Non Non Biyori, Vol. 1

By Atto. Released in Japan by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Alive. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

There is, as most fans know by now, a large market in Japan, and a smaller one in the West, for manga for grown men that involve groups of young girl students doing cute things in a comedic and laid-back way. K-On! is perhaps the most obvious example, but there’s also Sunshine Sketch, GA Art Design Class, etc. Most of them tend to involve ‘girls in school doing activity X’. Non Non Biyori (Biyori is ‘weather’, but I think the title is meant to sound nonsensical) doesn’t even get to that point – the series features a group of four girls, and occasionally their teacher, in a country school far removed from anywhere in particular, doing adorable things. That’s the plot.


The girls are all eccentric, to varying degrees. Hotaru is the ‘normal’ one, being the transfer student just moved from the city, but she’s got quirks too; she’s 11 years old but looks about 17, and she has a big crush on another girl, Komari, though as is standard in these sorts of titles the yuri is one-sided and is there for humor and not much else. Komari is Hotaru’s opposite, as shes 14 but short and childlike. She tries to act the older sister, but her personality keeps failing her. Her younger sister, Natsumi, is 13. She’s the troublemaker, bad at school and tends to try to get a rise out of everyone else, particularly her sister. And Renge, who is 6, is precocious but strange, with that triangle mouth that Lucky Star readers will recognize (and that’s another series that this manga is like.)

You won’t find much originality here (even the teacher, Renge’s older sister, is the usual ‘laid back, one of the girls’ types we’ve seen in Azumanga, etc.), but it succeeds in its one goal, which is being cute as a button. Each short chapter involves an amusing situations, and the laughs come naturally from it. The class rabbit has escaped its hutch and must be captured. The teacher tricks the class into working on her family’s rice field for a day. Komari watches a horror movie and gets scared, so Natsumi trolls her. It fulfills its demographic target amiably. There’s also a minimum of fanservice, with no bath scenes or underwear shots that I could spot. Given this runs in Comic Alive, I’ll consider that a big victory.

There’s a short, unrelated manga at the end that involves a girl who dreams of being in a dream, which is even weirder than the main manga but also probably the weakest part of the volume. Best to stick with the main series. Honestly, this is the sort of series that, based on its premise, you’d automatically assume was a 4-koma – just like every other series above that I compared it to. But no, it’s fashioned like a regular manga, which means you don’t get the gag at the end of every page feel. It allows the humor to be more laid-back and relaxed. Which is a good description for the entire volume.

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  1. The minimal amount of fan service is definitely a good thing to hear. I have been looking for a nice slice of life series so might give this a go.

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