What’s it about? They say that this school has Seven Wonders. They say that if you go to the third-floor girls’ bathroom and knock three times, a ghost named Hanako-san will appear. They say that if you make a wish, she’ll grant it for you, but you must give up something in return. After a harsh rejection, Nene decides to appeal to Hanako for her new crush to return her affections. But something seems amiss… this Hanako is a boy?
Well if this isn’t just one of the gosh-darn nicest premieres I ever did see.
The concept of a male ghost haunting the girl’s bathroom seems just ripe for the exact kind of commonplace ribald anime comedy that I don’t enjoy. I expected peeping jokes, piss fetishism, screeches of “Kyaaa!” and failed attempts to slap a non-corporeal being. I got precisely none of those.
Instead, I got a slightly spooky, surprisingly sweet little show that treats both its main characters with utmost compassion.
I really like it when directors have distinctive voices, adding their familiar style even to adaptive works, albeit without becoming without overbearing. It’s why I’m so drawn to voices like Yamamoto Sayo, Hatakeyama Mamoru, and Matsumoto Rie —their work has become instantly recognizable to me, with stylistic quirks and flourishes that make up a visual signature.
Ando Masaomi joined that list not long ago, and his fingerprints are all over Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun. Manga-style panels float across the screen, often joined by katakana sound effects, enhancing the show’s already-unusual art style. If it weren’t for Keep Your Hands of Eizouken, it would be a shoo-in for the best-looking show of the season.
It’s also one of the sweetest premieres. Hanako immediately recognizes that Nene doesn’t necessarily want one particular guy; she just wants to be loved. He teases her for it a little, but it never feels like she’s being criticized as shallow or fickle. There’s so much cruelty in the world aimed at girls whose only crime is to want to be treasured, to be seen and treated as special. Nene wants to be chosen, and after a particularly cruel rejection, doesn’t seem to think that’s possible with supernatural interference.
The reasons she’s rejected resonates especially strongly with me, and I suspect will with quite a few of you as well. She tried to transform herself for her crush, taking up cooking, sewing, and gardening in the name of becoming more “feminine.” She tried to tailor herself to his tastes, to become smaller and quieter, and when she finally got up the nerve to tell him how she felt, he turned her down because of the thickness of her legs.
Nene, honey, please don’t beat yourself up. Thick thighs save lives. This guy is a loser for not realizing that.
I’m glad this series appears to be about Nene being loved purely for herself, because she is fantastic. She grows vegetables, not flowers, in her garden. She’s physically quite strong, swinging around garden tools with ease. She’s kind of weird and impulsive, and I love her to pieces, even if her former crush didn’t. There’s a real power to how she struggles and fails to fit this into the crushingly narrow expectations of what a girl “should” be.
And so, when Nene impulsively swallows a mermaid scale in hopes of using its supernatural powers without waiting to hear the full details of the curse it would bring her, the effect is more sad than shameful. She’s so desperate that she doesn’t even care about the consequences.
None of this would have worked if Hanako (voiced by one of my longtime-favorite voice actors, Ogata Megumi) weren’t fundamentally a sweetheart. He’s a little rude to Nene, sure, but by the end of the episode, there’s a sense of affection and attachment there. He has enough personality not to be a potato, but also isn’t a jackass, thus clearing the incredibly low bar for male anime protagonists that so many walk straight into.
There’s also a sadness to him that I find intriguing: he’s not just a helpful ghost or an anthropomorphic monkey’s paw. His story is a black box thus far, but I also get a sense that there’s some real substance there.
Hanako–kun’s sweet comedy, attention-grabbing visual style, and undercurrent of melancholy make for one of the most promising premieres of the season. It may not sound like much initially, but I promise it’s worth your time.