The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide HINAMATSURI
How would you rate episode 1 of
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Well, this is an odd one. Hinamatsuri's first episode sets the series up as a combination of absurd comedy and unconventional family drama, with a yakuza theme and some psychic powers sprinkled in for flavor. Just in case all of that isn't enough to throw you off-balance, it also opens with a flash-forward scene that has seemingly no bearing on the rest of the episode. That's a lot of individual pieces that shouldn't necessarily work together, but the show somehow assembles them into a functional, entertaining whole.
On the comedic side of things, Hinamatsuri benefits from smart presentation. It presents its most ridiculous moments in a straightforward, unapologetic manner, as if a girl in a metal pod teleporting into a high-rise apartment and landing on a yakuza officer's head is no big deal. As the show's comedic straight man, Nitta's personality helps out on this front. His reactions tend to fall on the “stunned speechless” end of the spectrum, which is more understated than the panicked, cartoonish screaming we'd likely see from an everyman teenage protagonist. The contrast between those low-key responses and Hina's bizarre behavior (not to mention her hilariously odd-looking transport egg) places extra emphasis on just how strange this all is, and that in turn makes the humor more effective.
Once Nitta accepts that he's stuck with Hina for the time being, the show starts to develop a family dynamic between them. There's a clear and steady progression from trying to appease the crazy psychokinetic girl, to seeing her as a potential asset, and then finally to acting as a surrogate parent. Along the way, we get enough hints at Hina's origins to understand her point of view and her motivation for staying with Nitta. There are a couple of nice moments between them as they start to reach a mutual understanding, and the writing does a good job of letting us know about Hina's unpleasant past without being overly graphic or melodramatic about it. It's also significant that despite their respective occupations, neither Nitta nor Hina seem overly keen on killing people; Nitta is clearly unnerved by the prospect of handling a gun, and Hina is content to subdue the baddies at the end of the episode in what appears to be a non-lethal fashion.
It's a bit difficult to get a full handle on Hinamatsuri at the moment, and its more absurd elements may not work for everyone. I'm enjoying its particular brand of lunacy, so I'll be sticking around to see where it goes. If combining Cromartie High School levels of weirdness with an “unusual dad raises weird kid” story sounds like your idea of a good time, by all means give this show a try.
This anime was originally advertised with an image that paid homage to a famous movie poster for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Whether or not there's any story purpose for this is still unclear by the end of the first episode. The series is certainly fond of Hollywood movie references, as the episode's last shot is an homage to famous scenes from The Terminator franchise, only in this case with the steam being something more humorous in origin.
This is one of those stories about an oddball pairing, in this case between a young yakuza tough and a mostly emotionless preteen girl who has potent psychokinetic powers, to the point where she must use them on a regular basis or they'll spill out explosively. So far their chemistry is working splendidly well. Yoshifumi initially has to be intimidated by Hina into taking care of her, but by the end of the episode there's already a building sense that their relationship is going to change. Yoshifumi becomes appreciative of what Hina can do when he realizes that the need to release her powers can be very useful for his own jobs, but he's not willing to have her do his dirty work for him; in general, he comes across as a decent guy for being a yakuza. For her part, Hina gradually starts to appreciate that not all adults are going to exploit her, and she even volunteers to help Yoshifumi out in a sticky situation. The father-daughter chemistry that's developing between them could be neat to watch.
The first episode has other merits going for it too. Most of the episode is pretty funny, especially one scene where Hina takes out a bunch of enemy yakuza and they're all saying the equivalent of “ouchie!” as she telekinetically throws them out windows. The story also has distinct mystery elements in the form of where Hina came from and the episode's nebulous opening scene. The visual effort is also sharp, especially an opening fight scene that features impressive detail in its animation. The other curious point is the potential double meaning of the series title, which may become clearer as time passes.
Wasn't sure what to make of this one at first, but it looks like it could be a keeper.
All first episodes can be said to be “just getting started,” but I feel like that's especially true of Hinamatsuri. The opening scenes of a girl fighting her way through a mob of goons certainly indicate a more action-packed story to come, but this episode just focuses on the adjustments to their everyday lives that young yakuza Nitta and his new charge Hina face as they learn to live together. The fact that Hina just dropped through Nitta's ceiling (via dimensional portal) and happens to have telekinesis is what makes this more than just the latest iteration of the single dad show. Well, so does the fact that Nitta's a porcelain vase-loving yakuza, thus giving Hina a very easy way to ensure that she gets what she wants: he doesn't give her clothes? She breaks his collection.
That said, it's clear by the middle of the episode that this is the only way Hina knows how to interact with people. She's shocked that Nitta, once he realizes that she's not going anywhere, wants to take care of her; at the end of the episode she comments that he's not like other adults because he's not giving her specific orders. When he's tasked with taking out a rival gang leader but clearly doesn't want to, Hina steps in to do it for him – because he doesn't ask her to. There's a very distinct implication that Nitta is the only person to treat Hina like a human being and a child, and that means a lot to her, even if emoting isn't her strong suit.
At its heart, however, Hinamatsuri feels like it wants to be a comedy with some serious threads rather than a serious story with some comedic elements. Wherever Hina got her ideas about the world, they're pretty weird and definitely come off as what she thinks she's “supposed” to want and do based on her surroundings: kids can't sleep without stuffed animals, so she “needs” one, Nitta's clearly well-off, so all food “must” be high-class. Whether she just doesn't understand what school is or learned about it from a manga where kids sleep through it isn't certain, but honestly, either would fit. Poor Nitta, for his part, is totally at sea, not just as the de-facto father of a girl, but also in trying to understand what on earth Hina's going to do at any given moment. Her mass defenestration of the rival gang, leading to his promotion within his, may just be the moment when he basically gives up and just decides to go with it—for this episode, at least.
I'm not wild about the way longer hair is colored with a sort metallic sheen, but otherwise the art and animation works without standing out. Probably the best-looking part of the episode is the food Nitta cooks, which looks amazing – clearly this guy has talents the yakuza isn't using. That alone may be a reason to check this out, but it does have potential as an action comedy series, so it's worth a couple of episodes to see where it goes.
Hinamatsuri is directed by Kei Okawa, whose work on the terrific second season of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU gave me at least one good reason to be excited for Hinamatsuri. On top of that, the show's promotional trailer demonstrated a fluidity of animation and tightness of comedic timing that also implied Okawa was right at home directing a top-shelf comedy. Of course, comedies can be severely hit-or-miss, and a good trailer certainly doesn't guarantee a good show. So how does Hinamatsuri actually sort out?
So far, I'm totally satisfied. This premiere introduces us to yakuza Nitta and his new psychoelectric friend Hina, a strange girl from a place where psychic children are apparently employed as weapons by adults. After randomly teleporting into Nitta's apartment, Hina swiftly gets to work lounging her way into Nitta's life, ultimately resulting a weirdly adorable familial couple. It's a somewhat odd premise that ultimately proves to be rich with potential gags, and Hinamatsuri sells its parade of jokes with speed and flair all the way through.
The first thing that impressed me about Hinamatsuri was its fluid and purposeful animation. The show opens with a beautifully choreographed fight that almost feels like showing off, but after that, all of its consistent character acting and other visual flourishes work hard to elevate their respective jokes. That animation aligns neatly with Hinamatsuri's intelligent and often whip-fast timing; it basically just takes a minute and a half for this show to set up its premise, and its in-joke pacing is just as snappy. Very few shows possess the fluid character acting and understanding of timing necessary to make gags like Nitta's delayed “yep, I'm going to pretend I didn't see that” land, but Hinamatsuri regularly pulls off subtle and very funny jokes of pacing, vocal delivery, and delayed expectations all through this premiere.
In short, Hinamatsuri definitely has jokes. On top of that, this show also did a fair enough job of selling the bond between Hina and Nitta, a partnership that will clearly form the emotional center of this show. Hina's deadpan and Nitta's aggravation make for a classic and charming combination, and though the circumstances of their situation are still a little too out-there for me to fully invest, the show's ability to pull off convincing conversations between the two leaves me confident that's just a matter of time. All in all, Hinamatsuri is a funny and endearing comedy that's certainly worth your time.
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