Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun
Episode 12

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun ?

I'm not ready to say goodbye to Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun yet, and especially not like this, with so much left undone. Even the final episode itself seems hesitant to end things on this note, making a great case for a second season with each main character providing a laundry list of goals and aspirations for the future. A well-received anime based on a popular, ongoing manga with tons of yet-unanimated content, this show would normally be a shoo-in for a season two. But in this uncertain, imperfect world under lockdown, in which announced sequels are already experiencing production delays, this finale did not conclude with the season two announcement I was hoping for. It's no wonder this episode's half-hearted attempt to bring the story full circle falls flat—there's still so much more it has to say.

It should be no surprise that “The Little Mermaid” of the title is actually Nene. It's a brief, low-stakes effort to wrap up the plotline that began in episode one. But just as it endeavors to conclude, every part of this storyline feels like a continuation. We see Nene's home for the first time, and her pet hamster, Black Canyon. Nene repeatedly reflects on all the things she still doesn't know about Hanako-kun, even as she comes to terms with (or at least finally does not deny) her evolving romantic feelings for him. While Nene is pondering this, Hanako-kun appears in class with her, and undertakes the quietly intimate task of combing and styling her hair, all the while enviously protesting Nene's concern for their friend Kou (instead of giving all her attention to him). Hanako is clearly in love with Nene, and Nene's words to Aoi suggest that she's starting to admit her feelings, too. But there's no resolution here because how would a relationship between a human and an apparition even work? The parallel between Kou and Mitsuba's friendship, which was over before it had a chance to begin, is undeniable here.

This is the hook that leads to the central conflict of the episode. A pair of fish ghosts recruit Nene by appealing to her boy-crazy heart and yearning to be popular. They tell her that her body won't transform in the water anymore, conveniently failing to mention that it's because she'll be a fish 24-7. There's a fundamental misunderstanding at play in this proposal: the Porcupine Fish and Un-Un think that by turning her into an apparition, Nene will be free of Hanako-kun. But from Nene's perspective, one of the benefits of becoming an apparition might be to become closer to him. She consults various allies about what to do (pointedly ignoring Kou, whom she worries is too fixated on what happened to Mitsuba to focus on her problems, and she'd be correct), but nobody gives her the answer she wants: that staying herself, at Hanako's side, is the best course of action. Tsuchigomori is especially hesitant to tell Nene what she wants to hear. As the apparition who has known Hanako-kun the longest, he's the most likely to realize that Nene's humanity is only the first obstacle their relationship would need to overcome.

“What happened to Hanako-kun in the past? Who's Tsukasa?” Nene's questions to Tsuchigomori remind us that we, the audience, know hardly anything about Hanako's past. Meanwhile, as Kou spends this episode lost in thought about how to help Mitsuba, we realize just how many plot threads this show has left hanging. The episode's end can hardly be called a conclusion, simply a revisitation of each cast member, checking in on where they are at what feels like merely a midpoint in the story. That's what makes it so hard to say goodbye to Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun. This show looked fantastic with its creepy-cute character design and evocative dark-fairytale backdrops. There wasn't much in the way of animation, but its sequential manga-panel format made up for it with style. From start to finish, Hanako-kun was delightfully immersive with comic, horror, and romantic elements that melded together beautifully. But it's far from finished, and this finale can't pretend otherwise.

Rating:

Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is currently streaming on FUNimation.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist and model kits at Gunpla 101.


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