Review: Non Non Biyori: Episode 1 – “A New Transfer Student Came”

Non Non Biyori is an anime based on a manga series by Atto. The anime is produced by Silver Link, and is directed by Mai Otsuka. As of this writing, the series is being simulcast on Crunchyroll on Mondays.

The series is set in the countryside village of Asahigaoka, and the first two-and-a-half minutes of the first episode is a bunch of establishing shots to make sure the audience can truly understand just how remote this place is. OK, I understand that the director wanted to establish how remote this place is, but I honestly believe it could have been done in less than two-and-a-half minutes, and that spending this long establishing our location dragged the pacing of the episode down. In the background, it sounds like someone is trying to play a recorder but is having trouble with it. When the establishing shots ends, we discover there’s a girl trying to play a recorder while going to school.

The girl is Renge, and she catches the bus to school, along with her classmates Natsumi and Komari. When they get to the Asahigoaka Branch School, we see there are only four students in the classroom: Renge, Natsumi, Komari, and a boy. When class starts, the teacher enters and is followed by a new female student. The new student introduces herself as Hotaru Ichijou, and that she transferred here from Tokyo due to father’s work.

When their first period Japanese class starts, Hotaru is surprised to see that everyone has a different level book. It turns out that there’s only five kids in the whole school, and they’re all in that classroom. Since everyone is at different levels, they spend a lot of their time studying on their own.

The remainder of the episode focuses on Hotaru her being a “fish out of water” in her new country surroundings. Hotaru, along with the audience, gets a bit of “info dumping” at one point to explain just how far out in the country these characters live.

One of the big things that bothered me is the one boy in the class. He never says anything, and we only see him in a couple of scenes. So far, he doesn’t really seem to add anything to the series, and I’m wondering why the heck he’s even here. If this is how he’s going to be depicted throughout the whole series, then he’s going to end up being a rather worthless and unnecessary character.

I also found myself feeling rather bored as I watched this episode, and near the end, I had to keep myself from falling asleep. I understand that this is an establishing episode, but not a lot actually happens over the course of it. The episode seems to focus more on a few vignettes rather than an overarching story, and the characters seem to spend more time talking than anything else.

After seeing this episode, Non Non Biyori seems to be shaping up to be another “cute girls doing cute things” anime series. Right now, the whole angle of the girls living out in the middle of nowhere just isn’t enough for me to differentiate this series from other series that fit into this vein. If you’re a fan of moe and cute girls doing cute things, then you’ll probably really enjoy Non Non Biyori. However, if you’re not really a fan of this type of series, then you’re probably better off ignoring it.

I’ll go ahead and watch another episode of Non Non Biyori to see if it can progress past what I saw in episode one. However, if I see the same kind of storytelling in episode two that I did in episode one, then I would drop the series at that point.

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