Review of Hinamatsuri (2018)

Moving picture, 5.0 hours

Seen in 2018.

A diligent mobster vase collector becomes the caretaker of a stupid, lazy twelve-year-old with telekinetic superpowers. The girl’s unnamed secret organization slowly sends more girls to deal with the escape. The first of them just becomes homeless.

Sitcom. Though not risqué, this is still in bad taste. Most of the humour is dry, springing from the mobster’s reluctance, the absurdity of his domestic situation and a peculiar willingness to engage in side stories: A classmate who is blackmailed into bartending, another girl with superpowers stuck on a small island (so she never meets the rest of the cast until three years later, and then only a minor character), or a TV special on the mobster with deceptive editing. A shocked expression with a raised tongue emerges as a visual Leitmotif, and the exclamation aitta (“owie”) takes the edge off the occasional violence.

The bad taste comes in part from (puns and) the willingness to use miserable real-life material for comedy, particularly a life of crime, homelessness and child labour. This is all shown from an outsider’s perspective, simplified and rather clean, but still evidently painful. The show is not quite as glib about these things as e.g. Gokusen (2004), but it tries to balance on a razor’s edge of cringe humour about the margins of society, as if for its own sake. This is unsympathetic, but interesting for its sheer strangeness as an artistic choice.

Despite spending so much time on the lower rungs of society, the show never draws naturalistic conclusions from flawed kids with access to potentially horrifying power, like Shadow Star Narutaru (2003), nor is it cute girls doing cute things. Although it is established in the first episode that psychic powers must be used frequently or else a catastrophic psychic discharge will occur, this axiom is never mentioned again and entire episodes pass without use.

It is virtually a premise of the comedy that the mysterious organization training superhumans cannot be named or explored. It’s implied to be something like the Colonel’s shop from Akira (1988) mixed up with Gunslinger Girl (2003). Avoiding it almost completely, as if out of embarrassment to trifle with such a cliché, is a pretty good running gag. The show is certainly aware of its pop-cultural landscape. There’s some nice reference humour, including an explicit visual reference to The Terminator (1984).

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction series