Toilet-bound Hanako-kun – Anime Review
Synopsis: Kamome Academy is rumored to have many mysteries, the strangest of which involves the mischievous ghost of Hanako-kun. When occult-loving high schooler Nene Yashiro accidentally becomes bonded to him, she uncovers a hidden world of supernatural beings. Now the two of them are conspiring to keep the peace between student and supernatural—that is, if they can only stay out of trouble themselves. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is a series that manages to carve out a distinct presence thanks to its aesthetics, offering a specific, unique style for not just its character designs but also the manner in which it executes and depicts its story. The series is visualized by injecting stylized manga-like panels, as if the pages have come to life with via motion comic, often utilized to great dramatic effect. The show is also brought to life thanks to its use of bright colours, which really helps to sell the cute and more comedic side of the story.
Tom: Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is a balancing act like so many anime and manga. These two mediums often insist on balancing more serious plot-lines with a heavy dose of comedy, far out-weighing the typical amount of comic relief you’d find in Western oriented media. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, creating this weird, disjointed feel between the two halves of the story. In Hanako-kun’s case, despite being listed as a supernatural comedy, the show frequently flits into something more thriller-esque, putting our characters in harrowing, unnerving situations. The show’s early episodes manage a fairly decent balance between its bouts of comedy and the supernatural elements otherwise dying to be taken seriously. It operates on a near ghost of the week format, allowing audiences to become wrapped up in brief ghost stories that are at times highly comedic, but also feel gripping in their bouts with a more morbid atmosphere. But it’s as the series enters its second half, and starts to toy with longer narratives, that Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun begins to turn from what was once well-balanced into something far more lop-sided towards comedy. It’s a shame too as some of the longer narrative mysteries introduced, like Hanako-kun’s true identity, beg for a more serious atmosphere and only suffer under this near total comedic approach.
Linny: Veering back towards the positive, Hanako-kun offers a wide variety of content. Sometimes the lead trio is working on solving the mystery and defeating the villain of the week, making for a thrilling watch. Other times, it delves into more emotionally driven back stories. Then there’s the fact that the friendship between the characters is extremely playful, offering a constant source of comedy as Hanako-kun and Yashiro get to know each other, and eventually another character, Kou, a young exorcist joins the mayhem. This wide mix of content can be a mixed bag though. On one hand, the sheer variety could potentially interest and intrigue audiences looking to flit between supernatural scares and comedic shenanigans all in one episode. But on the other hand, the varying tone and frequency with which Hanako-kun interjects serious moments with silly dialogue can make for a jarring sequence of events. And with how aggressively the show shifts and yo-yos between serious and silly in a short amount of time, it really starts to come apart as it continues.
Tom: And that’s where the series really starts to get troubled. After episode 6 the shifts between serious and comedic become so much more frequent. Eventually Hanako-kun can’t last 1 minute being serious before comedy comes in to shatter the mood. It becomes impossible to take the show seriously, even when the music is begging you to, because you know not sixty-seconds later our characters will break that atmosphere for a quick goof, and so often a goof that isn’t even all that funny.
Linny: It definitely makes it a challenge to take any moment or character seriously when they keep bursting into silly voices, joke laden dialogue and amusing facial expressions no matter how heavy the moment is. And its not even just a quick one liner but a steal the limelight kind of loud overreaction moments which completely disrupts the mood. It makes the characters feel like they’re bordering on manic rather than offering truly intelligent and well integrated humour. Instead of becoming a quick and light drama reliever, it becomes disruptive and forceful.
Tom: It’s frustrating because I saw some real promise early on with Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun. It almost feels like the author lost confidence in their more dramatic work, as the comedy so frequently breaks up the series’ more emotional moments to the point where you simply can’t feel anything at all. That’s a real shame, as the series’ more mysterious elements actually had my attention, and I wish they got the atmosphere and tone they deserved. Unless you actively want that manic comedy atmosphere constantly derailing the supernatural thriller side of the series, it’s best to steer clear of Hanako-kun.
Linny: If you are intending on picking up the series, do be aware that as it is an ongoing manga, the anime integrates characters and plot points that haven’t even been fully explained in the original manga itself. Examples of these are a trio of villains who seem to be the masterminds behind all the various troublesome incidents but whose true motives and identities are never really explained. The anime plays it safe by avoiding going with an anime only explanation/ending but this could be something that frustrates anyone who likes more well established and neatly wrapped up shows. After all is said and done, Toilet-bound Hanako-kun might still be a worthwhile fit for someone who wants a comedy with a dash of horror/set in a supernatural context. It’s not for everyone but anime fans who adore silly outbursts and comical reactions regardless of context should find the loud personality of Hanako-kun’s cast worthy of being on their watch list.
Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is available for streaming via Funimation.