I couldn’t keep my non-Non Non Biyori streak up. I’ve written a few hundred words on why I enjoy Non Non Biyori in the past, but the words never seen to form beyond “this show is great”. Going into detail about why I feel that Non Non Biyori’s one of the best shows of the year is a daunting task because I don’t quite know how to put into words what makes it work so well. “Everything” isn’t exactly the most specific descriptor.
There’s excellent interplay between our cast of kids and their rural surroundings, helped by a heap of scenery porn, but it’s not trite enough to only ride the coattails of Japan’s UNIQUE FOUR SEASONS, like less inspired slice of life fare. There’s equally good interplay between each of the characters, without pulling their personalities into the stagnant crotch stain of routine and forced comedy like other shows this year did (Cough Yuyushiki cough). But even that wouldn’t be enough to elevate it to one of my favorite shows of the year if it couldn’t, in some way, compete with the likes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and the finale of Girls und Panzer.
After thinking on it for a few days, I decided that it boils down to one thing—Non Non Biyori can make a character utterly obsessive, stitching together dolls of the object of her affection, without accidentally (or intentionally) making her creepy.
Non Non Biyori’s qualities are best encapsulated by one sketch in an earlier episode, where recent transfer student Hotaru is shown cuddling with plush dolls that she crafts in the image of Komari, one of the classmates that she becomes rather enamored with. When Komari and the rest of her friends decide to pop in for a visit, Hotaru does all she can to hide her handiwork, ultimately failing.
Up to this point, Hotaru is portrayed as incredibly mature for her age (around 11), both in the looks and personality departments. The only part of her that isn’t unnaturally refined is her demeanor toward Komari, which borders on overly-affectionate. She’s probably the least developed of the main cast, but it’s still easy to get a sense of her personality coming from a happy childhood, and generally being indicative of a mentally-sound individual. She isn’t going to assault people for talking to Komari anytime soon, or try to abduct her, at the very least. The attraction itself comes across more as nebulous “liking” than anything lustful or possessive, and isn’t creepy because it’s so childish. Now, if it continues well into her teenage years, then it might be worth looking into.
To actually see this seemingly arbitrary personality quirk in action goes a long way toward fleshing her out. It’s nice seeing a girl in anime with the emotional capacity of a fifth grader that actually IS a fifth grader, who also has enough going for her that her relationship with Komari isn’t her only distinct personality trait. This moment best exemplifies Non Non Biyori’s skill at giving characters well-rounded personalities, while knowing how to play them up for laughs that don’t feel exploitative. It’s all in good, harmless fun.
Of course it helps that the Komari plushes are all cute as hell.