by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 7 of
It's a week of new beginnings for the cast of Hinamatsuri, though these fresh starts work out better for some than others. Anzu goes through her first day of work at the Rairaiken restaurant, with the Hayashi family on hand to show her the ropes. Apart from being stunned speechless by the amount of money in the cash register, this latest step towards getting used to her new home goes reasonably well. Hina decides to take on some new responsibilities of her own by running for student council president, and she gets some unexpected “help” with her campaign speech. Upon learning that she's only made it to the secretary position, she immediately loses interest and leaves Hitomi to deal with the fallout. Meanwhile, Nitta finally gets his chance at a date with Utako, but things don't go as planned for the yakuza and the bartender.
Anzu's storyline picks up where the previous episode left off, and it wastes no time in poking fun at last week's emotional resolution. With the right timing and delivery, her tendency to bring the Hayashi family to tears becomes an effective comedic device; this may be the fastest I've ever seen a series switch from sincere emotion to self-parody, but somehow it works. Anzu's perspective on money also proves to be a prime source of humor, starting with her sticker shock upon seeing the restaurant's reasonably-priced menu, then gradually building up to the big reveal of the mountain of cash (at least by her standards) in the register. Nitta plays a valuable supporting role as a customer, especially when it comes to setting up that final punchline. While we don't get an emotional payoff on the same level as last week, there are a few moments of character drama mixed in with the jokes. In particular, Anzu's conversation with Mr. Hayashi over whether or not to wash the disposable chopsticks serves as a nuanced reminder that this is still an entirely new world for her, and that there may yet be some tension to be resolved between Anzu's homeless sensibilities and the level of comfort in her new house.
As the episode moves on to Hina's student council ambitions, Hinamatsuri shifts into full comedy mode. Her speech is an absolute riot, both in its origins and in its delivery. Nearly every other character realizes that letting Hina onto the student council is a terrible idea, and their reactions are neatly tailored to their personalities. Then we have the wonderful twist of Nitta's yakuza boss hiring the group's lawyer to improve her campaign speech, which is made even funnier by the actual text of the updated draft. If you can stop laughing long enough to concentrate on the actual content of the speech (no easy task considering Hina's excellent deadpan delivery), you'll notice that the main points of lunchtime and naps are still there. Instead of just writing a generic campaign speech, this poor guy actually did his best to turn Hina's frivolous demands into a compelling argument, and something about that realization is absolutely hilarious to me. Finally, we have the somewhat inevitable resolution of Hina getting bored and giving up, only for Hitomi to get drafted into filling the secretary position on the council. It's a predictable development given Hitomi's role in the series, but the delivery is sharp enough to carry the scene; Hinamatsuri has made an art out of using Hitomi's attempts at escaping a situation to drag her even further into it.
The date storyline brings some sincere emotions back into the mix, if only to use them as fodder for additional jokes. There's some fun character humor on display as the show makes good use of its established leads. Hitomi's image of Hina's nonexistent deceased mother is amusing in its inaccuracy, and there's some enjoyable tension in Utako's grudging acceptance that Hitomi can run the bar just fine without her. This is complemented by expertly timed physical humor as Hina and Nitta's celebration promptly turns into a trip to the hospital. The date scene itself features an interesting choice in terms of presentation, as we don't get any audible dialogue between Nitta and Utako. Instead, we get Nitta's soaring inner monologue about wanting to find Hina the mother she deserves, which naturally sets the poor guy up for failure. When Utako tells Hitomi how the evening went, it initially seems like the episode is going to wrap up on a contemplative note, but Hinamatsuri flips the script yet again by ending on Nitta's hilariously ill-advised puppet show. After all of its twists and turns, it's fitting that this storyline concludes with a last-second reversal of the audience's expectations.
This episode doesn't replicate the dramatic highs of its predecessor, nor does it try to. While there are a few small moments of sincerity, the focus this week is primarily on making the viewer laugh. In that context, it's another resounding success for Hinamatsuri; I quickly lost count of the number of times this episode made me burst into a fit of laughter. On a deeper level, I continue to be impressed by the range of comedic approaches that this series is able to take. There's the genuinely absurd stuff like hiring a yakuza lawyer to write a middle school student council speech, the strong chemistry between characters that results in consistently funny dialogue, and the more self-aware elements that allow the show to poke fun at key parts of its own story. Just one or two of these styles could be enough to carry a series, but as a total package, Hinamatsuri is making a strong case for itself as a great anime comedy.
Hinamatsuri is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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