Hinamatsuri Episodes 1-3
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 1 of
How would you rate episode 2 of
How would you rate episode 3 of
Hinamatsuri is a curious combination of two seemingly incompatible pieces. It starts off with a truckload of absurd comedy, as a girl in an egg-shaped metal pod teleports into a high-rise apartment and lands on the head of a wealthy young yakuza tough. The girl in question is named Hina, and she immediately starts making herself at home in the apartment. This doesn't sit well with Nitta, the yakuza guy, but he's entirely too afraid of Hina's telekinetic powers to kick her out. As the two begin their unlikely cohabitation, the show's second half starts to take shape. It turns out that Hinamatsuri is also an “unconventional family unit” story, with Nitta playing a reluctant surrogate father to the super-powered girl who's suddenly taken up residence in his home. This doesn't always go over well with Nitta's yakuza comrades, and a shadowy organization has begun sending other extraordinary individuals after Hina, but the two of them find a way to make their new life work (mostly).
Calling Hinamatsuri's sense of humor “absurd” is frankly an understatement. In its first three episodes, the series absolutely revels in its weirdness. The egg-pod that delivers Hina is one of the silliest-looking props I've seen in quite some time, and her interactions with Nitta and the supporting cast are frequently ridiculous. Thankfully, the show has the comedic timing and delivery needed to back that weirdness up. I'd compare its approach to something along the lines of Nichijou or Cromartie High School, in that it throws out plenty of bizarre ideas but never makes a big deal out of them. Hina's calm demeanor and deadpan dialogue help sell the notion that everything she does makes perfect sense in her head, and Nitta strikes a good balance between exasperation and helpless resignation as the show's straight man. By the end of the second episode, that “go with the flow” delivery is so polished that it seems perfectly reasonable for Nitta to lead Hina and a diverse parade of drunken revelers to a cabaret club with the entire group chanting merrily in unison.
Then we have the more emotional side of the story, which works reasonably well despite sharing the screen with frequent bouts of inspired lunacy. The dynamic between Nitta and Hina is interesting, and the first episode does a fine job of establishing them as a pseudo-family through a neatly paced story arc. After the shock of their initial encounter, Nitta begins to grudgingly accept Hina's presence, and she starts to feel at home in his apartment. This is challenged when Nitta realizes that Hina's powers could be useful for making quick money, and Hina immediately picks up on the fact that Nitta is starting to act like the people in whatever organization she escaped from. Nitta in turn realizes that Hina has been exploited for her powers most of her life, and he chooses to take the high road by accepting his new role as her weird, single, adoptive yakuza dad. This doesn't stop Nitta from raging against the demise of his old life in later episodes, and he's far from an ideal role model, but there's enough warmth here to give this comedy a beating heart.
The balancing act between these two disparate halves is generally successful, with a few exceptions. Hinamatsuri makes the smart move of acknowledging Hina's unpleasant past without ever wallowing in its potential melodrama. Even when she mows down a rival gang in an attempt to help Nitta out of a jam, she does so in a charmingly non-lethal way, with each baddie crying, “Ouchy!” after being flung out of a window. Her first faceoff with fellow telekinetic girl Anzu is handled in similar fashion, with Nitta turning the potentially violent encounter into a hilariously intense game of rock-paper-scissors. By keeping its more dramatic moments relatively lighthearted, the show minimizes the potential tonal whiplash of switching between telling jokes and playing house.
That said, there are a few misses mixed in with the hits. The process by which Hina's middle school classmate Hitomi is blackmailed into becoming an apprentice bartender can get kind of uncomfortable if you look beyond its purpose as a comedy routine, and the brief period in which Nitta avoids Hina in order to focus on his dating life doesn't exactly make him look like the world's best father. While these moments aren't enough to derail the overall experience, they do offer an indication of how difficult it will be for Hinamatsuri to keep all of its moving parts in sync with one another.
For a comedy, Hinamatsuri boasts reasonably strong production values. Its art style may be fairly ordinary, but the animation is good enough to sell big moments like Hina's telekinetic overload as well as small things like changes in characters' body language as they react to unexpected situations. The series is somewhat unusual within its genre in that it doesn't rely much on simplified or cartoonish facial expressions to sell its jokes. Don't get me wrong, the characters make some truly ridiculous faces, but they do so without breaking too far away from the show's standard art style. This ultimately works in Hinamatsuri's favor, as avoiding the typical chibi reaction shots helps bolster the understated tone that the story relies on.
Hinamatsuri is a willfully and unapologetically weird show, but there's something charming about its willingness to throw logic out the window. It's taken on a couple of big challenges in these early episodes; this style of comedy is extremely reliant on consistently strong delivery, and getting the humor to mesh with the more emotional content will always be tough. While the execution hasn't been perfect thus far, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses by a healthy margin. It's difficult to tell how this will all play out in the long run, but right now I'm just enjoying the ride. If you prefer your comedies on the “weird and creative” end of the genre spectrum, Hinamatsuri should be on your watch-list.
Hinamatsuri is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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