The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Review: What have you done Moyashimon? Between the seminal ag-college comedy, its spiritual successor Silver Spoon, and now this rom-com-on-the-farm, agriculture is officially a “thing” in anime. Maybe in the metropolitan nation of Japan agriculture is now a kind of home-grown exoticism. Where I come from, it's the thing that kids flee their hometowns to escape. At any rate, now that it's a thing, it's the traditional time for the new genre to let loose a stinker. That smell you're smelling, that's No-Rin.
Like any show in an established genre—however newly established—No-Rin is looking to mix things up a little. So where its predecessors discussed fermentation practices or explored the realities of growing and harvesting food, No-Rin figures it would be a right brilliant move to mate ag with an awful shonen romance. A cosmically unlikely romance at that, between an ordinary ag student and a gorgeous, world-famous pop idol. A romance where the ordinary schlub ignores the ordinary girl who likes him and crushes on the unattainable beauty. A romance where the unattainable beauty transfers into the schlub's school to study farm science. A romance that, I assume, is listed in the Geneva Convention under “war crimes.”
You really start missing Moyashimon’s microbial lectures and Silver Spoon’s earnest educational messaging after a while. Especially once the transfer-student cliché is thrown in our faces like a viciously predictable lump of rom-com poo. The heroine's sparkly entrance—accompanied by the hero's wondering monologue about her beauty—is a hellishly phony Rubicon: after crossing over, there is no redemption. Director Shin Oonuma has excellent comic sense—the bipedal idol-singer caterpillar halfway through is proof of that—and the ordinary-but-spunky rival is an emotional force with plenty of destructive potential, but nothing could possibly convince me to stand by the show after that level of pain. The idol-singing musical abuse doesn't help either.
No-Rin is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)
Call it Silver Spoon with fanservice that doesn't involve Holsteins. No-Rin takes place at an agricultural high school, but it doesn't necessarily want to teach you about farming – it just happens to be a handy setting for a story about a guy so obsessed with an idol singer that he's been mailing her boxes of fresh (phallic shaped) produce. She thinks it's sweet, so she retires from the stage and transfers to his school, but since he never signed the letters, presumably she does not know who he is. I am actually just inferring that last sentence based on what we are shown of her actions, which I have to say is one of the few pluses to this show. The subtlety with which Yuka the idol singer transforms into Ringo the ag school student and the way we can understand her motivation is very well done and a great example of show, don't tell.
Sadly the rest of No-Rin's first episode aren't nearly as well done. Kosaku, the boy who sends Yuka veggies, is creepily obsessed with her to the point where upon her retirement announcement he locks himself in his room and rolls around in a body pillow cover emblazoned with her image to “make them one.” Sure, sending a city girl fresh country produce is a nice thing, but this shows a dangerous level of attachment to her. His friends are creeped out too, especially female friend Minori, which takes a lot of the tension out of his actions, even if none of it is particularly funny.
Really that's the major problem here – nothing is particularly funny. It's obvious that it wants to be, but jokes are either simply not humorous or downright offensive, such as the buxom girl in animal husbandry who is known as The Boobs. (Did anyone else think of “Nice Body-ko” from Gokinjo Monogatari?) She really doesn't like it, and I wasn't keen on the fact that there appears to be a parallel between her and the cow she brings to class. The other very sour note was the teacher, Ms. Becky, who is so wholly inappropriate with her students that it went beyond joke fodder for me. That she is a very tired trope I never liked in the first place – the aging and desperate single woman – was simply icing on the cake.
One final thing of note is that the subtitles are not up to Funimation's usual standards – vegetables are “made” not “grown,” phrasing is awkward, and there are a few strange type-o's, like “Mrs” instead of “Ms.” For grammar people or just those who like not to have mistakes in what they're reading, this only adds to the issues.
All of that said, if the show can tone itself down a bit as it goes on, there could be a good romance plot and fish out of water story lurking underneath everything else. I'm just not sure if it will be worth more episodes to see if that can happen.
No-Rin is available streaming at Funimation.
Rating: 3 (of 5)
Review: No-Rin marks the second series this season set at an agriculture-focused high school (the other being, of course, Silver Spoon 2). Is this the start of a trend? Likely not, since No-Rin‘ssource novels started coming out only three months after Silver Spoon’s source manga did – in other words, too close in production time for an influence to have been possible. But it is a remarkable coincidence.
In this case Kosaku is an agriculture student who dreams of one day running a “trendy farm” (whatever that entails) and is absolutely obsessed with popular idol singer Yuka Kusakabe, much to the dismay of friend/classmate Ringo, whose romantic interest he seems oblivious to. Kosaku is crushed to the point of depression upon hearing news that Yuka has suddenly retired, and in trying to snap him out of it his friends learn that he had been anonymously sending the vegetables he grew to Yuka, a practice which apparently gave his life purpose. When he does finally go to class, he and his classmates are startled by the arrival of a pretty new transfer student, one Ringo Kinoshita, whose appearance reminds Kosaku a lot of Yuka even though Ringo is using a far less glamorous look. The implied conceit of the series is that Ringo actually is Yuka.
Descriptions of the franchise's premise suggest that uncovering exactly why Ringo/Yuka is doing what she is doing is going to be a distinct plot thread for the series, although the first episode certainly implies that Kosaku's shipments and letters are a factor. If her reasons turn out to be more involved than just being attracted to Kosaku, and if events progress for a while before her identity is revealed, than this may actually rise above being a pure otaku wish fulfillment scenario; given that she does not immediately start fawning over Kosaku, there is at least a chance that this one could aim for higher ground. It does try to be funny by engaging in crazy antics involving Kosaku's tripped-out teacher and a conflict between horticulture and animal husbandry-focused students, amongst other things, and that humor does somewhat work even though they depend heavily on well-established tropes. Technical merits are respectable, including an impressively show series-opening song, but how Ringo is handled going forward is the much more potentially interesting aspect and will ultimately determine the success or failure of the series.
No-Rin is currently streaming on Funimation.com.
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