by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Hina's psychic abilities haven't exactly been front and center in the last few episodes, but they make a return to the spotlight this week. Things kick off with the arrival of a scary-looking agent from “the organization,” who drafts Anzu into helping investigate how Hina has changed since her escape. The results are shockingly ordinary, but Kei Ikaruga isn't the only one who's keeping an eye on Hina. After using her powers to deal with some menial school chores, Hina is approached by one of her classmates, who is desperate to acquire some cool abilities of her own. Once that ordeal wraps up, Kei reappears and orders Hina to return to the organization. Hina's willing to comply, but there's just one problem: Nitta threw her teleportation device in the trash ages ago. Apparently, he's got a real talent for wrecking those things.
The opening scenes in this episode offer a fun riff on a common character archetype. Kei has the appearance of the classic clandestine enforcer who shows up just as a super-powered character starts getting used to normal life. Anzu's reaction is right in line with what we'd expect, but of course Hinamatsuri has something up its sleeve here. The revelations that Kei is just a regular human who hates her job, and that she's absolutely terrified of Hina, make for a great twist on this storyline and help to set up plenty of entertaining moments. Kei's observation of Hina plays to the show's absurd style of humor, though the most striking thing is the way that Hina unknowingly shatters Kei's expectations. We're used to seeing people freak out when Hina says something bizarre or throws vases around with her mind, but this storyline flips that dynamic on its head. For once, the surprise is that Hina's actions are perfectly normal. It's a clever move on the show's part; ordinary things can be shocking (not to mention funny) when you're anticipating something absurd.
Once Kei has been sufficiently dazzled by Hina's ability to function in human society, the episode takes an odd detour into a completely different plotline. Admittedly, it was probably inevitable that a character like Mami would be introduced at some point. As an occult junkie, she's well-suited to annoy the heck out of Hina, who ends up playing the comedic straight man to Mami's delusional ravings. I love the image of an exasperated Hina levitating rocks in front of Mami, who is absolutely convinced that she herself is making them float. The ending to this story is a bit predictable as Mami's attempt to show off in front of the class goes disastrously wrong, but the execution is so strong that it's still a fun scene. It's a well-told little story from beginning to end, but its placement still leaves me scratching my head. Dropping it in the middle of this episode creates some narrative whiplash as we jump from Kei's story to Mami's and back again, and I can't help but wonder if this bit would have fit in better at the beginning of the episode.
Regardless of how we get there, the final third of this episode is worth the wait. The comedic chemistry between Hina and Kei at the restaurant is impressive for a first encounter, and Hina's powers go out of control in hilarious fashion as she struggles to tell Nitta about her impending departure. That sets up a genuinely touching farewell between Hina and Nitta, with both characters trying to hide their feelings in the car, which in turn sets up a fantastic twist as we learn that Hina can't go back because Nitta threw out her teleporter ball. Not content to stop there, Hinamatsuri turns the tables yet again by having Hina make her triumphant return to the apartment, only to walk in on Nitta celebrating the fact that she is (or at least was) finally out of his hair. All of these sudden reversals of fortune should make this storyline a tonal mess, but somehow it all works. After all the inspired lunacy of the previous seven episodes, it feels perfectly normal to swap between drama and comedy in such a rapid-fire manner. As we already saw with Anzu's new family, Hinamatsuri has developed an uncanny ability to start poking fun at its most emotional moments as soon as they happen.
Apart from the strange placement of the Mami storyline, this is yet another strong showing from Hinamatsuri. The introduction of a character like Kei usually signals that a series is going into serious drama mode, but some clever ideas and strong delivery keep the comedy going full steam ahead. There's a sense of giddy, reckless enthusiasm in the way this show plays with genre conventions and audience expectations. It has repeatedly gone all-in on jokes and plot twists that could easily end in disaster, and so far it's always found a way to stick the landing. I can honestly say that I have no idea what's going to happen next week, and that's a fantastic feeling to have. Bring on the next episode.
Hinamatsuri is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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