Review & Discussion About: Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun
In the Harry Potter series, a girl named Myrtle haunts a bathroom. Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun is basically the same idea but instead a boy with a knife is the ghost, a girl without a scar on her forehead is the protagonist, and together they deal with the out-of-control apparitions of their Muggle school.
Whether it reaches the same magical status, though, receives much debate.
At the minimum, the audience finds some magic in its art with a striking visual style that provides the show with a ton of momentum. Vibrant colors and bubbly designs contrast nicely with the horror settings and terrifying depictions. Robust use of light and shadow further this duality when calmer moments bask in sunny glows while harrowing scenes revel in the darkness. And the unabashed use of paneling, where the anime will take a scenario from within the current event and frame it with lots of rigid boxes, brings it another stylistic edge that it wields well.
The show falters somewhat with its lack of nuance to shot composition and its avoidance of actual animation due to its huge reliance on that paneling technique. Nevertheless, the artistry impresses in other areas anyway. A theater-esque representation maximizes the “play” going on. Thick outlines provide a more storybook feel. Lots of reaction faces and imaginative sequences keep the art dynamic.
Looking past its shiny outer layer, Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun opts for a half monster-of-the-week, half linear narrative, remaining almost entirely within the confines of the school as they confront the terrifying ghouls and the Boundaries that they visit. Yet, unlike that shine, much of the story has a dull luster.
The plot relies way too much on the “saved-in-the-nick-of-time” maneuver that gets real old real fast. Almost every encounter involving Yashiro devolves into her almost losing in some way only for Hanako (or some other character) to swoop in as her knight in shining armor. While this arguably fits within the confines of her romanticized view of love and relationships, it fails at holding tension and, worse still, leaves the storytelling in a sorry state when she has next to no agency of her own.
Which in turn leads to how the anime undercuts many its serious moments with comedic whiplash that robs the efficacy of its dramatic elements throughout the season. Having comedy to supplement or balance the drama is totally fine, but it’s not cool to constantly get in its way, thereby causing what should be an emotional moment to become yet another unnecessary attempt at a joke.
Most peculiar of all its misgivings comes down to a technical issue in the audio department. The voice acting sees some solid delivery, but a more meta problem arises. Specifically, the gain on the microphones used to record the voice lines is so high that the audience can hear the buzzing or humming from them when characters are speaking. It becomes especially obvious whenever the background music goes quiet. Which surprisingly happens quite a bit.
Even disregarding this distraction, its opening track also comes off as awkward when considering the intended mood for the show. But at least the ending track tries to make amends with its better grasp of feeling, and the rest of the music benefits Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun with its selection of haunting tracks.
Yet it swings back towards the negative end again with other parts of the show. Hanako’s creepy behavior (not scary “creepy” but weird “creepy”) makes his presence a no-go. The funny stuff it goes for has little staying power. And the emotional scenes lack the same impact. Yes, Yashiro is a cute character amidst the madness she faces, but she alone cannot fully carry the show.
Worse still, the anime ties up almost nothing. Too much is left open-ended within the span of this season: an older brother who doesn’t do anything, no resolution between him and Kou, Mitsubu left there without any follow through, the side characters in the opposing group aren’t really addressed (despite parallels to the main morally good group), the other major figures have not yet been shown, and so on.
The common thread here? Characters. In choosing to ignore them and their possible developments, the anime hampers itself, giving the cast the short end of the stick and the whole package one last hole to trip over.
Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun seems to contain a glimmer of hope, what with its impressive artistry. However, when its odd narrative decisions, missing details, and literal technical difficulties bog down the entire project, the anime makes a case for pessimism instead. Granted, the overall anime is not as deplorable as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but it falls far short of receiving larger recognition within the medium.
Story: Bad, repetitive outcomes and tonal whiplash eliminate many of its chances at telling an interesting tale (or set of tales) about other-worldly entities
Art & Animation: Great, a stylish direction creates a sharp artistic vision that captures attention
Characters: Bad, a huge number of ignored arcs and opportunities for the cast prevent them from realizing their true potential
Music & Sound: Bad, solid VA performances, a poignant ED, and a spooky OST fight back against a tone-deaf OP, but the peculiar issue of incorrect microphone gain for voice lines comes off as distracting and unprofessional
Enjoyment: Bad, Yashiro is certainly cute, but there’s not much else to find entertaining
Final Score: 4/10
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