Sakura Quest

February 11, 2018

What’s this? An anime about reviving an old dying rural town? Boring… But if my guts tell me anything, it is to never judge an anime by its synopsis. Okay, I’m guiltier because I judged it by its poster cover. Seeing how 5 cute girls are going to help revive a town with an aging and declining population, this is going to be fun, right? And hence in Sakura Quest, we are going to see them come up with all sorts of ideas and think out of the box in their bid to bring in more people to visit this rural town in the mountains while trying to maintain local traditions.

Episode 1
When Yoshino Koharu was young, her dream was to become a queen. But reality hits her hard because after 30 job applications, she has been rejected by all. Then she receives a call from Momonga Promotion Agency that there has been a job request from a client to be a spokesperson for a rural town. With nothing to lose, she packs her bags for a day’s trip to the mountainous rural area of Manoyama. Alighting from the train, there is a group of people holding a banner welcoming her. They are stumped to see Yoshino. Apparently there has been a mistake. The grumpy old boss, Ushimatsu Kadota has actually requested for Yoshino Tsubaki, a famous idol (whom Kadota is a great fan of). Too bad. She died 8 years ago! So the blame game starts. Whose fault is it? I guess somebody’s bad handwriting has some misinterpret Tsubaki that can also be read as Koharu. With all the costs taken into account, I guess they have no choice but to go with this plan. Yoshino gets to know a few other staffs working on the local tourism board like Shiori Shinomiya. Manoyama is supposed to be some Kingdom of Chupakabura but it is like a dead ghost town and many of its inhabitants have this sour puss looks. Not so friendly… At the castle where all the old people gather, Kadota starts the coronation ceremony to make Yoshino the queen. After a little party with the old folks, Shiori drives her to the cabin where she will be staying.

She finds Maki Midorikawa sleeping there. Because Yoshino doesn’t know what she is getting into, Maki shows her the truth. Uploaded online is the recent coronation ceremony that says Yoshino will be queen for 1 year! Instantly she calls her agency she didn’t sign up for this. Too bad if she had only read the finer prints of her contract… Still, she won’t take it and tries to go home. The only bus in town can’t take her to the train station. Yeah, there’s a weird wandering minstrel riding it… Better to walk. When Kadota learns she is trying to go home, he puts his plan into action. Dressed up as a chupakabura and pretending to attack Shiori in this lame act, naturally Yoshino runs away. Ignore that sword in the stone right in the middle of the road. Because their act is so pitiful, Yoshino just plays along and smacks the chupakabura with her bag. That really hurt for an old guy. No choice but to stay here, Yoshino learns how some of the people really love their town and want to invigorate it again. Locked out from the cabin, she decides to stay at the castle. She looks through the old photos on the board during its heydays. One of the group pictures here has young Yoshino as the queen. Then she remembers she has been to this place before and the reason why she wanted to be one. So she dresses up as a queen and sleeps on the throne. Next morning, Kadota sees this and believes she has made up her mind to become queen. Well then, looks like he has already going to make her work.

Episode 2
Yoshino is now tasked to sell manjuus. However another miscommunication error a thousand boxes! Blame game again… Kadota throws down the challenge for her to sell them all in a week. If she can, she is allowed to leave. Shiori meets Maki for the first time, she recognizes her as some extra in a popular detective movie. Her character seems to be popular here. Yoshino and Shiori walk around town to personally talk to people to buy them. From the bus driver Takamizawa, café-cum-fortune-teller Angelica, the grumpy waitress Erika Suzuki, the even grumpier old hag Chitose Oribe, the merchant board head who is always at odds with Kadota, nothing sold. They talk to Oribe’s granddaughter, Ririko since she is an occult maniac to find out more on chupakabura. Yoshino gets an idea to upload this onto the website by staffs Minou and Takashi Yamada points her to a web designer living in the outskirts. Meet Sanae Kouzuki. Her house is a dumpster and I hope she likes the company of bugs. Not. After telling her their issue, Sanae comes up with a plan to design a fancy website. After that they set up a tent to sell the manjuus in front of the castle. First day results: Not enough hits on the website. What does this mean? Nobody came to buy. So they try to tweak the headlines with symbols and somehow make it the queen’s fault. Second day results? Shiori’s family came to buy out of pity. Well, that’s a start. Maki suggests making a video. So we have this lame but excusable chupakabura slaying video that turns the monster into delicious manjuus. The results? Only the wandering minstrel came… A week has passed and with less than 5 boxes sold, I guess Yoshino failed. So are the girls going to eat all of it? Well, if it’s to fight depression… Mmm… They taste good.

Episode 3
So Yoshino’s failure and punishment is to ride around town? Nobody’s watching this parade… Yoshino sees Maki meeting her brother, Kousuke. She tells him she isn’t going back to Tokyo. As Yoshino has planned to stay here, she has her stuffs moved from Tokyo. As there is a regional mascot contest, Yoshino is nervous preparing for the interview although she has a script in hand. But when the interviewer asks questions not in the script, she starts to fumble. She feels down because it makes her realize she doesn’t know much about Manoyama. She tries to talk to the old people but you know how cranky some of them can be. Some of the young ones don’t really mind the slow pace of this town. Some just honestly hate it. Like Erika. So brutally honest. Yoshino learns that Manoyama’s old mascot based on the town’s specialty vegetable called Kabura Kid. However it died out very fast and during that time since UMAs were popular, that is why chupakabura became the thing. At the mascot competition, Kadota realizes his chupakabura mask is missing. Somebody accidentally threw it away. Blame game… The other girls try to find where the Kabura Kid costume is and I can’t believe they could do it and run all over the place in such a short time while the competition is still ongoing. When they finally find it, they drive as fast as they could to the competition grounds. At the same time, Minou and Takashi have found the chupakabura mask in the dump site but it stinks. So either wear the stinky mask or the torn Kabura Kid costume. At this point Yoshino puts her foot down. It doesn’t matter, she realizes by talking with the people, they don’t want the town changed. So she goes up on stage. A chupakabura wearing a kabura headgear? Then she starts her endearing speech about the town and how neither mascots were popular. So what it is that is important? Something that Manoyama holds important. What is it? She doesn’t know. But she wants to find that out with the people over the next year as their queen. In the end, the girls have a little party of their ‘success’. I guess third from last isn’t bad. Yoshino agrees to stay here for a year but with a condition that Shiori, Ririko, Sanae and Maki become her cabinet ministers. She feels she can do it if they are with her.

Episode 4
With the truck dead, the girls take it to this mechanical maniac, Busujima AKA Doku to fix. He is impressed when Yoshino manages to activate some robot jukebox. Must be her hands with some hyaluronic acid. What?! He also takes this chance to test out some exoskeleton that would help make lifting and carrying heavy things easier. After seeing the beautiful ranma woodwork, Yoshino wants to promote the wood carving district. They meet Tatsuo who runs a wood carving shop. He is eager to help but his pupil and senior, Kazushi isn’t impressed. After a few discussion, they get this idea to combine traditional art with cutting edge technology. So they test out the exoskeleton and fit it with ranma carvings. While it may look good, it isn’t practically as the wood could get in the way and break easily. Then they have another great idea. Transform a wooden Buddha statue into a vending machine! Wow. It’s really so cool! This might work. With all the hype of its potential, it is cut short when Kazushi scolds them to stop their shenanigans. Some of the old folks like Oribe are protesting of this blasphemy to mix their tradition with this futuristic sacrilege crap. The girls feel sorry because it’s like doing the same thing of making a sushi flavoured soda (something Doku did). Yoshino and Sanae got to apologize to Kazushi and sincerely wants to help promote Manoyama’s wood carving. They thought he would understand since all of them came from outside Manoyama. However Kazushi points out Sanae came here because she ran away from something difficult. He came here and knew what he was facing. He is different. When asked to name the wood he is using, they can’t. How can they promote something they don’t even know? Sanae feels depressed as she talks to Yoshino how true Kazushi’s words are. When she was in Tokyo, she worked nonstop to meet deadlines. Even when she isn’t performing, there will be someone else to replace her. Unlike Kazushi as he is the only one who can do what he does. That’s why she can’t argue back. Since she can’t put her heart into this, she wants to quit and can’t do this anymore.

Episode 5
Yoshino and the other girls take this chance to learn more about wood carving while Sanae bums around searching for a meaning. Running away again? Yoshino has this grand idea to turn the local wood carving into something likes Spain’s Sagrada Familia. They’ll call it Sakura Pond Familia. Plus, this big project once attracting the eyes of the world will attract more people and more jobs because people will come here eager to contribute to the sculpture. However this plan is rejected by Kadota. Just one big problem: They have no money! Tatsuo shows Sanae shoes made out of wood carving. He was inspired by Cinderella. Though this might make purists Kazushi mad, he doesn’t care. It seems the ranma Kazushi is working on, the owner who requested it just died and got cancelled but he continued to work on it. Stubborn. Sculpting is just a job and not getting paid is pointless. The girls are pondering who could be their ideal artist. Could it be that wandering minstrel? They look him up on the internet. Real name is Alexandre Cena Davis Celbidache. So sophisticated. Just call him Sandal. He is noted for some awesome street art. They think of asking him but sees him getting picked up by the police. Maybe not. Biggest joke of the day… After Yoshino shows her sketch of what her grand sculpture is to look like, they go source for funding. Yoshino sees the wooden shoes and after talking with Sanae about jobs and being praised, Sanae is motivated to help. She suggests using crowdfunding. But where to put this sculpture? As many people arrive at Manoyama at the train station, it is like the gateway to the world. They can make its interior like the Sistine Chapel. First they go to talk to Kazushi. It will take more than their knowledge about wood to impress him. Sanae knows a way to ensure Manoyama’s sculpture remains here without compromising his ideals. The ranma he is working on when finished, is placed at the train station’s entrance. The first step. Many more to come in the future. Yeah, they won’t be alive to see it completed. But guests arriving are certainly wowed by the magnificent carving.

Episode 6
A film crew will be here to film a shoot at Manoyama. Everyone is excited it will give the place a much needed PR but Maki isn’t pleased and opts out. Yoshino meets 3rd assistant director, Fujiwara. He hands her a list of things to do from securing permits, extras, food, etc… I guess showbiz isn’t that easy. So they go look around for locations to shoot. At Oribe’s confectionery, she didn’t like how Kadota told them they could shoot her so she chases them away. Till Ririko points out their manjuu was going to be in the film and if they aren’t, they’ll use the chupakabura ones instead. Come back! When the director, Sonoda finally arrives, it seems he ones this abandoned run down house as the final day of the shoot because he is going to burn it down! Is that in the script? Shiori protests since it is haunted but Sonoda likes it even more. Shiori will handle to seek permission from its owner. Surprisingly she is more than happy to get rid of it. So she lies she is unable to contact the owner. So Yoshino has other abandoned house they can try to use but Sonoda insists on that one. The town folks are here when the shooting begin. They have famous actors like Taiga Hayama and Moe Sawano. This zombie flick looks cheesy… More problems when an actress scheduled to arrive tomorrow has injured herself. Yoshino thought Maki could step in but she gets angry and rejects. Sanae isn’t pleased about this so she is going to lecture her. But she sees Moe talking to Maki who is her senior. Moe admires her acting but is surprised to learn she has quit the theatre and is unsure of her acting future. Sanae talks to Maki as the latter reveals Moe was able to make her big break because she did weird things on variety shows like eating a cicada. Maki couldn’t and realized that is the same of having an abusive employer. All Sanae has to say is that if she rejects the world she passionately pursues, it is disgraceful. Also, she needs to apologize to Yoshino.

Episode 7
Ririko seems to be very nervous as a stand-in. It is too late to switch or else production will stop so Maki goes to advise her. She nails it the next time. Yoshino receives word from Fujiwara that they need to reschedule some scenes. Because it is going to rain, they will be shooting tomorrow’s indoor scenes today. This means she has to round up all the elementary kids to play the mini zombies. Maki asks Kousuke for a favour and he manages to do it because mainly of their father who is the vice principal of the school. Maki isn’t impressed because she doesn’t want to see dad. Sanae thought she could stop those kids from fighting but instead one slaps her butt and all starts teasing her ass. See Ririko back away slowly… Maki finds Ririko in her old classroom. Ririko thanks her for the advice. Maki once went to this school and wanted to act in the Snow White play but ended up playing a tree. The abandoned house holds special memories for Shiori as an old lady who recently passed away used to stay here. Yoshino confronts Shiori about lying so Shiori tells her off that she is one to say for abandoning her own hometown. Eventually they both apologize and Shiori has to come to terms that the house is going either way. Later Kousuke has Maki watch an old play from her class. Dad was in charge of filming and only focused on Maki. He got scolded by the principal later. Sonoda is on a whim changing the script again. He wants the lover to dive into the burning house. Although many disagree, Moe wants to do it. Her agent reminds her this is dangerous and she has no replacement. She still wants to do it. Maki will be her double. She might be taller but if they film it from an angle, it can be done. The house is set on fire. The cameras are rolling. Maki rushes towards the burning house. It looked like she jumped in but there is a hole outside the door where she leapt into. The take is fabulous and with that, the filming ends. That’s a wrap. Fujiwara goes to thank Shiori for the house. Because Yoshino told him to put it in the special credits of its owner. The girls celebrate their hard work and the next day as Fujiwara promised, he has referred Manoyama to other directors. Yoshino eagerly picks up the call only to hear the eager beaver wanting to shoot a big time movie about car chases and blowing up temples. Looks like somebody oversold them…

Episode 8
The girls meet Shiori’s older sister, Sayuri who is a paediatrician. With the family making great food, Yoshino wants to make Shiori as the leader of the C-Rank Gourmet as they are working for an exclusive dish for Manoyama. Of course Shiori declines as she has no confidence. This prompts memories of some failed hamburger many years ago. So the girls come up with strange combo dishes… They won’t win any hearts in cooking anime shows… As Sayuri is leaving town due to her work, the family eats out at a fancy restaurant. This place is run by Kumano, Sayuri’s old classmate. He went to France to study to become a chef and recently returned to take over his ailing father’s ramen shop in which he turned into a French restaurant. The grandparents didn’t hesitate to ask Kumano to pick anyone of their 2 granddaughters when they learn he is still single. He modestly declines as he would be wasted on them but Sayuri didn’t think so. The girls with Kumano try to catch some fish. With their bare hands? The girls think Shiori and Kumano have good vibes together. They also try to incorporate some French ingredients from his list but more weird dishes came out. Shiori’s father talks to her about the future. He wants her to live the way she wants although Shiori prefer things stay the same. So Shiori talks to Sayuri about this. Thanks to their parents and grandparents providing for them, they have nothing to worry about. But things won’t last forever. Shiori learns Sayuri was interested in Kumano but because she thought he lived in a different world, she felt hard to approach him. Funny, because Shiori thought Kumano said the same thing about her. Oribe storms into the office to complain the C-Rank Gourmet is on the same day as the annual summer festival. Yoshino feels guilty since she didn’t consult the board of merchants beforehand. So they all go to apologize and as usual, Kadota isn’t really sincere. Oribe voices her opinion. Kadota always did things his way. When he changed Manoyama from the kingdom of kabura to chupakabura and tried to sell weird manjuus based on it, she tolerated it all because the ingredients were locally made. Now he is trying to revive that crap but using ingredients from the outside (despite the cost being cheaper). Kadota argues all that matters are bringing in the tourists or else nothing would happen. Yoshino thought of taking responsibility by cancelling C-Rank Gourmet but Shiori steps up to take responsibility as the leader of this project. She will think of something to put smiles on people’s face.

Episode 9
Shiori herself is surprised. She took action because she wanted to help Yoshino. While eating at Angelica who is serving soumen to everything, Shiori then hits upon an idea. She proposes to have a soumen expo as well as a contest for the best soumen in which the winning dish will be made the official dish of Manoyama. This would be in line with the summer festival’s theme. Oribe agrees to this. Yoshino goes around soliciting participants for their expo’s booths. At Kumano’s restaurant, they taste his great French toast. It was the dish that changed his life. He was making it in school and Sayuri tasted it to be good. That was when he decided to go to France and perfect it. The only problem was French toast was created by an American. And so he became a French chef. But the day he left for France, Sayuri didn’t turn up. Funny, because Shiori heard her sister said the same thing. So before Sayuri moves out, Kumano talks to her and it seems they were both waiting at the same station at the same time but how did they not meet each other since the place is small and you can’t possibly miss each other. Yoshino has some creative idea to make the expo more exciting. Looks like she is collaborating with Doku on something big. As Shiori is racking her brains, she freaks out realizing she got the date wrong. Then she realizes this calendar is last year’s. The expo is a hit. Before the winner of the contest is announced, Yoshino has a few words to say. Actually, she is in her swimsuit as she shows off this huge soumen machine. It’s like a video game whereby you try to catch soumen and eat them. It’s messy. Doku is operating behind. Shouldn’t he automated this part too? I think this will only resonate with kids. Many of the people love Shiori’s happy soumen and seek her permission to incorporate it in their own menu. Kumano is at the expo and is given a note to meet Sayuri and the calendar. When they meet, both are perplexed until Sayuri sees the calendar. Looks like she got the date wrong and she waited on the wrong day. They laugh it off as Kumano invites her to his restaurant to try out his perfected French toast.

Episode 10
There is going to be some romance tour of Manoyama. Basically a matchmaking programme. Sadly, only 3 ladies from the city sign up. Kadota wants Yoshino to help input some ideas and make those women settle down here. Looking through the programme, most are cheesy. Are they even trying? They suggests a tour of the sake brewery, fireflies and a stay at an old-style house. Feeling something is missing, it is also suggested they put on a traditional Manoyama dance. However Ririko decides to opt out since she isn’t good with traditional stuffs. Flashback shows she has always been a weird kid. Because of that she is always by herself. Yoshino and Maki welcome the 3 ladies. I’m sure if they’re here to find a lover, any hot guy would do. Like Takamizawa. Too bad he is married. The town is bustling because the next town’s singles club heard about it and came here. All men. Boy, this looks like an awkward den of predators. They have lunch at Angelica’s place to meet up with some of the guys from the local singles club who signed up for this. Erika can’t help take a sarcastic swipe at those old hags and Sandal starts playing a cheesy wedding song with his violin. Night fall, they have BBQ in the open as Yoshino and co put on the Manoyama dance. Kadota then narrates about its ‘origin and legend’. Long ago there was a dragon who lived here but hates revelry so the dance and song keep it away sealed in some shrine. Suddenly it rains so everyone starts running for cover. Some of them stumble into a small shelter that has a dragon statue. Could this be part of the legend? It looks dirty and nobody has been taking care of it. The lightning scares them and accidentally breaks the statue. Oops… Do we have a bad feeling about this?

Episode 11
Doku has fixed the shrine. But it seems strange things are happening. The throne room is messed up. Did the dragon come to visit? Also, Ririko is sick after catching a cold from the rain. At the rock climbing facility, one of the girls thought somebody is watching them. Could it be Sandal? But he reveals a surprising history to Yoshino. His great grandpa visited here for business and fell in love with a local woman. However he brought her back to his country where they got married. Hence Sandal is 1/8 Manoyama. Yoshino believes this is a great love story for this tour. While having a lunch break at a restaurant, the waiter brought an extra glass of water because he thought he saw an extra person with them. A guy with big eyes and beard. Could it be a dragon? When Yoshino goes to check on Ririko, she is chased away by Oribe who blames her for getting her involved. It is revealed that Oribe’s son married a woman who came from outside Manoyama. Because she couldn’t stand the place or want to take over Oribe’s shop, she left. Dad followed her. But after Ririko was born, they divorced and dad was shortly posted overseas. Therefore in Oribe’s eyes, her son was tricked by an outsider and that’s why she doesn’t like them. While visiting the wood carving shop, as they take photos, one of them pops up a weird character behind. A dragon?

Later Yoshino and Ririko meet outside. The latter has discovered an alternative but forgotten tale of the local dragon tale. The people wanted to learn more of the dragon and danced around the fire. However this scared the dragon. When the people realized they were wrong, the dragon had died of loneliness. They wrote a song to comfort it. The song is mostly forgotten. Hence Manoyama is a place that accepts outsider. Yoshino thinks this would be a great inclusion for tonight’s final tour but that is when Ririko snaps back that she is not like her. Yoshino is everything that Ririko cannot do. She feels nobody understands or accepts her. Surprisingly Sandal is singing that dragon song. He learnt it from mom who learnt it from grandma who learnt it from great grandma. She used to sing it to him when he cried. Yoshino manages to persuade Oribe to come see Ririko’s performance tonight. One of the girls realize somebody is watching and it is revealed a big beardy guy who is her ex. So they’re getting back together? He couldn’t let her go and tailed her. Last night’s lightning scared him as he fell into the pond and he took refuge at the throne room. Once everyone gathers, Yoshino tells a brief story of the alternate dragon story. With Sandal on his guitar, Ririko sings the song. It gets better with fireflies lighting up the place. The next day, everyone sees off the ladies at the train station. They would love to come back next time but isn’t so sure about marrying and settle down here. What about the couple who just got back together? Well, their parents are against them marrying. Ririko suggests eloping here and hence another great idea that Manoyama is a town for elopers is born. Really?

Episode 12
The 20th anniversary of the Kingdom of Chupakabura is coming up. Kadota introduces them a host of a famous TV show who in turn introduces his network’s director, Amamiya who is also a Manoyama native. He plans to do a show on how the girls are going to revive the town. It’s like a reality TV, right? So we see the cameras rolling on them in almost everything they do from meetings to the fieldwork. Is Shiori trying to look smart in glasses? However with everything feeling so normal, Amamiya can’t find elements that would make viewers get involved. Yoshino didn’t like how she is being called normal. Some of the girls learn Yoshino was here as a young kid and thought this would help spice things up but they decide it could be a pain and just to keep it a secret. With sponsorships not hitting the target, the girls are forced to contemplate on sizing down. Luckily Amamiya has managed to bring in some good news. He has managed to get Ptolemaios, a popular rock band to come perform here. Wouldn’t that be costly? Don’t worry. His network will cover those expenses. It’s not a bad deal since they are getting free advertising too. Because they are a little hesitant, Amamiya blows his top for giving excuses. This is a great chance for them so why hesitate? After filming a short promo of the town, Yoshino and co talk to Oribe and the other merchants. They are seeking additional help and funding. This does not sit well with many of them because they already have their hands full with the festival and it is pretty convenient for them to be asking this. Is this the much needed drama and tension needed for the cameras? But it is suggested that since people will be coming from far and out of their way here, why not make it worth their while and give discounts? With some agreeing to this, Oribe approves to help out with the funding since they have some reserve funds. If they don’t use it for this, when will they? Besides, if they’re going to do it, do it right. Deep in the night, Yoshino is woken up by Maki and Sanae. They see lots of early birds camping for tomorrow’s show. It’s going to be crazy.

Episode 13
Talking to the campers, it’s not like they want to camp out here. There are no proper lodgings. But beware of bears! Next day, the girls greet Ptolemaios. They look so dead. Must be the long journey. Soon the people come streaming in. Takamizawa must be shocked that there is a long queue for his bus and is full for the first time. The day events go well until it is time for Yoshino and co to do the quiz event. Due to delays from Ptolemaios, their concert started shortly after the quiz show is about to begin. This means the clash of events as the crowd starts streaming out to go watch their live concert. Well, the quiz show must go on despite the few people remaining. However, with Ptolemaios playing so loudly, probably the whole of Manoyama could hear them. Especially the quiz show next door in which people had a hard time hearing Yoshino asking the questions. After Ptolemaios is done with their show, the quiz show reaches its final round in which Sandal won?! He wins a trip for 2 to Guam. Who would he like to bring with? Kindaichi the policeman???!!! I know they are singles with no luck with women but do they have to be this gay?! At the end of the day, a small celebration party is held. It is considered a success when you consider they fulfil a year’s worth of tourist quota in a single day. But the true problems arise tomorrow. Garbage everywhere, the town is as dead as before (like as though the people just vanished) and the most heart breaking of them all is all the coupons handed out are thrown away. They thought the show would give them some reprieve but let’s just say the power of editing has the girls feel down as it doesn’t show what it is truly needed. Even if the programme is considered a success with many viewers, the girls ponder if this is what they wanted. I mean, how many people would come all the way out here again? Yoshino is hit hardest because they got all excited by Ptolemaios and the TV show and they should have learnt that reviving the town isn’t just about getting people to come. She questions herself about what she has done for the last 6 months. So is she going to quit again?

Episode 14
Yoshino takes a break and returns to her hometown. Same with Sanae and Maki but they’re bored and feeling more like outsiders. Yoshino meets up with her friend who is working in the government department of supporting new residents. She suggests how Manoyama an important strategy to revive a rural town is to have permanent residents instead of temporary ones. Then she meets up with her younger sister, Nagisa who is still schooling. She thinks she is having an easy and carefree life but gets ‘jealous’ when she finds how normal it is. How normal you ask? She has a boyfriend! Sanae meets up with her old colleagues who try to persuade her to come back to the city with the interesting projects they have but Sanae currently prefers where she is now. Likewise, Maki goes out drinking with Moe who proposes they both can hit it big with a director who is trying to find talent in his next project. Yoshino and Nagisa are at the local festival. Yoshino catches up with some of her old friends before her parents join in. She learns mom isn’t from this area and dad managed to show her the beautiful side of this town while they were dating. Meanwhile Shiori and Ririko are going around checking out abandoned houses as they have this proposal to turn them into B&B style. However they remember Kindaichi’s warning that there were suspicious people spotted loitering around them. Don’t look now but here they are! They’re speaking Spanish! True Spanish! Those guys try to be friendly to them but obviously they don’t understand a single word of Spanish and freak out!

Episode 15
Yoshino and the rest are back. But back at the castle, they are shocked to see Shiori and the rest partying with those Spanish people! Apparently they are from a group called Cryptid Twelve whereby they go around the world in search for unsolved supernatural mysteries. The Chupakabura has recently got their attention. See those local single guys trying to impress the Spanish chicks with their broken ‘Engrish’… Yoshino feels good to be back as she knows she has a place to return to. But this prompts the question of what she will do when her term ends. Speaking to Ririko about it, it never crossed her mind to leave Manoyama. If she did, grandma would be lonely. With the Cryptid members here, they are looking into the B&B issues. Because they are foreigners, there is this language barrier that prevents locals from cooperating smoothly. So how long are they staying? Until they find the Chupakabura. That’s like, never? At least until the drying event. It seems tomorrow they will drain the water from Sakura Pond to clear up some black bass problem by drying it out since it will cause some damage to the ecosystem. Plus, it hasn’t been done so for 70 years. While it will take some time and the people are excited about it, Kadota doesn’t look too happy. As this is the request of Cryptid, he is probably letting it happen (Cryptid believes Chupakabura is related to the kappa who lives in the water). This event has made several more Cryptid members wanting to come here. This means lodging problems. But Yoshino is unsure of this is what Manoyama wants for its rejuvenation as she wants to avoid making the same mistake during the festival. There is a house owner who is the only one who registered as B&B so Yoshino and co head over to clean up. That night, a camera picks up something moving in the middle of the pond. Cryptid makes a move. It turns out Kadota is drowning! Man, he can last that long? He is okay although is hospitalized. The girls wonder the rational of him jumping into the pond in the middle of the night and it could be some old ghost story. Doku calls Oribe about what Kadota did. Something about that thing from 50 years ago is back. Something Kadota desperately doesn’t want that existence to be known by everybody and hence the ‘drastic measures’.

Episode 16
The girls hear a loud crash. It’s Kadota unconscious at the wheel and he crashed into a pillar?! Did he escape from hospital? He has fever since he was running in the rain too. Back to the hospital. Next day as they investigate, it seems the car was tied to a rope trying to pull something out from the lake. Ririko then shows the rest an old photo. Kadota, Oribe and Doku were once in a band during their high school days. As they ask Doku for the story, he reveals they were indeed in a band named Garage Band. They had a pretty good song with good lyrics but singing in Manoyama won’t turn any heads. Because their parents will not allow such a thing, they decided to run away and make it big in Tokyo during the night of the festival but Kadota didn’t turn up. Instead, he went to cause trouble by singing on the float during a procession on Sakura Pond that caused everything to tumble into the water. Thanks to that, the festival was never held again. Not that it was popular to begin with. That’s why Kadota was allowed to stay here. In the end, only Doku went to Tokyo himself for college. The band broke up and Kadota and Oribe were at odds ever since. Further research about this old festival reveals it was to worship a dragon shrine. It was located where the pond is before it was then relocated after the pond was created. Hence the procession was held over the water.

More flashback reveals Oribe suggesting to Kadota to run away to make it big at Tokyo since Doku is going there to study. However Kadota had second thoughts. He kept wondering if Manoyama was no good for him before her realized he wasn’t going to run away anymore and thus that crazy act of wanting to wake up everybody to make this place interesting. Ririko talks to grandma that she wanted to leave Manoyama once. She heard from Doku and her amazing voice. Oribe couldn’t remember much of it as she advises it will be the same for her too. When you get old, you stop caring about all your dreams. That’s why before it happens, she should get out there and do whatever she wants. With the pond fully drained, they see whatever that lump of decaying stuff there is. The guitar and shrine float must have been ‘fused’ together. Can’t tell. So this is what Kadota might want to pull out to prevent everyone from remembering that embarrassing past. After Cryptid Twelve leaves, Yoshino talks to Kadota if he would like to revive the old festival because seeing how the people had fun gathering at the dried up lake. She proposes to Minou but he is sceptical as they are lacking the budget and manpower. For the first time, Shigaraki stands up and speaks. There are 3 sacred treasures needed if they want to revive the festival. It is essential for the festival to be held. However their whereabouts are unknown. Challenge accepted.

Episode 17
Reviving the Mizuchi Festival is going to be a challenge. The staff, hanging drum and golden dragon are missing and not even the old folks know anything about it. But they discover a lead that an old cultural anthropologist professor might know something about it. However he lives far deep in the mountains of Warabiya. Rennosuke Suzuhara is a bit eccentric and grumpy. He toys with them about wanting to revive the festival and hints one of them is residing in a store of a certain traditional house. Yeah, they he didn’t say it was his so the girls go on a wild goose hunt to ask other old residents of Warabiya. Nope, they don’t have it. They soon hear complaints from them and directing their frustration to Takamizawa since there are plans to cut the bus routes to Warabiya. It costs over 10 million to run a bus a year and they’re not getting the numbers. Yoshino and co go discuss with Suzuhara and the other old folks. They give their opinions but Suzuhara shoots it down with realistic facts. When Sanae suggests moving out to a denser place, Suzuhara comments about the people working hard to earn their right to live here. Breaking up a community is like breaking up a culture. He points out he is also from Tokyo and has no connection or special feelings to Manoyama. But unlike her he already has roots here. He suggests Sanae to use her expertise. Hence she comes up with the idea to teach everyone how to use iPad and technology! They might get a little carried away talking how technology will soon have driverless busses and this causes a kiddie fight between Takamizawa and Erika! A local live streaming channel is also created for the locals. But at this point all the problems also pop up because you know, the toxicity level is rising. Who says old people can’t be nasty too? Yoshino sees Suzuhara about this problem and since the time is right, he is going to take her hostage. Soon an online video of Suzuhara and the old folks of Warabiya is streamed live. They are putting up a rebellion to protest the removal of bus routes to their area. Are they annexing themselves from the Kingdom of Chupakabura? Yoshino has ‘joined’ their cause.

Episode 18
Yoshino calls the rest and says she is voluntarily becoming their hostage. She feels very needed. Sanae realizes they have been set up since as Suzuhara lists a bunch of demands. That night Maki goes to deliver some of the beer and snacks as part of the demands (because the old people are also going to record themselves having a party as nobody is going to listen to you if you only whine and complain). A little bit of booze and now she’s partying with them. Next day, a makeshift sign stands out at the entrance of Warabiya. They are calling it now the Republic of Warabiya. Ririko films the residents going about in their daily lives as per the demands while Sanae talks to Suzuhara. He knows he can’t do this forever and his plan is to make people in Manoyama aware of the problem. He also knows this village won’t be here forever and hence wants to record its culture before that happens. He will rescind the withdrawal when the time is right. With the old folks adept in using IT, Takamizawa hopes Sanae could teach him too. Yoshino continues to stay with the old people and they really want to pledge their loyalty to her if she ever replaces Kadota. They joke about this being a fairytale like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Sandal the prince? Right, he quips back the prince come riding on a bus! Next day, Takamizawa surprises everyone with an app and new business model, an on-demand bus. Let’s say this is very much like Uber. In this van, you use the app to pick what time you want to be picked up and to where. Long ago Takamizawa had this idea and proposed it to his company but back then it would cost a lot since an operator is needed and the idea was shelved. Now with technology, it is so much easier and cheaper. Though, this experiment is only confined to Manoyama for now. With that, Suzuhara makes a video to rescind the withdrawal. Suzuhara then leaves a cryptic message on the forum board on the whereabouts of one of the treasures. Sadly, that night he suddenly passes away! A funeral is held and he has left a will donating his property to the municipal government. Sanae sees a stack of books in a corner and learns he has been researching about this town every day without fail since he came 20 years ago. She realizes this is what he meant of putting down roots. The girls learn the name of the previous owner of this place (the same name on the forum board) and find the staff right next door. It’s too heavy for them to carry. Well, there’s the on-demand bus. So convenient.

Episode 19
The search for the drum leads the girls to an old school that has been closed down for a decade. Uh oh. Ririko and her ghost stories… Everyone freaks out even more when they see somebody. Well, it’s Maki’s dad. Let’s say they are on bad terms. Very bad. As the school’s ex-vice principal, he still keeps it running since it is not abandoned. After hearing what they are looking for, he shows where the drum is located. But it is badly damaged and it will eat up a lot of their budget just to repair it. Before they leave, Yoshino sees a beautiful mural but learns it will be torn down the year after the next. Yoshino creates a proposed committee to revive Mizuchi Festival. They are travelling the routes proposed for it. As the reason for this festival is lost, Yoshino needs a better motivation to bring people here. Kadota helps out as atonement as he still feels responsible for ‘destroying’ this festival 50 years ago. That’s why he tried like a madman to help Manoyama on his own. But looks like he has to start back from her. Thanks to her, he has no choice but to face it. Maki makes a rare visit home. It gets worse when dad comes home. Argument. Something about Maki dropping out of college to go into acting that didn’t turn out too well too. Mom had to stop them since today is her birthday. Maki also receives a letter from a famous director in Tokyo for an audition. If she is successful, she’ll get bigger movie roles. However she is not interested (the application was just to pacify Moe) and this upsets Kousuke as she is wasting this chance. Yoshino and Sanae discuss in turning the closed school into some lodging for the festival. Ririko is trying to upload her dragon song online for others to know but has doubts so she seeks Maki’s advice since she has experience as an actress. The other girls soon learn from Kousuke about Maki’s opportunity. They want her to take it. Yoshino drills it into her head she will regret it if she doesn’t. Yoshino might be doing her best as the queen but she doesn’t know what next year will bring. For Maki to know what she wants since young is amazing. So don’t waste it. Maki changes her mind and manages to catch the last train to Tokyo.

Episode 20
The audition results are in. Maki is happy when her name is called. Too bad those called can leave. Although she failed, she feels better about it somehow. Really? Why are you crying? I guess this means Maki is free to help Yoshino and co. Learning the school never had a proper closing ceremony, they plan to do one and contact those graduated and moved away to attend. Since it is snowing, lots of people are feeling depressed. Sandal can’t paint outside, no one rides Takamizawa’s bus and nobody patrons Angelica’s café. Yoshino has this idea of allowing Sandal to use a room of the school as his studio in which he totally loves it. They send in the closing ceremony proposal to Maki’s dead. He agrees to get approval from the education board. Also, there is going to be a play about a blood soaked Santa? It’s one of the school’s famous urban legends. Maki becomes the director of the play and they get a few of the locals as actors. The alumni of this school turn up for this closing ceremony. The taiko drum performance starts it off before this Santa comedy play. The wow factor that had the crowd giving them a standing ovation is the feature of the mural in the end. Yoshino then makes her closing speech. She surprises everyone that she has this proposal to use this school as a base to spread Manoyama’s culture. Instead of demolishing the place, they can revive the halls and open it to the public. And so the closing ceremony becomes an opening ceremony. Everyone applauses to the great idea. Maki is now inspired to do a play for that dragon song. They can incorporate it into the Mizuchi Festival. The drum is taken away for repairs. Funny, because nobody asked for it to be repaired. It seems a mysterious good Samaritan under the alias of Santa ordered for it and paid it in advance. Christmas comes early for Manoyama? But Maki has an idea who that Santa is. Thanks papa.

Episode 21
Shiori is surprised that there is a hitchhiker flagging her car down to go to Tokyo. In this snow? Turns out she is Erika and running away from home! She is brought back to the dorm as they ask why she wants to run away so badly. I guess she’s had it with this crappy place. She makes it sound so easy that she can survive in Tokyo. Yoshino convinces her to stay here for the time being and do more research first. When they go tell Angelica about it, she didn’t even realize her daughter is gone until she rushes back to see the runaway note. Oddly, Erika still has to attend school while in the midst of running away. As Maki sends her, she tells a story that ends with a cliff-hanger. She’ll continue the rest after school. Too bad Erika might feel she has gotten the raw deal because it is Shiori who picked her up. Shiori is a bit down ever since Erika’s rant of this crappy place. Shiori couldn’t understand why as she has lived her entire life here as well as all her family and friends are here. Therefore Shiori thought she might be the odd one out and only one who thinks this way. She tries to find out Erika’s reason for leaving this place. Simple. She can’t see herself growing old in this empty old town. It scares the hell out of her.

Yoshino is going around talking to individual shop owners about the festival’s revival. In fact, it isn’t just a revival but a brand new one. When she stumbles upon a closed café, Noge who runs a bookstore from across tells her it has closed down a year ago. Yoshino doesn’t mean to be rude but asks the businesses of the shopping district doesn’t look good. Noge tells her it is just to support themselves. Many move out because their children grew up and got jobs in the city. As for why they don’ rent it out, all shop owners live above their shop lot and won’t like strangers walking in just like that. After all, many don’t want their lives changed. Even if there are new stores opened here, will Yoshino shop here? And how often? Though she says she would but looks like for a big chunk of it is that she’ll visit the supermarket. Shopping districts aren’t relevant anymore. Ririko and Maki overheard Takamizawa and Kindaichi talk about some legendary treasure supposedly grant you a single wish they buried long ago as kids. It turns out to be the golden dragon. Together with Noge, they buried it because they couldn’t decide on a wish. And until they do, all of them have to come together and piece together a secret code to open it. Yoshino feels a bit uncomfortable as a foreigner she came to Manoyama to change and revive things. From Noge’s talk, she wonders if she is forcing others who only want things to remain as they are. Just like Warabiya’s case. Are they being pushy? Shiori becomes most vocal as she argues she was born and raised here. She will never stop loving this town. They agree to find a way to make the shopping district relevant again. Yoshino receives a message from Takamizawa that they are going to dig up the treasure. Too bad they need to decode the code that looks like a long incantation list.

Episode 22
Looks like they can’t remember how to crack the code. It’s going to take a while. Erika bugs Maki to complete the story. The moral of it is that wishing for something isn’t enough but one needs to be resolved too. This only serves to make Erika angrier. Later Shiori talks to her and thought a little about what she said. It is true she might not know about reality and it is good that Erika has a dream. But she should wait till she is grown up a little to achieve that. Erika doesn’t want to be dead in this town but Shiori assures her everyone here is living. Erika experiences pain in her teeth and it looks like her molar is going to drop out (baby teeth should drop out at a younger age but some drop out later). As there are no dentists open now and no pain killers suitable for kids, is internet the only hope? I suppose doing the pressure points on her foot is aggravating the issue. Ririko called her grandma who then called the pharmacist at the shopping district to open the store just for this. After this is settled, Yoshino feels a bit bad. She never shopped there and usually got her medications from the supermarket. I guess this is the special service only local shopping districts can provide. A call comes in from Angelica that her son, Anji is missing. In this snow, everyone goes to look for him but to no avail. They think he might want to find the treasure’s location as his wish is for Erika to return. Not here either. Kindaichi gets a call from Sandal asking how to brew tea. He found Anji at the park and brought him to the police box and he is asking for tea.

After returning Anji to Angelica, Erika returns home and he hopes she will not go away again. The adults advise her she can still make her dreams of opening a clothing shop here and can talk to one of those shuttered store owners to take over. Erika goes ‘berserk’ complaining nobody is going to wear nice and cute outfits here. I mean, are you going to wear them while tending the fields? Only the monkeys and cows are going to compliment you! If that’s the case, Anji promises to open one here for her. This has the adults think they need to get their act together and to make kids feel they want to live here. After Erika eats a cookie, her molar falls out. Erika resumes her waitress job. Still grumpy as ever. Shiori hopes they can go to Tokyo together. No thanks. She’ll go herself. Shiori has this idea to hang lanterns outside the shops at the shopping district so it will seem inviting even though they are closed. With Doku installing LEDs in them, there’s no fire risk. Takamizawa and co finally crack the code. They dig up the treasure… Just a toy dragon! Oh well… They return to see the beautiful lanterns illuminating the shopping district. Another lesson learnt: You can’t wait for someone else to grant your wishes. You have to do it yourself.

Episode 23
Yoshino sees the CEO of a famous pastry franchise, Belem. As he is a Manoyama native and attended that closing ceremony, he wants to help the town’s revival and open another branch there. While this is good news, they think it would be a problem convincing Oribe since you know, another rival confectionary. Surprisingly but not she agrees since it is for the greater good of the shopping district. The only thing they need now is one of the shop owners to rent it out. However it is no good as many live on the second floor are not willing to do so. There is only 1 person who doesn’t live above the shop and elsewhere: Akiyama. When Yoshino and co visit him, he declines them. Plus, Oribe visited earlier and he too declined her. The girls didn’t know they would hit this roadblock. Erika learns Belem is opening here and really wants to work at that place. She loves their pastries. Well, at least we know that will be her reason to stay. She gets aggressive suggesting those not operating their shop should just hand over! Oribe calls an emergency meeting with everyone to discuss the fate of the shopping district. As Noge is opening a café at the abandoned school, once that place is popular, she thinks of disbanding the board of merchants. Their way of doing business is outdated and they don’t want to force others who don’t want to stay open. Everyone then turns to Akiyama and pressures him to rent it out. Oribe stops everyone from pestering as Kadota makes Yoshino say something. It seems she too agrees of not forcing everyone. Sure she wants to revitalize Manoyama but not in a way where some loses. This is not revitalization but just development. They should come together and think what each of them can do for the shopping district.

It is then Akiyama says he doesn’t want to go through that again. Many years ago when he rented his shop to an outsider selling accessories, he was happy and helped out anyway he can. But 6 months down the road, he disappeared. Akiyama was the bank’s guarantor so you can imagine what he went through. He told nobody except Oribe because if he did, the board of merchants’ contempt for outsiders would grow stronger. All he wants now is to be left alone. One of the old guys then decides to rent out his shop because compared to Akiyama’s story to his own pathetic reason of not liking sweet smell is nothing. Yoshino thanks him as Akiyama asks her why is she doing so hard for Manoyama when she is an outsider. That’s because Manoyama took her in. Kadota finally says sorry to Oribe for that long outstanding grudge. She moves on and keeping up with this feel good momentum is that the board of merchants decides to officially join the Mizuchi Festival. Yoshino gets Noge’s permission to borrow his toy dragon for it. To get a real one costs a lot and this toy dragon is still a dragon. With everything looking so bright, there can’t be anything bad, right? Well… Here comes Kadota with bad news. Those guys in suits seen around Manoyama from time to time, looks like there are rumours that Manoyama will be absorbed into Tomikura.

Episode 24
Kadota reveals he was invited secretly on the absorption council. It is a dilemma for everyone because it will bring life to the place but weird things will happen like renaming of things. Although they will get better government services, Manoyama will also become a minority and their voices will be hard to hear. But for now the importance is to preserve Manoyama’s culture and hence the revival of Mizuchi Festival. Amamiya comes down to warn them that the TV host will be coming to propose changes to the dragon play. It seems he wants to replace the lead actors with idols and this means Ririko will not sing as intended. This also puts them in a dilemma because the exposure of this show will allow many others to know more about Manoyama. When the TV host is here, Kadota loudly protests against it. He will not accept his proposal because they are trying to revive a tradition and if they’re going to do it, they’ll do it their way. And that’s that. The Manoyama citizens put up their own videos to the countdown of the festival. Things are looking up with more and more people supporting and funding it. But Yoshino’s pals bring up the topic of her leaving at the end since they overheard her agency called her recently to discuss the end of her contract. Yoshino might consider returning to Tokyo and get normal jobs. After all, you get used to it and you can find inspiration anywhere. But she thanks them for helping her through the year and giving her lots of inspiration. As they are cleaning the shrine, clearing the moss on the stone reveals names of those who created the Sakura Pond. Among them are Sandal’s great grandparents. Despite the hectic schedule, everyone manages to surprise Yoshino with a birthday cake. The festival proceeds well and the old guys get to carry the shrine with ease thanks to Doku’s exoskeleton. When Kadota learns about the names on the rock, he gets an idea to make sister cities out of Manoyama and Sandal’s hometown and use it as leverage against the absorption. Well, what do you know? Sandal follows Mayor Naumann on social media and lucky him. Currently he is on a vacation in Japan and enjoying every moment of it. Kadota is going to get him here and drives his car all the way to Kanazawa! Oribe fears he might destroy the festival again but Yoshino puts her faith in him that he will return before the dragon play.

Episode 25
Kadota is at the place but he needs to put on something recognizable. Chupakabura mask? He is scaring others in search of Naumann. Naturally he gets arrested. Thankfully Naumann is looking for directions at the police box. As the festival runs its course, Yoshino is surprised her family is here to visit. When Kadota is taking too long to return, they get a call from him that his car run out of fuel. Shiori goes to get him and this is one of those occasions the on-demand bus is useful. They manage to get them in time but since most of the roads are blocked, they have to make the rest of the way via foot. During that time, Naumann gets lost but thankfully he wanders into the parade carrying the shrine and even takes part in it! The dragon play proceeds smoothly with Ririko singing a beautiful rendition of the song. In the aftermath, the staffs celebrate. Kadota and Naumann are like good buddies now. The girls talk about their future. Like Ririko she plans to go see the world after this but promises to come back. Yoshino has also decided as she expresses her love for Manoyama as her second hometown. Early next morning, Yoshino sees Kadota. A year has gone by in a flash as he quips it is better she leaves now or stay too long and she won’t be an outsider anymore. But what is he going to do for the next queen? Don’t worry. He too has decided. Yoshino’s final speech as the queen is recorded as she conveys the beautiful town of Manoyama and how it changed her. Then, Kadota makes his speech how Manoyama forgot its cultural roots and needed a queen to remind them. As it is every individual’s responsibility to pass on Manoyama’s culture and change-cum-adapt to the times, they do not need a queen nor the Kingdom of Chupakabura now. He hereby relieves the queen of her duties and disbands the kingdom. Later, Yoshino and her pals plant a tree symbolizing them. Shiori has a dream to keep planting sakura trees to turn Manoyama blooming with them. Everyone sees Yoshino off at the train station. Probably the entire town lined up along its path to wish her goodbye. The most touching one is Kadota who reduced Yoshino to tears as he tells her she will always be welcomed here. The Kingdom of Chupakabura now has been renamed as Sakura Pond. Although Yoshino has left Manoyama, she didn’t return to Tokyo or her hometown. She is now starting to help another town possibly located in the tropics.

Home Is Where The Heart Is
Despite the overall feel good and heart-warming overall, I have mixed feelings wondering if Yoshino should have stayed at Manoyama or not. Now that she has left to help revive other towns, it is like as though her mission is completed and hence there is no more reason for her to stay. Thankfully without her now, the people of Manoyama can go on living better lives. Had Yoshino stayed on, she would have become part of them and things would go on happily like they used to. But there is this sort of danger when one gets so used to it. Complacency sets in and history might repeat itself again. Who knows? It’s all good feelings now because it worked out but in the future, nobody could tell. So perhaps leaving Manoyama was the best option since she came to do what she needs to do and that’s that.

Surprisingly but not, the story is not boring as I was predicting it to be. It might not be the best story or series for the season or the year but this series is definitely entertaining and worth watching if you have too much fantasy adventures, violent blood spilling action, shameless fanservice comedies and the ubiquitous high school settings. Maybe it is an original anime and not based on any manga or game. Though the plot of reviving a dying town might not sound appeasing, the more interesting aspects are how the various characters of the town go about and do their best in a bid to make Manoyama a better place to live and visit. Yes, it isn’t just about bringing in outside people to stay temporarily or longer but also a plan to improve and enrich the lives of the locals.

So I’m glad that it is mostly a win-win situation for everybody. Manoyama might not have become as popular and attractive as Tokyo but it retains its charm of a traditional and easy going countryside town. I mean, let’s be realistic. You can’t have everything and be the best town ever. Manoyama is Manoyama and it doesn’t need to be another hectic and bustling Tokyo or Tokyo v2. Even if all the old people of Manoyama has kicked the bucket and do not live long enough to see how well Manoyama has grown, but the legacy and effort they put in would surely be remembered for a long time to come. Of course, proper recording and the young ones continue to uphold the traditions play an important role too.

Speaking of realism, I know I am being a little sceptical here but the way I say Yoshino and everyone going about doing their job promoting ideas feel like they are too easy. It’s like child’s play. Maybe there are lots of preparations going on behind the scenes that are not shown here and since I don’t come from such a sleepy town, I do not understand or feel such sentiments. Maybe in this small town, things get moving a bit faster because of the closer community that is fostered. The gap between rank and file isn’t large and everyone is like family here. Therefore seeing Yoshino and her cabinet ministers easily getting approval and getting things done with ease sure makes it look like it is just so easy in managing a small town. Of course there are some problems and challenges faced but in the end it always turns out for the better. I mean, doesn’t it sound like a fairytale. I know this is just anime and we all love a good ending but like I said, blame my scepticism and the harsh reality that made me think so.

Also, now that Yoshino has decided to go on a revival spree (assuming she does this for the rest of her lives), assuming that all the dying towns in Japan are revived again, Yoshino feels like some sort of angel, doesn’t she? A town gets touched by her ideas and efforts and gets the revitalization they pretty much needed. Theoretically that would sound awesome as this means no dead or dying towns in Japan ever. But just the realistic problem of the people visiting and making those towns lively again. Assuming the population of Japan is somewhat ‘fixed’ and if they are interested to check out certain towns, this means deserting another. Sure, we can assume this rotation thingy like visiting this town today and another town tomorrow. If people are so free to visit towns, does this means mega cities like Tokyo would soon be dying? Because you know, you just cannot create people out of thin air. They need to come from somewhere. So revitalizing a town in the sense of bringing more people could mean turning others into dead town. So by the time Yoshino finishes her entire revitalization across Japan, Manoyama might be dead again. This is of course I am assuming in extreme cases. Of course revitalizing doesn’t mean bringing in the crowd. It is also about culture preservation and documentation which I believe is what Yoshino is going to do.

Although the characters are lovable and they will grow on you that in the end you would love to support all of the Manoyama citizens in the end, I feel that they aren’t too deep. After all, the main priority is to revive Manoyama and if you get too many character development and drama in between, it might be very distracting. So I believe there is a right mix of how the characters are portrayed, played out as well as how they grow along with this town. Like the ex-city girls Yoshino and Sanae, they were mainly finding a place to belong. Even Maki could be said to be one because after failed attempts in the showbiz industry, this is where she ends up but it is all a blessing in disguise if I should say so.

So for Yoshino who became the queen of Manoyama, like anybody who has spent their time and devotion to something, they will naturally grow attach to it. I won’t say that Yoshino does a perfect job as the queen but she does try her best. It is that the reason why the people of Manoyama loves and respects her. She earned it. Thankfully I want to say that most of the stuffs she do turn out positive because if she fails, I am guessing her head would roll. But that’s another story. Yoshino puts dedication in her job better than most representatives of their districts because after all, what has she got to lose? She is in this for the long run but that will soon look like something short turn once you start having fun and loving it. As an outsider, probably it is one reason why many of her suggestion works and hence a perfect example of what thinking outside the box is. After all, Manoyama gave her a chance when so many in Tokyo did not so why not repay that opportunity? Now she has gotten the experience and has found her true calling in reviving other similar towns. Yoshino the Reviver. Hmm… How does that sound?

As for the rest of her cabinet ministers, there isn’t much I could say about them but they provide the support that Yoshino needs. It is a good thing Maki is around because she is like the handywoman of the group as her little experience here and there allows her to be knowledgeable and handy about almost everything. Sometimes I feel it is like a little running joke because it is like she knows everything but yet didn’t make it big. Then there is Ririko who looks like she is stuck with that deadpan emotionless face and an occult freak but many times she helps out her team when they are stuck with the folklores and researches she has done. Shiori is the liveliest of the group and a local girl who loves her town so much. Last and not least, Sanae might look out of place in the sense that in this backwater town, do you need an IT specialist? I mean, if you look at her specific job of handling the IT side, it might look like she is the most redundant. Heck, having Doku as the ‘science’ guy is pretty much sufficient for this town. And of course as we have seen Manoyama embracing some sort of technology so all is not lost.

If I have to point out the most interesting character of them all in the series, it has got to be Sandal. This guy is cool, enigmatic, positive and very calm in his very own way. Sometimes I feel like he is the angel that watches over Manoyama! No kidding. Because do you not feel that sometimes he is the saviour in certain times likes when Anji got lost and who was the one who found him? This wandering artist also has his own funny charm and wit and you can hear it mostly at the end of the next episode preview where he makes a short quip of things. At least it makes you break into a little smile. So why is this guy bumming around in a sleepy town like Manoyama? I believe it has got to be more than just his ancestral roots since he did come from a western country town. Only Sandal himself knows the answer to that.

However if I had to pick a favourite character, it had to be Erika. Yes, this grumpy but realistically honest girl is one of the fun characters to watch. Her comments really sting you but only because it is the truth. It is with mixed feelings that I find it sad she hates so much this town she spends all her life in (and doesn’t hesitate to badmouth it) and wants to get out but because of this, I find her really funny and lovable. I suppose Erika is at an age where she thinks she knows everything and can handle everything by herself. Hey, at least I’ll give her points for being confident even though her simple plan wouldn’t be so easy if she ever goes through with it. Sadly Erika doesn’t get as much appearance and even though there were a couple of episodes towards the end that puts her in the short limelight, I guess it is better than nothing. So I am guessing one of the biggest motivation for her staying is Kousuke. There are hints she likes that guy and since this guy is dead set on staying in Manoyama to become a taiko drummer, there’s her motivation to stay back as well.

For the other residents of Manoyama, I guess they’re pretty okay. Like Doku and his crazy inventions that are mostly more of aesthetic than practical and Takamizawa who doesn’t get bored being the only bus driver around town. At least he gets to wear his suits. I believe Kindaichi isn’t the only policeman in this town but I only see him around most of the time. Not forgetting Kadota and Oribe who are at odds for so long that seeing them on good terms is just a bit awkward. Who’d knew that the crazy backstory of them was the cause of this long standing tension (and the death of a certain festival). So I guess Kadota must have been regretting it all this time and turned into a grumpy old geezer trying to make amends by reviving Manoyama with his crazy antics, something that is always opposed by Oribe. I also want to mention about a staff in Kadota’s office, Shigaraki. This guy literally has no dialogue (until that one time he stood up and spoke which surprised us – and the last time we will hear of him speaking) and he has this big freaking frown on his face that says I-wish-I-was-not-here-doing-this-job. Yeah, how can a person on the tourism board be this unhappy looking? The kind of face that would scare kids and be good enough for children’s horror stories. He doesn’t even move much from his seat and at one point I was starting to think if he was just part of the office’s furniture.

The art and animation are pretty decent. Nothing much to shout about but it is still pretty much okay. Young people look pretty but the old folks really look, uhm, not so pretty. Just old. Sorry. I mean, it really shows age has really caught up to them. If the art style also feels so familiar it is because P.A. Works produced this and they maintained their trademark character designs as seen in many of their previous works such as Shirobako, Glasslip, Tari Tari, Hanasaku Iroha, Charlotte and True Tears. This is a reason why many of the characters look so familiar like as though they are that character from a different anime in an alternate world. For example, Yoshino has this close resemblance to Shirobako’s Aoi, Erika looks as close like True Tears’ Noe and Shiori having this close similarity to Glasslip’s Touko. Also to note, because of this at first I thought Sakura Quest and Shirobako are almost similar because it follows the story of 5 girls trying their best to complete something in their industry. Well, generally speaking.

Voice acting… MAMIKO NOTO MAKING HER CAMEO AS SAYURI!!! Nothing else needs to be said. Just kidding. The cast list is very long as there are many minor and background characters popping up in almost every episode. Too bad I only recognized Hiro Shimono as Yamada, Mikako Komatsu as Sanae and Youko Hikasa as the young high school girl version of Oribe. I thought Tomokazu Sugita was the voice of Minou but it turns out to be Daiki Hamano (Yatoji in Re: Creators). But the most surprising seiyuu among them all is Sandal. He is not voiced by a Japanese native but a foreigner! Surprise, surprise. This character again. Though he is not the first character voiced by a foreigner that I have heard but it has been a long time since I heard one. No wonder he sounds so different that it is refreshing. Sandal is voiced by an Indian, Vinay Murthy who is of course proficient in the Japanese language and this is so far his only anime role. Oh right, there is another foreigner here but only as cameo in the final episode, Eric Kelso as Naumann. I also believe actual foreigners were also hired as those Spanish people.

The rest of the other casts are Ayaka Nanase as Yoshino (Osamu in Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi), Reina Ueda as Shiori (Jasminka in Little Witch Academy), Chika Anzai as Maki (Reina in Hibike! Euphonium), Chiemi Tanaka as Ririko (Tsuji in Sansha Sanyou), Atsushi Ono as Kadota (Blitz in Re: Creators), Maki Izawa as Oribe (Hatobane in Kujira No Kora Wa Sajou Ni Utau), Kazuhiro Yamaji as Doku (Eugen in Granblue Fantasy The Animation), Katsuyuki Konishi as Takamizawa (Laxus in Fairy Tail), Nanako Mori as Angelica (Eiko Yamano in Knights Of Sidonia), Tomoyo Kurosawa as Erika (Kumiko in Hibike! Euphonium), Masashi Nogawa as Kindaichi (Rakshas in Berserk), Youji Ueda as Noge (Usui in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) and Yuusuke Kobayashi as Kousuke (Subaru in Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu).

All the opening and ending themes including the few insert songs are sung by [K]now_Name (it looks like not only the naming of groups these days are getting ridiculous or creative as they put it but the way they use symbols and all too). The first opening theme, Morning Glory has this hip and playful feel to it but the second opener, Lupinus doesn’t appeal much to me since it is more of pop rock. The first ending theme, Freesia is also quite good as well as the second ending theme, Baby’s Breath with the former being hip and the latter having this calming and sunshiny beat.

Overall, this series is still a great watch despite not one of those hyped and mainstream titles. It is one of those hidden gems of the season or year. Those who watch it would definitely find it satisfying in the sense that you get to learn some life lessons and the broader and more meaningful concept of family or community. And those who are working would resonate well that after a hard day of work, it is always well worth to see the fruits of labour grow. Like the old saying, sometimes you might not end up where you want to be but you will always end up where you are were meant to be. And for Yoshino, she has found her place of calling. A place she could really call her home. Welcome home, Yoshino. Wherever she may happily be.

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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