「あかるいのうそん」 (Akarui Nouson)
“Cheerful Farming Village”
「みんなののうりん」 (Minna no Nourin)
My apologies in advance everyone for the double posts for both of my shows. I’ve become extremely sick over the past few days and I’m only now just getting over it. Again, please excuse my tardiness.
Even though someone may be your childhood friend, red flags should immediately be raised when they try to fake a pregnancy–two flags should go up if they try to use that pregnancy to try and lock you into marriage. Kousaku, I’m not sure you can trust the intentions of the Nakazawa family anymore, especially if they’re trying to marry you into their family AND use you for a so-called non-profit cause.
My friends, the above basically sums up the last arc of Nourin. Kousaku finds himself about to marry Minori in order to revitalize a farming town’s population and popularity, but of course ends up butting heads with the jealous Ringo and the desperate Becky. However, due to blackmailing and guilt tactics, Kousaku is forced to go along with the charade anyways, which invites a whole lot of romantic comedy drama along the way. However silly the plot was, this ended up being the most enjoyable arc to watch throughout Nourin. Oh yes, nothing got resolved in the end per stereotypical romantic comedy standards, but at least it was nice to see the show close on a positive note with some final character expositions for Kousaku, Ringo, and Minori. That’s all I personally wanted from this show, and we sure did get it in the end.
First, it was nice to see Ringo finally open up her heart to singing once more. If you didn’t notice before, there was a nice full-circle surprise with episode 11’s ending choice of song–コードレス☆照れ☆PHONE (Cordless☆Dere☆PHONE). It’s the exact same song that was sung by Yukatan in the beginning of episode one, but in an acapella voice. However, the significance in the song changed when the context changed as well. When sung in front of thousands on a loud stage with a cute demeanor, it’s an idol performing for her fans, but not necessarily saying ‘something’ to them. It’s just a happy and catchy song that happens to be sung by a beautiful idol. However, now that idol is gone, and from the ashes comes Ringo. When she sings this song 11 episodes later, it’s something without frills, but it’s something she sings because she has a message she wants to honestly convey to Kousaku, as a person and not a character on stage. Now of course this can all be construed as a really underhanded message of, “screw the city, the farm makes you into a real person!” kind of deal, but at face value it’s great to see Ringo go from an absolutely broken down character back into someone who can appreciate life.
Second, the exposition between Kou-tan and Minori’s history together in Aioi was pleasant to listen to. I do regret that this wasn’t more central to the plot before this arc, but it does explain a lot about Kousaku’s quirks as a character as well as some of Minori’s. Have we explained Kousaku’s obsession with Ringo? Check. Have we cleared up why Kousaku wants to make farming fashionable? Sort of, but we get the general picture. Is it explained why Minori is so open about getting together with Kousaku? Not really, but at least we know that Minori’s feelings aren’t completely unreciprocated–she does have a chance as the childhood friend, surprisingly enough. Aside from answering questions, it was overall a pleasant experience to switch the setting to the countryside, where the main focus isn’t academics or farming persay, but rather countryside culture and down-to-earth communities. Oh, and of course the siblings. Let’s not forget about the cute siblings.
Finally, this final arc helped cement a certain factor that distinguishes this show from say, Gin no Saji and probably other agriculture-type shows. Nourin, surprisingly enough, touches on an interesting social issue involving farming communities– it is a point that I’m sure is of some national importance to Japan, and that is the future of farming communities as a whole. As urbanization happens on a global scale thanks to industrialization, it is becoming less popular to go to sparsely populated provinces, where the ‘cool’ things in life are all far away. Thus, for Nourin to directly touch on the efforts to revitalize interest in farming (despite how silly that attempt is) and farming province retention rates is an interesting angle I wouldn’t have expected the show to take. Of course, most of the macrosocial issues are merely brushed over in favor of Kousaku and Ringo’s personal struggles, but it still is an interesting backdrop issue on which to portray the main plot.
So, with the final arc over, where does this leave us with the series as a whole?
To keep it brief: this wasn’t the strongest offering that Silver Link had to offer us. Even though having Oonuma Shin onboard as director should’ve been a big plus, Nourin for the most part wasn’t able to capture the massive enjoyability that Baka to Test had. In reality, it felt to me as if it were a smuttier version of Baka to Test, set on a farm school rather than a normal school. The same character types were there, the same setup of a love triangle was there, yet it didn’t elicit as strong an enjoyability as its predecessor.
That’s not to say that Nourin is a bad show though. On its own, the show itself was enjoyable to watch every week. Becky was an amazingly shameless character in particular to watch, doing justice to the ‘desperate teacher’ archetype that she parodies. Minori was also a star of her own, with her over-the-top efforts to win Kousaku’s heart often smile-worthy. In fact, one can immensely enjoy this show by simply turning off your brain and closing your eyes. A major strong point of this show was in the seiyuu, where every over-the-top line was delivered with such over-the-top gusto and intonation that you couldn’t help but feel happy listening to it. In particular, Kousaku and Minori’s accents made this show a whole lot better, where it only served to make their reaction scenes all the more enjoyable to listen to. Yoshida’s tsundere stumblings were also a pleasure to listen to, which is a shame, since her character feels severely underutilized for this show.
However, Nourin does make admirable steps to create a sense of character progression, which is often something unheard of in comedies, much less most romantic comedies as of recent seasons. The key progression to focus on here is clearly Ringo’s, as her character progression was the only thread that really kept the show cohesive in progression. Reflecting back on her attitudes in episode two and onward, it is applaudable how well the story transitioned her from being a reserved character to one that smiles many times an episode, all without us really noticing when that change happened. I was holding out for a complete recovery of Ringo’s character, but in a sense I’m happy that she hasn’t fully become cheerful again. One, time constraints would’ve made that transition awkward, but two, it does tie in quite well with the theme of change that Nourin has been attempting to portray. Think back to the scene where Ringo is introduced to the student project involving revitalizing the soil. They said quite clearly that it would take a long time for the soil to heal and the crops to grow, but Ringo was already happy with where the current status of the plants were. She didn’t need to be completely ‘healed’ to be happy–the fact that she was in a healing environment was happiness enough for her. Thus, when we see Ringo smile at the end and give that final song just for Kousaku, it signifies that it is not the end product that mattered to Ringo, but rather the transformation process behind it and the people supporting her.
Now of course there were many obstacles in making the above themes more salient and touching to our hearts, but the fact that Nourin makes these attempts in a romantic comedy setting is admirable enough. Perhaps from the lessons learned in making this show, Silver Link may be able to revitalize their craft and truly produce another hit romantic comedy that we’ve been dying to have. Not one that rests its laurels on sex and sheer madness, but one that makes its characters enjoyable and its plot cohesive yet a joy to follow with.
Dear reader, thank you for your patience in following this series with me. I’ll hope to see you guys next time!