HINAMATSURI – Episode 1

By: Dee April 7, 20180 Comments
A man with slicked-back blonde hair wearing a suit sits in a chair across from a girl in pink pajamas sitting on a couch. The two have their pinkies hooked, making a pinke promise.

What’s it about? Mid-ranking yakuza Yoshifumi Nitta’s life takes a series of unexpected turns when he becomes the (initially unwilling) caretaker of Hina, a mysterious girl with powerful psychokinetic abilities.


I didn’t know anything about Hinamatsuri going in, which is probably for the best. Had I known it was an “escaped girl soldier with supernatural powers tries to live ordinary life with caretaker dude” story, I’d have pressed play with my Side-Eye cranked to 11. And that would’ve been a real shame, given how much I enjoyed this premiere. Cute without being precious, somber without being grimdark, and refusing to take itself too seriously, Hinamatsuri is thus far a surprisingly fun take on an old (and frequently unpleasant) premise.

Also: YakuzaDad is Extremely Good.

A man with blonde hair and a girl in loose-fitting clothes standing in front of a wall of cute, plush stuffed animals. Subtitles read: "I require a stuffed animal to sleep at night."

Summarizing the plot of this first episode doesn’t do it justice, because the story beats sound exhaustingly boilerplate. A mysterious girl with superpowers falls from the sky and into an adult man’s home. With nowhere else to go and only a limited understanding of how the world works, she foists herself upon him. She goes to school and attempts to live a normal life, but her powers cause problems that her frazzled caretaker has to resolve. Then, when her caretaker gets into trouble, she uses her powers to help him. The two develop a grudging affection for one another.

Sounds familiar, don’t it? But what Hinamatsuri lacks in originality, it makes up for in offbeat execution. For one, neither the series nor YakuzaDad Nitta creep on Hina, which is a low bar but an important one nevertheless. She does pop out of the capsule naked (as the Law Of People Found In Capsules doth dictate), but the camera only shows her from the back at a matter-of-fact distance, and never lingers or leers. The first thing out of her mouth is “Clothes, please,” and when Nitta’s too shocked to immediately provide them, Hina starts smashing his prized porcelain until he complies.

That’s the most concerning thing that happens all episode. My alarm bells went off briefly, and then never rang again.

A girl in loose-fitting clothes sits on a couch, eating chips. In the foreground is the back of a blonde man's head, one hand held up nervously. Subtitles: "She could kill me if she wanted to."

Hina herself is deadpan without feeling like an empty doll; she’s clearly been denied a lot in her life up to this point, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want anything. Just the opposite, in fact—she wants all the things she wasn’t allowed before, and the more she learns about the world, the more she wants to try. Kids need stuffed animals to sleep? Then so does Hina. High-quality cuisine exists? Then Hina needs to eat it.

She’s also very much a 12-year-old with superpowers and her first taste of freedom, meaning she doesn’t hesitate to use her psychokinesis to bully Nitta into doing what she wants. She’s realistically self-centered without being a monster, and she and Nitta do gradually connect with each other. The two develop a rapport over the course of the episode that’s both frequently funny and quietly sweet, with Nitta doing his best to accommodate Hina’s wants and needs while also finding ways to compromise and lay his own ground rules.

A man with slicked-back blonde hair rests his chin against the back of his hands and looks nervous. He thinks "I hope that kid's going to be okay at school."

As noted before, YakuzaDad is a delightful father-figure—a prickly gangster with a heart of gold who slips into the role of caretaker with an ease that surprises even him. He soon realizes that Hina’s powers could make his life and job easier, but when Hina notes that she’s “seen those grown-up eyes” before, he also realizes that people have taken advantage of her in the past and assures her he won’t do the same. He neither coddles nor exploits her, and their combative affection feels genuine instead of saccharine as a result.

I suspect the cast will grow as Hina makes friends at school and characters from her past start to appear, but this father/daughter relationship looks to serve as the emotional core of the series. So far, it’s a damn charming core, and a dynamic I would be more than happy to watch play out over a season.

A close up of a girl's expressionless face as she says "Aren't you going to order me to kill them?"
A blonde man looking over his shoulder in the front seat of a car, looking angry. He says "Why should you have to do that?!"

Hinamatsuri‘s other strong point is its offbeat sense of humor. Every time it looks like the series might veer into sappy sweetness or grim tragedy, it swerves into weird, understated comedy instead. A metal capsule with a face falls on Nitta’s head—and he goes to bed (and when Nitta gets trapped in the capsule post-credits, Hina hilariously does the same thing to him). The evening news talks about food poisoning and money-laundering at local schools—and Hina decides school sounds like a neat thing she wants to try. Hina offers to take out a rival gang for Nitta—by throwing everything in the building out the windows, to a chorus of yakuza shouting “Ouchy!” as they hit the ground.

I’m of the firm opinion that emotional beats are much more effective when a series balances drama with comedy, endearing the audience to its cast through their quirks and absurdities, and this premiere walks that tightrope well. It treats its characters with sincerity but winks at its own silly premise, and invites the audience to sympathize with Hina without wallowing in her past struggles. Add to that studio Feel’s typically nice-looking visuals (best displayed via that rad opening fight sequence), and you’ve got the recipe for an enjoyable father/daughter supernatural dramedy.

A girl in loose-fitting sweats sits in a chair. Behind her, a blonde man holds a hair dryer, dying her damp hair for her.

Mind you, Hinamatsuri still looks like a lot of problematic series that have come before it, which means there are half a dozen pits it could fall into. Suffering porn and fanservice are the most obvious, but turning that good good father/daughter relationship into a romance would be the most egregious by far. If the series gives in to any of anime’s skeevier impulses, my opinion of it would fall in a big damn hurry. For now, though, I’m pleasantly surprised and actively looking forward to the next episode. Moar cute found-family supernatural adventures, please!

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