The last of my final impression countdown posts. I’m finally free!
1. Non Non Biyori S2
I was almost hesitant to put Non Non Biyori as my number one pick. It’s not that doesn’t deserve it be, but I’ve been conditioned to favour shows that contain a central narrative, forward momentum and legitimate stakes. Biyori, by comparison is a slice of life about of children living in the countryside & is essentially just more of the first season. However, omitting it from the top stop would be doing the show a real disservice. Whether this type of anime is your thing or not, it’s hard to deny the consistently stellar direction on display.
This also makes it personally difficult to talk about. Rather than latching onto themes or motivations, the goal here is to elicit a mood, whether in the comedic antics of the cast, or the gentle atmosphere of the village. As someone who generally pours scorn on the likes of Jun Maeda for using cheap plot conceits to force an emotional response, it’s a little hard to say Biyori is wonderful because it gives me warm fuzzies inside. It’s not quite the same though; the show rarely uses excessive drama to make you care, and the brief moments it does build on collective experiences on childhood, rather than milking tears out of tragedy. It’s certainly nostalgic, but in a far more relatable way than the Maokoto Shinkai approach of making you yearn for feelings never actually experienced. Even though I can chalk much of my appreciation from the setting, spending much of my youth in rural Ireland, the depictions are pretty universal, if containing a deliberately rose-coloured tint.
Even though S2 is essentially more of the same (it even takes place during the same span of time as the first), there’s definitely a better understanding of the show’s strengths. The amount of generic niceties have definitely been toned back this time around, with some of the more dull characters like Hotaru largely relegated to the background. Conversely, Biyori now clearly understands that Renge is its star selling point, dedicating far more time to her wonderfully perceptive, yet skewed outlook on life. It nails the mind-set of being an age when fantasy and reality aren’t mutually exclusive notions in a child’s head. More emphasis is also placed on static breather scenes that allow you to just sit in moments without the need for dialogue or even music. I would like to have seen more screen time from a few personal favourites like Candy Store or the super villain rabbit, but those are minor quibbles.
Non Non Biyori might not reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. It excels both as a Ghibli-esque ode to the sense of magic and wonder that children find in the mundane and as a love letter to the rustic charms of a quiet life, where cell phone rarely have signals and out in the middle of nowhere vending machines crawl with wildlife. This is a show that understands how direction can elevate a simple premise to lofty heights. It’s about as close to a Yotsuba anime we’re going to see anytime soon.
Anyway, if that isn’t enough to convince you, here’s Ren-chon pulling a ‘Star Platinum’.