Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, and GATE are all about discovering and exploring new worlds full of strange beings and people. Durarara! explores the darker sides of conspiracies and urban legends. Detective Conan is basically an anime version of NCIS. Most anime have their settings in metropolitan cities (ahem, Tokyo) and base their stories around city life. Non Non Biyori (Repeat) decided to fuck all that and move to the countryside. Far from the exhilaration of school drama, battles, and exploration, Non Non Biyori dared to ask the question “What it someone from the city was placed in the boring Japanese countryside?” and do an anime about it.
I watched Non Non Biyori (Repeat) a while ago and wrote a rather shallow piece on its “freshness” amidst the onslaught of stale anime the industry is constantly regurgitating. Only now, after rewatching it and watching Repeat, have I formed a concrete opinion of the anime. For me, Non Non Biyori (Repeat) goes beyond just four girls having fun the countryside. It is not just the typical slow, boring, everyday anime; it delivers a message of boredom and the increasing relevance of romanticizing the simple life.
The famous Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard once said “Boredom is the root of all evil.” Everything that happens is a result of boredom. Adam was bored so he asked God to create Eve. Fujos be like “God should’ve created Steve” but that’s not how biology works. Wars have been fought simply because people en masse were bored. In our modern life, we always strive to relieve ourselves from boredom. Bored while waiting for a train? You got your phone. Bored at a meeting? You got your phone. Bored at home? You have a dakkimakura and unlimited internet for porn. But, is this type of boredom relievement actually beneficial? Or does it just turn us into vegetables?
In Non Non Biyori, the main protagonist is Hotaru, a jailbait fifth grader who moved from the bustling city to rural Japan because reasons. As a city kid, she experiences mild culture shock in the village, as life there is starkly different. In the city, she was used to a life of convenience. She was almost always never bored, or so it is implied. As she moves to the countryside, deprived of her conveniences, she finally begins to feel true boredom. There’s nothing to do, or so she thinks, in the village. Enter the village kids: the cute Ren-chon and the sisters Komari and Natsumi. A heartwarming friendship forms between them, which we see develop during the course of the anime.
An interesting aspect of Non Non Biyori and Repeat is its unorthodox slow pace. While most anime today are either too fast-paced you don’t what the fuck is going on and who is who, or too snail-paced you have to wait five weeks to know who won a fight, Non Non Biyori uses the slow pace to actually show viewers meaningful character development. Through the course of the anime, I’ve seen Hotaru grow into a person that knows how to have fun, despite how limited she is in terms of resources. Back in the city, she might not even have had the chance to practice her sewing, because kids her age would be busy with extracurricular activities. She wouldn’t also have had the chance to explore and appreciate the nature and people around her. I recall one episode when Hotaru and Ren-chon visited a candy store. I was touched when I saw Hotaru’s eyes beaming over simple candies, candies that she might have taken for granted in the city. It just goes to show that most of the time, we take things for granted.
Which brings me back to Kierkegaard. Boredom, to Kierkegaard, was simply a “motivator” for doing something. However, with the rise of social media, communications technology, and instant gratification, people are no longer “properly bored”. They simply turn to their phones and view cat videos on YouTube when they’re bored. This type of boredom I call “fake boredom”, because it is a type of boredom that does not initiate anything. What we need more is “proper boredom” and to that, we need to be more limited. Unplug, run away from the bustling city, and live as simply as possible.
Romanticizing the Simple Life
Related to the point above, Non Non Biyori (Repeat) is also an anime that romanticizes the simple life in the country. Of course, the anime does cherry-pick only the “good” aspects of living in rural Japan.
Our current modern life demands us to always be on our feet and on the move.
You wake up, still groggy from last night, and have breakfast. Your phone rings, an email from your boss comes in. He says there’s gonna be a meeting at 9. You hurriedly shove toast into your mouth and rush out the house to get on the 8.15 train. In the train, you’re on the phone, scrolling through dozens of unread emails and listening to that new Justin Bieber song. People push and shove. You groan. At the office, you hurry to the meeting, which you were late to. You take your seat and now have to listen to Fat Bob drone on about sales in the past quarter. You go through the entire day visiting clients and attending more meetings. The work day is over, but you still have to have dinner with your girlfriend. After that, Netflix and chill. And finally, you fall asleep. The cycle repeats…
Of course, that’s just an illustration that I made up on the spot. The point is, we’re constantly busy with our superficial lives, we tend to forget that our own self needs a break and stop worrying. Only will we actually “live in the moment”. Non Non Biyori (Repeat) is all about abandoning the superficial shackles that bind us to the fast-paced life that we have become accustomed to. This romanticization of the simpler life is becoming increasingly relevant in society, especially Western societies, as people are constantly working themselves into the ground and living their lives in a hamster’s wheel.
Non Non Biyori (Repeat) is a series that tries to be a “different” type of slice-of-life. Whereas the typical slice-of-life simply focuses on cliched plots and overused character archetypes, Non Non Biyori (Repeat) tries to deliver a fresh, new take on how slice-of-life should be: insightful without being boring. Because an anime shouldn’t be called “slice-of-life” if it does not actually represent a realistic “slice” of the life it wishes to depict.