Non Non Biyori Repeat OVA

November 25, 2016

It’s that time again. To take a break from all that violence, sex, nonsense, fart jokes, slapstick humour, ecchi, blood, killing, insensitive jokes, moe overdose and whatever stuffs you can think of that are inappropriate but allow it because of our guilty pleasure thinking it is just confined to the TV screen. Whoops. If it feels my opening sentence was a cut and paste, it’s probably I’m trying to make some sort of a joke out of repeat. Okay, it wasn’t a good one. And so despite a year ago back in 2015 we had the sequel, time to take another break although it is just a single OVA episode, Non Non Biyori Repeat OVA. You know the drill for this series.

Hotaru Had Fun
Winter is here. Hotaru takes her dog out as she makes a snowman, a slide and a little igloo before heading home. Later when Komari goes out to Hotaru’s place, she decides to take a shortcut. That is when she sees the snowman and gets shocked when it almost falls on her. This causes her to slide down and crash into the igloo. What a bad day. By the time she reaches Hotaru’s house, she is panicking about playing outside because it is dangerous! Spring is here. Hotaru visits Kaede’s shop. She panics into thinking how to start a conversation. Eventually she asks for cookies but Kaede doesn’t have any. It seems Hotaru had plans to bake some with her mom today. So Kaede takes a break to help make cookies with her. It’s a wonderful experience for Hotaru. Summer is here. But their summer break is almost over and the girls are doing homework. Komari isn’t getting much improvement and decides to take a nap. The rest then gets bored and wants to invite Komari to play a game with them. However she is still asleep and are in a dilemma to wake her up or let her sleep. Thinking she is having a bad dream, they decide to wake her up with a good dream. Using their influence to change her dream? This doesn’t sound good… From chocolate to lighting to fanning her, it seems they’re making things worse. When they think she is like flying away, they try to flap around to help her fly further. Success when they see her smile. But when she wakes up, she is puzzled what the heck they are holding those items. Autumn is here. The girls go out to the forest to collect berries to eat. Komari seems to have the bad luck of being ‘attacked’ by a flying squirrel. She thinks it is the enemy. When they have collected a bunch, the flying squirrel again ‘attacks’ Komari. This time it steals her berries. Panic mode. After alerting the others, they follow the flying squirrel to its nest and they see it feeding its offspring. Aww, how cute. Instantly they are no longer the enemies. They eat nearby as they watch the family eat from the offerings they leave behind.

Fun Throughout The Seasons
By now you would have realized that the charm of this series is its simplicity. Because of that and how we have built up this perception, we would never come to think of it is boring and ordinary. This OVA doesn’t break away from the usual formula of seeing our usual bunch of girls doing fun things in the simplest way. Fans of the series would continue to love how adorable everyone is (especially Komari who is the staple panicky member of the group and Renge the innocent cutie) while others not familiar with this series won’t be even sure what they are watching. This series is a reminder that despite the lack of technological advances, kids can still have fun in the most simplest of ways. So are we ready to ditch the internet for this simple life? I don’t think so… Anonymously trolling others on the internet can be so super fun sometimes ;p.

Non Non Biyori Repeat

January 9, 2016

It is time to take a break from all that violence, sex, nonsense, fart jokes, slapstick humour, ecchi, blood, killing, insensitive jokes, moe overdose and whatever stuffs you can think off that are inappropriate but allow it because of our guilty pleasure thinking it is just confined to the TV screen. This means we need an anime that is purely ‘cleansing’ out soul without all that corruption. Shows like Tamayura. But today, it isn’t that series but another ‘rival’. I suppose a show like this too can have its charm as this is already the second season. Yes, boys and girls. Non Non Biyori Repeat is back but do not expect anything new and out of the ordinary. Just your usual countryside girls living the simple life free from all that modern day crap and showing us how they can still have fun without all that mindless addiction we have for entertainment today. Ah yes, the true meaning of living. The question is, can you go back to all that modern conveniences after watching this sequel?

Episode 1
Probably an episode that takes place even before the first season. Renge is happy to receive a new bag from grandma. Because when spring comes, she will be a first grader. Hikage accompanies Renge to school and perhaps teaches her some of those society stuffs. Like giving her money for the bus because she’ll have to pay the child fare rate. Natsumi and Komari also tell her about the entrance ceremony so Renge wants to practice her name being called out. Trying to make it sound formal, eh? As she cannot enter class yet, she explores the school with that little branch she found (she calls it some sort of legendary sword, I think) and wonders if she has what it takes to be a first grader. Oh yeah. At a tender young age, she’s already worrying about such ‘big’ stuffs. Later as Renge accompanies Hikage to the train station as she has to leave for Tokyo, Hikage shows off her new handphone that is able to take pictures and more. On board, Hikage thought Renge was calling out to her for being lonely. Actually she forgot to take back her handphone. Oh sh*t!!! Train can’t stop! She’s gone… Back home, Kazuho gives her a nice shirt for the opening ceremony. Renge is excited of this haute couture. Wow. She knows how to use that word? Well, she doesn’t know what it means. Me too. Next day as Renge arrives at school, the ceremony is so low-key that Natsumi and Komari are handling it. They welcome her into the classroom which also serves as the hall for the ceremony. As she sings the school’s anthem, we get to see the beautiful sceneries of the countryside. Renge is given a stationery set and is impressed when she gets her recorder. Don’t need the legendary sword anymore, eh? Meanwhile, Hotaru’s family just moved in as she wonders if she can make any friends.

Episode 2
Hotaru introduces herself in class. Of course the rest sure has weird questions. And Renge? Nyanpasu! The girls teach Hotaru how to play ruler wars. I guess it’s a simple game that countryside kids play in class instead of their handphones. As dramatic as the game may be, it also come with equally dramatic move names. When Suguru is invited to play, he shows them the big master he is as he dominates the field. The girls cooperate to take him down but he is no pushover. Finally a suicide move has him go out of the game. Hotaru loves this game and wants to try again. See? You don’t need game apps to be entertained, right? When Hotaru takes her dog, Pechi out for a walk, soon she realizes that she has become lost. What is worse for a new girl to be lost in a countryside? Nobody to ask for directions! Okay. Time to hit the panic button. Suddenly Pechi takes a dash through the forest before shortly emerging out to another path. Suguru just happened to pass by as Pechi ‘attacks’ him. Ah, back to civilization, I guess. That night, only Hotaru and Komari head to the hills to watch the stars since Natsumi is asleep and Renge’s grandma is visiting. I thought it was freaking odd that a lone vending machine was right smack in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully nothing creepy about it. Komari buys a drink and later loses its cap along the way. As they admire the stars, I suppose they don’t know about the constellations but they’re making up ramen and soumen constellations? Suddenly… The flashlight batteries go dead! No spares. Total darkness. Time to panic. Komari feels the need to take the lead since she is the eldest and tries to lead them back to the path. The thing that ‘saves’ them is the bottle’s cap. They’re on the right path then. Then as they follow the light in the distance, it leads them back to the vending machine! All hail the vending machine! And you thought it was so out of place, eh? It saved them. Never been so relieved before. With Komari’s knees giving way, Hotaru gives her a piggy back ride home.

Episode 3
With no bread left, Kazuho thought she could make breakfast. What the hell is this lazily made salad?! Atrocious! You call that breakfast?! As there will be a test after the break, Natsumi flips out but instead of studying, she fools around. When Suguru ignores her and minds his business, she steals his glasses. When Komari asks science questions, she gives random nonsensical answers. But you have to give her points for answering so enthusiastically. Or not. The test starts and Natsumi becomes ultra confident and loud at each freaking question. In the end, Renge scores perfect and Natsumi who got a duck egg thinks something is wrong. Well, of course. You got all the answers wrong, that’s why! Thanks to that, they got tons of homework for the Golden Week. Better shape up because they know how fiery mom is about their grades. As there will be a study group back at Renge’s home, Renge is not pleased that Kazuho is fooling around and should set an example to motivate them. Wow. Loli lecturing her sister! She will allow Kazuho to practice her motivation as she practises studying. Kazuho agrees and thought of doing this like a video game. The questions are like monsters and you have to solve by defeating them before fighting stronger monsters. That is sure motivating till she come up with lame fruit monsters. Then she motivates Renge that she will give her cake. Loli super wants cake! But there’s no cake. She’s just saying it for motivation. So disappointed! Oh, the looks on her face. Kazuho then goes back to slacking as she claims she is tired from last night printing printouts. She is so lazy that she wants Renge to lead her to her bed instead of sleeping in the hall where they’ll be studying just because she’s too lazy to take off her blinds. Renge knows Kazuho cannot be relied upon and that she needs to be the one to motivate her friends. So she leads her out of the house and when the friends arrive, they see this atrocious Kazuho fumbling like a fool and spouting nonsense. Can she not feel the summer heat outside? Don’t tell me her senses are lazy too. Yeah… The damning motivation for them to study hard! Thanks to that, Natsumi scores well in her test. 75 marks! You go girl! Oh, Renge gets 100 again.

Episode 4
Rainy season is no fun. Especially Renge’s grandma has sent over a new bicycle, she can’t practice. Like any other kid wishing for a fair weather, Renge makes a teruterubouzu. But this doesn’t quite cut it so she dresses herself as one! OMG! Why the heck does she look like some horror movie serial killer loli version?! And she’s walking around in the rain with that?! Then the perfect scene for a murder… The place is filled with mist as Komari is heading to Renge’s place to return a manga. Then she sees this strange ‘monster’… Weird sounds (Renge banging her tools)… Do you not think she freaks out? Komari runs but Renge spots her and gives chase. What do you think this looks like in Komari’s view? The monster is going to kill her! Run faster! Just when she thought she has reached the safety of Komari’s house, Kazuho answers the door and she’s wearing that mask too! She thought of helping Renge too but I guess Komari could have died of a heart attack if they don’t clear up the misunderstanding soon. And even after that, Komari denies she was crying so hard. It was the rain. Yeah, rainy days take the blame… With the nice weather, our girls gather and hang out with their bicycles. Pretty fun. Pretty boring. Pretty normal. Then one day, Renge realizes her tadpole shrimps in the class’ aquarium are dead. So sad. A proper burial given. Yes, people. This is a big deal! Gloomy for the loli. Rainy weather enhances that effect. Even more heartbreaking as we see Renge inputting this in her diary and drawing herself sad crying with tears! Sob! Sob! Hotaru suggests to go catch more if the weather is fine tomorrow but Renge doesn’t want to see them die anymore. One day, she notices little tadpole shrimp offspring in the tank. Natsumi explains that eggs were laid and buried in soil, etc. See her face light up. Priceless amazement! She rewrites and redraws that happiness in her diary and shows it to everyone. Yes, people. It’s a big deal! It’s going to be a great sunny day after all.

Episode 5
Komari doesn’t believe Natsumi’s fortune telling that she’ll have bad luck with water today. Well, what do you know? The kids are going to clean the school pool today. And thus we see how Komari gets wet (not the hentai kind, mind you) due to all the mishaps whether it is being sprayed by cold water from old rusty pipes or even getting her eyes gushed by water. The curse is real! The ultimate one is when Natsumi pats her on her back and she falls in. However Komari also brings her down into the pool. The other girls get permission to also jump in with their clothes since Kazuho says there are extra clothes. Then she remembers there weren’t and goes to check. Nil. She thinks they’ll dry very fast. On another day, Natsumi reads another fortune that they have to go out for bad luck will befall them if they stay indoors. They call Hotaru to join them but it seems she has to house sit while waiting for a delivery package. So bored girl is stuck at home till the courier arrives. Now she can go out but realizes she forgot to ask where they were hanging out. Luckily they are seen coming to her place. They adventure through the countryside when it starts raining. They take refuge at Kaede’s shop and she’s pretty annoyed they’re all talking at once. She gives her old clothes for them to wear and man, they look pretty weird. Were those her fashion then? Learning the girls are on holiday today because of the school’s anniversary, she decides to cook okonomiyaki for them. She also shows them the expert she is. No compromise in taste and quality. Also learning about the bad luck Komari has been facing with, Kaede remembers the bad luck charm sold here as a prank. Of course Natsumi can’t even remember she bought it. So does this mean all the bad luck that happened to Komari was nothing? Well actually if you considered all that had happened to her, it’s still pretty much bad luck.

Episode 6
Natsumi and Hotaru are tasked to clean the garden. Since this is their first time paired together, Natsumi is unsure what to talk about. When she tries that magical girl anime, Pretty Cute, Hotaru becomes passionate in ranting from A to Z! Oh dear. Did she push the wrong button? Natsumi doesn’t know much about that anime and each time she tries to change the subject, somehow Hotaru connects it back to her show! If you can’t beat them, join them. Natsumi tries to act like she knows but you can’t fool the master, can you? And once Natsumi comes clean, they didn’t speak about anything else for the rest of the duty. When Natsumi sees a gecko creeping up Hotaru’s back, she tries to catch it without her noticing but it seems she keeps looking over her shoulder. To her surprise, Hotaru isn’t scared and is amazed by it. Want to know who is scared? Komari who is getting frantic about spotting the gecko and swinging her broom like as though she’s some possessed witch. Natsumi guides Renge and Hotaru how to catch some bugs. But Renge thinks she’s getting a big head with her ‘genius’. At the shrine, Natsumi shows how to catch a cicada by flooding the hole with water. The duo keep the cicada as part of their observation homework unlike Natsumi who claims she wants to enjoy every day while she can. That’s being lazy, right? The kids head to Hotaru’s home to play fireworks but she starts crying because the store didn’t sell them! So they settle for this lame parachute firework. Lame… They try not to hurt Hotaru’s feelings but eventually can’t help feel depressed too. Now Hotaru is crying even harder. That is when Kazuho brings them to a dark place and they become fascinated with this firefly field. This is like substitute for fireworks, right? The night is saved.

Episode 7
Natsumi encourages Hotaru to jump off the bridge and into the river but she feels afraid. When she returns home, she receives a letter from her friend from Tokyo. Hikage has come to visit Renge (why is she hogging the massaging chair?). She shows Renge pictures of Tokyo Tower and the loli is pretty impressed. Then Renge forces her to play dolls with her. This little mecha is the mother while that ugly looking doll with creepy long legs is the baby? Hikage is also forced to talk baby language. As she babbles baby talk, Hotaru comes by and sees this. Oh no… As Hikage is a lazy ass, Renge again forces her to go out with her and this time with Hotaru to their secret base. But as they arrive, Hotaru realizes she has left her bag on the bus. The only way to retrieve it is at the bus depot. That’s pretty far, right? That dreadful sigh from Hikage… You mean they have to walk all the way there? But the journey won’t be a tiring one. There’s a refreshing water to drink from, pomegranates to buy and while chasing the dragonfly, before the know it, they’ve already reached the depot. She gets her bag back and shows the pictures from her Tokyo friends. Hotaru has not replied her yet as she wants to reciprocate by sending back pictures too. Oh, now they have to walk all the way back… They meet up with the sisters at the bridge. Hikage wants Renge to help take a cool picture as she dives in. Well… That picture turnout… I thought it looked like Hikage drowning… This gives inspiration for Hotaru to want to dive in too. Nervous at first but she eventually sums up her courage to take the leap. Renge snaps a shot and it was awesome. Like as though she’s doing some super kick that has some super ripple effect on the water. After taking more pictures in the day, Hotaru finally attaches them and replies her friend’s letter.

Episode 8
Summer vacation is over. Back to school. Nobody is interested of time travelling back with Natsumi to those fun days. Today’s activity will be for them to make something out of this wood with a saw. Surprisingly, Natsumi mentions about the dangers of them handling such tools but Kazuho maintains her irresponsibility that she’ll be watching over them. While Hotaru-Komari team is making some headway on their bookshelf, Natsumi-Renge team aren’t even off the ground. Ridiculous ideas, fooling around and trying to design via paper that turns out into some silly punching comic just tells us what this team is capable off. Finally Renge creates this weird device. What the heck is this? Watch and learn. She puts it in front of dozing Kazuho’s face. Her face falls towards it and hits it, waking her up. Behold! The snooze stopper! Ingenious? Has nobody noticed Suguru making a perfect bucket? When Renge serves curry for lunch, it brings back bad memories. A time when Hikage, Kaede and Konomi are still in school, Hikage brought toddler Renge to class since mom is sick. As Hikage and Kaede argue over who to look after her, Renge dives and destroys Natsumi’s building blocks. And she was just a block away from a personal record. Cry-baby mode now. Then Renge bites Komari’s teddy bear, Shoukichi. Another cry-baby. Renge is quick on her feet and wonders into the kitchen where she spills the curry lunch that the kids have been anticipating. I guess everybody turned into cry-babies and the only baby is the one having fun. Komari finds her ragged Shoukichi underneath her bed and thinks she doesn’t need it anymore. But when she looks through her old album and realizes that in almost every picture she always had it with her since baby, she starts to have second thoughts. She goes to Hotaru’s house for help to sew it back to good condition. Remember those Komari dolls all over her room? No wonder Hotaru is panicking and apologizing with that guilty face although Komari isn’t freaked out but somewhat impressed. Komari is a klutz trying to sew and gets poked by the needle. Hotaru has already made dolls of the rest (as Komari suggested). In the end, Shoukichi is as good as new.

Episode 9
The moment Natsumi’s mom calls her, she runs! Think she did something bad, huh? Actually the pond feels empty and she wants Natsumi to catch some fish. How do you get lazy girl’s ass to move? She’ll pay her! She also lends her watch as she wants Natsumi to be back by a certain time. So Natsumi drags all her friends including Konomi to go fishing. Each time they fish out, it smacks Suguru in the face and the nice boy releases them back into the lake. When Natsumi lands a big one, everybody helps reel it in. But the fish is putting up a big fight so Natsumi has Renge call for help. With Kaede and Kazuho in the picture, Natsumi takes drastic actions by jumping into the lake and catch the big one. In the end, everyone helps put in the pond and mom didn’t realize she dragged everybody into this. Furthermore, her watch is all wet. Time for an earful. No, this time she’s calling you not because of your reward. Konomi brought back her old clothes and when they put it on Natsumi, she looks very girly! Is this the same girl?! So girly that Renge thought she was a stranger! Not stopping at just looks, Konomi proceeds to teach this tomboy the finer ways of being a girl. When they are about to take a photo of her, she gets embarrassed, changes into a less feminine clothes to prepare for her pose. Natsumi and Hikage finish a box of delicious snacks. Then the rest come by to tell them about the moon watching even tonight and the snacks they’ve prepared. Oh no… Feeling guilty, I don’t think accusing each other would do any good. Of course we all know it’s Natsumi’s fault in the first place for never checking. Hikage has a conscious so she’s not going to give some lame switching theory like Natsumi did. She wants Natsumi to make those dumplings again while she tries to convince the rest to give up moon watching. Whatever Hikage says makes it worse. Now they’re hyped up to watch the moon tonight. As expected, Natsumi also fails on her part so they discuss about prostrating before everyone as apology. They even start practising at the front door. Just then, Kaede comes in and is delighted about the snacks for the moon watching. I guess this means an apology will not work now. Seeing them in a prostrating position, they lie that they are doing some turtle pose… Natsumi forgot to clean up the kitchen and by the time they realize it, the rest are making additional snacks for tonight as they thought the dumplings won’t be enough. This is when Natsumi in her relief spills out how she ate the dumplings. Oops… The moon watching goes ahead and what about our guilty duo? They become ‘slaves’ in making and serving the snacks. One mochi coming up. Make that five. And step on it.

Episode 10
Renge hangs out with Konomi since the sisters are not in. Konomi tricks Renge that she is a monster and proves it with that thumb separating trick. You should see Renge’s amazed look. Priceless! She’s really convinced that the thumb gets healed back without any surgery! Now she wants to be a monster like Santa Claus. Santa is a monster? Konomi brings her to her room to learn some ‘incantation’ when it’s just some multiplication table. What is more amazing is that Renge could easily give the answer when Konomi tests her! Genius loli?! When the sisters come back, Renge excitedly tells that monster thingy. But when they remember that thumb trick, they also show it to her. Look at her freaking out face. Priceless! Later when Renge learns the rest had their training wheels taken off from their bicycle at an early age, she requests Kazuho to remove them. Now Renge wants her to help practice but since she is busy, I guess she’ll go bug Kaede. She is also busy manning the store but can look out for her if she practises in front of the shop. Persevering loli doesn’t give up despite the many falls and at the end of the day, her knees are scraped so Kaede patches them up before she heads home. The next day, Renge has high fever (same emotionless face?). Upon learning about it, Kaede closes the shop and quickly dashes over. But looks like her friends are there first. Natsumi teases Kaede that she was concerned about Renge and since she is running her mouth, Kaede lets everyone share the snacks except for this tomboy. Upon Renge’s request, Kaede reads to her that crane folklore. For the umpteenth time. When Renge is fine and she goes to visit Kaede, the store is closed. That is because Kaede will be free in helping Renge practice cycling. The day is not without her falling down but each time she does, she gets back up. All that training pays off as Renge can now cycle with her friends like normal. With a few bandages on her knees, they’re like the battle scars she can wear proudly on her sleeve. All thanks to Kaede.

Episode 11
I think Komari feels left out when she hears Konomi and Hotaru can play the flute and piano respectively. Hey, at least she can play the melodian. Komari is fascinated with Konomi’s handphone. As they are in the countryside, signal is hard to get. This means if Konomi wants to send or receive mail, she has to stand outside her house’s yard and stretch for the sky. Komari is excited in wanting to try and reply a mail to Kaede. You can tell how noob she is when she doesn’t even know how to type in the words. As she tries to send, there is no signal. Could it be something to do with her stature? She won’t lose out so she tries jumping. The landing wasn’t good. Now she wants Hotaru to carry her. Not because her ankle was sprained, it’s her heart! She is bent on sending it and has Hotaru carry her high up for a signal. Finally it connects! Hooray! Kaede receives the message but doesn’t understand the gibberish. Renge is going to draw a monkey on the New Year cards and won’t let Hikage see. If she wants, she must chant some weird incantation. Hikage thought she was sly by using a binoculars but Renge saw her right through. Time to get desperate. Hikage holds back the loli but I don’t know how, Renge can turn the tables and pin her down! OMG! And then this! Some super fast collarbone jabbing technique! Enough for Hikage to give up. Renge remains suspicious each time Hikage moves. In the end, it looks like a funny happy monkey. She shows it to Kazuho who couldn’t stop laughing at this funny sheep. Sheep? But doesn’t it really look like a sheep upside down? After Hotaru and Renge leave the sisters’ house, Renge notes of her very polite and adult-like manners although Hotaru disagrees with her. Renge doesn’t believe Hotaru is pretty childish back home. So we get to see how true this is because the moment Hotaru reaches home, she acts like a cute kid! It’s like she has a split personality! Wow. She’s acting like the pampered kid. A very happy pampered kid. Next day, her friends think how grownup Hotaru is and again she disagrees with them. They thought she’s just being modest but after Hotaru drinks a sweet drink and puts up that child-like behaviour, now you believe? And Natsumi thought Komari could take a hint learning up some grownup lessons from Hotaru.

Episode 12
Renge wants to pick bamboo shoots and wants her sisters to come. Hikage doesn’t seem to enthusiastic, though. Kazuho allows her to skip it since she just came back from an overnight bus. But when Kazuho talks about making sashimi, looks like it piques Hikage’s interest. Too bad they ignore her. Change your mind, girl? All the girls meet to go pick bamboo shoots. Renge meets Pechi for the first time. Komari bluffs Renge about Princess Kaguya in one of the shoots and since she believes it, Komari is forced to play along with her bluff. Natsumi and Hikage compete to see who can dig up more bamboo shoots but Pechi seems to dig faster. And eating it raw! So after a great meal, the main quartet hang out at their base and by the bridge, talking nonchalantly. As they plan to go hanami, their mom needs to cook some food with the bamboo shoots for them to bring along but since she is talking to another lady, I guess they’ll have to wait. More chatting while waiting. Playing that hand slapping game. Either way, Komari always gets the short end of the stick. Some go to bring tea while the rest gets distracted by a butterfly. Once mom is done, off they go to the blooming sakura tree. They are joined by the rest who also brought more food. Renge is happy to have this party. They hope to do all these great same things again next year. But of course.

Free & Easy
Either you will call this season a big yawn fest or a great healing therapy. Well, I’m in between. But leaning more towards the latter. It is without a doubt that this season is still as good as the last since there is nothing to expect but calm and soothing effect. At least for those who have watched the first season. I suppose that is why they have the ‘Repeat’ in the title. A big indication that it is going to be the same repeat of the same thing. So for those of you who are ‘too corrupted’ and are just dying to keep yourself awake to watch 10 seconds of this anime, then go back to your no hope life of Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Farmsville (do they still have that online?). Otherwise if you’re like me, the simple pleasures in this series do not make it feel boring or repetitive at all although it does get a little draggy at times but that is miniscule in comparison to the healing effect that it had on me. Serious.

This season feels like home like the first season. Like as though it is an extension of the first season because a lot of everything pretty much remains the same. From the flow of the story (if you can call it that), the pace setting, the artwork, the characters, the next episode preview (it is pretty creative for it to be shown inside the TV of a living room) and nearly about everything else feels like it is brought over from the first season. Like how you’ll never get enough of those beautiful countryside sceneries from the mountains to the rivers and the simple countryside houses and paddy fields. Even the end card continues the tradition of having a photo of those scenic views. I believe they are not Photoshop in any way so it is safe to say that there are still many parts in our world that hasn’t been ruined by the devastating touch of mankind. Or at least how the simple life in the countryside can tell us we can indeed co-exist with nature being minimalists and do away with all the excessive unnecessary stuffs. But I don’t want to bore you with all that so let’s get back to this season’s review anyway.

Unfortunately like I have said, because everything remains basically the same, it is hard for me to point out anything that stands out or whatever makes it different from the first season. It is basically just status quo. Renge is still the best character thanks to her funny emotionless loli face and she’ll break you into a smile each time you see her put up such enthusiasm despite her deadpan face. I fear this kind of look will stick with her until she grows up. The rest of the characters also feel at home. Natsumi being the cheeky tomboy and troublemaker of the pack, Komari the petite big sister who is more like a little kid than a big sister, Hotaru the ‘normal’ one but it seems they didn’t spam her Komari obsession this season, Hikage the reluctant sister, Kazuho continues to slack while Kaede and Konomi continue to provide side character support for our main characters.

And yes, who wouldn’t forget Suguru. If you bother to remember him and his very little limited presence at all. Just like last season, this guy continues not to have any spoken dialogues whatsoever. Initially I thought this season if there was going to be a huge surprise and twist, it would be this guy suddenly popping up a single phrase and that’s all you’ll ever hear. And then you’ll see the girls go flabbergasted and Natsumi making a joke that they’ve heard their big brother speak for the first time. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. So it makes me think that this Suguru might be sort of a mute person. He is not deaf but perhaps his vocal chords got damaged or born without one and thus his mime-like gestures. But still, the thought that he could suddenly speak would be fun. The only character missing from this season was Honoka. Remember that loli friend of Renge? I guess she didn’t visit her grandma this time around.

The stories in the episodes feel like they don’t necessarily follow a certain chronological order and the ‘adventures’ they have in the countryside are like standalone filler episodes. Veterans from the first season can basically guess more or less the same kind of antics and jokes that our countryside girls will pull off. In a way, still retaining its charm and funniness but otherwise may be getting a little old and, uhm, repetitive. No, not talking about any recycled jokes but the style of their antics played out may seem pretty similar to some and thus forcing us to laugh and such. You know Natsumi is the mischievous one and surely to come up with all sorts of excuses and stuffs. Or Renge and her first grader-like views and cuteness. Or Komari screaming her head off after a prank or experiencing something unpleasant. All too familiar. There are some drama parts to break the flow and pull some heart strings like that tadpole shrimp incident but that sadness won’t stay long.

The same people from last season once more sing the opening and ending theme. After all these years hearing nano.RIPE, looks like her ‘drunken’ voice is more tolerable now in my books. She sings the opening theme, Kodama Kotodama and the lively tune of the song gives a fun overall feeling to it. The main quartet reprise their ending theme duty with the song Okaeri. Another fun song to hear and even more fun if you enjoy watching the episode. One thing I noticed is perhaps the absence of that Row, Row, Row Your Boat BGM. Maybe it is one of the few ‘changes’ from last season as I believe they used a completely new set of soundtracks.

Overall, a good second season although it doesn’t break any new ground. But at least it did its job in cleansing all the toxic from other animes. And now to go back to all those violence, sex, nonsense, fart jokes, slapstick humour, ecchi, blood, killing, insensitive jokes, moe overdose and the likes. What? I’m pretty sure that they’ll make another season when the time comes. Then I’ll just watch it and purify my soul again before restarting the cycle. That’s not too bad, right? Hey, don’t blame me. I didn’t say I am going to cast away my sinful anime life and start living the free and healthy lifestyle. Watching others living the simple life? Cool. But me actually living the simple life? Not a chance. Life is definitely more fun the way I am now :-).

Non Non Biyori OVA

October 10, 2014

In conjunction of the announcement for the second season, thus it is like a celebration when they release Non Non Biyori OVA to commemorate this special message. Dubbed the 13th episode (because it is the unaired TV episode and you will only get it if you buy the final DVD of the series), what is in store for our simple countryside girls? What ‘big’ adventures are they going to have here? Actually it is more like the preparations for a big trip. So they’re going away? Hold your horses. I said preparations. That means you’re not going to see them going on the trip they’re going. So toss your iPhones, iPads and whatever gadgets you have now and spend 20 minutes and leave it to those girls to show us how they can still have some plain and simple fun.

We’re Going To Okinawa!
Suguru is a lucky guy. In the sense that he won the grand prize for a trip to Okinawa! Suguru is also a nice guy. He gives it to his sister. Their shocking dumbfounded faces – Priceless! So the girls are eagerly finding out and talking about Okinawa. What they are going to do and the types of food specialties. It is decided that they want to bring a lot of snacks but before that, Renge is worried about something first. Since they have never board a plane, they have Hotaru explain to them her experience (she is the only one who has sat in it). So this is practice on how to ride a plane? I’m not sure if she can replicate what the flight attendants said about putting on seatbelts (because Renge certainly has never put on one!) but she thinks the most important thing is to pack their things. Don’t want to rush, don’t we? Later the girls visit Kaede’s shop to get some snacks. Surprisingly she is willing to bring some free of charge. But she mentions about the view there is different and warns after they look at it, there is a chance they may change, be it not coming back here or see yourself in a different light. Renge practises basking in the light since she believes the sun in Okinawa is hotter than here. But finish your ice cream first. It’s melting! Next day, they head to the convenience store to get more stuffs. Renge just being Renge… She is surprised this convenience store has no elevators. Because it’s only one floor… Renge happen to see Suguru there and then she runs back and hug Natsumi. She thought she sensed some paradigm shift. Hotaru happily gives Komari a swimsuit. However it is so loose… When Renge goes home, she takes a sniff at her house. It’s not that she is feeling nostalgic or going to be away from home for some time. It is that she is worried about Kaede’s words. She is worried that if she changes, she will not be able to change back. Kazuho assures her that elementary kids won’t change. Enough to ease Renge’s mind. Then she forgot something. Actually, it is to say goodbye to the village. At the top of her voice she gives out the loudest “I’m off!”. But don’t worry. She’ll be back. Hasta la vista, baby. At the airport, the countryside girls are really excited. This is their first time, right? Even Renge can’t wait to see the plane now! Please be patient. We have to check in your luggage first. Komari gets the biggest freak out of her life when the detector sensed something and she gets some body search. The plane is taxing as Natsumi and Hikage’s fear starts to creep in… And they’re off! Have fun.

Simple Pleasures In Life
Despite this OVA being nothing much, I suppose the saving grace of it is still Renge. She is perhaps still the most amusing character in this series thanks to her kiddie ways that never fails to amuse it. Her honest to goodness of kids her age makes you believe that the age of innocence is still there. Well, only in the countryside. So while I wait for the next season to come, it got me thinking that this series may rival that of Tamayura in the sense of being super calm and soothing for the soul. You don’t need explosive action, mind numbing fanservice and slapstick jokes to make something work. Something this simple can still be enjoyable. If this anime does make people put down their gadgets and go back to basics and nature, then we really need more of these animes around. Yeah. You might see yourself in a different light and change. And there’s no turning back…

Non Non Biyori

May 24, 2014

Here we go again. Yet another anime about a group of girls. No serious plot or anything. Just this bunch of girls and their antics. I suppose if you have cute girls around, it doesn’t matter the plot as long as we enjoy ogling at the cute things they do. But what makes Non Non Biyori a little different from this genre of cute girls doing cute things? The setting is in the countryside! Oh great. How can life in the countryside be any different because it lacks what we call modern conveniences and entertainment? Yeah well, that’s why it’s different. No iPhones, iPads, iOS, Tables and whatever gadgets and gizmos to distract us. No Facebook or Twitter to keep tabs with the updates ever second. No Angry Bird, Candy Crush or Farmville or even that once addictive Flappy Bird. No shopping malls, no high-rise buildings. Can you imagine civilization without all that? Yeah. We’re going back to nature to watch how girls in the rural area still can have fun and rock without subjecting themselves to modern technology. So rural this place that in this village of Asahigaoka, you can literally fit the entire school with different grades in one class! Saves time, saves energy.

Episode 1
Renge Miyauchi and sisters Natsumi and Komari Koshigaya are on their way to school. Life must be real boring for them to even talk about what they had for breakfast and what the radio host talked about. In class, teacher Kazuho Miyauchi introduces a new transfer student, Hotaru Ichijou. She transferred from Tokyo to this countryside due to her dad’s job. Hotaru is surprised that the different grades are in the same class. Heck, this is the only class! They are the only students in school!!! With that other bespectacled guy over there, Suguru, and now with Hotaru joining them, total school students = 5! Just five freaking students!!! Guess what? Since they’re all in different grades, they do self-studying. Hotaru notices buckets in the hallway and thinks it is to catch the water leaks. Actually the floor wood is pretty old and rotten so the buckets are to prevent them from getting to close and falling through. They didn’t realize Suguru already did… While playing dodgeball, Hotaru drops her house key. The rest finds it odd that she needs to lock her house because they don’t. Heck, have they even seen a lock before? They find her weird. As Hotaru walks home with the rest, she finds out that the candy store also doubles as a bookstore though the books arrive 2 days late. Also, cattle crossing could also mean boars and deer or whatever wildlife that crosses. Renge wants to show Hotaru her special talent. First she whistles and a tanuki pops out from the bushes. This is her pet Gu? Then she whistles again to make it do a trick. Nothing happens… Renge wonders if they are living in a countryside so with Natsumi’s twisted reasoning that in some places there are combined schools and that the highways doesn’t have traffic lights (just like there are none here), therefore they aren’t living in the countryside. Also, as there are cattle or boars showing up, she is pretty sure that monkeys turn up in Tokyo once in a while. The girls have their lunch using the wild plants they picked today. Then they have their mochi dessert underneath the sakura tree. Ah, the taste of spring. The girls miss the bus on their way back. When is the next one coming? In 2 hours. Natsumi notes that buses in the countryside are so inconvenient. Aha! Renge caught her saying that ‘C’ word.

Episode 2
Hotaru explains a few stuffs. Komari is Natsumi’s elder sister and that Suguru guy is the elder brother to both sisters. Kazuho is Renge’s elder sister and the only teacher in school. Because of the self-study thingy, she often loves sleeping in class. The teacher sleeping instead of the student… Hotaru adds that Komari is often nicknamed Koma-chan not because of her name but her petite size (komari means small). Hotaru adores her. Yes, seriously. But she often gets picked on by Natsumi and with the recent duster falling on her head (trap intended for Kazuho), Komari isn’t too pleased. Hotaru tries to wipe the dust off her head but it amounts to petting and she could have developed some fetish had not Natsumi put on the brakes. The rest find a sweet in Komari’s bag but she gives it to Hotaru, bringing unexplainable happiness. Natsumi and Renge feel left out so they team up and give her that grudging look. Since they’re so annoying, Komari wants the sweet back but this causes Hotaru heart break. So much so the villainous duo had to give up. Super mood swing again as Hotaru is one happy kid to get something from her beloved Komari. Later Komari calls Hotaru (via a phone booth of course) to say she wants to hang out. Hotaru is so surprised by her call that she almost fell! Then she panics on what to do and wear. As Komari waits, she is approached by an adult-looking woman, not knowing that this is Hotaru dressed up. Because of their ambiguous talk, they continue to misinterpret each other. Komari finds it odd this woman came all the way to Tokyo just to have her guide her to a candy store. Because Komari wants to handle this like an adult, she finds herself accompanying Hotaru there. Komari notices her ‘grown up’ behaviour as she is not scared walking through a dark tunnel (she is happily thinking about her outing with Komari), using a 10,000 Yen bill to buy shaved ice at the store (she saved this New Year money) and eating its bitter green tea flavour (anything tastes good as long Komari is with her!). Komari gets brain freeze when she eats it too fast thinking this is the path to being an adult. As they walk back, Hotaru explains how she likes the calming and peaceful place here as she has never lived anywhere else except Tokyo and was worried. After they part, Komari finds her so cool that she brags to it to her uninterested siblings. Then she remembers about her promise with Hotaru and calls to apologize. Hotaru doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Yeah, she’s busy sewing a little Komari doll!

Episode 3
It’s the class outing today! Erm… Help Kazuho plant rice? Oh sure. What a great way to disguise free labour in the form of a field trip. Hotaru works hard because she wants to taste Komari’s onigiri. Natsumi the lazy bum lazes around, makes Suguru into a scarecrow and pokes fun at Komari being stuck in the mud. When she goes to rescue her, she too gets stuck. She suggests Komari use her body to get out. However Renge bumps into them and they both fell in. Messy. Dirty. And where is Kazuho? She’s manning the tractor! She just wants to ‘experiment’ that using machine is much more efficient than the human factor. Obviously. WTF. Oh, Natsumi got to mustard onigiri. She was the one who suggested the Russian roulette and it blew up right back in her face. Komari is watching a marathon of videos. The deadline is tomorrow and the rental shop is 10 stations away! Got to finish ‘em all. One of the movies being a horror genre, she ends up scared and couldn’t sleep so she goes to sleep with Natsumi who can tell what is happening. Komari’s denial makes it worse because it is chance for Natsumi to play cheap scaring thrills on her. Having fun? Then the thought of the non-existence ghosts and spirits occupies Natsumi’s mind. Where do you go when you die? She couldn’t sleep but Komari is knocked out like a log. Due to that, Natsumi is absent the next day at class. Natsumi’s mom, Yukiko accuses her of breaking a vase. Komari as the witness couldn’t help. She starts crying like a little girl. Yukiko can’t trust her daughter due to her attitude because this happened many times before. She always used excuses to blame something else. However Natsumi asserts this time it is for real that the culprit was a cat who also had stolen their chikuwa. Since Yukiko refuses to believe so, Natsumi runs away from home and drags Komari with her. They end up hanging out at their secret hideout. Well, the place has no water, no electricity, no food. So boring. Komari sucks at shiritori. Then they see a scribble on the wall by Natsumi scolding Yukiko. Natsumi then had an argument with mommy and ran away here. Deja vu? That ended with Komari bringing Natsumi back since she got sick eating grass. Then they see the cat but it brought the chikuwa to its kittens. Since it’s getting cold, they decide to go back. Suguru picks them up. Arriving back home, Yukiko is mad because she was looking all over for them. Seems the stolen chikuwa was a blessing in disguise as now they get to savour tasty sweet fish brought by their neighbour. That night, Natsumi sleeps with Komari as sign of repentance for today.

Episode 4
On the last day before summer vacation starts, it has been a tradition for the school to eat watermelons cooled by the clear flowing river. Kazuho also passes them their report card. Renge aces by getting all 5. Natsumi is too scared to look at hers for fear of being scolded by mom. Then she becomes happy after seeing lots of 4s and 5s. Till Kazuho points out elementary scores up till 5 while middle school is based on 10. Life is so unbelievable… Renge’s other sister, Hikage is back from Tokyo. She is studying there and is back for the summer vacation. Renge is interested to hear her city stories and Hikage doesn’t waste time bragging in her city girl talk especially about the bullet train. But she meets her rival in the form of Hotaru. When she mentions that she flew here instead of taking the train, all attention is focused on her and they want to hear more. So much better treatment. Nobody cares about Hikage anymore… Renge makes friends with Honoka Ishikawa. She is visiting her grandma for the holidays. Renge becomes the expert tour guide and shows Honoka around. The latter also borrowed her father’s camera and starts taking pictures. Eventually Honoka teaches Renge how to take a photo. Feeling like a pro, Renge? They continue to have fun through the days that Renge gets up earlier and earlier just to go play with her. One day she is at Honoka’s grandma’s doorstep. However Honoka is not there. Due to the sudden call of her father to return to work, they left yesterday. Renge stood there in shock. It was a good full 50 seconds before heart break sinks in! Gosh. Heart breaking to see the loli cry! The sadness lasted for a whole week! She bounces back to her usual self when Kazuho gives her a letter from Honoka. She had fun playing with her and will definitely come back again next year. Photos included. This gives Renge the much needed motivation to go write a reply letter.

Episode 5
Yukiko leads the girls in doing morning exercises. This was supposed to be Kazuho’s job but she’s busy sleeping… Hotaru accompanies Komari to an unmanned store. Never seen a shed where all the vegetables placed and a box just to drop your coins as payment, eh? Trust is the key. Everyone has breakfast at Yukiko’s place before heading to the beach. From a country dweller’s point of view, it is kind of crowded. Komari is not pleased to be here because wearing her swimsuit makes her look like a kid. Kazuho tries to cheer her up by saying her height is the average around her age. Unfortunately that was old data dating back centuries ago… When Hotaru flaunts her sexy body and bikini, it just worsens the effect on Komari. Shocking? She goes to get drinks from the vending machine but apparently it is ‘mocking’ her too because she’s too short to reach the buttons. Then she is approached by a couple of guys… When Komari doesn’t return, Hotaru starts to panic. And I mean really panic that she has been kidnapped. Why not? Komari is cute, small and easy to carry. Note, easy to carry. Guess what is Kazuho’s reply? Since she came as a friend and not a teacher today, she can’t be held responsible. No more hope… So they start searching for her and desperate Hotaru searches at most unlikely places. Under the vending machine? I’m sure she isn’t THAT small. Then there is an announcement of a lost girl. Instantly they know it’s her because Komari is protesting she isn’t one. The guys who found her thought she was a lost child… Komari is so pissed and insulted… On the way back while waiting for their transit train that arrives in 20 minutes, the girls go grab something to eat nearby. Komari almost takes it personally when the chef wonders if one kiddie chair was enough (it was for Renge). Komari burnt her mouth with the spicy udon. Did Natsumi spike it? Due to Renge’s pitiful stare, Natsumi is somewhat forced to eat it. Super hot too? Trying to be a hero? Then it turns out Renge was just staring at the bug on the ceiling… The last train arrives and they need to hurry. Komari is ‘paralyzed’ from the spiciness while Renge is totally in zen eating her don. Hotaru and Natsumi have no choice but to carry a girl each and make a dash. They made it but realize Kazuho is sleeping at the platform! Goodbye… Renge sounds more happy than worried? Kazuho didn’t even know she missed the last train. Back home, Yukiko once again needs to punish Natsumi for dripping water everywhere. She went and put ice cubes in the back of her shirt… Komari is in the toilet undressing. She really wanted to go into the water but it was this swimsuit that stopped her. Natsumi accidentally comes in and sees this. She really looks like a kid…

Episode 6
Yukiko reprimands Natsumi over her poor grades. Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada. Summer is already so hot and not mommy is blowing up. Really, Armageddon. Natsumi and Komari are doing some sort of hand signal telepathic communication about the former wanting the latter to hide her other poorly graded test sheets. The funny hand gestures rile up Yukiko and since Natsumi continues to give excuses and fool around, she throws the book at him. She wants the other siblings to have a say but Suguru suddenly becomes Usain Bolt. Natsumi thinks she can use this chance to run but mommy caught her. No escape. Natsumi is made to study while mommy goes air the futon. However naughty girl doesn’t learn her lesson. She continues being lazy and asks where Komari had hid her test papers. Under the futon… Oh no. When furious Armageddon bursts back into the scene, Komari and Suguru become Usain Bolt once moe. Meanwhile something more sinister is brewing… In Hotaru’s room, it is filled with Komari dolls!!! OMG!!! Scary!!! Then her friends come over and invite themselves in. Hotaru stops them and quickly cleans up her room (which sounds like a warzone). All nice and clean now. Komari is distraught that Hotaru’s photo album was just last year. See how much she has grown? Natsumi engrosses herself with her video game while Renge is on the verge of opening the closet where all the dolls are stuffed. Although Hotaru stops her, she is forced to embarrass herself by playing the demon to keep Renge at bay. So embarrassing that she trips and accidentally opens the closet. All the atrocities fall out. Oh God… Is she busted for good?

But Renge concludes that she is doing some free study summer project and everyone wants to make a doll. Phew. Worried over nothing? Komari makes a cat, Renge makes Gu and Natsumi a horrible rendition of Renge. I thought that was some Pokemon… Renge suggests playing house with Komari the father, Hotaru the mom (I’m sure she loves this) and Renge the… Flying fish? That night Natsumi brings the gang to play kimodameshi (test of courage). Sorry, not fireworks. Komari tries to act tough that she’s not scared. But by luck, she gets to be the one who scares. But this is a trickier task. Who knows setting up the stuffs alone would be scary? While going through the simple ghost outfit, she feels somebody creeping up on her. Because she is panicking, the great timing means she misses Suguru who just walked pass by her and place the coin on the box as per the game instruction. He leaves as quiet and quick as he came while Komari is left running paranoid. Why is she always looking at the wrong direction? She really starts to get scared when she notices the coin on the box. Who the hell is this mysterious participant? She gets paranoid enough to blame the cat. Does she want to fight with it? The cat snarls back and she gets frightened, trips and falls into the box and covers herself in that ghost outfit. When it’s Natsumi’s turn, she plans on scaring her sister. But she sees this WTF scene of the ‘ghost’ furiously ringing the bell and trying to exorcise the ‘evil’. WTF. Everyone winds down by playing sparklers.

Episode 7
The new semester starts. Natsumi thought she is late and comes in giving excuses but Kazuho is the one committing the greater offence. She’s not even here. She’s sleeping back home. I take that back. Natsumi is worse because she criticizes Kazuho for being irresponsible because just a moment ago, she was blaming her sister for not waking her up. So they play cat’s cradle (did Renge make the universe?), read manga (their totally different tastes couldn’t hold the conversation) and make clay (Suguru made an awesome anime cat girl figurine that was unfortunately smashed by Natsumi as she doesn’t want Renge to see this mature stuff). Hotaru accompanies excited Renge to feed the rabbits. So excited the loli that she dives like a rocket and scrapes her knee. WTF. They notice a rabbit escaped so Renge has this brilliant plan to lure it back leaving a trail of corns and carrots. The rabbit takes the bait but when it is just a carrot away from the shed, the smart rabbit kicks the door and locks the girls in!!! Smart rabbit! What the hell are both girls standing inside the shed for???!!! Hotaru panics. They’re far away from school and haven’t told anyone. The next person on duty will come next week. That’s like in 3 more days, right? Start panicking now! But Renge remains positive. They have enough vegetables (though they’re shrivelled) and eggs from the chicken (some may contain chicks) to last them. Is it no wonder why Hotaru desperately wants to get out? You can panic now! However they can thank their lucky stars because Kazuho is seen picking up the free food trail. For once she did something useful. Kaede Kagayama is going to go out of business if nobody patrons her candy store. Yeah, she’s bored too. But here comes Renge. The kid is sceptical about the gachapon and feels it’s a scam. Kaede tests it out just to prove it to her but gets an odd toy. Yeah. It may be a scam. Renge wants to buy a sweet but Kaede bluffs her that it costs 1000 times more! Since Renge can’t make it back to watch her favourite Greatman anime, she borrows Kaede’s room to watch. Kaede sends her back but she didn’t ride her bike. She pushes it! She views it is dangerous for 2 people to ride a bike? At least Renge doesn’t have to walk. Renge becomes excited upon knowing Kazuho is cooking curry. Kaede leaves and lamenting her poor state when Renge comes back to give her a packed curry meal. She even invites her to play Greatman with her next time. If she feels like it. Yeah, she can be the hostess the hero frequents or a monster. On second thought, she’ll pass.

Episode 8
It’s autumn and Komari wants to get sentimental. However she becomes clumsy whether it is pulling out vegetables, cutting potatoes (it hit Hotaru’s face) or boiling rice (she forgot to add water). Neighbour Konomi Fujimiya visits Komari and Hotaru. Komari wants to show off how adult she is and brags about the new CD player she bought. Bet she has not heard what an MP3 player is, eh? So what music is she listening to? Children’s music… Komari is lost when Komari and Hotaru talk deep about classical music. Heard of Vivaldi? She tries to make it like she knows them too but her broad description of that music with many people and a guy waving a wand just doesn’t cut it. Komari tries to change the subject and talk about fashion. Again she gets lost in their deep fashion talk like denim. She wants to stop this topic and talk something else. Konomi suggests telling love stories and Komari is eager to say hers. Well, she had none. WTF. Cheeky Konomi notes Suguru is the only guy in class and hardly any excitement. But Hotaru was from Tokyo so she must have had lots of guys in her class, right? She pesters her to tell as Hotaru flusters. She can’t say but we know it’s her obsession for Komari. Komari gets this creepy feeling of seeing love in Hotaru’s eyes! Then she has had it. She throws a tantrum that she is more mature than them all (?!). She is relieved when Hotaru reluctantly says she is not in love. Now they’re even. Since when was this a battle? Then when they drink coffee, Komari pours lots of sugar but Hotaru prefers hers black… Later Komari meets up with Hotaru and Renge as they do outdoor sketching. Renge makes Komari her model and the latter becomes modest although she strikes a few cute poses. Hotaru fawns over it and sounds like a pervert wanting her to be her model. Komari acts reluctant but you can tell she loves it. So much so Renge had to tell her she didn’t have to get this excited. They notice Renge drew a good rendition of Komari. Wow. I didn’t know she was this good. Renge couldn’t care less about competitions and notes this isn’t the kind of drawing she likes to draw. Since they’re hungry, Hotaru rushes back to get lunch. While they wait, the duo play plane gliders. Probably she took too long because when Hotaru returns, they have fallen asleep and she sketches this lovely scene. As usual, Natsumi is lazy and doesn’t want to help with the persimmon decorations. She fools around with it then goes check on Suguru who is playing some awesome electric guitar music. Konomi comes over to help and she spots Komari fooling around with the persimmons. Trying to play like her sister? Embarrassed of course. Natsumi draws a face on a persimmon before they finish it up, boil it and hang them up. Hotaru is happy to receive the persimmons from Komari but notices one of them with a weird face…

Episode 9
The girls are preparing for the cultural festival. They can’t invite parents and Natsumi had to go the extra mile by badmouthing her mom as a messenger from hell. Yeah. She’s right behind you. It is suggested that will invite the alumni to the festival. Renge calls Hikage and couldn’t care less about her Tokyo-is-super talk. Hikage quickly shoots down her offer that she doesn’t have money. Konomi uses her charm to convince her. More like forceful talking leaving her no chance to decline. Next, they go invite Kaede but she asserts she is working and no one will man the store. Till Renge puts up her sad loli look. If your heart doesn’t sink in seeing this face, you’re a demon! So care to sponsor some sweets? Yeah. You can pick up lots of rich snails in the field nearby. And so the alumni of Kazuho, Konomi, Hikage and Kaede visit this animal cafe at the cultural festival. Heck, it’s the only thing. Hotaru is the cat and nobody could guess Renge’s ‘antennas’ as a giraffe. Natsumi? She’s an UMA (Unidentified Mysterious Animal). Because she’s wearing a paper bag over her head. After ordering their food, Natsumi goes off with Hotaru to cook. Renge is left to entertain the guests with her play. She shows off her new toy. A cardboard with a hold in the middle. You put your head through and make a remark. It makes it look like an ending chapter in a manga! These kids really don’t have such sophisticated entertainment, do they? Next is her recorder performance but Komari will also be part of it. She’s in a full tanuki costume. I guess this explains why she didn’t want to come out. While Renge blows, Komari hits her stomach like a drum! WTF?! Eventually she couldn’t take it anymore and leaves. Embarrassed. Natsumi tries to take over with a tablecloth pull but messes up by spilling everything. Yeah. This was her first time. She really thought she could do it. They clean up and never noticed Suguru the faithful and quiet dog sitting at the corner…

It has been 30 minutes so what is holding up their order? They go check it out and it seems Hotaru is trying to get Komari out of depression while Natsumi just wants to call it quits. Lost interest? She then puts her UMA headgear on Kaede. Hear her angry breathing… In the end, the guests are the ones who made the delicious meal. Natsumi is left to repent-cum-entertain them in Renge’s cardboard… When Konomi and Komari are playing video games, Natsumi desperately seeks their help to clean her room or mommy won’t give her dinner. Naturally they don’t want to help but since they did use her room to prepare for the cultural festival, just this once. However they get distracted when they find a box containing old toys. Brings back the good ol’ memories. From those little round bouncy pop-ups to Slinky and a caterpillar. Yeah, toy stocks in the countryside hardly move. Natsumi finds Komari’s essay and reads aloud her ambition to become flowers. Huh? The sisters start fighting but Konomi knows Yukiko will have their heads if she sees them fooling around and subdues them in the nick of time! Well, it’s better than getting scolded by Armageddon, devil messenger, lightning bolts or iron claw. Whatever her nickname is now. After finish cleaning, they find an old video tape supposedly an old anime called Pretty Cute. Cute… When they play it, they see a homemade recording and Natsumi is the ‘star’. This cute little energetic girl is hugging Suguru and claims she wants to marry him when she grows up!!! Natsumi instantly slams the stop button. Well, that sure brings back memories. Yeah. Memories she doesn’t want to remember. Now she’s squirming in pain all over… Next time think twice before wanting to walk down memory lane, okay?

Episode 10
End of another semester. The air is getting colder. Renge begs to go see the first sunrise of the new year. She will do what is told and eat the foods she hates without question. It’s hard not to give in when you see a loli begging like that. And so Kaede and the Miyauchi sisters drive to the foothill and hike up to the spot. I know it’s cold but why does Kazuho need to wear a ski mask? It makes her look like a robber. Or an alien in Kaede’s view. To stave off the tiredness, Renge starts singing. A quack doctor in despair? WTF. This brings back memories to Kaede how much she has grown in the past 5 years. Flashback time. Kaede first met Renge when she was a year old. Then, Hikage called her to look after the baby because she wanted to go out to the city with Konomi. Their parents are working at the field and the babysitters are away for today. Kaede was reluctant to do it but since she heard the pay will be 5000 Yen, she got here as soon as possible. Money motivates. At first Kaede had a hard time trying to understand Renge’s erratic behaviour. She’s crying at times and the note of what to do and what nots seems sarcastically written by Hikage. Stinky bomb? Don’t start crying before the baby? Then Renge plays with a cat’s tail. It got annoyed and hit her forehead with its paw! Neko punch! Renge cries uncontrollably. What now? Trying to get her milk, Kaede trips on her rattle. Just not her day. Things return to normal when Kaede gives her milk. But this is the turning point. When Hikage returns, she is surprised to see Kaede and Renge sleeping close to each other. I guess things must have worked out. It’s like they’ve been close for a long time. Next day, Kaede surprisingly returns just to be with Renge despite the babysitters are in and even she will not get paid. Kaede uses Hikage’s discarded ribbons to tie Renge’s hair, the hairstyle she dons till today and that we always identify her with. Wow. They click so well. Back in present time, Renge is already tired. Yeah, all that singing must be draining her energy. Not as bad as Kazuho who is almost close to dead. Maybe it was her song… To stop Renge from continuing to sing that odd song, Kaede carries her for the rest of the hike. Sorry, no same treatment for Kazuho. They wait for the sunrise and Renge won’t want to miss her first sunrise view and keeps a close watch at the sky. Her face lights up in awe upon seeing it. Back home, Hikage sees tired Kaede and Renge snuggling and sleeping close together like old times.

Episode 11
Thanks to the heavy snowstorm, the gang have to stay at school. Although the provisions are sufficient, the only problem is the lack of futons. More accurately, there are only 2 futons and 1 sleeping bag. They can make do if they share but nobody wants the sleeping bag since it’ll be cold. And so Kazuho suggests fighting for it but she lies down in one futon and instantly falls asleep! Renge will sleep with her sister. Sharing is possible if the other party is small. Which means Komari automatically gets the other one. The question now is, Natsumi or Hotaru is going to sleep with her. The latter I’m sure wants to sleep with her obsession, right? Thus the duo have to slug it out. Arm wrestling? Natsumi seems to have a strong reputation so Hotaru isn’t confident. But when it starts, Hotaru instantly wins! Did Natsumi’s arm break or something?! Feeling guilty, they have a rematch. The puns won’t do so doing impersonations is the next best thing. After Renge’s WTF pyramid impersonation, Hotaru impersonates a crayfish but Renge might have taken it personally because her impersonation looked a lot like her! Both sides are desperate now when they realize cosy Kazuho talking in her sleep. Sweet dreams? They dump her in the sleeping bag and the case is solved! Should have done it in the first place! Dead in the night, Hotaru can’t sleep so she goes out to marvel at the winter wonderland (it stopped snowing). Komari sees this and wakes up Natsumi to go tail her. Hotaru is in awe at the starry sky. You don’t see this in Tokyo. The sisters are baffled why she is raising her arms to the sky. Is she an alien? Then Hotaru rushes back just to shut a tap. Awakened Renge thought some party has started because she was dreaming about aliens. WTF. As the sisters are about the head back in, the snow on the roof falls on them. Hotaru and Renge go check out the loud thud and are surprised to see and 8 legged Martian with lights as eyes!!! Seems it has snowed a lot last night so the gang go skiing. Kaede rents them ski equipment. Hey, she’s got to make a living. That’s why it’s good to diversify. Natsumi seems to be a pro skier as she teaches the rest how to do so. Of course, Komari screws up, Hotaru tries to save her in her excitement and they ended up being screwed. Eventually, Natsumi herself doesn’t know how to ski and she was just teaching based from a lecture she remembers. Later the girls make a snow house. But will it collapse when they grill mochi inside? I don’t know, it seems to hold up pretty well and they even have worm pork miso soup. Ah… Just the right tonic to warm the soul.

Episode 12
It is spring time and a year has passed since Hotaru transferred here. Today is Hotaru’s favourite day because she’ll be having picnic with Komari! They each make bentos but somehow Komari sucks at cooking and all her food turn out black. A sad Komari is not good for the heart so Hotaru tries to cheer her up and is willing to eat it. Though, she gets most of the description wrong. The taste must have been awful so Hotaru lies through her teeth how delicious it is so that Komari will not be so disappointed. Guess what? There’s more… Gosh… She has dug a hole so deep… Komari even came prepared with a Russian roulette onigiri. One of them is laced with wasabi. Who knows, Hotaru got it on the first try. However the more Hotaru tries, the more she notices Komari getting disheartened so not only she had to say she loves her cooking but she ate all of them! I hope in the future she won’t get stomach cancer. Just when Hotaru thought she had finished everything, here come the pancakes as desserts… Still up for it? She wanted to refuse but when Komari is going to feed her, Hotaru would gladly have some. Hotaru meets up with the rest to go pick edible plants at the mountainside. Hotaru thinks they’ve trespassed a private property but Renge assures her this entire mountain belongs to her family! Hey, even Komari’s family has a mountain! I guess to these country folks, owning a mountain or two isn’t such a big deal. When Renge sees Suguru chewing some plants, I’m not sure if she starts getting scared or what because there was a long stare at him before she rushes to Natsumi and ‘complaints’ about that because nobody does that this century! She laments if this is the countryside because the city doesn’t even have mountains or edible plants. Hotaru says despite the vast difference between urban and rural places, it’s the reason why she loves it here. Then they enter a field with lots of pretty pink flowers. Natsumi says they are called renge. But little Renge is in a bind. She loves them so much so she can’t eat them now that she knows they share the same name. Natsumi makes a crown for her using those flowers. Putting up a few leaves on her back, it makes her look like a fairy. Happy Renge rushes back to show Kazuho and Kaede and thinks this new look makes he, erm, funky? The girls head back to make lunch.

The Simple Life
I was trying hard not to expect anything major happening at the end. After all, I expected that this will be your another life-goes-on ending. Still, it didn’t hurt to dream that there would be some super twist at the end. I guess I was really having wishful thinking. And so the nothing-much-happens ending may be a little bore for those who aren’t fans of the series or even casual viewers like me but the slow pace and calm setting of the anime has already instilled in our minds that you shouldn’t be expecting some sort of big twist. Like say, a girl suddenly turns yandere and goes on a killing spree! No way will that ever happen here! So at least we have the decency of the girls waving goodbye to us as closure to this series. What more do you expect from a bunch of girls from the countryside?

In terms of whether this show is enjoyable or not, it depends on your taste. If you like such genres and the slow pacing without any much rapid or convoluted development, this should suit you find. At times, it may even be a cure for insomnia. I’m not totally saying that this anime is boring because some of the jokes are funny enough to tickle your bone. If you are paying attention, that is. Thanks to the amusing characters, it is one reason why the show is funny and not a big bore. Each of them has their own peculiar and quirky characteristics. So it goes to show that whether you are in the big city or a sleepy town like this one, life is as exciting as the personality of the girls.

Hotaru as the newcomer fits in properly like a glove within the one year span. She seems to like it here very much since she doesn’t suffer from any sort of withdrawal symptoms. You know, city girls who are so used to living with modern conveniences would suddenly cry and complain without their mp3 players, gossip magazines and whatever latest Android or Apple gadget they have in hand. Perhaps it is because Hotaru has been back here often due to her relatives in the area, in a way she too feels at home. Now it’s going to be permanent.  Her obsession with Komari would have made her a stalker material if she was in the city but I guess if you’re in this small town where everybody is family, nobody really matters. Or maybe Komari just doesn’t realize it. Heck, she might not even know such obsession. It could be quite scary… Another thing amusing about Hotaru is her tendency to go ‘screaming’ when she panics. It’s like she’s really breaking down and most of the time it ends up that it wasn’t something that she should have worried about.

Renge is also an amusing loli. Despite having a poker face and that droopy eyes, how should I put it, she is quite perspective for a 6 year old. She says what she thinks and acts her age so in a way you could say she is honest in a kiddie sense. However because of that, sometimes it feels that what she says also tends to have some sarcasm in it. Cheerful and lively like how all kids should be, she easily gets excited when there is something fun to be done and even sings songs with her own weird lyrics. It’s hard to find her annoying. She’s like the epitome of moe for this anime. Just like every group, there has to be that carefree character and in this anime, it falls to Natsumi. Not only carefree, but rebellious too. Yeah, she can actually talk back to her mother without batting an eyelid and not have any regrets at all! I won’t go so far to brand her as a troublemaker or a wild child but most of us would think that she should have some sort of restraint. Then there is Komari who is gullible and hates that ‘S’ word like that kid in Fullmetal Alchemist. Because of her short stature, it feels like she is in a hurry to become an adult. However she is probably the one who doesn’t act her age among the quartet. Lastly, there is Suguru whose only role in this anime as I can see is for visual comic relief. Yeah, this guy has no spoken roles so each time you see him, it would be for something funny. The other characters are also okay. Kazuho is more of lazy than anything, Kaede probably is the person to go to if you need everything because she runs a candy store which is really much like a convenience store. Perhaps the only one in town. If there is anything you need to get, you go to her. She just lacks customers… Hikage would probably want to leave this rural place seeing the way how she praises the city but at times acts like a country bumpkin.

Some things left me baffled like the old video part whereby Natsumi really wanted to be Suguru’s bride. Ah, those innocent days. Just like most episodes, what ends in that episode stays that way. It would have really been interesting to know more about that but then again, probably she was a kid then and doesn’t know the implication when she said that. An embarrassing memory she could really have done without. Any one is where Renge draws like a pro. We were never shown the way she draws her art normally because the so called good one, she doesn’t like it. Scouters would have really tried all their might to get this girl into becoming an art prodigy but even Renge herself knows what she wants. She doesn’t care about competitions because if she wants to draw, it is most important that she must enjoy it herself.

One thing that bugs me is the not fact that the school has a single class that only has 5 students. But if lazy Kazuho always leaves the students to their own device and self-study, I am thinking why the heck in the first place should they come to school? I know it’s a way to make them independent but if you think about it, coming to school to study materials on your own when you can do it in the comfort of your room, don’t you think it’s redundant? Although I don’t see Kazuho grade them, but she handing back reports at one point shows that she does grade them. Which brings me to this point. If some of the girls can ace their studies or at least do well, don’t you think they could have been genius prodigy material? I mean, they don’t even need a teacher to understand their syllable and can do just fine doing on their own. If I was without a teacher to guide me, I think I would have flunked every subject in school. So to say, these girls are super smart, right? Natsumi may be an exception… Another point to ponder about school is if there is another one nearby. Because as far as I can see, Konomi is still studying and as I found out, she is a third year in a local high school. So unless you tell me that local high school is in another province (perhaps why she doesn’t make her appearance often), shouldn’t the class of Hotaru be in that same local school too? Heck, they can put elementary and junior high in one class, so what difference will it make if it’s mixed in that high school? Speaking of the school, the single school may not look big as compared to the one in the city, but I still think it is too big to house just 5 students despite having just one corridor. Yeah, it looks big and long from the outside. Don’t mention about the fields. This is the countryside, no?

The ‘unique’ thing about the next episode preview is that it is ‘previewed’ inside a TV. It’s like watching a TV through a TV. You might want to squint your eye real hard or put your face close and touching distance of your monitor just to see the tiny next episode preview. But don’t bother about it since you’re going to see those scenes somewhere in the next episode. You don’t want to spoil your eyes or hurt your posture because of that little small part. Also refreshing is the end card after every episode. Actually, they are real photographs taken by several people of the countryside from the rice fields to the snowy mountain. For a city dude like me, it’s refreshing to see those photos although I could just simply Google those sceneries. But you know, I’m just lazy. Heck, I’m sure everybody’s computer would have those default Photoshop images of nature, right? At least for those using Windows PC. Speaking of the picturesque scenes, I won’t go far to say that the drawing and art of this anime is spectacular. They are simple enough and because an urban dweller that has been too long in the city sees such refreshing sights of nature, I’m sure you’ll be marvelled at the simplicity and vastness of the countryside. This in a way enhances the quality of those scenes although I won’t go so far to call it breath-taking. Of course the girls are drawn cutely like your typical Japanese anime style.

At first I have this bugging feeling that Kana Asumi was a mismatch as Komari. Don’t get the wrong idea, I really love her voice especially when she gets into that trademark high pitch voice. I just thought that her voice just doesn’t match the looks of Komari. I still love it when she panics because that means Kana Asumi gets to sound her trademark voice like I always knew her as. You know, like Yuno in Hidamari Sketch or that crazy titular character in Haiyore! Nyaruko-san. Kotori Koiwai did a good job making Renge sound like an authentic 6 year old. I guess this is because she voiced other ‘loli’ roles before like Iwai in Dansai Bunri No Crime Edge and Kigurumi in Joshiraku. Okay, so those characters are a little bit grown up but they do sound cute, right? I haven’t heard Ryoko Shintani for a while so it was a welcome to hear her again as Konomi. Thankfully I can still recognize the one who voiced Rihoko in Amagami SS. But I couldn’t for Rina Satou as Kaede. It was like as though she was waiting to burst into becoming To Aru Kagaku No Railgun’s Misaka. Other casts include Ayane Sakura as Natsumi (Eno in Love Lab), Rie Murakawa as Hotaru (Aoi in Vividred Operation), Kaori Nazuka as Kazuho (Nunnally in Code Geass), Misato Fuken as Hikage (Yami in To Love-Ru), Akiko Hiramatsu as Yukiko (Haruko in Slam Dunk) and Ayahi Takagi as Honoka (Mikako in Sora No Otoshimono).

The opening theme is Nanairo Biyori by Nano Ripe. As usual, to me she always had that eternal drunken sounding-like voice. But I feel that it wasn’t as bad as her other anime theme gigs like in Hanasaku Iroha and Sankarea. Most probably I’ve heard her sing a few times (make that only 3 more times excluding this anime – the themes of Bakuman S3, Jinrui Wa Suitai Shimashita and Hataraku Maou-sama) so I have grown somewhat ‘immune’ to that voice of hers and didn’t get instantly turned off. The ending theme is as of the same name of this anime and sung by the seiyuus of the main quartet. Sometimes I feel this song sounds like a children’s song… There are a couple of background music too, some calming and some a little comical. But there is one which is a variation of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Sounds funny… I have this strange feeling of wanting to hum along with it…

It goes to show that despite the lack of modern entertainment that many of us seek today, you still can have fun out in the country. You don’t need sophisticated stuffs just to ‘enrich’ your lives. It’s like going back to basics. Just like in the good ol’ days when life was really much simpler and not too complicated. The simpler, the better. Anything can be a form of entertainment as long as you enjoy it with your friends. Of course this won’t mean that I suddenly have the urge to go live in the countryside. Because the entertainment called anime is too tempting and alluring to give up. Looks like I’ll be staying in the city till kingdom come as long as there is anime. Which is fine by me by any means.

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