Season aired: Spring 2018
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Comedy, Supernatural
Thoughts: When I initially came into Hinamatsuri after reading the synopsis, I was expecting a gag comedy with a solid beginning followed by a slow decline due to repetitiveness, as per my experience with these kinds of shows. Well, color me surprised beyond all! Not only was Hinamatsuri fun to watch week-by-week, not only were the jokes original and made me laugh, but the series additionally had heart, characters to develop, and feelings and messages to send across. While it is not the first show to combine those elements, the genuinity with which it presents them separates this show from the rest.
Hinamatsuri is an ingenious series. Right at its core, it takes the formula of a supernatural person appearing in front of the protagonist who turns his daily life upside down, but tweaks it in certain ways. First and foremost, the recipient of the fateful meeting isn’t some high school boy, but Nitta, an adult (working for the yakuza at that), and the special child is Hina, a poker-faced and expressionless 13-year old psychokinetic girl who loves salmon roe and hates effort. This weird duo is the base of the show and the starting point from which the vast cast of characters is introduced. Nitta and Hina gradually form an important bond over the first few episodes, despite several obstacles in their way. Having a psychic kid with no restraints at home, Nitta needs a while to get used to Hina (who possesses no common sense or manners), but his eventual acceptance of her and welcoming in his house are a joy to watch. On the other side of things, Hina goes from waking up in an unknown world coming from who-knows-where and not caring about anything around her, to growing fond of Nitta and his kindness and doing what she can thank him (when she’s not too lazy to get off her video games). This budding father-daughter-like relationship is a simple yet powerful arc, that continues to be touched upon and expanded upon throughout the show’s run.
The world of the show, despite taking place in the same city for 95% of its run, is rather large thanks to its wide pool of characters, including Nitta’s yakuza colleagues, Hina’s classmates, the homeless people, the rock band, the regular clients at the bar or the family members of any of those people. However, the highlights when it comes to the supporting cast are Anzu and Hitomi, to the point where one could argue they are more impactful than the lead duo.
Anzu, another girl with psychic powers, is undoubtedly the emotional core of the show; the development she goes through between her appearance in episode 2 and episode 11 is sweet and heartwarming, transforming her from a lost, violent, and no-manners brat to a compassionate, hardworking, and lovely child anyone would want to be a parent for. Through Anzu’s life, Hinamatsuri also presents and comments on the touchy subject of homelessness. Despite being a comedy at its core, the anime takes the matter seriously and portrays the lives of homeless people in Japan accurately, not shying away from showing the different facets of the issue.
On the other side of things, there’s Hitomi Mishima, Hina’s level-headed classmate, who serves as one of the best comedy sources of the series. She’s smart and dependable, but also kind and helpful, traits that frequently lead her to impromptu situations, like when she found herself working as a bartender despite being just in middle school or ending up making connections to dozens of companies after taking up various jobs she was offered. One could say Hitomi is a sort of genius, and there’s the risk of her becoming too distant from the audience, but her misadventures never become repetitive or boring and the show always makes sure to remind us she’s a child like Hina or Anzu. These three girls, Nitta, and their acquaintances create a memorable community, never lacking in hilariousness.
The presentation in the visual and sound departments is solid across the board. While you won’t particularly remember any tracks, they all help set the atmosphere, whether it is to showcase weird shenanigans between the characters, deliver punchlines, or make us cry our eyes out of either happiness or sadness, usually because of Anzu. The voice acting is spectacular, with every voice fitting its character to a T; each one of them comes with a large range of tones and volumes to adapt to the situation, bringing life to these people. Special shoutouts to Rie Murakawa who voiced Anzu and Yoshiki Nakajima who voiced Nitta for their exceptional performances. The animation by studio feel is pretty good for the type of show Hinamatsuri is and even pulls out its A-game for key scenes, usually focused on the psychics. Combined and enhanced by the background art, character designs, pleasant color palette and lack of any screw-ups, the world feels grounded and familiar despite the eccentricity of the people that inhabit it, striking a great balance.
The plot of Hinamatsuri doesn’t offer any intense fights like Mob Psycho 100 or waves of supernatural insanity like The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, but it has heart – a lot of heart. At face value, there isn’t anything essentially new or groundbreaking, but perhaps what still makes it engaging is its execution. Alongside with its comedy, Hinamatsuri presents several small tales through its characters on many subjects with such care that people can resonate with them: the pain of loneliness, the anguish felt over departing from your relatives, the importance of belonging somewhere, the lives of homeless people and the need to face and adapt to a new environment community. Simultaneously funny, relaxing, heartwarming, and endearing, Hinamatsuri is without a doubt one of the highlights of the Spring 2018 Anime Season, perhaps even of the entire year. When a series doesn’t hold back on any front and gives its all, you obtains nothing short of memorable.
I am planning to rate all my anime based on the anime rating system that Japanese anime critics use. I will have 5 categories, each with the top score of 10, and then a final multiplier of 2.
Voice acting: 9
(Facial expressions: 11)
FINAL SCORE: 80
HINAMATSURI is now streaming on Crunchyroll.