Episode 3 Summary:
Everyone has to deal with tests before Golden Week. Natsumi is really bad at them and thus causes everyone to get extra homework over the break. They all decide to go to Renge’s house to study and Renge attempts to “shape up” her older sister into a better teacher. However, Kazuho’s just too laid back, so Renge has to resort to a little bit of cleverness to motivate her friends…
Episode 4 Summary:
Renge catches some tadpole shrimp, which the girls set up in the classroom as class pets. Renge is in charge of taking care of them and quickly becomes enamored with them. Renge also gets a brand new bike from her grandmother, but can’t ride it because it’s raining. So Renge gets the idea to dress up as a teru teru bouzu and goes out trying to get the sun to come out. On the way, she meets with Komari, who does not take Renge’s outfit well.
The sun eventually does come out, and Renge has a lot of fun hanging out with her friends on her new bike, and going to the candy store. However, a few days later, Renge comes back to school to find that the shrimp have died. The girls do a quick burial of the shrimp, but Renge is still devastated. The next day, Renge finds out that Natsumi has set up the tank, and there are new tadpole shrimp in it! It turns out that the eggs from the previous shrimp have finally hatched. Renge is ecstatic.
Now THIS was the type of content I wanted to see. I don’t mind the other characters too much, but stories centering around Renge were always my favorite. Renge is a really great character; she feels wise for her age, yet also still has a bit of childish naiveté. I think it’s all balanced out really well. Since Renge’s so young, she also has so much energy and passion for her world, something that reminds me a lot of Yotsuba from the Yotsubato series. Because of her age, everything seems new and wonderful, and the slow pans of the quiet countryside scenery are really fitting for episodes focusing on her.
The first half of episode 3 was rather funny, but the main gag was just “Natsumi is really bad at school” and that’s a pretty typical gag for mischievous/carefree characters like Natsumi. The second half of episode 3 was much more entertaining to me, because it shows us how Renge and Kazuho act when it’s just the two of them together. I find their relationship to be really interesting, because of the large age gap between them. Honestly, Kazuho sometimes seems more like a mother to Renge than just a sister, since we never see their parents. Also, their personalities are as different as can be.
The first half of episode 4 also shows us another glimpse at Renge and Kazuho’s relationship, though the main story arc revolved around the tadpole shrimp that Renge became so attached to. I think the episode did a good job at showing how Renge reacted to the first death that she witnessed herself. Even though they were just little shrimp, the first pet death in a child’s life tends to be a very sad moment. And I’m glad Non Non Biyori managed to treat the subject matter in a way that didn’t come off as overdramatic or cheesy. Points to Natsumi for being super cool in this episode.
Overall, I’d say that these two episodes were really great. The first episode of the second season was a little dull, as was the second episode; but these two episodes proved that Non Non Biyori still has a lot of great stories to tell. The next episode appears to be focusing on some summertime shenanigans, which should be fun.
Out of five for both episodes, I’d give: