19 June 2024

Anime Review – Hinamatsuri Season One

The interesting thing about Hinamatsuri is that it’s almost like two different shows. The middle of the series feels, in some ways, like an entirely different show from the first couple of episodes. Whilst any casual viewer jumping into the fifth episode of say, Dragonball, or Bleach would be immediately aware they were watching a show about martial arts, or ghost hunting samurai. But Hinamatsuri is different.

In the first episode we meet Nitta, a Yakuza member with a liking for expensive vases. His life is turned upside down when a young psychic girl, Hina, decides to drop in; literally in this case, falling out of thin air encased in a metal container. Hina blackmails Nitta into letting her stay in his apartment by using her powers to threaten his precious vases. But Nitta decides to adopt this strange girl as his own after he realises the potential her psychic abilities have for advancing his career in organised crime.

This sets us up nicely for some sci-fi infused mob action, and in the first couple of episodes, that’s exactly what we get. Hina plunges headfirst into violent gang warfare, telekinetically slaughtering a building full of Nitta’s enemies and earning her surrogate father a promotion. Soon after, another psychic, Anzu, arrives to drag Hina back to whence she came, resulting in a pitched battle in which Hina demonstrates her awesome power.

But by episode 3, the series has taken a surprisingly domestic turn. We see little of Nitta’s criminal exploits, the focus turning instead to Hina’s botched attempts to clean the apartment or run for school office, whilst we’re also introduced to Hina’s friend Hitomi, who is blackmailed into working at a bar frequented by the Yakuza, whilst we also follow Anzu as she struggles to survive alone on the streets.

In another show, this switch might have been disappointing, but Hinamatsuri manages to pull it off seamlessly. Whole episodes pass by with hardly a mention of telekinesis or Yakuza gang activity, but the writing is so engaging and funny it’s easy tosit back and enjoy the ride. Whether an episode is focused on a battle between superhumans, internal Yakuza conflict or just an argument over a broken vase, it’s all good stuff, well-paced, funny and occasionally touching.

As the series goes on, we find out more about the characters, watching Nitta grow from heartless mobster to responsible father figure. Hina meanwhile is a bag of contradictions, speaking to those around her in an insensitive monotone, prone to devouring large bowls of caviar and sleeping in class. But it’s impossible not to like her. I defy anyone not to laugh at the scene where Hina, attempting to win election to the student council, reads out a pre prepared speech to a class assembly, including her stage directions (“I would like to end my speech here. At this point, bow.”), or the scene where she organises a congratulations party for Nitta that bears an eerie resemblance to a funeral.

By the end of the series, Hinamatsuri seems to be returning to its more action-packed roots, with a fight scene including a group of kung fu masters. But for me, Hinamatsuri can go in whichever direction it likes and I’ll still watch it. The writing is so engaging, and the jokes are so funny, at this point it’d be rude not to.

Jonny Keen | [rating=5]

Comedy, Slice Of Life | Japan, 2018 | Season One | Dir.Kei Oikawa , Keiichirō Ōchi | Watch Crunchyroll

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