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Category Archives: Non Non Biyori

I Played a Frog Song: Non Non Biyori Nonstop First Episode Impressions and Review

“When you stand in the present moment, you are timeless.” –Rodney Yee

Renge struggles to play a C on her recorder while practising on the way to school. After music lessons and lunch, she crafts some dolls out of toothpicks and clear tape to pass the time as Hotaru and Komari work on their class duties. Natsumi only manages to annoy Komari, and as they finish, they make a log in the notebooks that their instructor is too lazy. When Akane Shinoda, a first year high school student in the concert band club, struggles to play with confidence in front of her classmates, Konomi suggests that they practise together, Renge goes to pick her up from the bus stop, before getting distracted by cockleburs and a toad on the roadside. Once they arrive at Konomi’s place, Konomi notes that Akane has no trouble conversing with Renge, and Akane notices that Renge’s not properly using the fingering for the C note. After Renge masters this note, she plays the Frog Song along with Akane and Konomi. Akane is thrilled and asks if she can come practise at Konomi’s house again in the future. Later, Renge impresses Natsumi, Komari and Hotaru with her improved skill with the recorder. This is Non Non Biyori Nonstop, the third season to a story about life in the peaceful and remote village of Asahigaoka, a place where time seems to stand still, and one where adventure is seemingly around every corner. Non Non Biyori originally ran as a manga that began serialisation in 2009, and continues to this day. Earlier chapters were adapted into an anime in 2013, and a second season aired two years later. During its earlier run, Non Non Biyori captured audiences with its unique charm and portrayal of a tranquil, rural life away from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s urban centres. Striking a balance between comedy and life lessons about everyday experiences, Non Non Biyori quickly established a reputation for being immensely calming and relaxing, an iyashikei series. It’s been six years since the second season, but Non Non Biyori‘s continued to endure, and in this third season, Non Non Biyori continues with its excellent portrayal of Renge, Hotaru, Natsumi and Komari’s experiences in Asahigaoka.

Non Non Biyori Nonstop (Nonstop from here on out for brevity) continues in the same vein as its predecessors, opening with Renge playing the recorder on her way to school. The first half of the episode sees familiar faces return for familiar misadventures in their one-teacher class at Asahigaoka Branch School: Komari’s attempts to be a proper older sibling and Natsumi’s immature (but amusing) antics, as well as Renge’s endless sense of curiosity immediately re-establish what Non Non Biyori had been about; this time around, rather than using rulers for desktop games, the students fashion dolls out of common everyday objects in boredom after class draws to a close. This typifies the idea that even in a setting where things are laid-back and languid, there is rarely a dull moment. Where things are quiet, Natsumi and Renge always seem to find a way to liven things up, and as Nonstop continues, finding the extraordinary in the mundane will yield numerous moments of discovery and reflection. Nonstop shifts gears in its second half, introducing Akane to Renge and setting the table for new friendship. Through a fateful meeting, Akane discovers that she can indeed play flute in front of others and warms up to Renge, while Renge becomes excited about the sorts of things Akane knows: she and Konomi help her to properly play a new note on her recorder. With this first episode of Nonstop in the books, the precedence for the remainder of the season is set, and I look forwards to seeing what sorts of adventures await Akane: it is inevitable that she will eventually meet Hotaru, Natsumi and Komari at some point in the future.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To be precise, the last time Non Non Biyori graced this blog was two years ago, when I wrote about Non Non Biyori Vacation. The film premièred in Japanese theatres in August 2018, and the home release became available in February 2019. Non Non Biyori Repeat, the second season, ran during the summer of 2015, right during the middle of my graduate studies. At the time, my research project had been well under way, and I was gearing up to write the thesis paper itself. I still remember that when Repeat began airing, I struggled to write a talk for the first episode and ended up going for a quarterly review.

  • For Nonstop, I’ve chosen to take the quarterly review approach because, even though Non Non Biyori has been structured so that episodes are thematically self-contained, the series’ emphasis on the mundane, and appreciation for moments of quiet, means that it can be a little challenging to find something meaningful to say for each and every moment. I’ve found that the quarterly approach I took with Repeat to have worked reasonably well, allowing me to explore themes and messages to a reasonable depth.

  • Renge playing the recorder on her way to school is a callback to how the first season had started; this was my magic moment, and immediately convinced me that the series was worth watching. Here, Renge accompanies Konomi for a short moment as the pair head to their respective schools. Asahigaoka is a small enough village such that younger students can be taught in a single classroom, and for high school, students must travel to the town over.

  • There is something immensely reassuring and calming about the Japanese countryside that I struggle to find the words to describe: of all the places I’ve seen and read about, it seems that rural Japan best exemplifies how humanity can harmoniously exist with nature. These landscapes are known as the satoyama (里山), the interface between villages and forests. Consisting of rice paddies and ponds, satoyama is the result of centuries of a coexistence between Japan’s rural communities and their environment to create a sustainable ecosystem. The European equivalent of the satoyama is the Bocage, which consists of mixed woodlands and pastures.

  • Despite being an older building, Asahigaoka Branch School still has an occupied, well looked-after air about it. There is a charm about traditional, wooden Japanese schools: these dot the Japanese countryside, and many of the wooden buildings were built between the Meiji Restoration and World War Two. Today, as more people move into urban areas, an increasing number of these schools are abandoned. Filled with life and vigour during their operation, the abandoned schools have a drastically different vibe to them.

  • To this day, I cannot help but smile in the knowledge that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura, whereas Rie Murakawa plays Hotaru. Folks fond of GochiUsa will know Sakura for playing Cocoa, and Murakawa is Megu Natsu. Sakura’s performance of Natsumi is completely different than for Cocoa: unlike Cocoa, Natsumi is mischievous and carefree, preferring to live life on her own terms. Conversely, Hotaru sounds a great deal like Megu.

  • Renge’s concerns about being unable to play a C note stem from worry that she’ll stick out like a sore thumb during music class. It would appear that beyond this, she’s reasonably well-versed in playing a recorder, a woodwind instrument that dates back to the Middle Ages, being used by shepherds. It’s a common instrument that primary school students pick up, and I remember that back in my time as a primary student, I had my own recorder. Once I reached middle school, I ended up playing the Clarinet because it was similar to the recorder. The classroom is the only time Suguru shows up this episode: a recurring joke in Non Non Biyori is that Suguru silently comes and goes, having very little presence.

  • Lunch on today’s menu for Renge, Hotaru, Komari and Natsumi is curry rice. In many ways, Non Non Biyori brings to life the scenes described in Jordy Meow’s Abandoned Japan: in his chapter about derelict schools, his text describe energetic young students learning to read and write for the first time before breaking to handmade obento lunches. The teacher’s instructions and student chatter would’ve filled the hallways to buildings that now lay empty. The scenes that Meow describes are captured in Non Non Biyori perfectly: now-musty and dank classrooms were once lively, happy places of learning.

  • After classes come to an end, Renge breaks out the toothpicks she’d brought from home earlier and fashions homemade dolls with them. Natsumi joins in, and even Suguru can be seen making a doll in the background. Such moments speaks to Renge’s creativity, and for the next few minutes, Natsumi annoys the living daylights out of Komari, until the latter’s limit is reached and she swats the doll from Natsumi’s hands, leaving it in separate pieces. As Komari and Hotaru focus on their remaining task of logging the day, they start running out of things to write about.

  • Eventually, the students craft a range of dolls out of tape and toothpicks to prank Kazuho, who’s fallen fast asleep. Her lethargic and lazy manner at school is apparent, but this is not her entire personality: during the events of Non Non Biyori Vacation, she looks after her students well and frees Komari and Hotaru from a branch during a kayaking trip. My conclusions about Kazuho’s character are therefore simple enough; she’s lazy and lacks motivation where the humour requires it, but otherwise, is a competent teacher.

  • Nonstop‘s episode is broken up into two halves: the first half is set entirely in the classroom, while the second introduces Akane to the cast. Her blank stare after disembarking the bus suggests shock at the setting and what circumstances led her here to the sticks. The phrase “the sticks” appears to have originated from 1800s Chicago as a way of referring to places in the middle of nowhere, likely on the assumption that remote places are remotely forested. These days, the phrase generically refers to somewhere backwater and remote. While there’s a bit of a negative connotation with this phrase, Non Non Biyori does a fine job of showing a different side of rural areas, and this is one of the strongest points about the series.

  • In a flashback, Akane is seen speaking with Konomi; after expressing her doubts about being able to participate in the concert band on account of nerves, Konomi suggests heading to her place for some practise. This is the first time I’ve seen Konomi’s high school, which is likely located over the hill and across the water – rural high schools in Japan often serve students from different small towns and villages, but with dwindling populations, even these schools might be on the verge of being closed.

  • The amount of detail in Asahigaoka is always impressive. Everything from blades of grass in a recently-drained rice paddy to reflections in an adjacent canal are portrayed in great detail. Like the first two seasons and the film, Nonstop is produced by Silver Link (Brave WitchesBofuri and Kokoro Connect) – among their repertoire of works, Non Non Biyori stands as being one of the most visually impressive, as stills of the countryside in and surrounding Asahigaoka can attest.

  • After meeting Renge, Akane initially is struck by nerves and doesn’t know what to say to her, but she declines Renge’s suggestion of calling her Aka-chan (赤ちゃん is an affectionate way of referring to babies, since babies have redder complexions). However, while running down a road she frequents, Renge soon finds cockleburs (genus Xanthium) and names them a mortal enemy for getting stuck in her clothing. These plants are a member of the sunflower tribe, but are also counted as a weed; the seeds are toxic, and some animals will refuse to graze in areas where cockleburs are present. After finding some, Renge gifts one to Akane, before trying to give her a toad, as well. In the ensuing chaos, Renge and Akane end up at Konomi’s house.

  • Konomi’s room is very clean and organised – Konomi had only made a few appearances in Non Non Biyori and had a more prominent role in the movie, so it was good to see Nonstop gave her a bit more screentime. The oldest of the students, Konomi is mature and composed; until recently, I would mistake her for being Hotaru. The two begin practising, and Renge soon takes an interest in Akane’s flute, calling it an octo-corder on account of the fact that the complex mechanisms on the flute resemble an octopus’ tentacles and grippers.

  • While Akane might be shy and cannot play too well in front of others, she is sufficiently knowledgeable with woodwind instruments. After helping Renge to properly play a C note (she refers to them by the Solfège syllable “do”), Renge is ecstatic and she subsequently asks to play alongside the others. This simple session helps Akane to realise that playing in front of and communicating with others isn’t as terrifying as she’d thought. For Renge, she’s met someone who she can befriend and look up to.

  • This moment is what lends the first episode its title: Konomi, Akane and Renge play a song together on their instruments. Non Non Biyori episodes are typically named for the episode’s main event, and one has a good idea of what’s upcoming in each episode, although seeing which characters experience the event described by the title is always exciting. On the topic of music, Nonstop‘s opening and ending songs are both excellent, and the album with these tracks will be titled Non Non Biyori Days. Retailing for 2970 Yen (around 36.32 CAD), this album releases on February 24 and is a best-of album, with the opening songs for the first and second seasons, as well as the film.

  • With the day drawing to a close, Akane prepares to head home, thanking Konomi for having her over and asking if it’s cool for her to come over again. Because Akane figured prominently in the key visuals for Nonstop, she’ll definitely be returning: Akane is voiced by Aimi Tanaka (Himouto! Umaru-chan‘s Umaru Doma and Akane Sawatari from Anima Yell!). The main advantage about long-running series is that they can slowly introduce relevant characters, which balances keeping things fresh for viewers without disrupting existing dynamics. GochiUsa is an excellent example of a series that does this well.

  • Akane is positively thrilled with how the day turned out, jumping for joy under a warm sunset. While the cocklebur might be counted a weed, for Akane, it’s also come to be a tangible representation of the day that she’d taken a step forwards towards being able to play her flute in front of others. While Renge’s non-sequitur way of thinking can be confusing, I imagine that this is done deliberately, both to viscerally show that a six-year-old has a very different view of the world than youth do, and further to this, the idea that symbols and objects take their meaning based on what people choose to attach to them.

  • Each episode in Non Non Biyori does have a standalone theme or messages that makes the series worth writing about, and Nonstop is no different: even just an episode in, I’ve managed to cover quite a bit of turf here. However, my schedule means that I can only focus on one series episodically this season (Yuru Camp△ 2 takes this slot), and previously, I’ve found that Non Non Biyori was a series that works best when I consider several episodes together in a sort of big-picture style talk. Thus, I’ll be writing about Nonstop in a quarterly fashion, and will return to write about this one after the third episode. Having said this, I anticipate that Nonstop will be every bit as enjoyable as Yuru Camp△ 2 in its own right, and with this post in the books, the winter 2021 season looking to be off to a very solid start, one that will give slice-of-life fans much to smile about.

When Non Non Biyori Repeat began airing, I had been surprised that the story had actually been set in between episodes of the first season. The second season continued to impress with its subtle incorporation of life lessons into a gentle and humourous story, leaving a decidedly positive impression on its conclusion. Upon watching Nonstop, my initial question was whether or not this third season would be similar to the second, being set in the same time-frame as the first and second seasons. As this first episode continued, it became apparent that Nonstop is a proper continuation, set after the events of the first and second season. Renge is accustomed to life at school, and Akane is introduced, indicating that this third season is ready to keep things rolling. With this being said, the time-frames in Non Non Biyori seem to hardly matter, speaking to the sense of timelessness in Non Non Biyori; Asahigaoka is so far removed from major population centres that going to a department store is a big deal, and here in Asahigaoka, things like smartphones and tablets are non-existent. The end result is that time does seem to stand still here, and without the pressures of an urban setting, each of Renge, Hotaru, Komari, Natsumi, and now, Akane, are each able to really appreciate the sights and sounds of home. Moreover, the timelessness of Non Non Biyori‘s setting means that, despite a six year gap between the second and third season, Asahigaoka has not aged a day. It only feels like yesterday that Renge and the others met up on a hill with a blossoming cherry tree to welcome a new spring: Nonstop picks up where things have left off, ready to take viewers on another relaxing, cathartic journey alongside Renge and her friends. If it were not apparent, I’m definitely excited about Nonstop: the lovable cast and breathtaking scenery that brought me into this series has only continued to find new ways to impress with time, and I’m confident that viewers will be treated to another wonderful season with Nonstop.

Non Non Biyori Vacation: A Movie Reflection, Full Recommendation and Perspectives from Travelling to Okinawa

“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

After Suguru wins plane tickets to Okinawa in a shopping mall lottery, Renge, Hotaru, Komari, Natsumi, Kazuho, Kaede, Hikage and Konomi prepare for a vacation in the southern islands. Upon arrival, the girls set off for their inn and check in. Here, they encounter Aoi, the eleven-year-old daughter of the inn’s managers, and after settling in, spend a day on the azure beaches of Okinawa. That evening, the whole group enjoys a delicious Okinawan-style dinner at the inn, and after dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton on her own later, and the two strike up a friendship. Before turning in, Natsumi suggests grabbing some instant noodles, saying that the absence of adults makes things taste more intriguing. The next day, the group splits up for their activities. Renge and Kaede see a stingray, while Hikage is stricken with motion sickness when snorkelling. When they go canoeing, Komari and Hotaru are ensnared by a branch; Kazuho rescues them, and later, they climb up to a waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the pond and is soaked. Later, the girls take photographs by a lighthouse as evening sets in, and spend time with Aoi, who mentions that she is available the next day. To help her out, the girls clean their room that morning, and Aoi’s mother gives her permission to spend time with the girls, since it’s to improve their guests’ experiences. They end up visiting Aoi’s school, and she takes them around lesser known spots around Okinawa, including an ice cream shop, a secluded beach and a viewpoint providing a beautiful view of the island. When night falls, Aoi brings the girls to the beach, where they admire the star-filled skies and frolic in the phosphorescent waters. When their vacation draws to a close, Natsumi is saddened to leave, and she bids farewell with Aoi, asking her to stay in touch. The group return home as evening sets in, and Renge announces that she’s back. Released on August 25, 2018, Non Non Biyori Vacation brings Non Non Biyori to the silver screen for the first time, and during its seventy-minute-long run, brings back the familiar elements that made Non Non Biyori such an enjoyable run, while simultaneously providing a new setting that broadens the girls’ everyday experiences.

Despite being a slice-of-life series, Non Non Biyori excels with its focus on the subtle details of everyday life that often are ignored or taken for granted. Non Non Biyori Vacation continues in the path of its predecessors, detailing the wonders found in the ordinary. In this film, Non Biyori focuses on the different aspects of a vacation. The girls (and Suguru) first experience the highlights of Okinawa from the perspective of a tourist, relaxing on the beach, as well as joining a group to go canoeing and snorkelling in the warm, inviting waters of Okinawa. Besides these more tourist-oriented activities that showcase the best of Okinawa, the girls also befriend Aoi, a girl roughly their age who helps out at her family’s inn. In doing so, they are able to gain a much more personalised experience of Okinawa from a local. Having grown up in Okinawa, Aoi knows all of the ins and outs of the island, and so, is able to bring Natsumi, Hotaru, Komari and Renge on an intimate tour of spots she’s enjoyed. The ice cream shop and viewpoint would not be on the list of destinations for a tour group; the girls thus learn that life on Okinawa is both quite distinct, but also quite similar to their homes. This is the joy of travelling that Non Non Biyori Vacation aims to convey to viewers: being able to travel means being able to experience for oneself the different ways of life people have in different corners of the world, but also appreciate that there are also many similarities in how people live. At the end of the day, we are all human and therefore, part of a global community; sharing many commonalities while at once, having unique cultural aspects that are all immensely valuable. Non Non Biyori Vacation presents both sides of this coin in a concise package: for Natsumi, Komari, Hotaru and Renge, going to Okinawa shows them both what is special about the southern island long considered to be Japan’s Hawaii, as well as the aspects of their lives that are not so different.

At the end of Non Non Biyori Vacation, the film portrays two conflicting different angles on the conclusion of a vacation: one is simultaneously yearning to stay for longer and continue exploring, while at the same time, also begins looking forwards to sleeping in their own bed once again. Natsumi channels the former, having had a much better time in Okinawa than she had originally anticipated, and having made a new friend in Aoi, feels saddened that they can’t spend more time together. Conversely, the other characters have had a similarly enjoyable experience (except maybe Hikage, who was beset with an unexpected number of minor grievances during the trip), and while satisfied, are also growing a little exhausted. The feelings of travel are captured well in Non Non Biyori Vacation, and at the film’s end, Renge expresses what I’m certain everyone feels upon returning home. The film strives to and succeeds in capturing the different facets of travel – these elements are accompanied by visuals that are incredibly life-like. Non Non Biyori Vacation bears the traits of an anime movie, featuring impressive visuals that are vivid and photorealistic. Audiences feel as though they are there beside the cast as they travel Okinawa, feeling the intense heat of summer, refreshing cool of the ocean and everything in between. The exceptional artwork is complimented by a very well-done collection of incidental pieces: the soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation incorporates elements of Okinawan music into its composition, but at the same time, sounds distinctly like the Non Non Biyori soundtrack. This further accentuates the movie’s theme, that travel highlights both the uniqueness of another region, as well as the similarities despite our differences, and as such, acts as a solid accompaniment for the film.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Non Non Biyori Vacation opens up in Asahigaoka, a small rural village located in the heart of the mountains and sporting some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in any anime set in the inaka, which is saying something, considering that shows like Ano Natsu de Matteru also have solid artwork. For this post, I’ve given it the full silver screen treatment: besides an extended discussion, I also have sixty screenshots, each of which can be viewed in full 1080p – the movie is gorgeous from a visual perspective, and I absolutely intend to convey this to readers.

  • I’ve opted to spend less time at the shopping mall that everyone visits because this is a post about going to Okinawa, but have chosen to mention it in some capacity: the film establishes for viewers that Suguru manages to win a vacation while the girls explore a local mall. Because Asahigaoka is a small village, going to a mall such as this would be a very exciting experience. The mall itself is named “Weather” (hiyori is also pronounced biyori, 日和 in kanji), and the series’ name seems to be “non non weather”, a reference to Non Non Biyori‘s often nonsensical but genuine humour in everyday life.

  • Character-defining moments are also set early in the film: Komari is very sensitive about her short stature and diminutive figure, being quite jealous of Hotaru, who is seen here looking at belts and unintentionally embarrassing Komari to no end, who is under the impression Hotaru is looking at undergarmets. The dynamic between Komari and Hotaru is a hilarious one, and created some unique humour during the TV series. In Non Non Biyori, such antics are decidedly fewer, being condensed into the film’s opening moments.

  • Natsumi ends up purchasing a game console with Suguru, having pooled some of their saved money to do so. Despite purchasing a last-generation console, Natsumi remains quite excited and is looking forwards to giving it a go. I’ve never been much of a console gamer: the newest consoles I have are a PlayStation 2 and a GameCube. Despite my being a PC gamer through and through, I am well aware of the merits of a good console: for one, being able to play split-screen with friends means that multiplayer experiences are top-tier.

  • Komari is visibly still hot and bothered from the events of earlier, but when Suguru wins a mall lottery, all thoughts suddenly turn towards their impending trip to Okinawa. Non Non Biyori Vacation follows the structuring of the manga faithfully: the events in the OVA “We’re Going to Okinawa” are original and deal primarily with the preparations leading up to the trip, but scenes of the girls and Suguha at the airport are sourced from the manga.

  • It suddenly strikes me that four and a half years has elapsed since I wrote about that OVA, and presently, it’s great to see Non Non Biyori continue along its run. In that time, I’ve flown to a handful of conferences, went out of country for work-related matters and realised my dream of travelling to Japan for the very first time. While the time frames between anime releases are extremely long, and their waits can seem quite unreasonable, individuals with busy, productive lives will find that time passes in the blink of an eye: it only seems like yesterday that I wrote about the first Non Non Biyori OVA while taking a break from developing the Giant Walkthrough Brain.

  • After Renge takes off to grab some food, Hikage begs Kazuho and Kaede to allow her to accompany them on the trip to Okinawa, admitting that she was acting nonchalant to play it cool in front of Renge. Unfortunately for Hikage, Renge saw everything go down. Moments of exaggeration such as these form the joy in watching Non Non Biyori, and it also speaks to the characters’ familiarity with one another when Kazuho remarks that she’s already got a ticket for Hikage.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be focused on Hotaru and company’s time in Okinawa: the OVA had covered everything up to their flight, so I’ve jumped ahead to everyone’s arrival in Okinawa. The temperature and humidity is immediately apparent: while the skies are precisely the same shade of vivid azure as they were in Asahigaoka, and the vegetation just as verdant, the tropical vegetation and ambient sounds create a sense of warmth that is not seen in Asahigaoka.

  • The long pauses allow Non Non Biyori Vacation to capture the atmospherics and sights around Okinawa: these visual gaps are intentionally chosen to mirror those of the stills from Asahigaoka, reminding viewers what while Natsumi and Renge are in Okinawa, there are some things that are similar to the sorts of things they might encounter back home. This dichotomy forms the basis for the theme in Non Non Biyori Vacation: travel might be about experiencing new things, but it also provides an opportunity to really see for oneself that there are similarities across the globe in how people live their lives, as well.

  • Upon arriving at their inn, Kazuho and the others check in. They are greeted by Aoi, an eleven-year-old who is the same age as Natsumi. Aoi is unique to the film and was not present in the manga. She is voiced by Shino Shimoji, an Okinawa native who previously played Stella no Mahou‘s Marika Shimizu and Aki from Girls und Panzer. Despite being the same age as Natsumi, Aoi actively helps her family run the inn and Natsumi’s friends point out that despite their ages, the two seem quite disparate as far as maturity goes.

  • After settling into their rooms, Renge decides to show the Okinawan landscape her drawing of home. After Natsumi tampers with the air conditioning (this is a perfectly natural choice of action, and I typically do the same while travelling, since unoccupied rooms usually have their units switched off to save power), the girls subsequently don their swimsuits and hit the beach, kicking Suguru out while they change. The manga has everyone lodging at a more modern hotel, but in the film, the choice to go with a more traditional style inn gives a more distinct character to things.

  • The water effects in Non Non Biyori Vacation are top-tier, comparable to the water seen in the Cry Engine and Frostbite. It looks photorealistic and captures all of the warmth that tropical waters possess. Years previously, I was in Cancun for a conference on artificial life, and during mornings, I would walk the beaches, marvelling at the fact that the water was not bitterly cold. I rather enjoyed that experience, and after delivering a pair of successful talks, one of which was for a colleague’s project, I sat down and sipped a lemon daiquiri under the evening sun.

  • Komari is not particularly skilled at swimming, and while Hotaru is enjoying the water, Komari hesitates to step further out. Everyone is shown as enjoying the beach in their own manner of choosing: Renge sips a fruit cocktail while Kaede watches her, while Natsumi and Konomi play in the waters. Suguha and Kazuho end up resting on the beachside. In Non Non Biyori, the taciturn Kaede is often seen watching over Renge, and despite her disposition, she seems to enjoy keeping an eye on Renge.

  • While it may seem like a paradise that remains confined to the realm of fiction, the beaches of Okinawa do look this nice. Non Non Biyori‘s Okinawa is more vivid and detailed than Harukana Receive‘s Okinawa: here, the setting itself is a character in its own right, while in Harukana Receive, the Okinawa setting was chosen because the warm climate accommodates beach volleyball nicely. Harukana Receive‘s setting is beautiful and well done, but it was secondary to watching Haruka and the others mature – it naturally does not hold a candle to the Okinawa of Non Non Biyori Vacation, whose surroundings are so well done that it does feel like I’m there with everyone else.

  • While it’s a tropical paradise equivalent to China’s Hainan and America’s Hawaii, Okinawa was the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the later days of World War Two. The American forces had advanced via island-hopping to the doorsteps of Japan in 1945, and in April, began a massive offensive to capture the islands. Casualties were staggering, totally some 160000, and by late June, the Allied forces had secured the islands. With ninety percent of the island levelled, and massive civilian casualties, the Allies would convert the island into an airbase from which offensives could be launched against the home islands.

  • Today, the United States maintains an air force base in Okinawa, and the islands have been redeveloped, making it a paradise. Okinawans are among the longest-lived people on earth as a result of their diet and lifestyle, and the karate that I practise, Okinawa Gōjū-ryu originates from Naha. As a result, I would very much like to visit the birthplace of the “hard-soft” style that I practise, and the karate whose principles subtly impacted many aspects of my life. Here, Renge does a sketch of the scene she’s seeing unfold before her: it is pure bliss.

  • This post actually would’ve come out a bit sooner, but this past week has been quite busy, and I’ve had not time to blog: the post about CLANNAD ~After Story~ was written back in mid-February. On my itinerary was a company retreat that saw me visit the mountains with the entire team, and despite being overcast, the weather was very warm. Aside from doing team-building exercises and pushing on with polishing an app for deployment, we visited a frozen-solid Lake Minnewanka, saw more wildlife than I’d ever seen in the National Parks (big-horn sheep and a herd of elk, including one with 12-point antlers), ascended Sulfur Mountain and reached the top as a break in a snowfall occurred, and took a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Lake Louise, where we saw an ice-waterfall.

  • For those wondering, ostrich is quite tough and chewy, with a dull flavour. Kangaroo resembles a very rich, gamy and flavorful steak, while the shark meat I tried is not dissimilar to cod. Alligator meat resembles turkey in texture but has a more fishy flavour overall. The Grizzly House is a Banff institution, although I think that it is only with more adventurous folk, such as my team, that we’d try these: my family would very much prefer a classic cut of AAA prime rib. Tonight, I hit the roads again to visit a local Chinese style buffet, and will need to diligently hit the gym to ensure the food doesn’t defeat me.

  • Following dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton, and then helps Aoi hide this when her mother comes out to check on her. Seeing that Aoi is not so different than herself, Natsumi strikes a quick friendship with her. This particular aspect was absent from the manga, but it adds an additional degree of depth to Non Non Biyori Vacation‘s theme: the story told in the manga alone merely depicts Renge and the others visiting Okinawa for fun, but the movie juxtaposes the differences and similarities of different places to create a much more compelling message.

  • Natsumi decides to pick up some cup ramen after dinner, commenting that no adults around means being able to do the sorts of things they might not normally do otherwise. Her sense of adventure is boundless, and Natsumi is certainly more bold than I am – supervision or not, I tend to be highly rigid, disciplined and quite unwilling to do things that deviate from what I’m used to for the most part. The singular exception is when I am in an environment that allows me to loosen up a little, and I decide that there is no major risk to lightening up a little.

  • Slice-of-life anime prima facie appear to have little by ways of conflict and story, but I’ve found them to be fantastic vehicles for exploring life lessons in a cathartic manner. This is why I have nothing but positive things to say about shows like Non Non Biyori, and why I might be seen as more lenient about such series than most. I particularly enjoy considering personal values and life lessons that these shows bring about: while action-oriented shows might have a more tangible message for its viewers, subtleties in slice-of-life shows make them worthwhile in their own right.

  • Hotaru is ecstatic to be sleeping in the same bed as Komari, but then realises that she always asks her mother for extra time when sleeping in, and then worries Komari might see this side of her. It turns out that she does exactly thus, and then bolts up in embarrassment. Meanwhile, Hikage sleeps on the floor, as they’d run out of beds, and finds herself dissatisfied with the arrangements.

  • For their second day in Okinawa, Kaede and Kazuho take the crew snorkelling and canoeing. They depart the inn under breathtaking weather conditions: the rich colours in Non Non Biyori Vacation give a very visceral sense of being in Okinawa, and I continued finding myself impressed with the artwork, the further I went into the movie. The stunning artwork in this movie is precisely why each and every screenshot can be viewed at full resolution.

  • While Renge and Kaede enjoy the sights of the ocean, even spotting a stingray, Hikage suffers from motion sickness and is unable to explore to the extent that she’d like. It appears that Hikage runs into minor misfortune after minor misfortune during this trip to Okinawa – while this device is employed as a means of comedy, I admit that I am not keen on witnessing people experience low-level problems on a frequent basis: the occasional moment of surprise is what keeps things fresh, and after a while, one would come to feel pathos for individuals like Hikage rather than experience any humour.

  • Inland, the girls in the other group join a canoe trip. Komari immediately requests a two-person canoe, citing the reduced risk of falling into the water, but when she boards the canoe, immediately falls in to the water. Dramatic irony and situational irony are abundant in Non Non Biyori: despite its gentle atmosphere, the series is very fond of placing the characters in a series of unfortunate situations to remind viewers that life can sometimes simply be unfair, but in spite of this, there’s plenty of good things, too. Portraying minor misfortunes as something to laugh off, Non Non Biyori shows that looking past these small ills means being able to enjoy things that are truly spectacular.

  • Hotaru and Komari pair up in a canoe and begin to make their way downriver, but while admiring the mangroves, they lodge their canoe in the roots of one of the mangroves. Canoeing down the river of mangroves is a quintessential experience in Okinawa, and the river’s course is smooth enough so that anyone ages three and over can participate. Hence, viewers cannot help but feel a twinge of pity mixed in with their laughs when Komari and Hotaru get stuck and begin panicking in an adorable manner.

  • Movies oftentimes give characters a chance to shine, and in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Kazuho has such an opportunity. Her students can evidently be a handful, and despite her laid-back, lax manner, as well as her tendency to sleep during work hours, she’s actually quite attentive and is mindful of her students. When Kazuho arrives and hears the pair’s calls for help, it’s just another day at the office: she helps Komari and Hotaru extricate themselves from the branches, allowing them to continue on with their adventure.

  • Despite having left their tea and bread in the car from excitement, Kazuho has noticed this earlier and brought the provisions that Komari and Hotaru have left behind. Being able to see another side of some characters in an anime movie serves to enhance the viewer’s ability to relate to them, showing that everyone is multi-faceted. I find that the joy of slice-of-life anime is precisely in seeing characters react and interact under different conditions, revealing a more complex character than one might have otherwise expected. Over time, these interactions shift gradually and the characters mature, mirroring how individuals in reality slowly change over time, as well.

  • After their canoeing adventure, the girls climb a trail leading to a beautiful waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the water, feeling invigorated. It is here that everyone’s adventure begins transitioning from more tourist-oriented activities into a more personalised, self-guided one: Non Non Biyori has long conveyed that the best adventures are often those that occur unexpectedly, and the beautiful scenery surrounding this waterfall gives the cast a chance to explore on their own.

  • Konomi is a third-year high school student who had limited appearances in the TV series: being a ways older than the others, she’s looked up to as a role model and is voiced by Ryōko Shintani, whom I know for her roles in Saki and Love Lab. She takes a photograph of Komari, Hotaru and Kazuho in the water here. In the manga, Kazuho does not jump into the water, and her energy simply results in her crashing subsequently, whereas in Non Non Biyori Vacation, she tires out from a combination of heat and being soaked.

  • As evening sets in, Renge, Natsumi, Hikage and Kaede enjoy the cooling air and darkening skies by the Cape Zanpa Lighthouse. This thirty-metre lighthouse is located in a particularly picturesque area and is suited for photography. Renge sketches the lighthouse here, before joining Natsumi and Hikage in a photograph. The purples of the sunset convey a unique sense of distance to the day’s end: in Asahigaoka, sunsets predominantly have colours in the oranges and reds, but the Okinawan sunsets feature more purples and pinks. This is likely to hint at the different feeling that a tropical sunset might evoke.

  • The page quote for this talk is from J.R.R. Tolkien, whose perspectives on adventure and travel coherently and succinctly mirror my own personality. Being very literal and straightforward, I rather enjoy Tolkien’s style, and in this quote, he simply means to say that knowing there is a home to go back to makes all adventure and hardship more bearable. I admit that I am not much of a traveller; unlike others of my generation, I do not believe that travelling is the sole means to enrich oneself. Justifications for why people of my generation travel include notions that exploring the world is the single most effective way to become a better person, and to this end, travel frequently. While travel does broaden one’s horizon, it is also an endeavour that requires a time commitment. For me, I would much rather put my time into work, developing my interpersonal and technical skills to positively impact the lives of others in a tangible way.

  • While travelling would help me connect with people better, I still would need to prove it with my work experience, and as such, travel is a lesser priority compared to contributing to something much bigger than myself through my work. At the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my friends ended up moving to Japan after meeting someone there while doing a home-stay program, leaving behind family, friends and a prospective career. I don’t think I could pull off something like this: I’m rather like a Hobbit in many ways, preferring the comforts of home and a good routine. Having said this, I am okay with adventure in moderation, and at any rate, moving somewhere to pursue matters of the heart is not exactly a good ROI if things should go south.

  • After arriving back at the inn after a day’s worth of adventure, Natsumi greets Aoi. The gentle purple-pinks of the evening skies become more pronounced, and gives a magical quality to Natsumi’s growing friendship with Aoi. Despite different backgrounds, Natsumi finds that she shares similarities with Aoi, as well. I was quite surprised to learn that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura, whom I know best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto: if one listens carefully, a bit of Sakura’s kawaii voice can be heard in Natsumi.

  • Another evening in Okinawa means another scrumptious dinner. Entering this month, the weather was still brutally cold, and as the work week began, I sat down to a hot and tasty fried chicken ramen with miso-sesame broth, charred corn and snap peas, plus a soft-boiled egg at a local pub. Their fried chicken stands as some of the best I’ve had, being crisply fried while maintaining juicy chicken on the inside. In moderation, good food during a cold day is the perfect countermeasure, and after a meal such as this, even -20ºC weather is not quite so cold. Of course, things are now warming up again, and I am quite glad to see the worst of winter behind us.

  • After dinner, the girls invite Aoi to hang out with them, where Renge shows her some of the drawings that she’d made. It turns out that Aoi is free the next day, and she offers to take them around different spots in Okinawa that are far removed from tourists. This is the side of the world that Rick Steves promotes in his series, Rick Steves’ Europe: taken the path less travelled, Steves highlights local cuisines and sights that often go missed by travellers in favour of more well-known attractions. Having a local guide who knows the area helps greatly and serves to create a more authentic experience: folk of my generation wish to experience this in particular, and I cannot fault them for that.

  • The next morning, Aoi wakes up bright and early to meet up with Natsumi and the others. Even at this early hour, the Okinawan heat is apparent: with the temperature averaging highs of 26ºC throughout the year, the humid sub-tropical climate of Okinawa is a world apart from the winters in my area. This year, winter came later: January was unusually mild, and then the bitter cold slammed the city with five straight weeks of cold. Forecasts are showing warmer weather incoming, and this will be a breath of fresh air, to finally be able to walk outside without a scarf covering my face.

  • Mirroring Aoi’s thoughtfulness, Hotaru and the others have given their room a cleaning so that she is not burdened with the task, and Aoi’s mother allows her to spend the day with Renge and the others, since it’s improving the customer experience. Simple gestures like these show that for their occasional misadventures, the cast of Non Non Biyori are ultimately good people. Some individuals have stated that this creates the impression that Non Non Biyori has no conflict, and in turn, this prevents the characters from developing. However, I find that exploring characters over time and portraying different sides in an individual is equivalent to character development, so it is inappropriate to dismiss Non Non Biyori on the basis that there are no conflicts in a traditional sense.

  • The soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation is a well-composed one, integrating traditional Okinawan elements (such as the Sanshin) into the incidental music. Familiar motifs from Non Non Biyori also make a return, and together, this is meant to accentuate that Non Non Biyori Vacation is about the fusion of the familiar and unfamiliar. I greatly enjoyed listening to the music for this reason: it evokes imagery of Okinawa in the mind’s eye, while at once being distinctly Non Non Biyori in tone, and as such, the soundtrack is a perfect aural representation of the film’s thematic elements.

  • Aoi takes the girls to her school, where she briefly meets up with a friend before showing them around the grounds. Again, minute details in the environment, such as the stains in the walls surrounding the school and cracks in the pavement, give the environment a more realistic, worn sense. This stands in contrast with the near-flawless infrastructure of Harukana Receive – highly clean environments provide less visual clutter, which is excellent where the focus is on the characters. In something like Non Non Biyori, including these details immerse viewers in the environment.

  • While summer in the inaka often evokes feelings of melancholy in something like Yosuga no Sora, Ano Natsu de Matteru and Please! Teacher, the same colours and atmosphere in Non Non Biyori creates a sense of excitement and adventure. A similar palette was used in CLANAND ~After Story~ to great effect: long days are perfect for adventure, and skies of deepest blue that seem to stretch on forever might be seen as acting for a visual representation of this unlimited possibility. What effect the sky has is affected by the nature of an anime, and seemingly unending skies can also signal uncertainty, as is often the case where romances are involved.

  • Aoi gives everyone a chance to play badminton, and after Natsumi plays Komari, an irate Komari asks Aoi to play Natsumi after she’s beaten. With her experience, Aoi tramples Natsumi without much effort, and Natsumi is utterly exhausted after the fact. However, there’s little time for a rematch, as Aoi’s got an exciting itinerary planned for Hotaru and company. I know the excitement of stuff occurring: things have been hectic as of late, and earlier this week, I had the opportunity to go attend a live-event featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama. In his talk, he emphasised the importance of innovation, cooperation and above all, optimism. I greatly enjoyed the talk, and Obama is a very charismatic, presidential speaker: the reality is that in a world ruled by enmity and discord, we overcome it by showing equal bonds of friendship and trust.

  • This is why I am so insistent about optimism and positivity in whatever I do, whether it be in real life or for my blog. Back in Non Non Biyori Vacation, one subtle touch that I found to be pleasant is the fact that each of Hotaru, Renge, Komari, Natsumi and Aoi have different hats that mirror their personalities. Hotari has a simple but elegant sun hat, while Komari’s hat has a ribbon on it. Both Aoi and Natsumi have ballcaps, and Renge has a bucket hat. Having a good hat is essential in places like Okinawa, where the sun is intense and so is the corresponding UV index. While folks often associate pleasant weather with a high UV index, in places with a higher elevation, there can be a high UV index even when it is overcast.

  • Aoi takes the girls to a shop that sells hand-made Okinawan accessories. In a subtle call-back to Komari’s being perceived as a child, the others notice that a pendant looks sharp on Hotaru, who is more mature for her age. Viewers are largely dependent on dialogue to expose this fact: except for Renge and Kazuho, who have a distinct eye shape, the characters in Non Non Biyori have the same facial features. Barring their hair styles and eye colour, they look very much alike, and I have gotten into the pitfall of mixing characters up. In particular, I find that Hotaru looks very similar to Konomi.

  • After visiting an ice-cream shoppe and savouring sundaes, Aoi brings everyone to an observation point looking over Okinawa. While ice cream had previously not been something I was too interested in, I’ve come to realise that it actually boils down to the hardness and flavour of the ice cream; I’m fond of softer ice cream, and maple ice cream in particular hits the spot. During this past week, I had the chance to try a beaver-tail maple ice cream, which is about as Canadian as ice creams can get.

  • Having local knowledge of an area means being able to take in sights away from the crowds: Aoi brings the girls to a quieter beach, where they enjoy the sights of a calm, rocky beach that is quite far removed from path better travelled. I’ve long had a fondness for exploring the more hidden corners of my homeland and discovering local gems that I normally pass over. For instance, it was taking a second look for holes in the walls that I came across the 514 Poutine in Canmore.

  • In the manga, Renge decides to take a shell home, but in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Aoi suggests that the girls take some white sand home with them, having bought small glass vials with her. This is a wonderful souvenir of what was an immensely relaxing and enjoyable vacation, and also brings to mind a vial of sand from Cancún that I bought. This vial also has a few small seashells within, and the vial is stoppered by a glass ball to keep the sand from coming out.

  • By evening, Aoi takes the girls to the beach where, away from the effects of light pollution, Natsume, Renge, Hotaru and Komari are treated to a stunning view of the night sky, with the Milky Way plainly visible. This is perhaps a more optimistic view of the night skies in Okinawa; most of the island is as bright as Cochrane, which is around 36 kilometres from the city center. While the night skies at this distance are more pronounced than they are in the suburbs of Calgary, it’s still bright enough so the Milky Way would not be easily spotted. As Non Non Biyori Vacation is fiction, this is forgiven.

  • Aoi’s brought the girls here to show them a spectacular phenomenon: Noctiluca scintillans exhibit bioluminescence and when stimulated, will emit a blue light. The girls frolic in the water in a truly magical setting, and similar to a moment in Non Non Biyori Repeat, where Kazuho takes the girls to a pond to watch fireflies, Non Non Biyori Vacation sets one of its most magical moments under the night sky.

  • For me, Non Non Biyori represents a film where, despite the lack of a unifying conflict or an end goal, messages about life are nonetheless present in full. The film is working within the constraints of the manga, which presented the trip to Okinawa as a detour from their routine. There is not supposed to be a conflict or explicit lesson: life simply has breaks in it, and the movie has certainly succeeded in capturing this particular concept, bringing it to life with first-rate visuals and sound. Silver Link has done a phenomenal job on the movie, and presently, with an impressive collection of anime in their profile, I am happy that the studio has continued to find a way.

  • While the manga had Natsumi crying for no discernable reason, the film allows this moment to carry more weight: she’s clearly saddened to leave such a beautiful place, but also is saddened because she’s not able to spend more time with Aoi. The format in Non Non Biyori Vacation allows the film to do things that the manga could not, and this creates a more solid story that can be touching, as well as comedic.

  • For better or worse, the time has come to depart, and Aoi bids everyone farewell. Natsumi promises to write her, and improve on badminton in the meantime. A part of every vacation is the part where one must leave for home, and in my experience, this is usually a mixed bag. On one hand, being in another country engenders a desire to continue exploring, but on the other hand, being elsewhere also amplifies one’s appreciation for their own home. There’s nothing quite like sleeping in one’s own bed after a vacation.

  • While Natsumi is probably the rowdiest of the group, seeing her grow in Non Non Biyori Vacation was probably one of the strongest elements. Despite being unscholarly in manner, Natsumi is shown to have a strong knowledge of the outdoors and is also quite active. She tends to create trouble for others, but at heart is caring for those around her. The film offered Natsumi an opportunity to develop in a manner that the manga did not, and by taking advantage of this, helps viewers like myself warm up to her further.

  • The palm trees and pristine beaches of Okinawa give way to the rolling hills and endless fields of Asahigaoka as the group returns home. The deliberate choice of lighting here, with purples and pinks dominating the evening sky, mirror the sunset of the second day; this was done to remind audiences that while everyone might be back in Asahigaoka, they’re still under the same skies as Okinawa, similarly to how Aoi and Natsumi have commonalities.

  • Having the characters walking apart as they wave goodbyes for the present creates a visual break here. While everyone is parting ways for now, they’re still planning on hanging out in the time that is left before summer is over. I imagine that this film segues into Non Non Biyori Repeat: the manga seems to portray things as taking place after Hotaru arrives in a linear manner, but the TV series’ second season suggests that it’s set in between the episodes seen in the first season. With a third season announced, one wonders where it will fit in the timeline.

  • After arriving home, Hotaru shares her experiences with her parents. Non Non Biyori presents the girls as living in a more old-fashioned environment, and so, do not have access to things like smartphones. I usually communicate with my parents while travelling to inform them that I’ve arrived safely by means of WhatsApp. While I prefer iMessage and Skype in every way, I usually aren’t too picky about the choice of tool I have to use.

  • At the Koshigayas’, Komari recounts her experiences in Okinawa to her mother, while Suguru chills. Natsumi is seen in her room, fondly hanging up the image that Renge had drawn of her and Aoi. Everyone’s gotten something unique out of their experience in Okinawa, and come away with what will be memories to treasure for a lifetime. I note that for the most part, Suguru has not been mentioned to any real extent in my discussions: he’s unique in that he has no voice actor, and his presence is quite minimal.

  • When the Miyauchis arrive home, Renge immediately runs into their house and declares that they’re back. Earlier, Renge wonders if they’ll be able to go back to Okinawa, and Kazuho remarks that such a vacation is too pricey to be doing on a regular basis. Renge decides that in the future, she’d like to go back again anyways. Simple details in conversation give great insights into the characters, and I found that while still having a secondary role in the film, Kazuho was given a few moments that present her as being attentive, mindful of those around her and astute, leaving audiences with the sense that she’s qualified to look after elementary and middle school students despite her lethargic appearance.

  • For my readers, I’m also back in full now: I’ve been writing less so far because my priorities have been on work-related matters. With one major milestone now in the books, I look forwards to continuing on with my work, but for the present, this means that I will be blogging with at least a better frequency than I have in the past several weeks. I’ve long anticipated Non Non Biyori Vacation with enthusiasm, and having finished this post, which is this year’s largest (having some seven thousand five hundred and ten words), I look to the future. I have one final post left for CLANNAD ~After Story~, and will be writing about Ace Combat 7 now that I’ve passed the halfway point. Endro!‘s ending is coming later this month, and I still have one more post on Battlefield V‘s campaign, as well. Finally, I do have (tentative) plans to write about Nagi no Asukara. I would like to thank the reader who’ve stuck around long enough to read this entire post.

Taken together, Non Non Biyori Vacation is an excellent film that capitalises on the silver screen format to deliver a bolder, larger-scale theme while simultaneously remaining very faithful to the structuring and atmosphere seen in the original TV series. Like the themes the film conveys, Non Non Biyori Vacation is both familiar and different relative to the TV series. Watching all of the characters sightsee and experience a more personal side of Okinawa was superbly enjoyable. Non Non Biyori has long excelled at conveying subtle lessons on life in its gentle, cathartic run, and Non Non Biyori Vacation continues on in the same manner its predecessors did. This is a movie that I can easily recommend to anyone who enjoyed Non Non Biyori, and for folks who are looking for something relaxing, Non Non Biyori Vacation fits the bill even if one is unfamiliar with the series. Granted, there are some jokes that require some background in the series to fully appreciate, but the film itself is reasonably standalone such that one could enjoy it even without having seen the TV series or read the manga. It’s been a shade over six months since Non Non Biyori hit the theatres in Japan, and presently, having had the chance to see the movie for myself, I find that this is something that viewers should definitely experience for themselves. Finally, looking ahead into the future, I’ve heard that a third season of Non Non Biyori is in the works, and this is exciting news: Non Non Biyori‘s success comes from being committed to its ability to do more with less. By utilising a simple moment and then drawing the fun from the ordinary, Non Non Biyori shows the merits of taking a step back to smell the roses when the world constantly seeks to accelerate – this is something that is most welcome in my books.

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”.

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.

Non Non Biyori Repeat: Review and reflection at the ¾ mark

“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.