If you like school-based anime with love triangles you are spoilt for choice nowadays. They seem to get churned out endlessly. I enjoy them, but I try to look for an anime that offers something more than that. No-Rin has a refreshingly different approach to most of them. For a start it isn’t set in a typical school. It’s an agricultural college, where students learn to be farmers or forestry workers. This not only sets the series apart visually from equivalent series, it also adds an extra level of interest. I never thought I would be particularly interested in agricultural matters, but I ended up learning quite a lot from watching this. It’s educational, without ever making it too obvious that it’s teaching us about the finer details of farming.
It also never presents farming or the countryside through rose-tinted spectacles. It’s a tough business, and one misjudgment or storm at the wrong time can wipe out a whole crop. The main character, Kosaku, is disillusioned with the harsh realities of country life to some extent, and dreams about the big city, and there are two main reasons for that. Firstly his parents moved to the countryside to start a farm, and the consequences were tragic. Secondly, he has been inspired by a teenage singer he sees on television, and has idolised for years. One day, that singer turns up at his school, under the fake name Ringo Kinoshita.
That might sound contrived, but there are good reasons for it, which are gradually revealed throughout the series. It eventually builds up to an examination of which is better: country life or city life, and that is also represented by the love triangle between Ringo, Kosaku, and the girl he grew up with, Minori. The series stumbles a bit to get to that point, focusing a little too much on silly distractions, but when it gets there it’s worth the wait. I would also have liked some more exploration of Ringo’s backstory. We get a strong idea of what drew her to Tamo Agriculture School, but only a vague idea of why she was disillusioned with her life of fame. But the one thing that really impressed me about her story is the way our expectations are subverted. Far from being a fish out of water, she takes to agriculture with skill and enthusiasm, so it turns out that she was more of a fish out of water in her previous life, and that’s a far more interesting approach, once the inevitable jokes about her lack of knowledge have been gotten out the way.
This is a comedy series with plenty of fanservice, but it generally resists the temptation to take things too far visually and instead is at times absolutely filthy in terms of the dialogue, which is at least a different approach. The fanservice is fairly evenly balanced between both genders, with Kosaku’s best friend Kei having a penchant for wearing a mankini whenever he can. At times the humour is clumsy and obvious, with some of the characters failing to come across as anything other than walking, talking stereotypes. Kocho, for example, is defined by little other than her enormous chest, but we already have Minori with similar attributes for those kinds of jokes. The character who will probably divide opinion the most (my wife hated her but I thought she was hilarious) is the teacher Natsumi Bekki (“Becky”), who is a single forty-year-old who is absolutely desperate to bed anyone she can, including her students. She gets the filthiest of the filthy dialogue, which veers between uncomfortably misfiring and absolutely hilarious. My favourite Becky moment has to be when she is thrown out of a window (yes, the visual comedy is often absurd) and says “this isn’t the kind of going down I had in mind”. It’s all pretty vulgar, but you’ll probably find yourself laughing even if you don’t want to. And yes, certain vegetables are used for exactly the kinds of rude jokes you would expect them to be used for.
This is one of those frustrating love triangle series when the manga was ongoing and it never gets resolved. I though for a moment during the final episode that we were going to veer into isekai territory with Kosaku getting both girls, but you’ll have to watch it to see exactly what the girls think of that idea. The manga does go on to resolve things, so at least you can continue the story that way if you want to.
The background visuals are of course beautiful at times, as you would expect from a series set in the countryside, but I wasn’t so keen on the character designs, which made the girls all look like they were blushing constantly. I have seen a lot of praise for the dub, but I wasn’t keen. A couple of the main characters have very irritating voices, and I do so hate it when they feel the need to make translated versions of songs for a dub. Even if it jars a bit, I would rather just hear the originals, so I might be tempted to rewatch this eventually with subtitles instead.
I don’t think this is going to be anyone’s favourite series, but if you want a bit of silly escapism with the occasional belly laugh and some thought-provoking philosophising about city life vs country life, you’ll find plenty of positives here. But if suggestive vegetables are really not your thing, you might prefer to steer clear. RP