Rina SatouYuka OtsuboWataru HatanoEmiri Kato
Also known as: Nourin
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: N
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Shin Oonuma
Original creator: Shiratori Shirow
Actor: Shintaro Asanuma, Yukari Tamura, Chiwa Saito, Emiri Kato, Kana Hanazawa, Kisho Taniyama, Mariko Higashiuchi, Marina Inoue, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Rina Satou, Wataru Hatano, Yuka Otsubo
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=15508
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 23 June 2015
It's bad. Avoid it. I made a mistake in continuing with it, despite redeeming virtues later on. The first half of the series (i.e. the first six episodes out of twelve) was painful enough that the nearest I got to being positive was "that was less annoying" for ep.5.
However the second half is better. The jokes get funnier, the situations become less eye-rolling and the show generally stops making you want to punch someone. By the end, the show's engaging with a serious social issue and tackling the elephant in the room when it comes to Japanese farming anime. Much better shows like Moyashimon didn't do that. At root it's still generic anime drivel, but at least it's a mix of bad and good instead of merely being uniformly bleah.
It's about farmers. Kousaku, Kei, Kouchou and Minori are farmer students at farming school. Even at its most irritating, the show's quite educational about things like soil rotation, crop disease, what can threaten your tomato plants, etc. I liked that. Learning things is good.
Unfortunately the show loves wallowing in anime cliche. Minori fancies Kousaku and would love to have sex with him, but of course he's oblivious. (You know, as all teenage boys are. Perish the thought that any young male might have any interest in sex!) Kouchou similarly fancies the just-as-oblivious Kei. Meanwhile Kousaku is obsessed with a female pop star (real name Ringo), who is about to quit the entertainment industry and come to study at farm school with her number one fan! Theoretically this is quite an interesting situation, but Ringo's former profession soon stops being of any significance and she just becomes another girl who fancies Kousaku.
Oh, and their schoolteacher is Becky-sensei, a Christmas Cake (not nice; google it) who's desperate for a man. Any man at all. She'll throw herself sexually at her students, even during lessons, and then go into Death Aura Monster Rampages of depression. Imagine her as Jekyll and Hyde, except with the Jekyll side being a schoolteacher in her forties acting like a super-cutesy thirteen-year-old.
Thus the female characters are all gagging for a bloke, while the male characters are saints who never take advantage? Well, yes and no. They're saints, but also perverts. We have to endure impassioned religious awakenings about Why All True Men Fixate On Girls' Knickers, or perhaps What Boob Size Is Best. (The latter's two schools of thought are: (a) those who like 'em big because they're thinking of their mothers, or (b) those who like 'em small because they're feeling fatherly towards small girls. Words fail me.) The school has four "kings of farming" and they're all perverts, camp homosexuals, desperate raving virgins and/or gender-benders. Meanwhile the main cast will sometimes turn into cliched anime idiots, e.g. the girls having a breast size competition, or someone thinking they could get rid of a monkey by feeding it. Yeah, that'll work. All animals go away and never come back when offered food. Famous for it. Admittedly that's just one of several suggestions and it gets shot down immediately, but even so I boggled at the idea of a non-infant thinking that's a good idea, let alone someone who's grown up in the unsentimental business of farming.
All that added up to irritation. However there's good stuff here too, if you can wade through the nonsense to reach it.
Firstly, the main cast are deeper than they look. Ringo's lost the ability to smile, although the show doesn't do much with that. Kei has disowned his father. Kousaku has a tragic family background and unexpected feelings towards the tiny farming village where he grew up. He can't imagine not being a farmer, but I was taken aback (in a good way) by what the show did with him in the last couple of episodes.
Secondly, the show's addressing the aging and depopulation of farming villages, plus the unglamorous, hard and financially unrewarding nature of farming work. There's the commercial fact that food these days tends to be chemical-assisted and bred for qualities other than taste. (Our heroes are making other choices, but it's still the world we live in.) The monkey discussion ends up turning to the killing of this completely harmless animal because that's what you have to do when you're a farmer, even if the episode then immediately chickens out.
Thirdly, the show does manage to find some originality. Becky is a faintly distasteful stereotype, but played to such apocalyptic extremes that she's easily the funniest thing in the show. Ep.8, for instance. Oh my goodness. Choosing her as a bridesmaid in ep.12 is like choosing Satan. Our heroes' beach-going ambitions in ep.9 also take the show into some rather charming eccentricity, including a unique bus-driving problem.
The art is fairly cartoonish, but that's a mercy because it saves us from fanservice. Minori has big boobs and Kouchou has bigger boobs, for instance, but with this art style, that'll be of no prurient interest to anyone.
Pointless observation: this isn't the first time Yukari Tamura has voiced an anime character called Ringo Kinoshita.
I quite like the second half of this series. It can still be silly or stupid (e.g. fanservice marketing of food in ep.10, when the majority of the customers would be female), but it's basically a show I like with hiccups rather than the other way around. It taught me things. Soy beans are amazing. However I haven't forgotten my problems with the first half of the series and there's too much great anime out there for this to get within shouting distance of a recommendation. At the end of the day, this is still a show where two girls fancy a boy who's presumably never going to choose between them (no matter how hard the anime pushes him) because Status Quo Is God. It's certainly not worthless, but it's also not good.