- Titles: Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun
- Genre: Comedy, drama, mystery, supernatural, romance, psychological, pretty colours
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Production Lerche
Do you remember how we got obsessed with silly little things in high school? Everything was the most important thing ever. And we wanted things like our lives depended on it. It makes for some fantastic highs and some really dramatic lows. I remember. And Nene Yashiro remembers although to be fair she is still going through it so that’s not the same thing. In fact, the Yashiro wants someone to fall for her so bad at the moment that she’s willing to summon up the legendary Hanako-san to get it. But the thing with wishes and legendary spirits, neither tends to be quite what we thought it would be. Will Nene get her wish or just end up working as an unpaid janitor for the remainder of her school years? And how are they going to deal with all the other legendary spirits starting to show up?
Ok, I know that many of you think that Lerche is not a very impressive studio as far as production values go, but between Assassination Classroom, Asobi Asobase and now Toilet-bound Hanako-kun, I’m personally impressed with how efficiently they can create unusual and unforgettable visuals. This was a very pretty show. It’s been a while since I took so many screencaps.
I remeber when Toilet-bound Hanako-kun was airing. It was on Funimation which I didn’t have yet and I was super jealous. Entirely because the screencaps I was seeing were bewitching to me. I ended up buying the first volume of the manga instead which of course wasn’t the same thing visually, but I read the first few pages then, you know how it happens sometimes, I got a bunch of other manga I had been waiting for and put Hanako-kun on the shelf for the time being.
After that, I got Funi and added Hanako-kun the anime to my to-watch list but the anticipation had weakened a bit in my head so I figured I would get to it when the gods of randomness told me to. Last January however, I made a promise to myself to not purchase any more manga until May or until I had finished all the volumes in the house. And being the petulant child that I am, proceeded to binge everything in the house as fast as I could. This is how Hanako-kun got back on my nightstand and I devoured it. I had liked those few first pages but I fell in love with that first volume. I immediately tried to buy volume two, remembered my ill-thought-out promise and started watching the anime that evening instead.
I’m telling you all this because having detailed expectations and a love for the source material is going to change how I take in an anime. And Hanako-kun kind of had everything going against it as far as I was concerned. I had already seen the visuals so they weren’t going to charm and surprise me, but they did lead me to expect so very high-quality production. Moreover, I had already created voices and performances for all these characters in my mind, that I had gotten attached to since I liked that first volume so much. The inevitable deviations were going to b a disappointment. Poor Hanako was doomed from the start (fitting if you’ve seen the series).
And this is what happened.
First, the visuals really are superb and even though I wasn’t surprised by them I remained charmed by the images until the last moment. I quite enjoy the designs and art style itself. Both of which are very faithful to the manga which often plays with line weight to give characters and objects a lot more impact. The style is striking and mixes some classic western animation elements with traditional anime trends. It’s cool lookin’.
But those colours, they are just magical. No way around it. Beautiful not entirely opaque rainbows of soft hues swim across every scene. It’s a world I want to live in!
But then, there are the other elements of anime to take into consideration. The animation for example. No, I really can’t say if this was a budgeting decision or an artistic one (maybe both) but the actual animation in Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is in fact very minimal. There are a lot of still panels sliding in and appearing that move the story forward as if it’s an animated manga, and even in normal scenes, the animation has a stop-motion or paper puppet quality to it that’s very striking. As if fewer frames are animated than should be. There are a few action or combat scenes that are quite fluid though.
Like I said, I don’t know if the was imposed by the resources or decided by the production theme to impart a certain atmosphere but I do think it fit particularly well with the story. It gave you the impression that someone was acting out urban legends for you before you go to bed or something. I liked it. And it made those detailed backgrounds, interesting character models and incredible colours, completely consistent throughout the entire 12 episodes. It can be a bit distracting at times though and there were certain moments where those panels and odd movements took me out of it.
The biggest production hurdle to win me over was always going to be the acting. Hanako, Yashiro and Kou already existed for me and I had a relationship with these characters. I wasn’t going to accept imposters! Yashiro was pretty much perfect. Exactly what I was envisioning in my head. And her friend Aoi was even better as I had her delivering lines as a much more vanilla nice girl in my head and her actress added some bite to the delivery that elevated the character. Kou was fine and got considerably better as he got more air time. But Hanako threw me off completely.
It’s tough to say now but I think that at the time I was expecting a slightly deeper and more ominous voice with a more playful performance. For the first episode, I kept getting this uncanny feeling whenever he spoke. Not that the performance was bad but it was so different than what I expected. It’s like biting into a chocolate bar and tasting cheesecake. I’m not angry but I’m very confused.
As the episodes progressed, that voice started getting under my skin. There were a lot of subtleties in the performance and as Hanako’s character started going through some more meaty events, his VA had a chance to stretch their acting chops a bit and they were good. Really good! At one point I started writing the note “who is Hanako’s voice actor” every single episode. I was mesmerized and a little smitten. I finally looked it up somewhere at the mid-point and was not at all surprised to find out it was the great Megumi Ogata.
I am and have been a fan of Megumi Ogata for years. Hanako is a fantastic performance that mesmerized me. I would also like to take this opportunity to let Ms. Ogata know that she should call me… I have no clue about her situation or orientation but I can change! I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to regardless of what the variables are and I’m ready!
Wow, I haven’t spent this much time on production value in a while. I really enjoyed the technical aspect of Hanako-kun. This is why it makes no sense for me to say that I think the story worked a bit better as a manga. Now, hear me out. You definitely should watch Toilet-bound Hanako-kun. In fact, if you can do only one (as in either watch or read it) you should watch it. That production should not be missed and I did enjoy the narrative thoroughly.
However, as you may have noticed from my genres tag, Toilet-bound Hanako-kun as a story juggles and plays with a lot of different genres and elements and I thought the balance was a bit better in the first volume of the manga. There’s a certain space and personal pacing to it. The anime was a bit too quick to move from one event to the other maybe. In any case, you should do both read and watch if you can!
The story itself is more or less a mystery of the week. If I were to define the narrative structure in any way, I think Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is actually closest to a classic magical girl shown than anything else. And that is a huge compliment. Every episode or two, Yashiro and Hanako have to solve a mystery in order to protect the students. They are later joined by Kou. Eventually, Tsukasa shows up as a more overarching antagonist (and one of the creepiest I have seen in a long time).
But beneath the wacky adventures and colourful hi-jinks, there are some very painful elements in this story. At some point, Toilet-bound Hanako-kun makes it clear that spirits don’t tend to stick around because they were happy and contempt with their lives. And the show does attempt to tackle some very serious issues with a degree of earnestness which although not always successful is nevertheless impactful. Or at least it was to me. Some scenes made me very uncomfortable and they were supposed to. So kudos for the show for having the guts to do that.
I enjoyed Toilet-bound Hanako-kun on pretty much every level. It’s an eccentric series that will not be for everyone but I think most people will find something to like about it. Season one has a soft conclusion that leaves a lot unsettled but still offers closure. I would watch more any day.
Favourite character : For some reason I really liked Hamako himself. I wonder why… I also liked Tsuchigomori a lot!
Suggested drink: a Glazed Doughnut
- Every time there’s a panel – blink or something, it happens a lot
- Every time Hanako gets sinister – take a gulp
- Every time we hear a new school rumour – gasp!
- Every time a mokke offers candy – get a snack
- Every time Kou gets mad – take a sip
- Every time Yashiro’s scales come out – take a sip
- Every time Hanako saves the day – raise your glass
- Every time Hanako uses Hakujoudai – take a sip
- Every time anyone is taking care of plants – take a sip
- Every time Hanako gets see-through – sniff
- Every time Yashiro’s leg obsession/trauma comes up – do some jumping jacks
- Every time we see a new yorishiro – take a sip
- Every time Yashiro saves the day – cheer!!!
- Every time we see the shattered glass effect – hold on to your glass carefully
- Every time we see a new skull motif – take a sip
- Every time anyone says daikon – switch to healthy snacks
- Every time we see a hamster – awwwww
In case you’re new here, I have a Pinterest with all my screencaps (there are a lot!). If you can’t find a show you are looking for in my main boards, just go to Anime Screenshots. I move the shows I have reviewed there. Of course, I’m still going to add a few images here!