Some Brief Notes on Hinako Note

Welcome, all, again.  Having last reviewed a futuristic fantasy, I decided to relax with some comical slice-of-life this time.  Hinako Note, which follows the efforts of high school first-year Hinako Sakuragi to develop her social skills, is a whimsical and warm show full of physical humor.  To be sure, there are plenty of quiet jokes and shaded (if not downright shady) dialogue to propel the storylines.  But it’s the physical humor, often bordering upon slapstick, that drives the show as a whole.  Meanwhile, what I initially found most interesting was the cast of characters–a collection of renamed favorites seemingly stolen straight from other shows, all epitomizing the concepts of moe and kawaii.  Oh, go ahead and watch an episode–you’ll see what I mean!  (I can wait. . .)

Well, did you see?  Did you notice Cocoa wearing the hair accessories she so obviously borrowed from Wakaba?  What about Konata?  Seriously, doesn’t Kuina–especially her facial expressions–remind you of Konata?  We’ve even got Ritsu standing in as (what else?) the landlady Chiaki.  Add Hana (now called Mayuki) floating fairy-like through the cafe, then pull in the obligatory tsundere and ridiculously overdeveloped youngster, and you’ve got “guilty pleasure” viewing gold!  When you get right down to it, this series seems to be only one or two characters shy of triggering mass cute-steria.  Now imagine what might happen if they dropped in Ren-chon from Non Non Biyori or Kanna from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.  I’m telling you, they just don’t make enough insulin. . .

That said, the story is a pretty simple one.  Hinako, a country girl who has a gentle way with animals (be they domesticated or wild), moves to Tokyo to begin her first year of high school.  She has great difficulty conversing with others, and chooses her high school based upon having seen its theater club perform.  Hinako hopes that joining the theater club will help her overcome her petrifying shyness.  She soon finds out, however, that the club is on hiatus while their advisor is gone.  But what she also discovers is that the other residents of her new home all attend her school and are all supportive of her ambition.  And while Chiaki was already in theater, Hinako’s enthusiasm draws in her other new friends, as well.  Cue the love!

Again, this show is pure whimsy, this season’s warm and welcoming feel-good piece.  Relaxing, pointless fluff (but that is the point!).  From Hinako’s former part-time job as a scarecrow to Kuina’s literally devouring literature, we witness a certain mundanely manic effort by the characters to create fulfilling lives for themselves.  And for the most part, I have faith in them succeeding.  I’m even pretty sure that Hinako will make progress against her awkward shyness; I just don’t know how many of her housemates or classmates will survive the process.

 

 

 

Feeling Blue? Anime Pick-Me-Ups

Welcome, all, again.  After a disheartening week at work, I found myself once again seeking the solace of favorite anime episodes.  Knowing that I can’t be the only one who does this, I decided to dedicate this installment to a brief list of suggestions for those who need a quick pick-me-up after some unpleasant IRL time.  And so, corresponding to the level of comfort sought, I offer the following:

Spike

4) Final [2] episode[s] of Cowboy Bebop: for when you don’t even want to feel better, you just want some affirmation for your state of mind.  Spike is a man with a past, but don’t dare think that he’s running from it–he just needs some time to wrap his head around everything that happened before he can really move forward.  And when he finally does, well, watch a man newly determined to plot his own course and alter fate.  Don’t look here for happily-ever-after, but the conclusion does offer a sweeping sense of completion and fulfillment.

Makie and Haruna, with a bearly there Kirishima

3) Episode 6 of Arpeggio of Blue Steel: for when you need that sudden infusion of hope (against all odds).  Episode 4 sees a desperate battle between Iona and the combined might of Fog battleships Haruna (HaruHaru) and Kirishima, and ends with Haruna’s mental model ashore where she is found by the child Makie.  Episode 5 follows the delicate inroads towards friendship made by Makie and Haruna, neither of whom has ever before had the opportunity to find or be a friend.  But it is in episode 6, when Makie’s life is threatened, that we viewers witness just how important this new concept of friendship has become.  Self-sacrifice is the order of the day all around, so that even if your tears fall, your heart will leap and soar!  (Episode 10 covers similar themes of devotion and self-sacrifice, but based upon love rather than friendship.)

Ren-chon and Kaede, ep10 of NNBR

2) Episode 10 of Non Non Biyori: for when you really need the comfort of complete acceptance and unconditional love.  As a slice-of-life show concentrating upon family and community, you expect feel-good storylines from Non Non Biyori.  And you get them, but episode 10 is still something special.  Throughout the preceding nine episodes, we viewers noticed the especially close relationship between Ren-chon, the youngest character, and Kaede (called “Candy Store”).  Episode 10 finally reveals the connection, referencing the past while remaining firmly rooted in the present as the three Miyauchi sisters join Kaede for a New Year’s sunrise viewing.  The end result is an episode brimming with warmth and heart!  Even moreso than my upcoming #1 pick (which just takes too much out of me, sometimes), this particular episode is my go-to happy place when I really need one.  (Episode 10 of Non Non Biyori Repeat–the anime’s second season–likewise focuses upon the relationship between the two, as Renge tries to learn to ride a bicycle.)

Making it up as they go along, Rin and Daikichi
  1. Episode 1 of Usagi Drop (also called Bunny Drop): for when you need it all–love, trust, the recognition and validation of despair, as well as the tensile strength of hope.  Lifelong bachelor Daikichi attends his maternal grandfather’s funeral only to learn that the old man left behind an illegitimate 6-year-old daughter.  Scorned as the very manifestation of their family’s shame, Rin is alternately ignored, bullied, and ultimately rejected by all relatives. . .all except Daikichi, who is confused and repulsed by the insensitive treatment heaped upon an innocent child.  But what can he do to help?  Nothing but risk everything.  This is probably the single most emotionally uplifting episode of anime that I’ve ever watched (and repeatedly re-watched!).  Just be warned that it will savage your heart before it salves it, so first make sure that you’re really up for the emotional investment!

And there you have them, my recommendations for one-shot curative treatments against the blues, the blahs, and all the general nastiness that the world likes to throw at us.  So go take a 24-minute soak and get revitalized!

Revisiting Flying Witch

Welcome, all, again.  Flying Witch is a leisurely slice-of-life offering which was simulcast on Crunchyroll earlier this spring and summer (2016).  Its titular heroine is Makoto Kowata, a teenage girl of magical lineage who moves away from home to train.  Well, almost away from home.  Like her older sister Akane before her, Mako-chan moves in with cousins living in Aomori, a rural community.  This branch of the family, the Kuramoto(s), have no magic but are quite accustomed to its possession and use by their kinfolk, making them the perfect support network for a young witch-in-training.  (Poor Kiki only wished she had it so good!  Still, a beautiful continuity of theme from Kiki’s Delivery Service.)  It also helps that Makoto used to regularly visit the Kuramoto family years ago when Akane lived with them, making her own stay more like a homecoming.  Oh, and that her cousin Kei Kuramoto is Makoto’s own age and used to play with her during those visits.  So despite her move, Mako-chan is home again.

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But Makoto was never very good with directions, and things have a tendency towards change.  Taken together, these two facts can make even the most welcoming environment assume certain challenging aspects.  Upon arriving in Aomori, Makoto isn’t even sure how to find her relatives’ house; she certainly isn’t prepared for the inquisitiveness of Kei’s younger sister Chinatsu, who is unfamiliar with the Kowata side of the family.  Chinatsu’s deadpan responses to the changes in her little world are gems of humor!  But although almost severely skeptical at first, she becomes enamored of the new experiences and characters revealed to her by her older cousin.  And once Akane starts stopping by to check on Makoto–then begins extending those visits–Chinatsu wastes no time apprenticing herself to the more (the moe?) experienced witch!  After all, not all witches are born so; thus, it looks as if the Kuramoto clan will finally have a witch of their own, and with the full moral support of her parents and brother.

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And that pretty much sums up the essence of this series.  You’ll probably notice that I placed very little emphasis on witchcraft and magic.  Frankly, that’s because this show isn’t so much about witchcraft and magic, but about a family–in this case, an extended family–providing its members with love and support in which to root themselves as they become the people they wish to be.  These are not perfect people: they make mistakes; they get in each others’ way.  But they accept that about themselves and each other.  If I were to compare Flying Witch to just one other show, it would be Non Non Biyori–and that’s a high compliment!  A young female student from the city moves to a rural area and proceeds to establish herself within the community, making friends and learning about local life.  Both series have a certain quietude about them, and both focus upon the close bonds of family and friendship.  (Meanwhile, Chinatsu and Ren-chon share an understated deadpan delivery that packs a wallop, and a certain amount of pampered indulgence from the the older members of their respective groups.)  Magic is inherent to this story, but it is not the story.  And Flying Witch is a better show because of that.