Hinamatsuri is part absurdist comedy, part sentimental sap, and all too unusual to summarize. This week, Michelle and Steve do their best to explain what makes this odd show special.
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Hey Micchy. Purely hypothetical question, but let's say a dimensional warp opened in your home and a giant metal egg with a small anime girl face was, at this very moment, sitting in your living room staring at you. What, hypothetically, would you do?
also please help
there's only one answer
Truly the solution to all of life's problems!
Disclaimer: don't be surprised if the problem is still there the next morning
The "problem" here happens to be a psychic girl with a ravenous craving for expensive sushi, no biggie. Working as a hitman for the yakuza? No problem. Being a surrogate dad for a psychokinetic child who will break all your prized vases if she gets upset? That's a little harder. What I'm saying is our central duo in HINAMATSURI is pretty wacky.
Even in the wide world of anime, that description is pretty weird. But Hinamatsuri's brand of weirdness really defies explanation. It has to be seen to be believed.
Like, how do I begin to explain what's happening here?
Weird is right! HINAMATSURI is sometimes a comedy, sometimes a drama about found families, and sometimes a competition in goofy faces, which is how you know this is our kind of anime, specifically.
It's one of my favorite shows of the season. It's a bizarre mix of several genres, and on paper there's nothing to suggest that it could work at all, but in practice it's brilliant. It all comes down to Hinamatsuri's command of its tone, which bounces all over the place but still manages to stay grounded to its characters. It's also funny as heck and has some of the best comedic timing I've seen from an anime. In our opening bit, they spend the perfect amount of time between when Nitta is surprised by Hina's egg dropping and when he casually decides the best course of action is to walk away.
Or when Nitta tries to bribe Hina with her favorite food, he doesn't even have to finish his sentence before she agrees. HINAMATSURI is snappy when it needs to be, indulges in awkward pauses when it's funnier to do so, and almost never mistimes a joke.
I'm kind of biased, because deadpan absurdism is my favorite mode of comedy, and Hinamatsuri is practically dripping in it. My few (embarrassingly bad) attempts at writing comedy were all in that vein, so it's nice to see that tone executed on so well.
The characters all play off each other really nicely. Anzu's the brash lil squirt to contrast with Hina's complete deadpan delivery, while Nitta's off to the side there wondering what the hell his life has even become.
By the second episode, Nitta's already moved on from being afraid of Hina to being sick of these kids and their superpowers. It's great. Plus he makes for a surprisingly thoughtful and caring dad.
The answer to that question is "no not really".
that's what friends are for
Nitta and Hina in particular walk this weird line between a father/daughter dynamic and friendly ribbing. It makes for damn good comedy, but I think the appeal of the show is more than the yuks.
Small anime girls who speak in monotone are a dime a dozen these days, but Hina stands out for having such great and varied chemistry with the people around her. The way she talks to Nitta is different from how she talks to Hitomi, and even though she's mostly an incorrigible brat, she's got a good heart where it counts. And that extends to the rest of the cast as well. Among all of the psychic power antics, shady yakuza deals, and seedy locales, Hinamatsuri is actually a sweet story about finding family in the least likely places.
Yeah, beneath the absurdist comedy, Hinamatsuri's got a lotta heart. Like, Anzu's petty theft is played for laughs most of the time, but the show's also sympathetic to her plight. She's essentially stranded in the city with nobody to help, and she has to bend some rules to survive.
Even if she does make grown men piss their pants.
To be fair, those clothes plus the side ponytail make for an extremely powerful look.
It's hard to look bad in threads you stole off a literal biker gang.
Thankfully, Anzu gets taken in by a group of homeless men who show her the ropes of living on the street. While there's no good reason for her not to live with Hina and Nitta aside from her own stubbornness, Anzu's touched when they accept her as one of their own. Like most of the show, the context is bizarre, but the feelings are heartwarming.
I too want to protect this child and watch her grow.
And then there's Hina and Nitta's relationship. When Nitta decides to stop letting Hina eat up all his free time, she understandably gets upset but doesn't know how to deal.
Luckily, their bartender friend Utako saves the day with rock-solid advice.
Hina and Nitta might interact primarily through food-related transactions, but there's affection there. Somewhere.
Nitta can deny it all he wants, but the internet knows the truth.
Side note: between this show and the release of Yakuza 6, it's been quite a month for yakuza dads.
I'll drink to that!
I also love that Nitta accidentally taught Hina how to handle problems.
There's a genuinely sad moment when Nitta wonders aloud how he can exploit Hina's psychic powers for monetary gain, at which point she immediately clams up. She's so used to people telling her what to do that she has trouble trusting adults.
Hinamatsuri doesn't go all the way to show us what she went through, but it tells us enough to paint a rough picture. Hina and Anzu are lonely kids who've been neglected all their lives, so the pseudo-families they've formed are all they have.
Nitta might be a yakuza, but he's still not black-hearted enough to exploit a child against her will. We don't know too much about where Hina came from yet, but it's touching to see her able to live like a (mostly) normal child thanks to Nitta and the rest of her friends.
And speaking of her friends, we need to talk about the very talented Hitomi.
Let's be real, it's mostly Hina's fault that she got into this whole bartending gig in the first place. Hitomi's an interesting anomaly in the show, as the straight-laced normal character who's mostly there for comedy.
Hitomi is the relatable goody-two-shoes who just happens to moonlight as Japan's #1 Underage Prodigy Bartender.
she is very normal, yes
In the weird Hinamatsuri fashion, the way Hitomi gets into bartending is kind of wholesome, and everyone praises her for it, and she genuinely enjoys being good at it. In any other show I'd be raising my eyebrows, but here I'm nothing but supportive for her and her dreams.
That's really the word to describe Hinamatsuri: wholesome. It doesn't have a mean bone in its body, even as it pokes fun at these weird loser kids with powers beyond their control.
What's the harm in a few cracked necks anyway?
Exactly! It's constantly silly but never mean-spirited. If anything it's about the fundamental good you can find in people, no matter their circumstances or their backgrounds.
Everyone from the emotionally stunted psychic child to the literal hitman to the weird drunk guy at the bar has things they care about and people they love. Nitta's a gangster, but he's also known around town as the guy who's trying to spend more time with his "daughter" and isn't that just sweet?
I still couldn't exactly tell you how it pulls this off, but I hope Hinamatsuri can keep up its absurdly wholesome and wholesomely absurd tone. It's the only show I can think of where I was cheering as a young girl galloped alongside her surrogate dad on the way to a cabaret club.
Geez, the characters in this show are irresponsible as hell. Please do not encourage your underage psychic child to pour champagne into the champagne tower.
couldn't say no to this face.
Despite the zillion warning bells, Hinamatsuri manages to be both goofy and sentimental at the drop of a hat. I don't know how this black magic works, but I love it. At the end of the day, everyone's a dork and nobody knows what's going on, but it doesn't really matter because they're having fun, dammit. There might be some shadowy conspiracy behind the scenes looking to get Hina and Anzu out of the way, but honestly, who cares?
My reaction to the first episode was, verbatim, "i don't know what the f*** Hinamatsuri is but I love it". And I still stand by that. It's an uncommonly wonderful show, and there's nothing quite like it airing right now.
My first reaction was "if Stranger Things were all about Eleven's quest for Eggo waffles" and yeah, that's still about right.
Shit, you're right.
Hinamatsuri is probably not for everyone; who knows where the supernatural bullshit is going, if anywhere at all? But if you're looking for offbeat yet wholesome comedies, this is just the thing for you.
also if you like funny cartoon faces
It takes smart writing, snappy directing, and snazzy animation to make an anime this beautifully dumb. Watch it, or be stuck in an egg for eternity.