By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, September 1, 2014

I was not prepared for the sheer insanity of No-Rin at all. The synopsis on Hulu said that this anime was about a retired idol who goes to the countryside and becomes a student at an agricultural high school, where her biggest fan (and main character of the series) Kosaku Hata lives. Based upon that and some of the promo images I had seen, I was under the impression this would fall somewhere between the slower paced slice of life series set in the countryside that have been popular recently and a comedy like Silver Spoon. So when the first episode went full throttle into over-the-top comedic territory, I was not ready at all and was taken by surprise. Admittedly No-Rin does peak about three quarters of the way in and when it tries to transition over to more serious topics it flounders a bit, but I still found myself addicted to the absurd humor this series went for.

Let’s get this out of the way, No-Rin has that very anime specific sense of humor where things often happen for no reason and reactions to events are as over the top as possible. So if you’ve become tired of that type of thing, don’t expect this to be the series to change things. But if you’re like me and can appreciate it when the pace is rapid and the jokes work, keep reading. In the first episode we are introduced to Kosaku, a student at Tamo Agricultural High School who lives in the dorms with his friends Minori and Kei. Kosaku has a bit of an obsession with the idol Yuka Kusakabe, as his room is completely plastered with her posters and he has a body pillow with her image on it. News of her retirement comes and this leaves him shocked, but what is even more shocking is when said idol turns up as a new transfer student named Ringo Kinoshita.

There’s only a little bit of actual plot throughout No-Rin, as the series spends much of its time moving from one gag to the next and parodying a number of other franchises. When it does decide to get serious and add in a bit of plot, the series focuses on the hardships one goes through being a farmer and the motivation that each of the characters have for pursuing it. It also focuses on how Ringo has been negatively affected by being an idol, as early on in the series she has lost her ability to smile and is much quieter than one would expect from someone who was on-stage all the time. There is also a romance angle at play, as Minori is the childhood friend who’s in love with Kosaku and it seems like Ringo may hold some interest as well. But because so much time is spent on the humor and the majority of the cast is defined by their ability to spontaneously make you laugh, when they try and become more serious the results aren’t always that interesting. I did like the side-plot that revolves around Kei competing against his father though, as he believes in completely natural farming while his father owns a large corporation that uses pesticide enhanced crops.

So if the serious moments are a bit throwaway, what was the main reason to keep watching No-Rin? It was definitely the humor, and the constant gags and unexpected jokes came at such a fast pace that it was hard to keep up. This happens early on, as right in the second episode there is a lengthy monologue about the true value of panties. There’s plenty of slapstick as well, and occasional moments where the series will parody Dragon Quest or some other popular series in the middle of their gags. Despite the fact that the main cast isn’t that different from some of the other anime of this type, I still found them quite appealing. I was expecting Kei to be the straight man to temper Kosaku’s delusions and the in-fighting between Minori and Ringo, but he ended up being just as crazy as the rest. No-Rin also has quite possibly the craziest anime teacher I’ve ever seen, as Becky Sensei is a desperate forty year old that has no issues throwing herself at her students and showing off in very inappropriate ways.

I’m not saying too much about specific jokes because for me, the amount of unexpected jokes that were in every episode really made the series that much fun to watch. There are plenty of scenarios in the episodes where viewers may be able to predict exactly where a gag is going, but there are just as many completely off the wall and unpredictable moments that make No-Rin stand out a bit more so than some of the others that have attempted this same format in recent years. The humor does peak a bit about three quarters of the way in though, as by the time you’ve hit the last few episodes you’ll likely be familiar enough with the pacing and spontaneity that the jokes won’t hit quite as hard. But despite this, it’s nice to see that No-Rin wasn’t just another slice of life/comedy set in a rural area and tried to differentiate itself by being as funny and downright zany as it possibly could.

Silver Link was the lead animation studio for No-Rin, and I’ve found that the majority of the series they have handled were consistent with their animation quality. This is once again the case, and while the overall look of the series is about the same as you’d expect from an anime of this type it does get the job done and there weren’t any noticeable dips in quality. With the type of quick cut humor there are plenty of exaggerated facial expressions and distorted characters, and sometimes the scene will even cut over to a style that replicates the manga. It may be a familiar style for any anime that has slapstick or other types of physical humor, but No-Rin makes it work to its advantage and a number of the jokes are enhanced by the animation.

While recent seasons have had a lot of new faces when it comes to voice acting, this particular show features more established actors and actresses in the lead role and it’s obvious that they have some experience. The four main cast members are able to deliver the script with the amount of energy that is needed for this particular type of comedy, and they react to each other perfectly. This is also true of many of the supporting characters, and it seems like a lot of them were cast based on their ability to shout their lines. As for the music, I wasn’t that crazy about the opening theme as it seemed a little too typical and didn’t make it obvious just how silly the anime as a whole was going to be. I was much more partial to the ending which has the two female leads switching off on vocals, as well as some of the episode specific endings that were basically an entire joke carried over into song form.

No-Rin seemed like it was going to be just another slice of life anime with comedic elements set in a rural area. But it was much more than that, as it took the agricultural school premise that has been popular recently and threw all of the crude and over the top anime humor possible into the mix. The result works better than it really should, and even though you’ve seen this type of humor with series like Baka and Test and Working!!! I think there is room for No-Rin to win you over.

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