The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Review: Despite its psychedelic color explosions and gravity-defying action scenes, Hamatora is a giant bore, thanks to its mashup of generic characters, lazy supernatural elements, and its inability to comprehend what makes successful detective stories engaging and entertaining. Perhaps if the show were just a detective series, it would slide under the radar, but no. Somewhere in the backs of the minds of the creators, they decided that the only way to make the series even remotely interesting would be to give it the crutch of magic users, bringing it into the realm of other such series like Get Backers, Darker Than Black, and all the other dozens of shows out there that are variations of People-With-Powers-Solve-Crimes-And-Crack-Jokes. The end result is one of cheapness and desperation, clawing at anything with fast movements and bright colors to beg viewers to stay.
Imagining for a minute that Hamatora wasn't a tired regurgitation of super-powered magic users (in this show, they call them "Minimum Holders" because a cryptic name was needed), as a simple detective story, it's at best mediocre. The problem is, it gives no reason for viewers to care either about the cases, its victims, or the criminals involved. It doesn't even involve clues of any kind, so it misses its chance of being a play-along type show. Instead, the mystery aspect of the show is just a reason for our Minimum Holders to wriggle their way into a variety of criminal situations, so they can rage at each other with Technicolor action scenes barfed out of a kaleidoscope.
I suspect that over the course of the next few episodes, the detective aspect of the show will fade away, only to be replaced by a rehash of all the guys-with-powers shows that have come before it. We'll likely be forced to watch the main character's crazy soundsplosion rainbow attack at least over and over again, until our eyes grow numb. Needless to say, I'm not particularly taken by any aspect of Hamatora, and will likely shelve it until a domestic release.
Hamatora is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Review: Let's see… a metaphor for creative bankruptcy… A shake ‘n bake bag of borrowed tropes? Not quite. That implies a variety of borrowings jumbled together willy-nilly. Hamatora doesn't borrow randomly. It's more of a template kind of show. Maybe if I rummage through my file of template metaphors… Assembly line? Prefab? Paint-by-numbers? A faceless drone in the anime clone army? Why does everything in this file sound so mean? Just because a show was written by a committee of cliché monkeys doesn't mean it can't be amiably stupid fun. Oh geez. That sounded really mean.
Honest, though. There's something kind of charming about Hamatora’s cheerful disregard for imagination and originality. It's just another middle-of-the-road action show about superpowered teens, crossed this time with a show about a perpetually broke odd-jobs agency, and the series is totally okay with that. It doesn't want to provoke or challenge or even make much of an impression. It just wants to deliver cool powers and outsized action with a healthy gloss of humor and lots of stylishly dressed pretty people. Which it does, and with an enthusiasm that speaks to a winning love of popcorn fare like Getbackers.
Of course, if the show's going to hold us for any length of time, it'll have to deliver more than just that. And that's where this episode gets worrying. The Minimum Holders—people who have special powers when certain conditions are met—are just a less interesting version of Darker Than Black’s Contractors. Main character Nice and his team of super-powered PIs are forgettable in the extreme. The agency's three cases all turn out to be one case, which is basically like screaming “I'm written by a mystery amateur!” There is nothing in this episode that demonstrates any long-term viability. So enjoy, especially if you're a ‘90s boy weaned on this type of thing, but don't get your hopes up.
Hamatora is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Rating: oh my god I don't care
Review: Hamatora feels like a creation equal and opposite to this season's Noragami. Both are titles with one Japanese word of four syllables revolving around superpowered bishounen carrying out odd jobs for pocket change. But whereas Noragami communicates a great deal about its characters and world with very little exposition, Hamatora spends nearly the entire episode yammering to itself about Minimum Holders and the Egg of Columbus and all manner of other fantasy flotsam but it's difficult to say if anything important happened at all. Wait, no, it's not difficult. Nothing happens in Hamatora. Nothing happens that wasn't done better in Get Backers, Darker than Black, or any number of shows with similar premises and competent storytelling.
This may be coming across as too harsh, but Hamatora's incomprehensibility just can't be overstated. The only way to communicate the plot to others is to compare it to anime that bothered to explain themselves better, as seen above. The plot is garden-variety "teenage bums with conditional superpowers do odd jobs" but the action is incredibly sparse. At times you get the impression a joke is being made, but it's hard to be sure because there's nothing funny in the character's delivery or the illustration of the "comedy." Almost the entire episode is taken up with crappy, flat-looking characters tossing terms we don't understand back and forth between each other, jumping from scene to scene without any connective tissue, interspersing criminal pursuit with some douchebags named "Ratio" and "Birthday" (no really) discussing philosophy in a car. None of it makes any sense. None of it is compelling. It's just a stunningly incompetent series of talking heads with no personality promising us some kind of comic book action adventure without ever paying off. The stupid "pick an English word and make it someone's name" thing doesn't help, either. Our lead guy is named "Nice."
The episode ends with Cardboard Bishounen #8 out of 11 wondering to himself if he should have told our heroes that there's a serial killer out there hunting people like them. It literally cuts from this to the credits, as if it had landed some intriguing cliffhanger, but it comes across as completely random and laughable because we have no reason to care. This is a steaming pile. Skip it.
Hamatora is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Rating: 2 (of 5)
Review: In the world of Hamatora, super-powered individuals named Minimum Holders exist, ones who must perform some kind of rudimentary action – such as chewing gum or shocking themselves with a taser – to access their powers. (Really, the original manga-ka could not come up with anything better than that for a name? That almost makes “Needless” look good by comparison.) The Hamatora Private Investigation Agency, which operates out of a coffee shop, has several such individuals in its motley staff. What initially appears to be three separate cases tackled by different members one day instead turns out to be just different aspects of the same case, which results in a series of confrontations between Hamatora members and a super-strong Minimum Holder.
While I suppose the need to take some action to activate one's powers, rather than compulsively perform the action after the fact (as is the case in Darker Than Black) could be considered a new twist, this is really just a stale concept that the producers and original manga-ka are trying to spruce up with a slightly involved and seedy mystery angle. So far it is not succeeding terribly well, although this is more a case of lack of originality rather than specifically failing at anything. Hero is living from yen to yen? Colorful individuals with varying temperaments and powers? Been there, done that, many times before. The first episode does offer a couple of small doses of mature-leaning fan service, and there is at least some attempt at decent humor (the joke about the old maid and the school girl uniform is actually rather funny), but the visuals do not impress enough to offset other shortcomings and drop the ball in a big way in one scene; the character Koneko, who basically collects and distributes jobs for the agency, seems to have a cat tail that can move, though one shot makes it look like it's coming out of her left pants pocket rather than her backside.
Maybe the detective angle and the bit about the Minimum Holder serial killer (another tired plot twist) will get interesting enough to carry the series, but it will have to try harder than this.
Hamatora is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
There are certain people with special powers that activate when a certain condition is met – blowing a gum bubble can do away with gravity, putting the prongs of a taser in one's mouth can allow one to generate lighting, etc. These skills are known as “minimum” and their wielders are “minimum holders.” Those with the power use it for good or evil, and on the side of the former is the Hamatora Detective Agency, a group of PI's with the various skills needed to take down less scrupulous minimum holders. Of course, they also bicker a lot, one of them eats a ludicrous amount, and another stores eggs in glove compartments.
Hamatora's first episode introduces the agency, some of their skills, and the strange way all three of the cases they have received separately are actually all facets of the same case, something which is readily apparent to the viewers long before Nice, the primary protagonist, figures it out. This is an interesting move on the show's part because the actual superpowers are kept under wraps until almost half-way through the episode, nearly fooling us into thinking this is a cut and dry detective story. The way that the cases connect is quite good, although the resolution ends up being more brawn than brain, but that does give this a bit of an edge (or at least a difference) over other mysteries, where the detectives solve problems by talking to the bad guy – in Hamatora, they just use their powers to pound him.
My major issue with this episode was the way it kept making quick cuts – to a phone screen, to a black screen with white text like in a silent film – in the middle of all of a scene. I found this very distracting and that it kept pulling me away from the story rather than intriguing me or enhancing the mystery. The shading was also very flat, which may have irritated me less if the cuts didn't keep happening. Luckily the characters are all distinct in both design and voice, and the guy who wears an eyepatch has a legitimate reason to do so, which gives me hope about the band-aids on Nice's face. It also looks as if the story is going to take a turn for the serious, which could be good, although some of the humor in this episode was pretty good, even if old women in sailor suits was not something I wanted to picture. Generally this seems promising, and hopefully at least that one stylistic tic will vanish as it goes on.
Hamatora is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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