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No-Rin Complete Collection UK Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

No-Rin UK Blu-ray CoverA farming anime? O.K….how is this gonna work?

Answer…er…..conflicted…

What They Say:
There once was a teen named Kosaku
Who was…mildly obsessed with an idol
He mailed her some veggies
To keep her bod healthy
And, SURPRISE, she showed up at ag school!
Now that Ringo (the pop artist formerly known as Yuka) is a student at Tamo Agricultural High School, she’s ready to ho, sow, and plow her way to the top! But first she has to learn…pretty much everything about farming. On top of that, Kosaku’s best friend, Minori, is waaaaaay jelly of his friendship with Ringo on account of her not-so-hidden feelings for him, and seeds of rivalry begin to sprout between the two. And the biggest mystery still remains: What’s a world famous pop star doing at an agricultural high school?

The Review:
Audio:
Set in 2.0 Stereo in Japanese and a 5.1 release in English (no subtitle track you can select separately), the tracks had no real issues in terms of standard quality or regarding delays to lip flaps or transition to subtitles. The track itself is very standard music wise, with a very good Japanese dub which I didn’t need to adjust well, as for the 5.1 dub again, no adjustments required and the sounds come with great enthusiasm – this comes up both in the more monologue moments, whether about farming or panties (don’t ask) – combined with the jolly jingles in the background and the few intense moments the atmosphere it creates works well with no issues in timing with the subtitles in Japanese.

Video:
Set on a standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio/PAL remaster over 2 discs which is the standard for most UK releases, video wise, colours were fine and flashy (most times colourful, but during the more problematic moments like the storms, it gets quite dark), and no issues in terms of video to audio though set NTSC style with top/bottom wide screen, no problems video wise with subtitles synching, no video freezing or any slack animation when pausing the show and the colours do come out very vividly and look rather good on a Blu-Ray set up – no problems found so overall very strong. The animation, in general, is pretty standard but it is very flowing, nothing repeated, and with the premise it has (combines agriculture with fanservice) it is at least bright and in your face.

Packaging:
There was no packaging for this test release.

Menu:
On each of the discs, the menu is very similar – lots of clips from the show with a catchy tune in the background– like most Blu-Rays it has popup menus during the show (bar extras) – on the main menu, the choices are on the bottom half of Play All, Episodes, Set-Up and Extras on both discs. Very simple but eye-catching, some good extra little things in pop-up and audio, almost instant like most Blu-Ray releases, it is very well-rounded.

Extras:
We have a few extras for No-Rin – the first disc has the commentary extras. We have one on episode 3 involving Mike McFarland (ADR director), Lynsey Hale (Minori), Jad Saxton (Ringo), Austin Tindle (Kousaku) and Derick Snow (Kei) – they have a basically mad laugh about their characters and how different they were with the different types of voices they had to use because of all the references (Kousaku in particular) and the fact at heart it is a farming anime, and that they do all the technical stuff and information in show hidden within the fanservice scenes – what is also fun is that it is Lynsey and Derick’s first main roles (Derick’s first role full stop) and what their favourite moments as well (with shout outs to the real star of the show in Tia Ballard’s insane Becky ^^)…

Speaking of which, Tia Ballard (Becky) joins Mike for the 2nd commentary (episode 8) along with Austin and Lynsey, but also we have Megan Shipman (Kochou) – they mention it was filmed a while ago before release so a lot of it is flashbacks to them, give props to Kousaku’s voice and the animation style (Austin’s impressive vocal range) and big props to Tia who was basically instructed to ‘go wild’ with her performance (which she accomplished in spades). They talk about the different between voice acting and stage acting (as most Vas usually work in the theatre as well) and how the show crosses comedy and culture together.

The second disc has pretty much all the standard extras you now expect – we get some promo videos (three of them airing at Comiket, ranging from drawings, to Becky and Ringo hosting it, and two versions of the initial concert scene), a commercial collection for the Blu-Ray/DVD re-lease in Japan, the Textless opening and ending, the US Trailer and trailers for other shows (A Certain Scientific Railgun S, Riddle Story Of Devil, Fairy Tail, Good Luck Girl, Is This A Zombie Of The Dead?, Spice And Wolf, Space Dandy and Lord Marksman + Vanadis).

Content:
No-Rin, translated from agriculture and forestry…but has a school idol as its owning picture on the manga covering. So this is a strange one to review…

Some anime like for example, Spice & Wolf, take the whole trying to put something a bit more mundane (commerce and trading in that case) and pun intended, spice it up with something, in case a strong female character and some mystical forces. With Spice & Wolf, this works because it goes more realistic despite said wolf involvement, yet remains interesting due to the banter of the main characters.

No-Rin takes a more obvious approach, it combined legitimate farming knowledge and information…with fanservice. But does it work?

The story starts with our male lead Kousaku, who is obsessed with a teen idol sensation Yuka Kusakabe. After waking up from a dream, he heads up to his more mundane life at an agricultural school along with childhood friend Minori (a.k.a. the other love interest), his supposedly more straight laced friend Kei, and the rival/clearly has a crush on Kei but is tsundere for him Kochou. When suddenly it is announced that Yuka is retiring from entertainment. Needless to say, this crushes Kousaku who is almost a bit creepy stalker like with his obsession with her even sending her vegetables anonymously (an off-comment which actually becomes way more important later). His depression is broken thanks to this friends but as he is ‘recovering’ the infamous mysterious transfer student enters. Her name is Ringo Kinoshita, and she looks strangely familiar…yet without any of the energy that her other self seems to have…

The show doesn’t do anything like pretend she isn’t her, pretty much immediately Kousaku and friends realise Ringo is Yuka, who doesn’t really hide it anyway, but her infectious smile is replaced by a flat frown, monotone voice and a no-nonsense attitude. Kousaku obviously is thrilled and is the one to show her round (whilst trying to avoid the antics of their 40 year old yet looks like a schoolgirl teacher Becky, her fanservice antics and annoyance at being single perhaps the best source of comedy in the show) as he and his friends show her around, show what they do and…

…it leads to a panties monologue.

Yeah, it’s that kind of series. Strangely Ringo seems jealous of Minori despite not knowing of Kousaku…right?

Anyway, we get a challenge episode where Minori faces off against Ringo who is surprisingly stoic and skilled against things Minori thought she would suck at being a former idol (getting rid of insects, farm stenches, fertilizer, etc) – the two do make up and the series then goes into a few mixed directions.

You can tell Ringo has a kind heart (she’s the only one who doesn’t want to kill the monkey who has been destroying their crops, fortunately Kochou saves the day in that situation) but she has been finding it hard to smile due to her exhaustion from her idol days – the show to its credit does do good development with Ringo and also Kousaku who severely turns down the idol stalkering and whilst he has his perverted moments is a lot more manageable and calmer as the series progresses, but it is always interrupted with some form of antic or fanservice. This is added when we get the 4 ‘gods’ of the farming students, Akari (an obsessed yaoi fangirl who manages to convince Kousaku and Kei to try out some of her yoghurt which basically is a toned down bukkake attempt scene), Rintaro (a forestry expert who is depressed for some female members), Rose (the flamboyant and ambiguously gay landscaper) and the most likeable and on screen one in Torao, an expert in finance who whilst is clearly thinking money most of the time, is at least helpful to the gang in terms of experience.

Granted, this does mean more fanservice with using cute girls for their ‘moe’ eggs and er…a tad phallic shaped mushrooms…so yeah, it’s a mixed bag.

The mixed part as you can tell is that the fanservice feels it needs to be added to keep interest with certain audiences, because unsurprisingly, the show is strongest when they focus on when the crops are in danger – the explanations are done easily, colourful and when a crisis hits, you do feel it (such as when a case of mould hits the crop which turns out to be far worse than expected, and when a huge storm hits the crops leading to a dramatic moment where Kousaku ignores the fanservice and focuses on saving Ringo and the crops) – it also brings up how Ringo may have known Kousaku before and surprisingly it was all Minori’s doing…

It does intermix with the fanservice parts, which do bring some good sources of comedy – especially when Becky, their 40 year old acts and looks 20 year old but can’t get a boyfriend teacher is involved – leading to some humorous moments and situations involving Kousaku and Ringo in particular (you don’t insult Ringo’s flat chest) but overall, it seems very distracting. Yet other episodes such as when Kei’s father challenges Kei to a vegetable battle are quite good, as you learn Kei’s back-story, his hatred for his father and why he goes with organic vegetable compared to ones raised with technology and chemicals, yet the story doesn’t take the traditional route as you’d expect and has a nice twist which also involved Kochou.

Makes you forget his moments when he was in a mankini beforehand huh?

The last couple of episodes end in a strange way – both good and bad. We return to Kousaku’s home city with Minori and Ringo, as we learn his back-story about his parents, why he was living with Minori’s family and it actually hits home why he was so obsessed with going into the big city and why farming is something he initially hated. The story has progressed that Kousaku’s more negative traits have been toned down considerably, and the story’s end may see him choose one of the girls…if it wasn’t for the fact that Minori’s parents try to basically get him to marry her – not helped by Minori’s older sister having a good back-story of her own and why she returned to her hometown after trying to go to Tokyo herself. It does lead to Ringo learning more about their relationship (as well as Minori’s younger siblings been attached to Ringo) but also leads us to an inconclusive love triangle at the end, bar a sequel.

Do I like this series?

I don’t know. ^^

On one hand, it actually does a really good take on farming making it interesting – the episode focusing on Kei is one of my favourites because it is organic vs. chemicals with Kei having legit reasons for hating chemical based ways of growing foods and you expect the organic one to be better when a competition comes out. However, it shows you that things aren’t always as they seem as you can make a case for either or as Kei’s father isn’t the stereotypical bad dad as whilst Kei villanized him as not caring when his mother passed on or only cares for profit, he does actually make some valid points, to the point that Kei realises he has to learn more and leaves the series (setting up the last two episodes with the other three main characters). And whenever the crops are in danger, it seems the series becomes intriguing (the life or death struggle when the props are in a storm, the situation with the monkey, etc).

The problem is that it falls into so many clichés when it could have been so much more. They do reference a lot of other shows in their art design (Death Note, Phoenix Wright, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Full Metal Alchemist and Princess Mononoke among others I noticed) so it is clear there is humour and parody involved, and I definitely did laugh out loud a few times throughout the show. It just feels really pained that they relied on various clichés, especially with the fanservice, the yaoi pandering, the love triangle angle – they draw the line with the mysterious transfer student angle which I did applaud them for it – but when Kei has a monologue about panties, you know the focus is a little from column A and a little from column B. I wasn’t expected it to be a pure farming anime as outside of those rare slice of life series that somehow make the activity much more fun combined with engaging characters, it would be hard to keep that good for 12 episodes. However, it feels like it doesn’t know if it wasn’t to be an entertaining, educational or both type of series…or just go straight into fanservice scenarios. (Granted, Becky is hilarious but a lot of the imagery and fanservice falls straight into ‘here we go again’ territory)

There is some character development with Kousaku and Ringo in particular but in a short series when they add the 4 kings, only the money based one is involved long enough to be interesting, Minori does get the shaft as basically part fanservice, part jealous girl (Ringo gets that as well but is more interesting) – Minori has one major moment involved in how Kousaku and Ringo know each other in the past, but aside from that it feels she was there just for the last few episodes – the love triangle despite the two girls resolving their earlier differences feels obvious how Kousaku would pick yet they want to stretch it out.

Which is a shame because if it fell more to a slice of life nature with a bit of comedy that doesn’t heavily rely on fanservice (a series like Aria springs to mind along with Spice & Wolf) then I felt this could have been one of those rare gems of a series – however probably due to get a fan base, they fall to several clichés and fanservice which sadly cheapens a really good concept.

In Summary:
No-Rin feels like a missed opportunity. On one hand, the idea of a farming anime sounds ludicrous but with the right set-up as has been proven with other series you can make any concept sound interesting with the right delivery. And some of it was going that direction (the fish out of water with the pop idol in farming school, the history she has with the main character, the complexity of both his and Kei’s background) – however it falls to some classic clichés and heavily relies on fanservice so it is more of a general series, and whilst some of the comedy is top notch (especially with Becky) it ultimately falls flat at the end.

Features:

Episode Commentaries, Promotional Videos, Commercial Collection, Textless Opening ”Himitsu no Doa kara Ai ni Kite”, Textless Closing ”Mo-Gi-Ta-Te ? Fruit Girls”.

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Anime Ltd via Funimation
Release Date: February 27th, 2017
MSRP: £34.99
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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