Hatena Illusion – Episode 1

By: Chiaki Hirai January 9, 20200 Comments
A girl wearing a yellow scarf and a red dress smiles to herself in the mirror.

What’s it about? After the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Kana Hoshisato works to find out what happened as Hatena, the master thief! Meanwhile, Kana’s childhood friend Makoto Shiranui comes to stay at the Hoshisato residence to become a stage magician’s apprentice to Kana’s father, but Kana doesn’t remember her childhood bestie Makoto being a boy. 

Content Considerations: Mild fanservice.

Visually pleasing, decent enough characters, and a tinge of magical realism makes Hatena Illusion a show that is aggressively okay, if a little contrived. Whereas the premiere starts with enough material just to focus on Kana, its deuteragonist Makoto adds even more to the mix and ends up making me wonder which way this show is exactly going.

I’m open to the exciting exploits of a magical middle school master thief, and I could be okay for some weird rom-com hi-jinks, but combine the two together in parallel and I start losing sight of what exactly this show wants to do. 

A woman with golden hair wearing a steepled witch hat and a girl wearing a long flowing yellow scarf stand before a cityscape. Subtitle: Be Careful. Makoto-chan will be coming soon.
Absolutely normal

Starting off the episode with Kana getting entrusted with a precious artifact from her incredibly sexy mother, you might think this show is going to be all about magic and thieving. Yet, cut to the next scene and Kana has resumed her life as a normal girl excited to see her long-estranged friend Makoto, who is at long last reuniting with her to become an apprentice to her father.

There’s some talk of magical artifacts stored away in the attic—where Makoto is to stay during his apprenticeship—and Kana casually uses her magical scarf to punch Makoto out of the bathroom. For the most part, though, we observe the world through Makoto’s unassuming pedestrian eyes, which assumes magic is not exactly real.

Hatena ignores its opening setup for much of the first episode and instead focuses on Makoto and Kana’s reunion. Their relationship is pretty by-the-numbers and I can probably tell where this is all going in the second episode. There’s nothing too mystifying or interesting here, but Makoto at least isn’t a bad person and the pair will certainly make for a cute couple down the road.

A boy (Makoto) and a girl (Kana) stand together looking surprised and embarassed. Subtitle: Say, are you two on a date?
I wonder if they’ll become great partners like Kana’s parents?

That said, as the show tries to ignore the magical elements it hints at throughout the premiere, Hatena does a terrible job hiding its foreshadowing. Good stage magic dazzles its viewers in one fluid motion without hinting at how a trick is done. Here, we know for a fact there is far more going on below the surface. Future revelations for this show will only serve to fulfill expectations rather than garner any sense of genuine surprise.

While on the topic of stage magic itself, with real magic in play, I wonder if any distinction will be made between the two. If magical artifacts can serve as tools for combat and thieving, will the show bother to distinguish that from all the weird fantastic things it depicts as stage magic? Did Kana’s dad really just fly off into the sky with artifact magic? Or is his stage magic game just that good?

A man carrying a suitcase floats in the yard. He tips his top hat. Subtitle: I will see you all again in one month. Adios!
My job here lending exposition is done.

Hatena has some fanservice. Maeve, Kana’s mother, starts the episode wearing a sexy witch’s outfit. Kana is also shown bathing at her home and Makoto accidentally intrudes. Overall, however, the camera is not all that leery on her or anyone else, even during Kana’s magical girl transformation sequence.

The adults are generally good people. Kana’s father is eccentric, if a bit irresponsible, leaving the children to go on a business trip as soon as Makoto arrives. Jeeves Wodehouse (that’s literally his name), the butler, is a gentleman through and through. 

Ema, the Sakurai family’s maid, is the only adult who sends up some yellow flags by being more than a little invested in playing matchmaker for the two protagonists. Ema constantly teases Makoto. She tricks him into becoming an apprentice butler in Mr. Hoshisato’s absence and teases the two kids constantly throughout the episode. Her heart, however, appears to be in the right place and her teasing may very well get Kana to warm back up to her old friend.

A red haired maid stands over a boy slumped to his knees. Other members of the mansion look on. Subtitle: What if we put Makoto-sama to work here at the mansion?
I should still note that child labor is illegal.

As this up-and-down review may suggest, Hatena is by no means a bad show, but it’s far from magically enchanting. If you want to watch something digestible and hope for a little something more in the future, this could be a decent show to at least keep in your queue.

Episode two, at least, promises to delve further into the magical side of things and may greatly change the outlook for the rest of this show. Right now, though, it’s just too early to tell if this will find its spark or fizzle out.

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