Disclaimer: There might be spoilers ahead
Toilet-bound Hanako-kun has without a doubt been one of the most visually engaging anime of this season. Although skeptical at first, I quickly realised that this series is special. The 7th episode just came out but still I would not mind nominating it as one of the best anime airing this winter season.
Let me start of by saying that I am a big fan of the whole school mystery, spooky and metaphysical vibe that this anime has going on. I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories and the like, especially those found in anime. The Japanese consistently manage to be very in tune with the spiritual/ supernatural genre, no matter what spin they put on it. Toilet-bound Hanako-kun just serves as another wonderful example of their proficiency at using the macabre and occult as themes for a story.
The art style and animation of Toilet-bound Hanako-kun might seem odd if you consider that this is a story about apparitions but it definitely works. It draws you in with its cutesy art and cartoon-y character reactions and then suddenly -in a flash- the music changes, a sharp sound effect cuts through the air and the big mischievous eyes of Hanako-kun turn ominous and frightening. This contrast is used throughout the series very effectively. It just makes you laugh one moment and the next it snaps you right back to attention. It just never fails to remind you that you are not watching a cute and innocent slice of life anime. You are in fact watching a mysterious supernatural tale. Hanako-kun is not just a happy go lucky student, he is toilet-bound Hanako-san, the seventh wonder of Kamome Academy, a knife wielding spirit that met an untimely death a long time ago.
I really can’t say enough good things about what is perhaps my favorite aspect of Toilet-bound Hanako-kun, the sound. The music, the voice acting, the sound effects, everything is so good and well thought out. The music just makes this show.
Despite the ‘dark’ theme, the main characters of the series are not what you would expect. Hanako-kun, regardless of being a ghost, doesn’t come off as dangerous or harmful, in the beginning at least. His co-protagonist, also does not look like the average ghost/horror story protagonist. Daikon legs *cough cough*… I meant Yashiro-san, is a simple girl that is focused on what most youths are focused on, namely romance. She comes off as simple-minded and goofy, a girl that is in love with love and bounces from one fleeting crush to the next. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I disliked her at first but I was afraid that she would just be a simple maiden in distress and nothing more. Nonetheless, I did not expect that I would care for her as much as I do now. I actually feel bad for her as well as for Hanako-kun. I am starting to understand why he has taken a liking to her. They seem to grow closer together with each passing episode. As we learn more of Hanako-kun’s mysterious past and the reasons he became an apparition, we can tell that he was in a lot pain when he was alive. It’s nice to see that he is enjoying his relationship with Yashiro, as if he was still alive. That of course is only because Yashiro is treating him with kindness and without prejudice. So, credits where credits due, Yashiro is a kind girl, a character far more lovable than I had first anticipated.
It’s true that the premise of the story as well as its progression are based on the school apparitions and the mysteries that surround them but for me at least, I see the mysteries as a vehicle for Hanako-kun’s and Yashiro-san’s relationship. That does not mean that I haven’t enjoyed the mysteries we have encountered so far. Their stories have also been very moving and meaningful but it is clear as day that this anime is all about those two. Perhaps ever so slightly more about Hanako-kun. It does not take a genius to figure out that he has a few skeletons in his closet. The reason why he is so secretive is still not clear though. Most likely, he is afraid of how Yashiro will view him after finding out the truth. I couldn’t tell you if he has chosen to do this in order to protect his assistant, Daikon-legs, or simply for his own selfish reasons. Perhaps it’s a little bit of both.
It is clear that Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun is on a mission to pull on our heart strings. What I firstly though of as a visually impressive anime with an interesting story, has turned into something much more profound. I don’t know if that is just me but this anime has managed to both impress me with its level of creativity, referring to the animation and the music, as well as captivate me with its mysteries and characters. I will gladly keep accompanying Yashiro-san as she is dragged deeper and deeper into Hanako-kun’s supernatural world.