Toilet-bound Hanako-kun – Mid Season 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)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Six episodes in and it’s clear that Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun’s greatest asset is its cast. Their personalities, chemistry and antics add a lot of flavour to the story, in particular Nene, our heroine and her desperate determination to find love and be perceived as a desirable high school girl among her peers. Add to that the constant teasing she faces at the hands of her friends and you have a show brimming with funny and charming moments.
Tom: That charm goes a long way to keeping Hanako fun, even when the artistic choices get in the way. I mentioned this when we first took a look at Episode 1 during the preview rush, but Hanako-kun’s comic/flip book art style is both a blessing and a curse. It helps to sell the chemistry of the characters, the comedy, and even the more creepy, supernatural elements of the story. It’s memorable and helps to make Hanako-kun feel unique against the rest of the season. But that same artistic choice hampers the story whenever we turn towards action. And unfortunately that undermines a number of climatic fights throughout these first six episodes, failing to deliver on dynamic visuals that would let these more action packed moments stand out. It’s one of the greatest failings of the production, and while not one that ruins Hanako-kun entirely, does hamper my enjoyment whenever we make that turn towards more action oriented content.
Linny: Thankfully the supernatural angle offers plenty of avenues for mystery, danger and thrills, limiting action as one of the lesser elements to the story. Following our trio as they try to deconstruct and solve creepy, or sometimes amusing school ‘mysteries,’ like a stair that must be avoided or a love confession tree that always ensures success, makes for an engaging experience week after week. That said, while I don’t mind Hanako-kun’s troubled action content, it becomes evident pretty early on that our cast is insulated from harm by a hefty layer of plot armour. This dampens the sense of danger they find themselves in, action oriented or not, because you know no matter what the situation, they’re likely to come out of it entirely unharmed.
Tom: Plot armor, I feel, is but a symptom of Hanako-kun’s more intrensic problem: Simply how trope filled the show’s core concept is. The characters fit pretty tropey molds, and it’s largely thanks to style, rather than substance, that Hanako-kun comes out ahead. Nene and Hanako-kun’s voice acting, designs and chemistry with the other characters helps to let them shine despite their trope-ridden origins. Another boon to the series, that helps to stave off the more stale elements, is how often the show redefines itself. The first two to three episodes are a kind of ghostly menace of the week format. After that we shift into learning about the “Seven Wonders” the major spirits of the school and by Episode 6 we redefine things again, adding in a larger menace and immediate goals to be accomplished that help bring new energy to the series. Not to mention gradually learning the mysteries surrounding Hanako’s past, which grow him from a typical mischievous spirit, and into something with a bit more depth. It’s this constant reintroduction and changing focus that help obfuscate the more predictable ideas that first set the story in motion.
Linny: As someone who was a fan of the original manga series, I think the anime does a good job of bringing the characters and story alive while keeping the artistic style and flair intact. The artistic style really helps to make the show feel and look unique even if its characters may not always be unique. While Toilet-bound Hanako-kun may not be revolutionary, it is still mostly a fun watch and one that should appeal to someone seeking a supernatural thriller that keeps things lighthearted for the most part.
Tom: I’ve come across pretty harsh on Hanako-kun, and while I’m not a huge fan of what the comic/flip book visuals do for the action, the truth is that it’s perhaps best viewed as Winter’s ‘safe choice.’ I don’t think the series is amazing, but its stylistic choices, comedy, and supernatural thrills help to take a tropey concept and gradually build it into something that feels like it’s own thing. It’s fun, enjoyable, but maybe not the best Winter has to offer. I do think that might change however, depending on what the second half of the season brings.
Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is available for streaming via Funimation.