by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun ?
Help, my friends and family think I'm obsessed with an anime about some guy with the runs! That's because they're not familiar with the urban legend of Hanako-san, Japan's home-grown Moaning Myrtle, a girl who haunts the bathroom Bloody Mary style until you summon her. Still, Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is a show that is so much more than the myth. With funny, fast-paced narrative, distinctive character designs, and heaps of visual style, this show is my pick for the best fantasy anime of the winter season.
I'd be remiss not to mention the talent that is packed into the show's roster. For example, Megumi Ogata (Kurama from Yu-Yu Hakusho, Nagito Komaeda from Danganronpa) headlines as Hanako-kun, packing mirth and not a little mischief into her performance. Director Masaomi Andō, who I recognize from Scum's Wish and Astra Lost in Space, puts his signature on the show with his trademark manga panels as focal points. However, Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is more than the sum of its parts, offering a creepy-cute style that is reminiscent of '00s-circa Hot Topic. This modern dark fairy-tale stars Nene, a girl with decidedly Powerpuff Girls “daikon legs” who is unlucky in love, the viewer quickly realizes, because she's boy-crazy in general rather than stuck on any particular guy. But there's something unusual about Nene too, as she's able to summon Hanako-kun, the impish spirit who occupies the girls' bathroom. For all of his playfulness, there's an aura of unsettling mystery about Hanako, too—why did he come to haunt the girls' bathroom and not the boys'? Has he ever really used that kitchen knife on somebody?—that comes across in Ogata's vocals.
Beginning with their first meeting, Nene and Hanako's relationship progresses through a quick comedy of errors, adding real humor to a show that might have been a simple fairytale or scary story. Predictably, their attempts to get Nene noticed by her bland sempai fail, but quite unpredictably, Nene misuses one of Hanako's charms and accidentally transforms into a goldfish with her life in danger. Talk about a mood shift! Both episodes we've seen so far have teetered this unusual balance—alternating light comedy and mortal peril. This works, for now, playing off of the show's strong design concept: these goth but squeezable character designs are tailor-made for a show that goes either way, so why not both? What started in the pilot doubles down in “Yousei-san,” which introduces a powerful worldbuilding schema on the premise that the human whisper network is what compels spirits to be as menacing or gentle as peoples' minds can imagine. This concept is reinforced visually through the old-timey radio and Revolutionary Girl Utena-reminiscent “have you heard?” refrain for something that feels truly all-encompassing to the show's central message.
As the show introduces a third main character, the hapless exorcist Minamoto Kou, there's a feeling that Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun has developed an expansive world of which we've only just scratched the surface so far. I'm excited to spend more time in this enchanting world that is at once a funny school comedy and a creepy old-fashioned fairy tale that isn't guaranteed to get a happy Disney ending. Aside from hooking me for the rest of the season, it has also compelled me to check out the manga Hanako-kun is based on. Rebecca Silverman has the review for it here.
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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