In the world of anime there is seldom anything more important, more dangerous, than schoolyard dating. Seriously, it’s perilous. With all the tsunderes, yanderes, childhood friends, transfer students, ice queens, genki girls, tomboys, well to do princesses and startlingly inappropriate teachers, it’s a wonder anyone makes it out alive. I mean sure, a selection of lovely ladies all pining after one remarkably average guy, it sounds great (if you’re the guy). However, chances are remarkably high that such a situation will turn from sweet to sour with the speed of a cheetah with rockets that also happens to be made of light…which is to say very, very fast. But this is fantasy right? Emotions take second chair as long as you throw out a ton of boob jokes…right?
Short answer; kind of. Welcome to the wonderful world of No-Rin, a lovely country dynamic centered on the wholesome Tamo Agriculture School. Within these walls, we find Kosaku Hata, our leading man and a die hard fan of a pop singer known as Yuka. Long story short, Kosaku’s obsession is such that, following Yuka’s sudden retirement, he succumbs to an all consuming depression that renders him unable to leave the body pillow he purchased of said pop star…which totally isn’t creepy at all except that it is. Rather swiftly after this however, though not swift enough to avoid some will they won’t they sexual tension between Kosaku and his childhood friend Minori (which we absolutely talk about later), Yuka the ex-pop singer enrolls in Tamo and the angels sing heavenly songs. Okay, so she enrolls under a different name and her personality is a complete 180 from her on stage persona, but nobody is fooled for a single second, which is actually a refreshing turn of events for a series such as this. Thus, with the character on the DVD cover now main cast adjacent, the series can truly begin.
As you may have guessed, No-Rin revolves around Kosaku and his attempts to impress the pop singer to whom he pledged his eternal soul (in, like, a hyper fan sort of way, not literally). This being said, due to a series of hilarious incidents, and the meddling of Minori, Kosaku struggles to make progress with his dream girl, as per the norm of this genre. Strangely enough however, Ringo (the name by which Yuka now goes) very clearly possesses a likewise interest in Kosaku, having chosen Tamo due to the vegetables Kosaku sent her as a fanboy offering. Of course, because of comedy, Kosaku sent entirely phallic shaped vegetables, providing much of the fodder for episode one, with Minori the unfortunate character who has to explain why this is a super creepy action. Get it? Because Kosaku is super oblivious? Which is apparently the grandest aphrodisiac in all of anime. Regardless, despite their reciprocal attraction to each other, the series would not be a slice of life, semi-harem comedy if they readily entered into a relationship, so instead we find ourselves in a crazy school full of gimmicks, misadventures and weird, weird characters. Like that one girl who ships any and all men together and likes to make them shoot yogurt onto each other…yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds (although it is actual yogurt).
As the series progresses, the initial focus of Kosaku and his love interest becomes muddled by an increasingly insane world. With one episode being devoted to a failed beach trip, another leaning heavily into the insanity of their love hungry teacher and one even focusing on the internal family struggles of Kosaku’s best friend Kei, less and less time feels like it is devoted to progressing any serious romantic relationship. Spoiler alert, even by the end of the series, despite an apparent revelation by Kosaku, nothing is actually resolved. Because this is one of those series. Rather than have anyone feel sad when all is said and done, we receive a series of non-answers that keep the mystery alive and the group dynamics the same. I will admit, Ringo does slowly open up to Kosaku, revealing the feelings she harbours for him in her own way and yes, Minori is never once subtle about her love for him, but none of that really matters in the end. Heck, there’s even an entire faux engagement sub-plot at one point and it still does not force a decision, just more indecision. And it’s frustrating. Okay, I understand that this is how these series play out, but I still think that it is a little annoying to lay down something as heavy handed as a soon-to-be marriage and still weasel out of it with no character evolution. Seriously, what is the point? Which is a question I unfortunately found myself asking quite a few times.
What this all boils down to is that No-Rin is a series that lies somewhere between romantic comedy and goofball slice of life. Now, whilst the two can work well together and even serve to strengthen the overall product, this particular example is one from a different camp. Despite there being a fair amount of charm and strength in the various pieces of No-Rin, they do not often complement or bolster each other. Whenever comedy is in play, romance takes a backseat, and vice versa. Thus, when we begin to learn of the intircacies of planting rice, do not expect great strides to be made towards love. Although, considering that both girls already unequivocally love the main character, the only obstacle lie in his absolute obliviousness…to one of them…because he actually also loves one of them…wait…what the hell is actually stopping this from progressing? Episode count probably, which is a meta reason you do not want to impact your series.
No-Rin is a fun series to watch, don’t get me wrong, it just isn’t one that will leave you feeling fulfilled. Though romantic moments occur and blushing girls populate a decent amount of conversations, nothing ever moves forward. Kosaku loves Ringo, Ringo loves Kosaku, Minori loves Kosaku and that’s how it stays. Despite characters straight up telling Kosaku why Minori is awesome (which is a truly great moment in the series) he refuses to see her as anything but his goofy childhood friend, whilst still holding Ringo up on a pedestal due to her pop star days, which everybody is aware of yet never brings up, which is kinda weird. This is especially true when Ringo confirms her identity as Yuka, as if it were a great secret she had been guarding. But I digress. To wrap this all up in a neat little bow, I shall say this; No-Rin is not a bad series, it is just far from the best example of this genre. Though the so called love triangle is implied to be this series driving force, it often feels inconsequential to the next weird agricultural misadventure, albeit it to give Minori a reason to act insane. Thus, if you are the type to enjoy a good romantic snafu, I suggest investing your time elsewhere. However, if you simply enjoy a gaggle of ludicrous people hanging out, doing wacky things, then you’ll probably enjoy your time with No-Rin. Especially if you are interested in esoteric debates regarding the intrinsic value of undergarments…or fiery conflicts sprouted over the most appealing aspect of the female form…or rice. A lot of dialogue about rice.
Only a Madman could remain sane in the world of No-Rin