Early Impressions: Hinamatsuri

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Three episodes in, I have no idea where this anime may go, but I’ll gladly follow it.

I picked this anime up on a whim, only recommended indirectly by a fellow anime connoisseur. I tend to be wary of subjects of comedy that rely too heavily on “LOL SO RANDOM XD” humor, as I find it the most insufferable type in a majority of cases. Hinamatsuri‘s premise screamed it to me from the top of Trump Tower™.

I researched it a little more, only to find out the manga is incredibly well-received and has been ongoing for quite a while now. With few other options (outside of sequels), Hinamatsuri became part of the watch list. What can I say? It had that “oomph” from the very first episode.

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What makes this stand out more than anything is that it plays the straight man almost as if the straight man doesn’t exist. In many cases of straight man comedy, the reactions to bizarre instances are met with extreme exaggeration, unbelievable shock, screams and funny faces. Here, not only is it subdued, but it also adapts to the absurdity. “A middle-schooler is behind the bar counter serving us heavenly drinks the likes we’ve never encountered… Yeah, I’m cool with it.” How refreshing! If more comedy took this approach, I think I may be more willing to pick up comedy anime and still not laugh be thoroughly entertained.

This also isn’t the type of “Comedy for the sake of comedy” anime that tend to inhabit the genre. Hinamatsuri has a penchant for character; y’know, it acknowledges that they exist, that they have motivations, and that they aren’t perfect. The main character? A kind-hearted son of a mafia lord. There is an episode where he blows off “Poor girl from another dimension” to spend time at bars drinking and playing around with women. Hello, character that I can believe exists. Nice to finally make your acquaintance. You aren’t perfect, but you’re a nice guy. We all know you are. You took the ESP girl in and continue to spoil her, despite her tendency to fuck up. You’re just a dad, with a scary dad. I can empathize and relate. Thank you for being you.

Fortunately, he isn’t the only one to get this sort of attention. ESP girl from another dimension also gets a little development, right from the very first episode. Another ESP girl who randomly shows up in the second episode gets development in the third episode… by becoming part of a heartfelt community of homeless people. Raise your hand if you’ve seen an anime pull that plot device out of their brain.

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What gives Hinamatsuri its spice is the fact that, while not inherently different, feels different. Its style of comedy, pacing, comedic timing, manner of presentation, and alternating emphasis on character’s inner feelings is a special kind of comedy. It feels more loaded than a slice-of-life but not as tranquil as many slice-of-life’s. Despite never seeing the show before, I imagine it feels similar to Gintama in its level of aloof comedic nature. For this, it doesn’t feel empty; I’m reminded of Nichijou, which displays a number of different forms of comedy and stylish animation, but does very little with the characters. I ended up not caring for it all that much, because despite how many characters were shown and the events that they faced, I couldn’t really emphasize with them because most were one-dimensional archetypes. Hinamatsuri does differently.

I’m aware a lot of people don’t care about this if the comedy is good, but any longtime reader of this blog knows I have laughed at anime about six times… in six years. So what do I fall back on? Character enjoyment. Narrative complexity. Symbolism (with comedy, who am I kidding?). I need something, and most don’t give it to me. Hinamatsuri does, though I acknowledge not to perfection. There are cases where a person’s complexity is placed for humor only, or that a situation feels too formulaic to be treated as genuine. The pressures of being both comedic and heartfelt is that, at times, they can encroach upon each other’s better points. Does it wish to be a comedy or something more wholesome? Why not both? Well, that comes with some growing pains. Maybe it’ll capitalize on one or the other. We have nine episodes to find out.

Also an interesting choice to make the third episode barely out of the realm of filler. But is there any “filler” in a slice-of-life-ish comedy? It can feel like it. This series makes me feel many things.

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