Review

by Nick Creamer,

Hinamatsuri

Episodes 1-12 streaming

Synopsis:
Hinamatsuri—Episodes 1-12 streaming
Up-and-coming yakuza Nitta has it all figured out. Nitta isn't a stone-cold killer or a rugged street tough; he's a high-class businessman, and finds no greater joy than in spending his ill-gotten fortunes on tasteful vases for his apartment. But when a mysterious girl suddenly pops into existence in the middle of his home, Nitta's carefully calibrated world will come tumbling down. Introducing herself as Hina, this girl apparently has psychic powers, and could very easily crush Nitta with an errant thought. But Hina isn't so interested in crushing, and would rather have tasty snacks and a place to sleep. From a glitzy life as a powerful yakuza, Nitta is going to quickly find himself reduced to a more domestic lifestyle, as he works to raise one very strange new daughter.
Review:

You wouldn't think a show about a family composed of a yakuza mobster and a psychic alien girl could be described as “warm and relatable,” but Hinamatsuri is weird in more ways than that. Idly combining trenchant commentary on homelessness, running child labor gags, and an episode-long Castaway parody, Hinamatsuri is a show of contradictions, whose comedy often comes from the convoluted absurdity of its narrative choices. I'd say “Hinamatsuri is greater than the sum of its parts,” but in truth, it actually feels like the opposite is true. Hinamatsuri is ultimately a little less than the sum of its parts, but fortunately, most of those parts are very charming and extremely funny.

Hinamatsuri first introduces us to Nitta, an ambitious yakuza whose reliability makes him a key pillar of his yakuza family. Nitta isn't some bloodthirsty street tough; he's a businessman through and through, and spends his free time purchasing and appreciating beautiful vases. But one day, his peace and his vases are shattered by the appearance of Hina, a strange girl who pops out of thin air in his apartment demanding food. Nitta rightly tells this girl to get lost, but when she levitates all of his furniture and then smashes it on the ground, he decides there may be some room for negotiation.

From there, Hinamatsuri builds up an unlikely and weirdly charming familial relationship between our two leads. Hina is our selfish, deadpan, and largely oblivious agent of chaos, pulling off awkwardly inappropriate one-liners and “fixing” problems with her powers in the worst ways possible. Nitta is our long-suffering straight man, fixing up Hina's messes and doing his best to survive life with a terror child. Over time, the two of them grow to genuinely care about each other, with their slow road to becoming an actual family offering Hinamatsuri's strongest hook.

“Found family comedies” are a pretty common concept, but Hinamatsuri elevates itself through its consistently smart execution. The show's director, Kei Oikawa, first came to my attention through his terrific work on the second season of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, and many of the same strengths of timing and physicality that bolstered that show are apparent here as well. Quick pratfalls and the pacing of banter are raised to high art in this show, as Oikawa's brilliant understanding of comedic timing turns minimalist gags into actual highlights. The rapport between Nitta and Hina is so witty and so well-realized that it could probably carry the show alone, even without any other jokes.

Of course, there are also plenty of other jokes. Along with Nitta and Hina's found family gags, Hinamatsuri eventually broadens to focus on a variety of other protagonists, including Hina's fellow psychic girl Anzu and their classmate Hitomi. Anzu's material is generally a nearly lethal dosage of warm fuzzies; instead of being adopted by a well-to-do yakuza, she is taken in by the local homeless community, and her process of maturing and finding her own family is as heartfelt and devastating as Hina's is funny and absurd. Anzu almost feels like she comes from a different show entirely, but her material is so heartbreakingly earnest that I'm not sure I could survive it as a full production.

On Hitomi's side, her central gag is basically “oh god, oh god, why is any of this happening to me.” Conscripted early on as an underage bartender, she spends the rest of the show slowly become a prematurely aged working stiff, running multiple part-time jobs and accidentally networking her way to financial security. Hitomi's material is funny at times, but it also exemplifies Hinamatsuri's tendency to overplay its running gags, as well as its frustrating over-reliance on precisely one exaggerated expression. When Hinamatsuri's gags are combined with endearing character drama, they soar - when they're isolated as comedy, they can occasionally wear a little thin.

Hinamatsuri's aesthetic execution is similarly strong on the whole, but with caveats. The show's character designs are distinctive and expressive, and the show is able to pull off some great faces when it's not relying on that one “mouth open, teeth showing, heavy shadow” look. The show's greatest aesthetic strength might well be its sense of timing; many of its jokes work largely because the show understands the importance of cutting gags tightly, and only letting buildups breath when they can carry that weight. The animation is inconsistent, but what animation does exist is dedicated to some terrific character acting - what resources this show has, it uses very well.

On the whole, Hinamatsuri just has too many dud segments for me to call it a genuinely top-tier comedy, but it's still a very funny and even more endearing production. Outstanding highlights may actually make for a better show in memory than a truly consistent comedy; the weakness of Hitomi's material will probably fade in my mind, but I can't imagine forgetting terrific segments like “castaway girl makes coconut friends for half an episode” or “Hina helps clean Nitta's apartment.” Hinamatsuri is an imperfect show, but it's funny and smartly executed and has a whole lot of heart. This family is definitely worth your time.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B

+ Hina and Nitta's relationship is as charming as it is hilarious, Anzu's material will break your heart, and it's all delivered with a keen understanding of comedic timing
Hitomi's material is too repetitive, the show's strike ratio for jokes is uneven, and it relies too heavily on one specific reaction face

Director: Kei Oikawa
Series Composition: Keiichirō Ōchi
Episode Director:
Takafumi Fujii
Yoshimichi Hirai
Onion Kaneshō
Katsura Matsubara
Makoto Nakata
Munenori Nawa
Tatsuya Sasaki
Akira Yamada
Music: Yasuhiro Misawa
Original creator: Masao Ohtake
Character Design: Kanetoshi Kamimoto
Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara
Chief Animation Director: Kanetoshi Kamimoto
Sound Director: Satoshi Motoyama
Director of Photography: Yuuta Nakamura

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Hinamatsuri (TV)

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