Episode 5

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Hinamatsuri ?

This episode focuses on the younger half of Hinamatsuri's cast, and the results are remarkably funny. Anzu gets the ball rolling by enlisting Hina to help her find discarded electronics, which she's discovered are worth much more than cans and bottles. Even when Hitomi joins the search, the “help” that Anzu receives is of dubious value. Later in the episode, we spend some time with Hina and Hitomi's middle school classmates, who suspect that something is awry when they see both Hitomi and their teacher walk into the same bar. The ensuing investigation might not be well-organized, but it's effective enough to cause Hitomi plenty of stress.

The search for old televisions is the less impressive of these two storylines, but to be fair it's facing some tough competition (more on that later). Taken on its own merits, this is a solid little sequence that makes good use of the characters' personalities. Hinamatsuri's sharp comedic timing comes into play yet again as Anzu boasts about having made a friend, only for Hitomi to show up in response to Hina's summons. Both Hina and Hitomi create some fun moments as they gather TVs for Anzu to “find,” and these scenes are well-matched to each character's comedic strengths. Hitomi's terrible luck sets up a delightfully awkward encounter with a police officer, and Hina's deadpan dialogue allows her to get her way while confusing the living daylights out of every adult she encounters. All that humor is capped off with a nice little moment of friendship between the three girls, which leaves the door open for more tales of Hina, Anzu, and Hitomi getting in and out of trouble in future episodes.

As neatly-told as that story may be, it's the investigation plot that makes the most of Hinamatsuri's inspired lunacy. The basic premise of other characters trying to make sense of Hitomi's bartending gig is funny enough on its own, and the show builds on that foundation by portraying her classmates as a bumbling group of wannabe detectives. Considering we haven't seen much of these characters before, there's some impressive comedic chemistry on display from them. Kengo and Takashi lean hard into their ill-informed enthusiasm, and Aizawa balances them out as the voice of pseudo-reason. The fact that all three of them are doing this as much for their own reasons as they are to help Hitomi adds yet another layer of humor to the story. Of course, Hitomi ultimately steals the show as the target of the investigation, and her utter inability to maintain a poker face proves to be one of her greatest comedic strengths. The show's great eye for exaggerated facial expressions certainly helps in this regard, and a mix of strong writing and direction help to sell her desperate attempts at misleading her pursuers. Who would've thought that one of Hinamatsuri's saner characters would be such a good match for its crazy sense of humor?

What I find both interesting and encouraging about this episode is that it relies so little on the core duo of Hina and Nitta. Sure, they both have their parts to play in this episode, and the two of them do have a couple of brief interactions when Hina hits Nitta up for money to buy a TV, but the basic dynamic of Nitta trying to deal with Hina's super-powered whims is hardly employed at all. Instead, the two of them take on more of a supporting role, especially in the second half. Hina's main job is to repeat her initial question about what's going on whenever the opportunity arises, and Nitta joins Utako as a horrified bystander when the middle school crew confronts Hitomi at the bar. They're certainly effective in these roles, but the jokes they provide are essentially just icing on the cake. Hinamatsuri's ability to deliver strong comedic material while keeping its lead characters on the sidelines says a lot about the strength of its ensemble cast and its ability to draw humor out of any situation.

Altogether, there are many positive signs for this show's long-term potential. Instead of waiting for its initial premise to wear thin, Hinamatsuri is actively seeking out new ways to make the audience laugh, and that search has already yielded some hilarious results. Anzu and Hitomi are developing into leading characters in their own right, and minor players like the middle school crew have proven capable of pulling more than their own weight. I'm excited to see what will happen as the series continues to refine its comedic voice, and I hope it'll continue to push its creative limits as far as they'll go.

Rating: B+

Hinamatsuri is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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