The perpetually single Nene just wants a boyfriend but finds herself attached to the incorporeal Hanako-kun, a male ghost that hangs out in the girls' bathroom and grants wishes for a price. The series' focus on Japanese Ghost Stories is mostly played for laughs but is there an emotional core to Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun?
You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun here!
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Andy, I don't know if I've ever told you this, but when I was a small child I used to watch The Little Mermaid
pretty much daily. Every kid has that one movie they watch over and over, and that was mine. Two decades later I'm revisiting my childhood favorite, but uh, something seems a little off here.
That's because like all Disney classics it has been updated and improved. I'm just glad they didn't go live-action for once. I don't even want to know what Ursula here would look like with Will Smith's face CG'ed on her.
This one does have a lot more squishy anime blob faces though, so you win some, you lose some.
Also instead of an octopus witch, it's some jerk who lives in a toilet and might possibly be the ghost of a murderer. But close enough.
Japan has some weird cryptids, and one of them happens to be Moaning Myrtle, and now that we've hit the year 2020 someone was finally brave enough to say fuck gender roles and gave us this smug murder boy.
Our Hanako-kun here is the ghost of a murderer long deceased whose goals in the (after)life are to clean the bathroom, dunk on his doughy human assistant, and keep other supernatural entities from wreaking too much havoc, approximately in that order.
The main difference between the Japanese and British versions of this ghost are that while one floods bathrooms because of a giant snake, the other has done all kinds of stuff throughout the history of their stories. Things as benign as vaguely scaring children to as extreme as yanking people down to hell. In this case Hanako-san gets by granting wishes and taking payment in return, but he hasn't done much of that until an extremely bullyable client comes along.
Of all the suckers to get entangled in dumb supernatural nonsense, Nene's probably one of the dorkiest. She's trying so hard to not be a mess, but when your best friend lives in a bathroom you can't claim to be entirely on top of your shit.
Hanako's well aware that whatever Nene has resembling a brain is firmly stuck to the outside of her head where a face would go, so naturally he abuses the hell out of that knowledge to give the kids watching at home a steady supply of goofy faces.
That dynamic is pretty much the core appeal of Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun
—I couldn't care less about the supernatural shenanigans, but the chemistry between the show's two leads is charming enough. They're cute and worth a chuckle or two, which is honestly plenty.
It looks good sometimes! There's some genuinely unsettling imagery in this show, lots of evocative layouts for the horror bits. At other times it's unsettling for entirely different reasons.
The Confession Tree isn't picky about gender when playing matchmaker. A true ally to bland best friend characters everywhere.
I do appreciate how hard the show goes out of its way to dunk on a side character that we never see again.
Speaking of characters who get roasted, how 'bout Minamoto the younger?
His introduction is everything you'd expect and more.
I also love that it literally takes multiple episodes for Nene to put 1 + 1 = 2 together.
TNL (Today Nene Learned): people who share a surname and look similar are probably related. Usually this kind of confusion occurs when you know someone's first name but not their last, not the other way around. Anyway Kou's trying his best, but his brother Teru got most of the brain cells allotted to their family so he's kind of out of luck when it comes to being a competent exorcist and whatnot.
Sure his brother is the better exorcist, but this boy can do something his older brother can't, and that's:
Great, now I'm imagining a three-way crossover between EVOL, Knives Out,
where Daniel Craig is just there. You know you want yokai adventures featuring Daniel Craig, make it happen you cowards! Kou also has something else his brother doesn't though: the innocence to be compassionate towards the creatures he's supposed to slay, even when they accuse him of being a filthy weeb.
Boy does he. I didn't expect the show to go where it did on that.
I mentioned earlier that it takes awhile to get into the plot, roughly episode 6 out of the 8 currently aired, and even then it's usually a spooky mystery plot. So I was mostly following along with the fun little Yokai arcs. Nothing too emotionally involved or anything, just some good ol' fun. And then Episode 8. A Kou episode. One that has zero Nene and only a scant minute of Hanako. What should just be a sidestory for funsies. It happens.
A Kou episode co-starring this absolute piece of work, no less. And somehow it works.
First up, it's pretty messed up that the yokai have to live up to their reputations to the letter. They only exist because of the popular imagination, and if their public perception changes they have to roll with it or go bye-bye. That's a lot of pressure to put on ghosts and sentient peeps! Now extend that to a kid who struggles to make friends and is generally disliked. Rumors spread, and now his ghost has to be exactly what everyone thought he was, be that jerk or creep or nobody, on top of doing all the regular ghost stuff.
That'd be better honestly! Because this poor jerk ass ghost child didn't let anyone see that side of him. He got bullied so bad for standing out as a kid that by middle school he tried his best to fit in. Yet in the end all it gets him is kids spreading a rumor about his death but they can't even remember anything about who he really was.
In the end he can't move on because he so desperately wants someone, anyone, to acknowledge his existence and care about who he is, or rather was.
Kou tags along with Mitsuba's Instagram journey believing that'll get him to let go of his regrets in life, but eventually Mitsuba figures out what exactly he wanted—and it's an attachment stronger than any hobby could've ever been.
And then the episode ends. Right there. Nothing gets ruined by this horrible Nega-Hanako and I don't feel obliterated inside.
The reasoning is that since Mitsuba's already dead, he can't truly form new connections with the living—but that's pretty blatantly not true, if Hanako's affection (?) for his human pals is any indication. Not that that matters when Hanako's evil twin is out here murdering people who are already dead.
The problem is even if it's true, Nega-Hanako doesn't give a shit about what the dead want nor their restrictions.
Don't make deals with evil toilet ghosts, kids. Friendly toilet ghosts are OK though.
Our little jackass was too good for this world. Or perhaps the shadowy figures going around spreading false rumors are to blame. We don't know quite yet what they're doing this all for, but I'd guess some combination of revenge, power, and/or screwing with people just for the hell of it.
It's a hell of an episode, and I'm honestly impressed that the show turned this doofus into a kid who insists on compassion even when the people in his life discourage it. All he wants to do is keep people from suffering, whether they be dead or alive.
Kou has it rough, but sometimes you gotta be the one to step up and grasp that donut if no one else can.
Luckily he has a couple of good (?) friends around him that can maybe lend a hand if they ever feel like it (Hanako) or remember to (Nene).
The two of them are birds of a brainless feather. Bless their hearts. Overall, I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of Hanako-kun, but it sometimes turns out some pretty good stuff. The show feels a little disposable at times, but its moments of legit pathos are solid.
Each little yokai arc has its own internal theme and character that come across really well, and now that the plot is kicking in it has solidified that it was definitely worth my time. And it gave me the mokkes.
Love these stupid pink blobs.