The mark of any great anime is finding yourself mildly annoyed when the end theme starts to play. HINAMATSURI captures that feeling and gets you excited about new episodes week after week. Half the time I watch the show I have a goofy grin plastered across my face. The other half I’m busy rooting for every on-screen character to do their best. This anime is one that combines a strange concept with relatable feelings and experiences. In an almost satirical way, HINAMATSURI reminds us that the best people can be found in the strangest places. Yakuza may very well be excellent at raising children. A homeless community in a park can hold the strongest life lessons. These are the kind of scenarios HINAMATSURI uses to craft a masterpiece of a series.

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So, What’s the Story?

As hinted at before, the story starts off a bit weird. Niita Yoshifumi, one of the two central characters, is a yakuza. For those less than familiar with Japanese local politics, yakuza are members of crime syndicates. Rooted in Japan, these groups are more or less a strictly run mafia. But unlike the American idea of the ‘mafia’, yakuza exist somewhat openly. They often beget media coverage and have over 100,000 members. As a yakuza, Nitta does quite well for himself and leads a pretty standard life of luxury collecting antique vases and urns.

But one day, a random portal opens up in his house. A metallic pod then plops out of the portal. Opening the pod, Nitta finds our other protagonist, Hina. While he initially wanted to swiftly kick the random girl out of his house, she reveals a neat secret. Hina has psychokinetic powers and, basically, force chokes Nitta until he lets her stay.

HINAMATSURI main protagonist Hina makes her first appearance in a strange pod.
Hina suddenly appears in a strange pod | Image: Crunchyroll

Nitta begins to take care of Hina, enrolling her in school and letting his co-workers assume she’s an illegitimate child. What makes this story somewhat hilarious is the reactions characters have to this ridiculous situation. Nitta has to not only try to explain why he suddenly has a daughter but also has to teach Hina to moderate her powers. Immediately, it’s quite clear that Hina is from a different world from Nitta’s. She doesn’t understand basic social order and she has to be walked through everything. Despite their strange introduction, she and Nitta eventually do form something akin to a father-daughter relationship.

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Beyond Superpowers

Surprisingly, the fact that Hina has powers is only the first layer of her character. Sure, there are gags of Nitta frantically trying to explain away her power use in public. But, what her abilities really do is establish a foreign air around her. We don’t learn much about Hina but there are some hints as to the kind of world she came from.

Nitta, doing his duties of debt collection, realizes Hina could be of use to him. Her response is so submissive that it almost seems militaristic. And that’s on purpose. Nitta, in a departure from the kind of character his job implies, refuses to force her to use her powers. Hina is used to being used as a weapon and she’s clearly pained at the mere prospect of being used. Even though HINAMATSURI is a slice of life comedy, deep moments like this are scattered across every episode.

HINAMATSURI explores Hina's past as a military weapon via conversations like this.
Hina is so used to following orders that freedom seems strange to her | Image: Crunchyroll

The series uses her past as a way to develop not just Hina’s character, but Nitta’s too. A rich man who usually spends his time at strip clubs and bars suddenly has responsibility. In its uncanny ability to warp a situation into bizarre and hilarious forms, HINAMATSURI is definitely satire. But the way it uses strange relationships to develop characters is incredibly unique and fresh.

Early on, Nitta tries to mix his old and new lifestyle, even bringing Hina to a club. Over time, he learns that hedonistic pleasure isn’t real happiness for him. Somehow, one of the most wholesome anime characters in recent memory is a high ranking criminal. In addition to Nitta, the show slowly introduces several other amazing characters.

Loveable Characters

Hina isn’t the only person to arrive in a strange capsule. Anzu, another girl with psychokinetic powers, arrives shortly after her. The two know each other and even have somewhat of a friendly rivalry going on. Anzu wasn’t so lucky to happen upon a rich gangster to mooch off of, however. Instead, she lands in the middle of nowhere, beats a street gang up with her powers, then dons the leader’s clothing. Eventually, Anzu starts living with a community of homeless men.

Unlike Hina, she quickly has to learn the horrors of capitalism and earn her keep with nothing provided to her. Though the situation is just as bizarre as Hina’s. And, like any good story, there’s always a moral. Hina and Anzu act as foils for each other. In their own special way, both girl’s learn the value of virtue and companionship.

HINAMATSURI characters Hina and Anzu compete in a test of psychokinetic prowess.
Although these girls are from another world, their friendship is more than relatable | Image: Crunchyroll

One of the other main characters, and one of my personal favorites, is one of Hina’s classmates. Hitomi Mishima is incredibly pure and has great difficulty saying no. As a result, she very easily winds up in a bunch of antics involving Hina, Anzu, and Nitta. What’s hilarious about her is that, unlike Nitta, she’s unaware of the girls’ powers. She became friends with Hina while helping her stalk Nitta’s dates. In the process, she gets blackmailed into becoming a bartender. Her reactions are just as filled with shock as Nitta’s, yet her innocence makes it incredibly wholesome. Rather than an adult yakuza who can sort of dismiss people, Hitomi is easily frightened and somewhat timid. For her, development involves learning to gain control over her situation as a subject rather than an object.

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A Fresh Narrative of Love and Warmth

There isn’t necessarily a traditional story in HINAMATSURI. In that sense, it’s very true to the genre of ‘slice of life.’ That also means every episode works through interactions rather than pre-established plot. Even as a slice of life series, HINAMATSURI accomplishes this difficult task masterfully. Despite its very fictional concept and characters, it feels real. I would never have imagined myself enjoying a narrative of hard work between a gangster and a preteen from another world. Even the gags in HINAMATSURI are often unpredictable but smooth. The humor is from simple foundations. That way, it’s easily understood but has satisfying depth.

HINAMATSURI characters Hitomi Mishima and Utako Sakura stand side by side.
Even yakuza and bartenders have wholesome places in the series | Image: Crunchyroll

Every story, every scene, and every episode is predicated on the love amongst people. Unlike a lot of slice of life series, HINAMATSURI doesn’t rely on lazily established romances as ‘love’. The love in this series is a kind of general goodwill that all people can understand. When Hitomi’s homeroom teacher suddenly becomes a patron of the bar she works at, their first interactions involve her convincing him she’s an adult that just happens to look like one of his students. But in later meetings, she becomes a confidant who mediates his stress with innocent understanding. She becomes fulfilled by actively engaging in kindness rather than passively responding to the wants of others. He learns that it’s possible to find the strongest compassion in the strangest places.

Even when there is conflict, HINAMATSURI resolves it amicably. Everyone is better off in the end, and everything is wonderful and nice. This is a series that’ll have you hooked in minutes.

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A Quirky World in HINAMATSURI

This is certainly an anime I went into expecting nothing. I anticipated a run-of-the-mill comedy that would give me some laughs every now and then. What I received was a terrific weekly ritual wherein I can reliably expect to be rolling with laughter and get smacked in the feels at the same time. It’s all over the place, yet somehow it’s also reliably consistent. This is a show that you’ll eagerly wait for every week.

HINAMATSURI  is also series that anyone can enjoy.  A shonen fan will love the great psychokinetic scenes. Romance fans will enjoy Nitta’s attempts at dating. Any comedy fans will laugh nonstop. Objectively speaking, this is one of the best shows of the spring season.

Have you checked out HINAMATSURI? Have your own thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

Featured image from Crunchyroll.

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