by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun ?
It looks like Mitsuba just can't catch a break. The second act of “The Hell of Mirrors” solidified his role as a recurring character that's here to stay, but I wouldn't exactly call it a happy outcome. Mitsuba may be an apparition, but Tsukasa is able to control him by exploiting some very human weaknesses. This marked our second-to-last week watching Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun, and as a penultimate episode this wrap-up felt underwhelming. In a season that has repeatedly raised the stakes and given us increasingly beautiful, emotional, and frightening storylines, this episode focused more on exposition and dialogue than moving the plot along. Some poignant glimpses into Mitsuba's psyche made this week worth watching, but the wrap-up as a whole made me worried that the show's finale is going to leave a lot left unsaid.
It's no surprise that Hanako-kun and Kou can't get into the third School Wonder's Boundary; little do they know, Number Three is no longer of this (or any other) world. They learn from Hanako-kun's former teacher about a backdoor route through Yako's former Boundary, and this explanation is really for the audience, since there's no way Hanako-kun doesn't already know. Every part of their journey with Yako feels like foreshadowing, though in a vague way that probably won't make sense until after I see the finale. Yako's Boundary is beautiful now, provoking the question of whether Boundaries are better off without the authority of School Wonders, who are so vulnerable to humans twisting their rumors. Yako's explanation that she's the same person who once attacked the gang with scissors reads like a warning: even somebody like Mitsuba contains darkness that bad actors can manipulate. If there's a future showdown with Mitsuba, it won't be because Tsukasa somehow changed him. They (and Kou especially) will have to come to terms with the fact that Mitsuba had that potential all along.
That's not to say that Tsukasa isn't a terrible influence on Mitsuba. From his gleeful eyes to his fanged smile, Tsukasa has the playful and sinister aura of a child tearing the legs off a bug. He appeals to Mitsuba's deepest desire—to not disappear, to not be forgotten—to coax him into eating the third School Wonder's heart and acquiring his monstrous qualities. (Mitsuba's culminating design looks uncomfortably like an Angel from Neon Genesis Evangelion.) When Nene attempts to appeal to Mitsuba's better nature, Tsukasa nearly throttles her before remembering that he was told (by Sakura, probably) to disable her gently. Tsukasa's tenderness with Nene, his bloody-handed touch, is like a horrific mirror of his twin. Like a distorted image, his voice and mannerisms are deceptively familiar… until we are once again reminded that Tsukasa's meanness (or is it madness?) is bottomless. We still know so little about him. What incited Amane to commit fratricide? Which one is really the evil twin?
After a lot of back-and-forth between the characters, the most endearing part of the episode is when Kou finally harnesses Yako's earlier advice and grasps a thread of Mitsuba's humanity in the silly nicknames he gives to Hanako and Kou (“Crazy Knife” would make a great band name; “Lame-ass Traffic Safety Earring” is maybe too much of a mouthful). If Tsukasa hadn't interfered, Kou might have been able to save the day with the power of friendship alone. Though the after-credits scene establishes Mitsuba's new lease on the afterlife, the finale, titled “The Little Mermaid,” might ignore this week's events entirely. I really hope Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun gets a second season because this may be episode 11, but it feels like the story is only now getting started.
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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