What They Say:
Even though there are still only five students who attend the remote Asahigaoka Branch School, each one of the girls already has a lifetime of wonderful experiences in the carefree Japanese countryside. Some memories may belong to just one person, like Hotaru’s recollections of her first day in Asahigaoka before she’d had a chance to meet her new friends. Other memories bring an otherwise sleepy town to life for Komari, Natsumi, Renge, or even Suguru. From daily life in school, to unforgettable holiday festivities, or even simple adventures like learning how to make okonomiyaki, new adventures are just waiting to be shared as we return to Asahigaoka in NON NON BIYORI REPEAT!
The audio presentation for this release is about what you’d expect in that we get a simple stereo mix with only the Japanese language, which is encoded using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The show is all about the ambience and dialogue, so it has to work the calm and quiet scenes well throughout, letting some of the sounds of nature dominate as well as other incidental aspects of it all. It handles it all quite well overall, but like a lot of mixes of this nature it’s not going to come across as striking or impressive, though it does it all in a very good way. There’s some decent placement from time to time with the show as we get a good number of characters together at a time as well as a bit of depth as well, though less of that overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this twelve episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this series are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Silver Link once again, the show has another round of beautiful backgrounds that just brings the settings to life here in a great way. The series has a lot of static backgrounds throughout it which makes it easier to work with a mid-rage bit rate that lands mostly around the twenty range with plenty of variation near it. That’s definitely welcome as there’s a lot of great colors here that stand out well and add to the overall richness of the show that definitely needs to be seen in high definition. Though it’s not the most animated of series, it does handle its animation well but it also balances it out with some good details to the characters, beautiful colors in backgrounds and foregrounds and fluidity of animation when necessary. This is a really well done show in that it immerses you in the area through the visuals and the transfer captures that.
The packaging for this release works with a standard single sized Blu-ray case that uses some very familiar artwork with it. The front cover gives us a look at the four girls from the key visual for the season as they’re in their regular clothes and just enjoying nature where they are. With some beautiful background material and a real sense of setting, combined with nice looking character designs, it definitely lets you know what to expect and sells that in a big way. Add in the cute logo along the top with its colors to add a bit of pop and it’s definitely a solid design. The back cover works in the natural colors nicely with more background material along the top under the tagline while the bottom goes for a solid shade of orange for the production information and the technical grid. The center strip has some good character artwork and a solid slate of shots from the show that shows off more of the various locations while the premise, done in red text on white, covers things really well in exploring the basics of the cover. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works in a very simple way but it sets the mood and atmosphere quite well. The overall static image is done with some of the illustration artwork for the show that has different cast configurations for the two discs. They’re soft in color but rich in detail and really look fantastic on a big screen. The logo is very vibrant against all of this along the lower left while the right side has the navigation strip, which works the logo design in a way with its rounded edges on the left while the breakdown of episode by number and title line along it in a purple and white combination that plays well against the color of the trees. With nothing here outside of the extras, navigation is a breeze and the menu looks good when used during playback as a pop-up.
The extras for this release definitely step things up several notches and for some fans will ease the lack of a dub. The big extra is that we get multiple of the Japanese commentary tracks, which are hellish pieces to translate and Sentai gets huge props for handling that for the fans. The release also comes with a fun cast panel video that runs about fifteen minutes, a round or promos, and the clean opening and closing sequence. We also get over an hour across six installments of the Dagashi videos. These are fun little cast talk pieces done for each of the Japanese volumes where they spend some time in a candy store having fun and then the actresses sit around in a room talking about a range of things related to the show and their characters. They’re best parceled out in small doses simply because there’s so much of it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first series landed in the fall of 2013, Non Non Biyori did well enough that it boosted the attention on the manga and generated a second series that came out in the summer of 2015. The summer season definitely felt more appropriate for it and with it bringing back mostly the same team to work on it there was a seamless transition in terms of style and look. Atto’s original manga work is something that’s still ongoing as well so the series was welcome in that it wasn’t tied to the manga ending, which is now at ten volumes. I had enjoyed the first series well enough when I saw it before but i’ll easily admit that it fell heavily into that cute girls do nothing trap that just didn’t captivate me. Interestingly enough, this season managed to win me over more but not for any specific or particular eason.
This season kicks things off with a lot of change because time did pass in that first season and the girls are getting a bit older. It’s not a significant change in ages but even a year can bring about radical events for kids. Here, Hikage is heading off to Tokyo for high school and that means she’s largely absent from this season. She has some small bits throughout it with a visit or two and some connective elements like that but I really appreciated that they didn’t try to force her into it – or force the group to head into Tokyo to see her. I was also really appreciative of the fact that her leaving didn’t radically alter the show in a sense. There’s some dynamic change in how they’re all a year older but still in the same structure with each other yet the lack of their upperclassman doesn’t mean there’s a “power vacuum” or anything like that going on.
For me, the biggest and best change is that Renge is now moving into first grade. Being the youngest of the group by a good margin, this is a huge moment in her life and one that I can connect well with thanks to my own kids and their curiosity, fear, and excitement over the change. Even in a small place like this there’s a lot for her to take in and watching how she goes and practices the day before, tries to understand what’s going to be expected of her, and taking it all very seriously is just delightful to watch. She may be a bit mature for her age when you get down to it but some of that is understandable considering there’s nobody else her age there. With a five-person school, well, you’re going to end up just a big different. Renge definitely grew on me a lot for how she presented herself throughout this season and spending the opening episode focusing on her and kicking Hikage off on the train to Tokyo was the best.
While Hikage is gone we can’t exactly have a gap in characters here because it’s a show about four girls. Enter Hotaru, a new transfer student from Tokyo who has come here due to her father’s job. Hotaru doesn’t get quite the depth and exploration in this season as one might think she would but I really loved how she was blended into it. She’s a character that feels like she’d be more at home here in a sleepy area like this than the bustle of a big city. She barely makes much mention of the differences between the two areas and certainly doesn’t come across as high and mighty about anything. She’s a nice kid that’s now a part of the fifth grade side and that keeps her in the middle of all the other characters, a relatively safe position that lets her become a member and not disruptive element.
As you can guess, most of this season is filled with the usual little going on kind of stories as the kids deal with school, friendships, regional aspects, and a little holiday material along the way as well. A year passes over the course of it for the most part and that means we get to see them all grow at a good pace. Natsumi is fun to watch throughout it as we see her getting involved in wildlife and having fun there being outgoing and silly while Komari is pretty much trying to keep the peace and get through her days by enjoying time with everyone. Being the older sister that’s shorter still leads to its stressful moments here, something that I can see with my own kids as well, there’s a lot to like in seeing their relationship play out a bit. If anything, the frustrating point to the show – which is the same in the manga – is that Suguru is such a non-entity. I get that he’s just a sight gag and I’m not looking for relationship material in here – the lack of it is fantastic – but there’s a lot of missed opportunities here.
The season does involve the adults from time to time with a mother or two providing some balance and some cuteness with teachers. I especially liked the bit with the device Renge comes up with to get them to stop falling asleep in class. Kaede gets the most time since she’s there outside of school and interacts in different ways through the shop and there’s an increasing softness to her as it unfolds that’s very appealing, especially toward Renge. When we see Renge doing her best to learn to ride her bike, Kaede is supportive but also ensuring that Renge tries herself without a lot of interference, understanding the effort and time required to do it. THe show is made up of a lot of very small moments, from cooking together to fishing and playing with tadpoles to the simple seasonal ideas that are pleasurable to watch play out.
Non Non Biyori Repeat isn’t exactly a repeat because it does change things up from the first season in significant ways. But, in a lot of other ways, it is a repeat because it takes us through another year of light and somewhat superficial events with no real threats, problems, or stressful situations for the cast to deal with. And while you do want that for kids to some degree you also want them to learn how to cope with things. A lack of problems to deal with can lead to issues. But for those wanting to just immerse yourself into this quiet little world that will take your troubles away while avoiding significant moe-induced moments, Non Non Biyori Repeat hits a sweet spot better than the first season. And it’s loaded up with great extras that are worth spending the time digging into that you won’t get elsewhere.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Dagashi, Commentaries, Cast Panel Video, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening and Closing Animations
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 8th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.