The Secret Stars of Anime: Non Non Biyori and the Simpler Life

So apparently, the overall best anime of 2015, according to Beneath the Tangles writers, is Non Non Biyori Repeat. And while one could argue for various other shows being better, the Non Non Biyori series as a whole definitely has a certain appeal to it that has made it a well-loved series by its fans. While the show most definitely falls in the category of “cute girls doing cute things”, several things about this show distinguish it from others in this category.

The most notable aspect of Non Non Biyori is its setting. It takes place in the fictional rural town of Asahigaoka, based on actual Japanese rural towns. As you can imagine, daily life in Asahigaoka is quite different from that of the city; the local school has one classroom that hosts every student in the town in every grade from elementary to high school… for a total of five students. Buses run sporadically, stores are few and far between, and cell phones are luxury items. With no major entertainment facilities nearby, kids have to be creative and head out to the wilderness to have fun. It helps that one of the main characters, Hotaru, moves in from the city and gets to experience all these changes firsthand, serving as an audience stand-in of sorts.

The show also is notable for its very laid-back pacing. To match how much slower the countryside lifestyle is, the show also spends plenty of time just showing the scenery or the characters walking around. While in most shows so much time spent on nothing actually happening would be a bad idea, it works in Non Non Biyori‘s favor by allowing the show to be an extremely relaxing watch, perfect after a long, busy day.

Honestly, Suguru is one of the best older brothers I've seen in anime. His never speaking may or may not have anything to do with that.
From left to right: Renge, Hotaru, Komari, Natsuki, and the hand of the ever-silent onii-chan, Suguru.

For all of this show’s unique qualities, the appeal of this show can vary, but for me, a large part of why I love this show is how much simpler everyone’s life is, and how everyone makes the most of their simpler lifestyle. The modern lifestyle I and many other Westerners live in is full of various conveniences, which certainly makes life easier for us, but also means that our pace of life is generally much faster and more complicated than what it was before. Now, I do not believe that is necessarily a bad thing, but at the same time, shows like Non Non Biyori can show us how nice it can be sometimes to just slow down and simplify life for a while.

Especially for Christians, we have to be wary of letting our pace of life get too fast, because that can all too easily cause us to forget about God amidst all of the hustle and bustle. We can all too easily end up like the seeds among thorns, choked up by the cares of the world. Being able to slow down our pace of life to spend time with God is a valuable skill (one I am admittedly still working on) that we can learn these slower-paced shows.

In addition, seeing these girls enjoy life with comparatively little they have can remind us of ultimately how little we really need in life. Again, while there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying some of life’s luxuries, we can so often let them become gods in our lives such that they become the thorns of “the deceit of riches” and also choke out our love for God. Seeing the simpler lives of these countryside people helps us better appreciate those things in life that don’t require a lot of money to enjoy. (It can also help prepare you for missions trips to less developed areas.)

Certainly, the modernized lifestyle has brought us many good things to us, but it has also brought with it a greater need to balance the increased pace and complexity of life with our walk with God. With the world trying to squeeze so much out of our time or trying to sell us the latest shiny toys, it is all too easy to get caught up in it all and forget what is really important in life. So if you feel that life is just getting too complex for you, watching a show like Non Non Biyori can help slow things down and remind you of the simpler pleasures of life.


7 thoughts on “The Secret Stars of Anime: Non Non Biyori and the Simpler Life

  1. I’m reminded so much of the direction rural Japan is currently heading. The population drain mixed with rural emigration has led to less populous countrysides (with small school populations) and possibly an even more laid-back lifestyle!

    “Baby Drain” is a really good, short documentary on this:

    On the anime side of things, I get a lot of Aria vibes when I watch NNB… which is awesome because Aria is awesome! I think the themes you touched on in this article are similarly applicable to Aria.

    Oh, and I would be remiss to neglect to do this: Nyanpasu!

  2. So true, I myself get so caught up in being busy that even though I’m busy for all the right reasons, I’m still busy. For example, if I have to drive to get groceries, go to work, clean the house, cook, or go to church, or even write for Beneath The Tangles all these things are good and many glorify God, but still…they can become an excuse to not spent time with my Father in Heaven.

    On the anime side of things, I’ve never seen this show and I’m NOT into the girly animes but I want to see how this one is. Thanks for your perspective on it.

  3. While going through the motions of life, I typically forget the grace that God has shown me and that everything I have comes from Him. Only when I fall on my knees, surrendering to Christ, do I remember the goodness that he has shown me.

    Very thoughtful article Frank! Although I’d suggest to set aside time where you spend in silence with God, and you will be reminded of the things that really matter. You don’t necessarily have to live in a rural town to experience the moments that the girls in Non Non Biyori do!

    1. Thanks for your comment! And yes, quiet times with God are great, and no anime should be a replacement for that. (Though they can sometimes be a good supplement…)

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