by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Nitta's unofficial adoption of Hina has gone pretty smoothly so far, but this week the two of them finally face a day of reckoning. When Hina answers a phone call from Nitta's mother, it's off to the Nitta family home to explain just what the heck is going on. After a series of outrageous lies, Nitta finally manages to convince everyone that Hina is part of the family. Anzu wrestles with her own concepts of home and family in the episode's second half, where she and the rest of the homeless folks are evicted from the park they've been staying in. Utako arranges for Anzu to be taken in by a local family, but she has some trouble acclimating to her new home. There's certainly a whole lot of laughter and tears packed into this half-hour.
The first half of this episode is an absolute riot. After sticking to supporting roles last week, Nitta and Hina return to the spotlight in spectacular fashion. The situation plays nicely to their respective personalities, with Nitta going into panic mode each time Hina nonchalantly derails his carefully crafted backstory. Timing is everything here, as the series repeatedly gives Nitta just a bit of hope before letting Hina smash it all to pieces by repeating her introduction speech or writing the wrong name on her homework. The web of absurd lies that Nitta assembles is funny in and of itself, and his mother and sister are just crazy enough to be the perfect audience for it. Even the comedic chemistry within the household is on point, especially when everyone else makes it painfully clear that if Nitta doesn't “volunteer” to make dinner, the results won't be pretty. This is all capped off by Nitta's desperate assertion that Hina is actually his daughter and the inspired lunacy of introducing her to his dead father while his mother wears a memorial portrait like a mask. If you've been watching Hinamatsuri for its off-the-wall comedy, this well-paced descent into chaos should be right up your alley.
The first half alone would be enough to make this episode a season highlight, but instead of resting on its laurels, the series flexes its genre-bending muscles in the second half with a swift but effective change in tone. While Hinamatsuri has dabbled in more emotional content from day one, Anzu's departure from the homeless camp is easily the show's biggest tear-jerker storyline to date. There are plenty of quiet, poignant moments to be found here, whether it's Yassan and the rest of the guys trying to push Anzu towards a better life or Anzu gradually packing up her belongings. Once she moves in with the Hayashi family, however, the dramatic punches start flying fast and hard. Anzu's sense of guilt over suddenly having easy access to food and shelter is handled well, and you'd be hard-pressed to make it Mr. Hayashi's little life lesson with dry eyes. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this storyline is that it has its origins in a simple joke from episode two. Anzu's homelessness was initially presented as a punchline, and yet her character arc has somehow developed that premise into something genuinely moving.
Despite the vast differences in tone between the two halves, this episode still holds together as a cohesive whole. The key to that unlikely success lies in the thematic connections between the two storylines. For Nitta, Hina, and Anzu, this episode is all about home and family. Even in the midst of Nitta's attempts to bamboozle his mother and sister, there are bits of sentimentality to be found, especially when Nitta admits to his mother that he hasn't been visiting often enough. His declaration that Hina is his daughter may be a last-ditch attempt to salvage the situation, but this too has some genuine meaning; it reinforces the idea that staying with Nitta is a permanent solution for Hina, not just a temporary convenience. On Anzu's side of things, we get the serious personal conflict of being forced to trade one home and family for another, and her new unconventional family unit isn't entirely dissimilar to the one that Hina and Nitta have created. Yassan and company also get some nice moments of reflection, culminating in their resolution to hang in there as long as Anzu is out there worrying about them. For all its crazy antics, Hinamatsuri has managed to deliver some worthwhile insights into the idea of finding a place to call home.
This is an excellent episode all around, showcasing Hinamatsuri's ability to make the most of its two tonal sweet spots. After all the time the series has spent honing and refining its approach, this makes for a satisfying midseason payoff. Any worries I had about the show's ability to deliver on its early potential have been effectively put to rest; Hinamatsuri has proven itself to be capable of balancing absurd humor and sentimental character drama without compromising on either side. If the latter half of this season is anything like the first, we should be in for a wildly entertaining ride.
Hinamatsuri is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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