Non Non Biyori is a delightful little series with a gorgeous animation style and a wonderfully calm, comfy, and relaxing vibe. Set in a very small, very rural Japanese town, it follows a cast of mainly girls across a wide range of ages – from adults to elementary-school age kids – as they go about their daily life.
The slightly-odd setup of the series is that this town is so small that there’s only 5 kids in the entire local school, and only 1 teacher, so they are all grouped into the same room together. Oh, and the teacher is the adult sister of the elementary-age kid, and 3 of the other kids are siblings (which includes the 1 male character, who never actually has a line of spoken dialog throughout the entire series).
As I said, the setup is a bit weird – but it works in this context.
Unlike a lot of other slice-of-life series based around Japanese school kids, much of the action actually takes place outside of school – as the younger cast essentially just goes around doing exactly what you’d expect kids to do: play games, go exploring, goof around, and occasionally get into trouble. As a result, the series avoids the anime trope (or animation-budget-saving technique, perhaps) of always having the characters in the same clothes – we get to see a wide variety of normal looking outfits, all of which suit the various character’s… well, character.
You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned much about the plot – and that’s because there kind of isn’t any; at least not in the sense of an overarching storyline. This series really is just about a bunch of kids and their friends being kids – and while there is a bit of “growing up” here and there, the main focus (such as it is) is on the day-to-day events of a (mostly) normal life, and it is this focus that gives this series its wonderful calming, grounded feeling. Just as real life has no storyline, so too does Non Non Biyori. It isn’t about anything; it just is.
All this isn’t to say that nothing ever happens, however – plenty of stuff happens; it just happens in the way that normal, real life things happen. It is, in many ways, the perfect execution of the notion of a “slice-of-life” series.
Watching this series, I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic for my own childhood growing up in the countryside – but even if you don’t have that specific nostalgia, it is still a delight to watch, given how utterly relaxing it is. The characters are all unique and their interactions with one another are just a delight to follow. (The character of Renge in particular is just adorable.) In many ways, this show is like spending time with a good friend – you have a great time, even if you didn’t do anything special, and by the end you wonder how so much time has passed (and you can’t wait for the next time).
The art in this series is absolutely gorgeous as well – backgrounds and settings are amazingly detailed, and fitting in with the slow pace of the show, it isn’t afraid to really linger on some background or object shots from time to time, which makes you appreciate the art even more.
There are 3 seasons to the show, though it’s a little confusing: there’s the first season, called just “Non Non Biyori,” followed by “Non Non Biyori: Repeat,” which takes place during the same time frame as the first season, filling in events between the episodes of the first season. In a sense, you could intermix the episodes from seasons 1 and 2 to create a single series in chronological order, but that’s not how it is presented. (As I said, it is a little confusing.) Then there’s the third season, called “Non Non Biyori: Nonstop.”
Unfortunately for those of us in the US, only this third season is currently available to stream – the first 2 seasons were available on Crunchyroll but have since vanished for some reason. But if you can find a way to watch them all, I highly recommend it. In today’s fast-paced highly-stressful world, Non Non Biyori is a breath of fresh air, and a true classic.