It's the second season of Non Non Biyori and it's so indistinguishable from season one that it's not even a sequel. It's not "What Happened Next" to our characters, but instead "Other Equally Inconsequential Things That Happened Between Existing Episodes". You could rearrange the two series into chronological order, although I don't know if there would be much point in doing so for a gentle slice-of-life series in which absolutely nothing happens and we occasionally get flashbacks anyway.
That said, though, the characters don't really change, but watching the progression of the seasons is a key part of this series. It's set in a rural mountain community where the pace of life is so slow that the local girls can't tell the difference between a corner shop and a department store. Going shopping is a two-hour walk. The show loves cutting away to bucolic shots of nature, e.g. frogs, rivers or swallow's nests. It's proud to be showing us the landscape and the trees. We know what's in blossom. It probably wouldn't be too hard to decide which month each episode took place in, especially if you assume that the only time-jump is between seasons one and two.
It seems likely that it's set in 2015-2016, since we see the changeover from the Year of the Sheep to the Monkey in the Chinese zodiac. Mind you, the show could just as easily be set in 2003-2004, or indeed any time in the last half-century if you overlooked occasional glimpses of the outside world (e.g. mobile phones). I got the following from the internet:
- 01. S2 ep.1 - Start of the Japanese school year (early April)
- 02. S1 ep.1 - A few days later. Hotaru transfers in to Asahigaoka Branch School, which you'd be better off calling the "Five Children And They're All Shoved In The Same Class Irrespective Of Age" School.
- 03. S1 ep.2 - The next day or two.
- 04. S2 ep.2 - Still shortly after Hotaru's arrival.
- 05. S2 ep.3 - Golden Week (29 April - 3 May)
- 06. S1 ep.3 - Rice planting season (end of April to late June)
- 07. S2 ep.4 - During the rainy season (late Spring to early Summer)
- 08. S2 ep.5 - First week of summer (late June)
- 09. S2 ep.6 - Two days before the summer holidays, which start around 20 July
- 10. S1 ep.4 - First day of the summer holidays. Hotaru meets Hikage.
- 11. S2 ep.7 - Hikage's still hanging out with the girls.
- 12. 2014 OVA - After this, at last Hikage will be able to brag about having travelled by plane!
- 13. S1 ep.5 - Hikage's returned to Tokyo.
- 14. S1 ep.6 - Later in the summer holidays, because the girls are doing their homework.
- 15. S1 ep.7 - Start of the new term (early September)
- 16. S2 ep.8 - Soon afterwards.
- 17. S2 ep.9 - Around the festival/holiday Ohigan which is at the Autumnal Equinox (23 Sept).
- 18. S1 ep.8 - Harvest time, perhaps early October.
- 19. S1 ep.9 - The girls hold a Cultural Festival, suggesting approximately 3 November.
- 20. S1 ep.10 - The leaves are redder.
- 21. S2 ep.11 - Between Christmas and New Year.
- 22. S1 ep.10 - New Year.
- 23. S1 ep.11 - They've gone back to school, but it's still winter.
- 24. S1 ep.12 - Early spring.
- 25. S2 ep.12 - It's been a year since Hotaru arrived.
Damn my broken brain. Now I want to rewatch it all in chronological order.
I think it's a show that's better if you immerse yourself in it. The characterisation is fairly gentle and the incidents are all low-key, so it might take you a little time to get to know everyone. It's obvious that Renge is a slightly odd five-year-old, for instance, and that Candy Store (real name Kaede Kagayama) is a slightly grumpy shopkeeper whose weekly takings are probably two brass farthings and a button. However it'll take you a while to discover that Candy Store is quietly fond of Renge, although she'd probably deny it, and is capable of going to quite a lot of trouble for her. The charming ep.10 is about their relationship.
I think Hotaru's technically the main character, but she's so modest and self-effacing that in practice it's Renge who tends to pull audience focus. Besides, it's an ensemble piece. The main character is all of them. Hotaru can still be funny, though, especially with her love of making Komari-shaped soft toys. Meanwhile Komari resents being so small despite being the oldest girl and is keen to do things she thinks are grown-up. As for Natsumi, she's a tomboy. In ep.9, the others give her a make-over to turn her into a girl. This actually works, surprisingly, but not for long.
What's bad about this show? Well, nothing's bad as such, but it's the definition of low-urgency. Nothing in it matters and it's the kind of thing you might stop watching and not even realise for several months. "Hey, wasn't I watching Non Non Biyori?"
What's good about this show? Lots. It's a gentle, lazy kind of goodness, but it's a nice world to spend time in. I liked ep.4, with the teru-teru bouzu and the heartwarming life lesson about tadpole shrimps. Nee-Nee's lazy "cooking" made me laugh in ep3, as did the very lame fireworks in ep.6. I realised that I like Renge best when she's being written specifically as a five-year-old, doing five-year-old things (e.g. removing the stabilisers from her bicycle) and with a five-year-old's gullibility. I also enjoyed the oddness of some of the things the girls do, e.g. onion fishing or the ruler-flipping game.
Bizarre fact: this year, the manga's author (Atto) started a comedy manga called Koakuma Meringue about the daughter of the demon king of Hell going to school in Tokyo. (She's got weird pointy ears and she's upset that nobody's afraid of her.) The bizarre bit is that a Non Non Biyori character (Hikage) is also in that manga, making it theoretically a shared universe spin-off.
It's almost entirely without content and the world's full of better stuff you could be watching. It's nice. It's not exciting, scary, dramatic or anything else like that. It's amusing, sometimes, and it's nice. That's it. It couldn't be more family friendly. The first episode is quite good and the last episode is a bit weak. It occasionally made me a bit sleepy, but it has fans out there who think it's absolutely wonderful. It's relaxing. Feel free to give it a shot.