed their house-special yi mein, sweet and sour pork, shrimp and scallops on a bed of mixed vegetable with pine nuts, snow pea leaves with mushroom sauce, crispy chicken, wor wonton and , a snowstorm raged outside, eventually giving way to a gentle sunset. The sights at the dinner table have shifted, but the food remains comfortingly familiar.
- Whereas Kaede cannot get along with children, she absolutely loves hanging out with Renge, and Hikage wonders why Kaede goes out of her way to look after Renge even when their parents have babysitters available. Non Non Biyori has gone out of its way on several occasions to establish, via flashback, the sort of friendship that the two had, and while earlier instalments of the series presented these as strictly adorable, as Non Non Biyori continued, these became increasingly meaningful portrayals of how people’s opinions can change as a result of their experiences. While Renge might cause a minor bit of trouble, as evidenced when she starts drawing on the walls, once she’s shown the ropes, she very quickly grasps concepts, and this, in conjunction with cuteness inherent in children, wins Kaede over, bit by bit.
- Kaede’s claims that she’s not good with children, then, is probably not a general one: she gets along with Hikage and Konomi well enough, but between the younger Komari’s constant need to be looked after, and Natsumi’s endless trouble-making, Kaede is probably under the impression that younger children can be troublesome. Renge changes this: even as a toddler, Renge is as every bit as inquisitive as she presently is, and here in Nonstop‘s OAD, begins to learn how to express affection in more abstract ways. Although not yet capable of expressing herself verbally, Renge makes it clear that she’s fond of hanging out with Kaede.
- In the present, Kaede continues to not get along with Natsumi, but where the others (especially Renge and children closer to Renge’s age) are concerned, Kaede has no problems. She comes to, and then promises to give both Shiori and Renge a crash-course in badminton. The activities thus end up taking the whole of the day, and by the time everyone wraps up, night has fallen in Asahikagoka. Nonstop‘s OAD concludes with a montage of everyone engaged in their evening activities as a means of closing the series out.
- Watching Hotaru and Komari cook was particularly nostalgic; a long time ago, I learnt to cook under my parents’ eye, and these days, while I’m not as efficient in cooking as they are, I manage to create mostly healthy and edible meals anyways. These sequences in Non Non Biyori show the characters as gradually learning the ropes of self-sufficiency, a part of the change I’ve frequently alluded to in this post. While Nonstop has shown everyone as being mature enough to deal with emergencies, like Shiori’s mother entering labour, everyone’s constantly growing closer towards becoming adults.
- While Shiori herself is still very young, having a baby sister will accelerate her growth, too: being an older sibling myself, I was pushed to learn a little more so I could always be on hand to support and assist where needed, to be the reliable older sibling. Shiori is in good company; she can look to guidance from her seniors, with each of Renge, Hotaru, Natsumi and Komari all capable of helping with things, in turn allowing Shiori to be the best elder sibling she can be for Kasumi. Here, viewers are given a rough idea of how much time has passed between Nonstop‘s finale and the OAD’s events: since Kasumi is no longer swaddled, she’s learnt to roll over, and that normally means two to four months have passed. This corroborates with the rainy season in Asahigaoka, so I’d hazard a guess that it’s probably late May or early June now.
- While Komari is rocking dinner under her mother’s supervision, Natsumi is afforded some time to herself: she’s chatting on the phone with a friend, and only parts of the conversation are heard. However, it doesn’t take much to guess at who she’s talking to. Initially, I was quite surprised that Natsumi was chatting with a friend over the phone: she sees Hotaru and Renge often enough as not to need phone calls, but then I recalled the events of Non Non Biyori Vacation from some three years earlier: Natsumi had met Aoi in Okinawa, and the two had bonded over shared experiences and a common love of badminton.
- It was therefore rewarding to see Aoi appear again. In an era where instant messaging and small-scale social media applications like WhatsApp exist, it feels a bit nostalgic to watch as people communicate via telephone. Non Non Biyori‘s events are set during 2010, per the presence of calendars in the series. Back then, I spent hours upon hours chatting with friends over Windows Live Messenger, which had displaced phone calls, but I imagine that in rural Japan of that timeframe, DSL and broadband internet had not yet become common, so more traditional means of communications still dominate.
- Seeing Aoi from Non Non Biyori Vacation promising to meet up with Natsumi again opens the floor to new possibility, and much as how Renge did get the chance to see Honoka again, one can readily surmise that Natsumi and Aoi will have a chance to visit one another in the future. Non Non Biyori‘s portrayal of life suggests that open-mindedness allows one to live fully, and that one can never rule out anything in life. Taking things in stride means leaving oneself on a path where miracles can happen, and this is one of the reasons why, while Non Non Biyori has reached its full conclusion, the series closes on a very optimistic, pleasant tone.
- Barring my revisiting Non Non Biyori again in the future, this is likely to be the last post I write for the series for the time being. It’s been a superb journey, and here, I will note that Non Non Biyori Nonstop itself finished airing about a year ago. A lot can happen over the course of a year, and much as how Non Non Biyori had shown how some changes are inevitable, right alongside how other things can remain constant, my experiences over the past year have similarly been a combination of encountering both the new and routine alike. Even after the move, some things remain as they have previously: it’s now been a shade more than a week since I moved in, and I’m slowly, but surely, settling in. April will see me pull back the throttle on blogging, but I’ve still got a few posts in mind for this month.
Having now finished Non Non Biyori Nonstop in full with this final OAD, viewers have reached the very end of the series: Nonstop‘s OAD is the end of the road, an encore to what was a particularly well-done, touching and amusing series that covers a wide range of moments in the characters’ everyday lives to show the ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. Non Non Biyori ultimately speaks to a variety of life lessons while at the same time, presenting them in a humourous fashion, and this balance is what allows the series to be so successful. When Nonstop‘s regular season finished airing a year ago, I had commented on how Non Non Biyori ended up being an enjoyable presence over the course of its run: this OAD is therefore a bit of a bittersweet experience in that it allows one to briefly relive those older moments that come from watching the series, but at the same time, it’s also a definitive ending to things. Befitting of a swan song for Non Non Biyori, Nonstop‘s OAD gives viewers both a chance to see Aoi again, and shows how far Shiori’s come since starting school at Asahigaoka: one is left with the distinct impression that the characters are well-prepared to handle whatever changes await them in the future, but at the same time, there are other things in their lives that will remain solidly, dependably constant, acting as a source of comfort and reassurance as everyone manages change in their own manner. I certainly will miss Non Non Biyori: previously, when an OAD aired, I would attempt to place where the events happen relative to the main story and then speculate on whether or not there would be a continuation. Here at the end of Nonstop‘s OAD, it’s quite evident that the events are set some time after Nonstop finished, and there won’t be a continuation because the story has reached a satisfying and conclusive endpoint.