by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun ?
It's true: you can stick any two characters from Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun together for instant entertainment. These characters are so established that the dialogue flows so naturally no matter who is talking to whom. This week, Mitsuba makes a surprising return, only this time he's bullying Nene instead of Kou. This episode ends on a decidedly dark note that feels like a jolt from the innocuous humor with which it begins, and its status as the first of two parts means we get no reassurance that it'll lighten up again. Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun has been walking a fine line between comedy and horror, and “Hell of Mirrors” threatens to push it into the latter. This is not the same show I started watching this January, but it's still just as gripping.
“Hell of Mirrors” is a fantastic pun, and so is the fact that it's the third School Wonder that Mitsuba (who spells his name with the character for “third” which can be pronounced “mitsu”) finds himself trapped in. I never expected Mitsuba to be a recurring character, because it seemed pretty clear cut what it meant when Hanako-kun put him out of his misery. There's definitely something fishy going on, especially with Mitsuba's control over the phantom hands and Tsukasa's cryptic words to him at the episode's end. But I can't say I'm not happy to see Mitsuba, and especially the way he interacts with Nene. Once she decides he's her type, the laughs are guaranteed because she never saw his acidic personality coming! It's great to see Nene's inner perception of herself as a wise senpai, fancy business attire and all, and funny to watch the recurring joke of Mitsuba's pivot between puppy-dog eyes and stink face. But while Nene can handle herself with Mitsuba, the real enemy this episode is her own self-perception, reflected back at her through the mirrors of the third School Wonder. I laughed to see Aoi acting so cruelly out of character, but to know that Nene is so insecure about her adorable “daikon legs” makes previous comments from other characters all the more insensitive!
In many ways, “Hell of Mirrors” follows the typical Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun Monster of the Week plot: Nene finds herself wrapped up in a spiritual conundrum, much banter occurs, and then Hanako-kun saves the day. Only this time, there's a dark twist that transforms the entire mood of the show. It's not Hanako-kun, but empty-eyed Tsukasa who saves Nene, and he does it by bloodily and callously disposing of the third School Wonder. I haven't felt the sort of internal record-scratch that occurred in my brain since the third episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I'd forgotten how cruel Tsukasa could be. With Mitsuba's reappearance, it felt like there might not really be consequences to his actions, that he's simply the same sort of chaotic mischief-maker as his twin. Now there can be no mistake that Tsukasa and Amane are nothing alike in anything except their looks. The cruelty Tsukasa displayed was jarring.
Now I'm left unsettled by an episode that started light and funny and took a U-Turn for the horrific. It's clear to me now what manga-readers have been saying about Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun not being the show I thought it was. This episode was as artistically gorgeous as always, but the content marked a major tonal shift. I can only hope that our fantastic protagonists are all going to get out of this okay.
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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