No-Rin (2014)

The Idol of Agriculture!

What would you do if you turned up to school one day (or even work for that matter) and discovered your celebrity crush sitting in your classroom or workspace? Imagine how you’d feel if you found out that your new lab partner was Taylor Swift or your new co-worker was Ryan Gosling. This is the basic idea behind No-Rin, a 12-episode anime based on the light novel series Nōrin, written by Shirow Shiratori and illustrated by Kippu.

Otaku Idol
Otaku Idol

Quips aside, No-Rin centers on 16-year-old Kōsaku Hata, a male student in the cultivation sector at Tamo Agriculture School (aka No-Rin High), who’s totally obsessed with a famous steel-blue-haired singer, named Yuka Kusakabe. But when news breaks of Yuka’s sudden retirement from the showbiz game, Kōsaku melts down, embarrassing his over-keen childhood ‘pal’ Minori Nakazawa and the mankini wearing Kei Kamatori — Kōsaku’s close friends/ classmates/ roomies.

Kōsaku later gets the shock of his life when a new transfer student by the name of Ringo Kinoshita steps into his classroom, seeing as she just so happens to be a dead ringer for his now retired idol, Yuka Kusakabe. Kōsaku’s suspicions are eventually put to rest when the dour Ringo is placed in his dorm, the city-bread gal coming clean about her true identity. From there, No-Rin follows Kōsaku, Minori and Kei as they endeavor to integrate Ringo into their agricultural surroundings, getting her mixed up in their zany world of husbandry while introducing her to crazy characters such as their well-endowed pink-haired classmate Kochō Yoshida — one of the Shitennō, the Four Heavenly Farmers — and their man-hungry spinster homeroom teacher, Becky.

Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction?
Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction?

Racy, hilarious and somewhat educational, No-Rin basically works as a lively episodic romp, one that’s sincere in its characters and representation of farming culture. While yes, there’s an overarching story that centers on Ringo and her former lifestyle, but this is not explored in any detail — we don’t even get an explanation as to why she retired from her superstar gig in the first place. What’s more, although No-Rin’s whacky premise seems ripe for a plethora of fish-out-of-water jokes, this isn’t the case either, with Ringo swiftly getting up to speed on all her farm-related chores. What does work however, is the show’s bare rooted comedy, director Shin Ōnuma, Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts (2010), delivering a number of raunchy side-splitting misadventures and scenarios.

There’s something for every type of anime aficionado here: there’s an episode that sees our male players philosophizing the value of good ol’ panties and a fujoshi caper where the crew are tasked with the marketing of erotically shaped mushrooms. Let’s not forget about the copious amounts of sexual allusions made with certain types of veggies — for instance, an eggplant is likened to a dirty part of the male anatomy. Personal highlights include an episode titled ‘School Swim Trunks’ that sees heavy wind and rain threaten the fields … and the gang’s ‘token’ beach trip, and the cosplay themed ‘Super Sub-Mom War: Training Stage’ that pits Minori against Ringo in a series of farming-related contests, the girls duking it out in raunchy getups.

Mention one little cosplay competition & everyone loses their minds!
Mention one little cosplay competition & everyone loses their minds!

On the topic of Minori, a side plot revolving around the ‘apple of her eye,’ Kōsaku, and her jealousy over his feelings towards Ringo creates an amusing little love triangle, even if the pair’s touchy past is somewhat underdeveloped. See, in episode 11 Kōsaku and Minori take Ringo to their hometown for summer break where viewers are presented with some brief history on the twosome and are introduced to a bogus pregnancy announcement and an engagement party. Yet, this last-minute revelation — which sees Kōsaku being railroaded into marriage — comes up too late in the game and feels too rushed and forced to carry any sort of weight. With that said, No-Rin isn’t without its moments of sincerity, particularly in the way Ringo’s friends constantly try to make her smile. An episode titled ‘Veggie Battle: Ultimate v. Supreme’ gets a little earnest too, Kei squaring off against his wealthy father, Hajime Menjō, in an effort to prove that his organic produce is far better than his dad’s chemically enhanced stuff.

In terms of its production, No-Rin is the cream of the crop, the artwork by SILVER LINK. boasting the studio’s renowned barrage of blushing babes and hyper ‘chibi’ art shifts, the series delivering plenty of fanservice and various shout-outs throughout — including references to the Capcon videogame Ace Attorney, Princess Mononoke (1997) and Sailor Moon (1992), heck, even the 1992 adult hit Basic Instinct gets a nod.

'There's a 30% chance that it's already raining.'
‘There’s a 30% chance that it’s already raining.’

Elsewhere the J-pop opening ‘Himitsu no Tobira Kara Ai ni Kite’ performed by Yukari Tamura eases viewers into the show’s country setting whilst the main closing ‘Mogitage Fruit Girls,’ also sung by Yukari Tamura (and Kana Hanazawa) features some cutesy visuals and sees Minori and Ringo mucking about in a pair of fruit shaped bikinis.

While it doesn’t come together quite as neatly as I had originally hoped, No-Rin does make for a welcome distraction, one that shrewdly mixes ecchi with edutainment. Be that as it may, No-Rin does have a specific charm about it, the 12-episode anime coaxing me into doing some gardening, and by gardening I mean planting myself on the couch for an extended period of time. I suggest you do the same — hey, you might even learn a thing or two about agriculture along the way. Who’d have known, right?!

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

No-Rin is released through Madman Entertainment Australia