Review for No-Rin
I’ve occasionally mentioned how one hit series can spark off a trend in animation, with studios eager to jump on the bandwagon to get their piece of the pie. In broader strokes, that can explain vampire anime, giant robot anime, harem anime, and the current vogue for idol anime and so on. Sometimes the niches get a little more obscure, with Nobunaga Oda getting wheeled out with regularity, the occasional Chunibyo anime, but some shows seem so obscure that you’d think that they’d remain a one-off, no matter how successful or critically acclaimed they might be. When I saw (and loved) Silver Spoon, I was under no illusion that we would subsequently be inundated with anime set in agricultural education, that we’d be regaled weekly with comic stories about animal husbandry and crop rotation. But here we are... I am now reviewing No-Rin, a genre mish-mash, which sees a pop-idol attending an agricultural high school.
Living out in the country doesn’t allow for the most cosmopolitan of existences, but if there was one thing that Kousaku Hata appreciated, it was the talent and career of pop-idol Yuka Kusakabe. As do many teen males, he’d turned his bedroom into a veritable shrine to the songstress. Then you can imagine how his world shattered when she announced her retirement from showbiz. It took his classmates to drag him out of his depression, and get him back to Tamo Agricultural School, where he’s a student. What no one was expecting was a transfer student, Ringo Kinoshita. What Kousaku couldn’t have dreamt of is that Ringo Kinoshita is actually Yuka Kusakabe!
12 episodes of No-Rin are presented across two Blu-rays from Funimation.
1. Chuno Love Story
2. The King of Farmers
3. Super Sub-Mom War: Training Stage
4. The Smile You Showed Me
5. Farming’s Five Top Four
6. Full-Moe Alchemist: Bounty
7. Sob Salad
8. Cooking Granny
9. School Swim Trunks
10. Veggie Battle: Ultimate v. Supreme
11. Cheerful Farming Village
12. Everybody’s No-Rin
No-Rin gets the standard 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer from Funimation, clear and sharp with strong consistent colours, and bringing across the animation without any significant issue. Look for, and you might spot some digital banding, but it’s not all that prevalent in a show which goes for the bright, primary colours, and is set mostly during daylight hours. It is a comedy show after all, and the character designs are pleasant enough, if a little generic, and the world design does enough to tell the story. And there is fan service, lots and lots of fan service.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Japanese with subtitles and signs locked during playback. The audio is perfectly fine for what it is, the dialogue is clear, the music comes across well, as do the odd moments of comedy action. The English dub exists, and what I briefly sampled of it sounds like every other comedy dub I’ve heard, basically loud. The Japanese version is my preference, although I do wonder at the looseness of the subtitle translation. This is the first time I’ve ever seen the Shinsengumi translated, and translated into Texas Rangers? Other than that, the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. And I could happily live without the show’s theme songs, which appear to have escaped from autotune hell.
The discs present their content with animated menus.
Disc 1 kicks off with a trailer for Brothers Conflict.
There are two commentaries on this disc, the first on episode 3 with ADR Director Mike McFarland joined by Austin Tindle (Kousaku), Derick Snow (Kei), Lynsey Hale (Minori), and Jad Saxton (Ringo). The second accompanies episode 8 with ADR Director Mike McFarland, Austin Tindle (Kousaku), Megan Shipman (Kouchou), Lynsey Hale (Minori), and Tia Ballard (Becky).
Disc 2 autoplays a trailer for Haganai. You get 4 promotional videos for the show, a Commercial Collection, the Textless Credits, the US Trailer, and further trailers for A Certain Scientific Railgun S, Riddle Story of Devil, Fairy Tail Part 19, Good Luck Girl, Is This a Zombie? Of The Dead, Spice & Wolf, Space Dandy, and Lord Marksman and Vanadis.
What do you call a comedy with no laughs? I wish that was a joke, and I wish I had a punchline. Alas, the only answer I can think of right now is No-Rin. This is the dullest comedy I have had the misfortune to sit through in quite some time now, a veritable mirth vacuum, a show more prone to sending me to sleep that eliciting a smirk, let alone a full on belly laugh. I may have chuckled, once or twice during the series, and in five hours worth of comedy, that is not even close to being sufficient.
The thing is that I haven’t the slightest idea why No-Rin fell flat for me. It isn’t the most original comedy in the history of anime, but if originality was a pre-requisite for humour, I would have stopped watching anime comedy after Love Hina. No-Rin’s loaded with all the fan service and sex humour that you find in the lowest common denominator anime, and its character types conform to the standards that you’ll have seen a hundred times before. All of that is no reason for it not to be funny. The inferiority of the flat-chested versus the kettle-drum accompaniment that the well-endowed get can still be funny, even if you see it on a weekly basis. Repetition is a tenet of comedy, not a detriment, otherwise audiences would have switched off Benny Hill after seeing him slap the small bald guy’s head just once.
Maybe it’s something as ineffable as timing, the humorist’s weapon of choice when it comes to delivering a modicum of wit. Although how timing can be applied to something as un-spontaneous as anime is beyond me. This animation has its jokes scripted, micro-metered, edited and directed to the finest degree, which perhaps would lay the blame at the door of the director. To me the jokes did fall flat; the punchlines may have been buried under the mayhem, not given the time and space to register. Then again, that could also be incumbent on the viewer to pick up, and there came a point, quite early on in No-Rin, where I no longer had the interest level to remain invested in the comedy.
One thing that I can point to as a definite failing in the show, a definable reason for my disappointment was No-Rin’s failure to develop its characters, a failure to deliver on its premise. The whole show kicks off with the idea of a pop idol quitting showbiz to attend this agricultural school to learn about farming. And once No-Rin has set up its premise, it proceeds to do nothing with it. There are little snippets of character development, some of the arcs do move forward, but they happen with such irregularity, that you can’t in any way point to a narrative structure in the show. And there’s no conclusion to any of the character arcs, indeed two of the main characters just unceremoniously drop out two episodes from the end.
At the heart of the story is the love triangle. Minori loves Kousaku, wants to have his babies, only she’s a little overbearing for him, and his obsession with his favourite idol is suddenly brought into the real world when Ringo transfers into their class. Ringo’s been tempted to change careers by the fan who sent her freshly grown produce from the school, the fan who wrote her such inspiring letters. Only she doesn’t know that they weren’t one and the same. This triangle keeps on spinning through the episodes, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
Instead, the character arcs are buried under an abundance of supporting characters, who all need their fifteen minutes. I would call it character overload in any other show, but there really aren’t that many of them here. They just drown out whatever story there may be to No-Rin with their own trivial contributions to the episodes. One particularly tiresome character was Becky, the homeroom teacher, a bipolar forty-something who dresses like a teenager in her eternal hunt for an eligible man, flip-flopping between hyper pep, and violent depression. Frankly all of the characters seemed tired and weak to me.
Funny is in the eye of the beholder, and what I might find hilarious, you might find funereal, and vice versa. On top of that, No-Rin might just have caught me on the wrong week, as I freely admit that I’ve had a lot of mediocre anime to review of late. I might be more favourable to this show once I’ve given it a re-watch. Stay tuned to one of my Anime Review Roundups in three or four years to see if No-Rin is funny the second time around.