This is my first review, but I'll try my best to follow the guidelines.
Ah. Non Non Biyori.
To be honest, when I first saw the concept art and previews, I was not impressed. Frankly, I dismissed it as yet another slice of life show, a genre so regularly plagiarized that one can't help but wonder if the anime studios are running out of ideas, as each subsequent series seems to be a cut and paste of an earlier show. It was only with great encouragement from Youtube pianist Tehishter that I began watching the show with the lowest of expectations. I was pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was.
The story is a simple one. Hotarun, a Tokyo-bred city girl, finds herself moving out of the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan life and into the middle of the countryside thanks to her father's job transfer. There, she enrolls into a school that has only 1 teacher and 5 students of varying grades. Gradually, she grows accustomed to the joys of friendship and a peaceful lifestyle. That is pretty much it, story wise. Arguably, that is all it needs to be.
While this might not sound like much, the writers did a fantastic job of painting a picturesque scene, albeit rather romanticized, of the differences between living in the countryside and living in the city. To roughly quote Ren-chon, "Don't you own a mountain in the city, Hotarun?". There is an interesting element of comedic relief to the show as well, which does a good job of creating a light hearted and heart-warming experience altogether. It is exactly because of the lack of intricacies and complications that make this anime such a joy to watch. :)
Being a show that revolves around country lifestyle, the show does a superb job of vividly painting the landscapes and creating a nice environment that truly sucks the viewer in. I was rather absorbed into the many beautifully done landscapes and views. The show, indeed, was full of screenshot worthy moments. The characters are nicely done as well. I for one, was pleasantly surprised at the lack of fan-service and the way the creators managed to maintain a very innocent image of the characters.
Ah. The soundtrack. I often see reviewers claim that a soundtrack is plain, boring or not memorable. I would argue otherwise. The sole purpose of a soundtrack is to immerse the viewer into the atmosphere of the show, to deliberate the mood and 'flow' of the show. In this regard, the Non Non Biyori soundtrack does its job wonderfully. The subtle hints and ambient sounds that are played fit very well into the show. It suits the laidback and heartwarming theme of the show very well. As for the OP, it introduces the playful and childish mood of the overall show, which nano.ripe performs superbly. The ED is just adorable.
The characters in the show are decent. I liked that the show did not introduce any stereotypes or overdo any of the characters. There's Hotaru, the classy but sweet city girl, the sisters Komari and Natsumi, and Renge, who make up the main cast of the show. They each have their varying quirks and personalities, all of which are interesting in their own ways. There is, surprisingly enough, some decent and well thought out character development, in particular, the relationship between 'sweet shop lady' and Renge. I have personally lost count at how many times I've let out an audible aww throughout this series.
I love this show. No words can convey how I feel about this show, to be honest, but I'll try. Every week for the past 7 weeks, I looked forward to the airing of Non Non Biyori. Although I only got into the show halfway through the season, I was instantly hooked. I really enjoyed the laidback and calming experience that is Non Non Biyori. No matter how crappy or pissed off I felt at the time, I couldn't help but smile like an idiot after the show. Unlike other slice of life animes, Non Non Biyori is different in the sense that one truly feels at peace while watching the show. There is no drama or climax, no ante or distress. Watching the show was for me, pure bliss. 23 minutes of smiling like an idiot.
Overall, this anime does what it set out to do perfectly. Granted, some might not enjoy the lack of action or fan service, but let me say this. Give the show a try. If you've had a crappy day at school, a disastrous meeting at work or if you just wanted to relax for a bit, watch this show. It's not the best show of the year, or even of the season, but it is special in its own right.