By Andrew Osmond.
No-Rin is about farming, pop idols and big boobs, but most of all it’s about being silly. You might see it as a companion piece to Baka and Test a few years ago, which had both No-Rin’s future director (Shin Oonuma) and its production studio (Silver Link). We could tell you about the story – and we will in the next paragraph – but it’s more informative to say that No-Rin’s characters can get into a freewheeling five-minute argument about the meaning of panties, or that there’s a whole episode based round selling naughty-shaped vegetables.
Like Baka and Test, No-Rin is a school comedy, where the ‘baka’ (idiot) this time is schoolboy Kosaku. At the start of the series, he’s pathologically obsessed with an idol pop singer, Yuka. The lad is devastated when the star retires – then flabbergasted when Yuka turns up as a transfer student at his rural agricultural school. However, the girl (who now goes under her real name, Ringo), is a disdainful ice-queen. To add to Kosaku’s troubles, his female friend-since-childhood, Minori, isn’t pleased by his fixation. Oh, and the class has a nymphomaniac female teacher. Things complicate further, with many more characters dropping in, but that’s probably enough to be going on with.
Funny though No-Rin is, a real-life spat it inspired is perhaps more amusing. The show is set in Gifu prefecture, in central Japan, and the characters’ school was modelled on a real agricultural school near the city of Minokamo. Understandably, the local tourism office tried to promote itself using imagery from the anime. Unfortunately, it put out a flyer showing a (cough) top-heavy girl from the series (she’s called Kocho, although the moment she appears in the anime she’s nicknamed “Oppai” or “Boobs”). Despite Japan’s permissive reputation for sexy toon figures, there was reportedly a twitter backlash and the flyer was withdrawn.
No-Rin’s director Shin Oonuma has gained a reputation for his wide-ranging anime work. If he has a style, it’s one he dials up and down in terms of comedy and visual experimentation. Oonuma has made series like ef (serious, experimental), Watamote (comedic, experimental) and Kokoro Connect (a gender-swapping comedy-drama, which was presented relatively conventionally). With No-Rin, Oonuma ratchets up the comedy and tones down the visuals, but the series still has a comic spontaneity, as when an absurd ‘dramatic’ moment is presented as a set of melodramatic manga frames. There are also several visual gags which use retro games for inspiration. Oonuma often flits between two different studios, Shaft and Silver Link; the latter made No-Rin, Baka and Test, Kokoro Connect and Watamote.
As you may guess from the J-pop song performance that opens the series, the Yuka idol character is voiced in Japanese by a professional singer. The Fukuoka-born Yukari Tamara is a prolific artist; you can see a snippet of her singing here. She’s also been a voice-actress for two decades, famed as the magic girl heroine of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, on which several of her songs were used. Tamara’s many other roles include Tenten in Naruto, Rika in Higurashi and Elizabeth in Black Butler. In English, the role of Yuka is taken by the actress Jad Saxton, who was recently heard as the girl Lisa in Terror in Resonance.
Andrew Osmond is the author of 100 Animated Feature Films. No-Rin is released on UK Blu-ray by Funimation.