#1 It is absolutely delightful
I decided to rewatch Non Non Biyori because of a friend who has recently been binging on a very specific breed of anime, and who pointed out that this show embodies exactly what he was looking for in it. The kind of anime he was seeking out are moe, slice-of-life shows that have absolutely no conflict to them. Shows that are made to make you laugh and chill out with, without expecting you to go through all the trouble of being invested in some overarching plot device like a romance or school career.
Non Non Biyori is about a group of girls that live in a village so far away from civilization most people struggle to even imagine what a city looks like. It’s a cozy community surrounded by nature and the girls spend each episode doing… well, what little you can do so far away from everything. Episodes include feeding the rabbits, being locked into the school building because of a snowstorm, and needing to catch a train after a day at the beach. It may not sound remarkable and kind of standard fair for a slice-of-life anime, but Non Non Biyori always feels distinct and you’ll find it frequently surprises.
While there is no real drama to speak of and the challenges of each episode aren’t exactly tragedies, I do really want to commend writer “Atto” for including some emotional character moments. There are countless slice-of-life shows that may get a few laughs from me, but it’s episodes like Renge meeting Honoka that really make a show memorable, and Non Non Biyori has plenty of those on offer.
No conflict, but lots of character.
#2 The girls
The main cast of the show consists of the four girls that make up the entire population of the village’s small school. Despite them ranging in age from seven years old to fourteen years old, all of these are in the same class and spend most of their time outside of school together as well. Just like with the plot of each episode, these characters aren’t entirely unfamiliar if you have seen a few shows like this, yet all of them have their own twists and eccentricities that make them memorable and stand out from the crowd.
Renge is the youngest of the bunch, a tiny little girl with a lot of curiosity and imagination. She is… weird, to say the least, frequently coming up with random songs and strange jokes, all delivered with a deadpan look on her face and Kotori Koiwai’s hilarious voice-acting. Though her friends often struggle to make sense of her, she is really affectionate and smart for her age.
Then there are the sister Komari and Natsumi Koshigaya. Despite being the older of the two, Komari is cursed with being particularly short for her age and attempts to compensate for this by striving to be as mature as possible, only to find herself constantly tripping up in the smallest of ways. She is particularly easy to frighten and trick, which Natsumi loves to abuse, and though she boasts about wanting to be an adult, she has a poor grasp of what that entails. Natsumi in turn fancies herself free of any care and worry, leading to her oversleeping and struggling in school. Of course she’ll never admit that anything is her own fault, and though she always mocks her big sis, in the end she often ends up relying on her anyway.
Finally there is Hotaru, who has recently transferred into town from Tokyo and has a lot of adapting to do. Everything from the bus schedule to the lack of shops catches her by surprise, which the other girls are completely used to. Though the others think she is smart and ladylike, she can be flustered when put under stress and can get excited about the weirdest things. One such oddity is her unhealthy crush on Komari, which she never expresses to her outright, but… well, let’s just say she her own ways of showing her love.
#3 The dude
I was lying when I said the girls are the only ones in class, for there is also Suguru Koshigaya, the oldest student currently in the village. What makes him fun is that he has no dialogue, he is entirely silent throughout the entire show and has little to contribute to the plot, but turns up everywhere all the time.
Him being this mute presence always lurking in the background is fun enough on its own, but I also love how he is simultaneously great at everything he does while being easily pushed around by Natsumi and suffering from poor luck. Throughout the show we get to see him create beautiful art and pull off advanced moves in games, but he also ends up buried alive and attacked by dogs.
Though the girls get most of the focus, I ended up finding Suguru the most entertaining character purely based on his gags.
#4 Look at this gorgeous background design
When I talked about how rural the setting of this anime is, I was not exaggerating in the slightest. The village this all takes place in is beautiful and filled with nature and old-timey Japanese architecture. With background artist Anna Ooizumi at the wheel for the show’s entire art direction, shots like the one pictured above are not rare at all. A lot of scenes highlight the surrounding landscape or focus on neat details, which really sells the warm, village atmosphere they were going for here. At the same time they are not so overdone that they distract from the story, characters, or directing.