Review/discussion about: Non Non Biyori Repeat
Non Non Biyori Repeat almost makes me feel bad about myself.
To Renge and the gang, a cell phone is a sign of luxury, and “dot com” is a mysterious concept. To me, I cannot live without the Internet. I cannot go a day without using a computer or checking out /r/anime or playing a video game. I do not consider smartphones and e-mail anomalies; I consider them necessities.
But Repeat does not make me feel bad for too long, for quickly afterwards it provides a superb experience with a lot of heart and a lot of soul, forcing me to realize that life’s most important parts are the ones that have been nearby all along.
Repeat is a slice-of-life anime. Its contents are everyday events, singular nuggets of fun. And if that is all one wants to take away from the show, that is perfectly fine. But if one were to look past the simplicity in search of more powerful themes, they are there.
The best way to understand Repeat’s message is to view it through a small scope and a big scope. The former inspects individual instances whereas the latter takes a step back to look at the anime’s narrative as a whole. With the small scope, there are two specific scenes that reveal the nature of the show, and with the big scope, an entire season is required.
The first scene using the smaller scope happens rather early in the season. Hotaru, Natsumi, and Komari, as well as Renge and Suguru, are in school. After being granted a break by their teacher, the five of them choose to have some fun by playing a game. The game they choose to play is called “knock-down-the-ruler.”
What proceeds is an intense game filled with daring actions and legendary outcomes…with nothing but a few rulers and some pencils. These rulers and pencils lead into Repeat’s first theme: The simple things in life are the most beautiful. Neither expensive objects nor new-age technologies are needed to make life wonderful. All that is needed are a few pieces of plastic on a table, a stick in hand, and one’s endless font of imagination. The second scene using the small scope happens in the final episode of the season. The group is waiting at Nasumi and Komari’s house when a neighbor comes to visit. Their mother greets the woman, and the group goes to the side of the house to sit in the sun and wait.
For roughly four straight minutes, the same spot is shown. This time passes rather uneventfully. The girls play a game of slaps. Natsumi recounts a dream she had but nobody listens. A butterfly floats by that Natsumi and Renge chase after. Komari and Hotaru get up to grab some tea and juice. The mother from before is heard talking with the neighbor at the front door. Suguru walks in, finds nobody around, and leaves. All the while, the anime never moves away from the scene.
Despite resting on a single snapshot, so much is happening in one moment. Hence, the second theme is made known: Life is constantly moving. There is always something happening or something to be had. It may be chasing a butterfly, going to get juice, or simply walking away. Regardless, life continues to move.
Looking at Repeat using the big scope encapsulates the bigger idea of the anime. The structure of the show closely follows the first season, and some events even overlap with the first season. (Sometimes, clips or scenes from the first season are reused.) Obviously what is depicted is not exactly the same, but what the characters go through within the “narrative” is similar: hanging out, trying out new ventures, and experiencing what life has to offer.
This gets at the most important theme of the show: Life is a series of repetitive tasks. That sounds like a negative, but it is not. Just because what people do on a daily basis is repetitive does not devalue what life is. Instead, it demonstrates what is most important: friends and family chief among them.
Repeat shows this constantly. Eating a meal with others on a rainy day. Having a conversation with a friend. Working together to accomplish a goal. These activities are had all of the time by everyone, but what makes them unique, what makes them special, are who these activities are spent with.
With Repeat, it combines this theme with the others, capturing a wonderful idea. That despite how simple life may be, despite how continual life may be, and despite how repetitive life may be, life is a remarkable opportunity. An opportunity that should not just be enjoyed individually but also shared with the people held close.
One of the ways in which Repeat turns its anime into a relaxing one is through its artistic direction. The most obvious is the art itself. Simply put, it is stunning. Pastoral landscapes filled with greens, yellows, and blues. A single, lazy car rolling down a dirt road. Dazzling stars against a nighttime sky or a purplish-red sunset cascading over the nearby grass. Repeat, like its predecessor, emphasizes its environment to achieve its relaxed mood.
Less obvious is Repeat’s subtle yet constant technique of lingering. Almost every anime (indeed, almost every visual medium) has quick shots like those landscapes or that sky that are used to establish setting. Repeat, however, is slightly different. Rather than just quickly showing these scenes, the anime lingers on them usually a second longer than the audience believes it will. Doing so engrosses the audience in the country environment, letting them feel the nostalgia and comfortability more so than usual.
Unfortunately, such intense focus on the art produces an obvious decline in the actual animation. Hotaru and the others obviously move, but it is rare for them to move in a nuanced manner. Luckily, the character designs help to make up for this lack of animation. While none of the characters are exotic in their designs, they each have a normalcy to them that coincides with the everyday feeling of the show.
For example, Hotaru’s mature looks contrast with the childish nature of Natsumi, Komari, and Renge, making her stand out but not overly so. Renge’s twin tails with yellow ribbons and triangular mouth paint her as the cute kid that she is. And Natsumi’s tomboyish attitude is portrayed by her messy hair and simple clothing. Furthermore, each of the characters goes through multiple outfits throughout the season, inducing variety and demonstrating attention to details.
The characters of Repeat are by no means complex. The same can be said for many slice-of-life anime. However, what the cast lacks in complexity they make up for in purpose. Not just one of them but all of them.
The prime example – arguably the strongest part of Repeat – that lets the audience understand the characters’ message happens later on in the season. (Those that have completed the season can probably correctly guess which scene is about to be analyzed.) Renge decides that it is time for her to no longer use her training wheels on her bicycle. She determines that she can learn how to properly ride her bike, enlisting “Candy Store” to help her out.
Most people would say that the quintessential moment from this scene is when Candy Store pushes Renge on her bike one last time, and Renge neither falls nor (and most importantly) does not come back. There is definitely merit to thinking this way. This moment not only symbolizes Renge conquering the conflict she was combating but also symbolizes growing up. There comes a point in nearly everyone’s life where people mature and change and move on. Candy Store saw remnants of this first hand earlier on in the episode when the other characters were already doting on Renge and when she was the one getting doted on by Renge.
But that final push is not the quintessential moment. That moment comes shortly after. Renge and the group arrive at Candy Store’s candy store. They decide to pick up some candy, and, as is shown (it is subtle, happening in just a few seconds) Renge has trouble getting the candy that she wants. The person who helps her is not Hotaru, not Natsumi, and not Komari. The person who helps her is Candy Store.
It is this moment that highlights the theme of Repeat’s characters: Growing up does not mean goodbye. People grow and develop not by their lonesome. They grow and develop with the support of the people around them. And just because people grow and develop does not mean that those supporters automatically get tossed away. It just means that they cannot help them now. But they will always be there, cheering on their successes, consoling them in their failures, and caring for them in their decisions.
The other main characters also portray this theme through their own, personalized events. Komari finds a plush doll, now battered and disheveled, that she used to covet as a child. She no longer carries it with her, but she treats her little supporter with the respect it deserves for helping her those many years ago when she has it cleaned and fixed up.
Hotaru has a fear of jumping into the river from the stone bridge. Yet after receiving a lovely letter from her friends back in Tokyo, she musters the courage to take that leap to show her friends that she, too, is growing as a person. (Of course, this does not stop her from acting like a kid at home.)
Natsumi is the only main character that does not have a personalized moment of this type. Her main role is to be the goofball girl who makes sure that the atmosphere remains lighthearted. This can be viewed either negatively or positively.
In the negative sense, since Renge, Komari, and Hotaru receive such growth, Natsumi should grow, too. She is not some side character that is barely involved; she is a part of nearly every event. In the positive sense, her character is someone who believes that one should “play while you have the chance.” Meaning, while she may not grow up like the rest, she represents someone who is not looking to grow up anytime soon. In the meantime, she is there riding her bike with Renge, receiving advice from Komari, and waiting in the river for Hotaru.
In other words, Natsumi’s character contrasts with the others, highlighting Renge’s, Komari’s, and Hotaru’s own growth while she herself is that constant supporter. Such growth will no doubt occur for her at some point, but, for now, she is more than content with who she is and where she happens to be going. And when she does decide to grow as a person, she will have her loved ones to lean on.
Loved ones that, no matter what happens, will always be there for her.
The opening track for Repeat is fantastic. The accent of the vocalist works extremely well with the country vibe. The banjo follows the same feel. And the beat is entirely uplifting. But best of all, the last part of the track – where the main gang are triumphantly marching – is catchy and simple and fun. This OP perfectly captures what this series is all about, making it a pleasure to listen to both in and out of the show.
While the ending track is easily weaker than the opening track, that does not mean the ED is without strength of its own. The varying vocalists gets at the theme of sharing life with those closest. Happiness is exuded by the singing and the instruments, fitting the mood of the anime. And the beginning and ending sections – with the recorder and the xylophone, respectively – create a nice lead-in and lead-out. Altogether, this track is, like the OP, a wonderful fit for the show.
The rest of the original soundtrack continues the high level of execution that the OP and the ED previously demonstrated. The flutes, the violins, the ukuleles, the xylophones, and the harmonicas come together to form pleasant, lazy tracks that create the perfect atmosphere for the show. Silly, emotional, and ominous tracks accompany the main arrangements, being used for specific scenes throughout the season like when Candy Store rushes to Renge’s house to check up on her and when Komari is afraid of the real-life teru-teru bouzu. Overall, the OST is a powerhouse that does exactly what it needs to do and more.
And it perhaps goes without saying that the voice acting performances within Repeat are well above average. Kotori Koiwai as Renge uses a unique, energetic voice that captures the curious young girl amazingly. Rie Murakawa as Hotaru gives the fifth grader a mature yet childish voice that fits the equally mature and childish girl. And Kana Asumi as Komari always nails the screaming scenes in which she is scared. (This happens more often than one may think.)
Also, a strange and special shout-out to the producers of the anime for refraining from going the easy-joke route by giving Suguru, Komari and Natsumi’s older brother, a voice. (In a hopefully third season, finally having him speak would be more than fine since so much build-up to what his first words would be has already been fostered.)
As I did with the “Story” and “Characters” section, I will use an example that encapsulates the anime: its adorableness, its comedy, and its heart.
Episode six is entitled “We Made Friends with Fireflies,” and that is the subject of this example. The group comes together during the day to work on homework over their break from school. While working, Hotaru suggests that they come over to her house at night to light some fireworks her parents will be purchasing. The country bumpkins are extremely excited for something they rarely get to see, Hotaru is happy they are coming over, and the plan is set.
First is the adorable moment. When Renge, Komari, and the others arrive, Hotaru opens her door. But she is no longer smiling like before. Instead, she is wailing, crying her eyes out because her parents were unable to procure the fireworks. Hotaru’s voice, her mannerisms, and her reaction are so genuine that I wanted to just hug her and tell her everything was going to be all right.
Second is the comedic moment. Hotaru has only one firework to light, but, as it turns out, the “firework” is nothing more than a device that shot a parachute-using toy into the air. The group tries (read: fails) to hide their disappointment by cheering up Hotaru. But Renge’s response is the best: she starts to console Hotaru, slowly becomes unable to do so, and then falls on her knees while saying, “You didn’t do anything wrong, Hotarun.” I found the whole debacle hilarious.
Third is the heartfelt moment. Kazuho leads them all to a secluded spot in the woods where fireflies (“Hotaruns”) are gently floating by. The music, Hotaru’s reaction to getting a firefly to land on her piece of grass, and the ambience of the whole scene creates a sublime, serene experience that is nothing short of powerful.
Not all of the scenes in the anime had the same power as this firefly scene, but they all had some combination of those three aforementioned traits. Renge as a baby biting Candy Store’s shirt to show deep affection was beyond adorable. Hotaru and Komari scared out of their minds when their flashlight broke was hilarious. And Natsumi getting Flatty-san’s children into the aquarium in order to cheer up Renge was wonderful. The whole anime was not a show that I merely watched; the anime was a phenomenal experience.
Non Non Biyori Repeat is cute, funny, and touching. But the anime is more than just these superficial traits. The anime champions simplicity and explores maturity, delivering an endearing tale that can make anyone – even a person addicted to the Internet – understand that life and the people it is shared with are beautiful.
Story: Great, a slice-of-life adventure that truly embodies the spirit of life
Animation: Good, while actual animation is low, the stunning scenery, cinematography, and nice character designs create a feel-good atmosphere
Characters: Great, Renge, Komari, Hotaru, and Natsumi teach that growing up does not mean goodbye
Sound: Great, awesome OP, good ED, very nice OST, above average VA performances
Enjoyment: Great, an emotional and worthwhile experience
Final Score: 9/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3