January 4th, 2014

Bishoujo squad!

Finished series: Non Non Biyori

We've finished watching Non Non Biyori. My first episode review is here.

The series is set in a village in the Japanese country side: lots of pastures, rice fields and vegetable patches, surrounded by forested mountains. The bus goes once every two hours, and there's only one candy shop/general store. There's also one school: an old, derelict building with a leaky roof, which has only one class. In this class are four girls and one boy, all of different ages. Most of their schooldays are filled with self-study. When the series starts, Hotaru just tranferred in from Tokyo -- so she is in for a bit of a culture shock!
(In typical bishoujo style, the boy doesn't play a big part in the series -- he doesn't even have a speaking part!)

The series is slow: there's no action, people have all the time in the world to wait for each other or walk around. There are long shots and slow pans of the countryside, highlighting things like a water wheel and stuff like that -- the 'hidden treasures' of small villages everywhere.
That's not to say that nothing happens. The series spans a year, and we get the things associated with the different seasons. There's also a bit of comedy, most of it because of the characters. It's not 'haha'-funny, but it highlights characteristics that we all know, allowing you to empathise with them and their quiet life in a sleepy village -- that's not boring if you know where to look.

When we visited Japan in the spring last year, we also visited Yufuin, a small onsen village, we spent one day wandering the streets around the station with the touristy shops. But the second day, we went a bit further afield and wandered around the forests, a shrine dedicated to an old cypress and around fields -- stopping by a 'foot onsen' and a little cafe along the way.
It was absolutely boring, and very, very, very relaxing. Thinking back on the vacation, that is the day that stands out. And the series is set in a little village that is like the outlying part of Yufuin -- watching it took us right back there.

So yes, totally relaxing series with a great cast of characters and good inter-character comedy. The writers look upon their characters with gentle empathy, and it shows. A great setting too. We enjoyed it immensely, and I'll give it an 8.