I started off having little interest in Jibaku Shonen Hanako-kun. I had seen ads for the manga months before the anime aired, but it wasn’t until I saw the anime's promo videos that I noticed its highly stylized aesthetic. Hanako-kun is a cool looking show; the colors are popping, the black outlines create nice contrast, and the character designs are unique and whimsical. Still, I didn’t feel very drawn to the story so I put on an episode of the dub to pass the time while I was at work. It was cute, the cast was fun, and the ED is one of my favorites of the year so far. I thought it would be a nice little show and I’d leave it at that.
Two weeks later, I have seen every episode in both English and Japanese. I am 100% engaged in this story. I even almost cried at one point. To my surprise, Jibaku Shonen Hanako-kun is an anime worth watching. I’m here to tell you why.
Originally, I started watching it seriously because of the art. The show looked too good for me to just listen to it like an audio book at work; it was a disservice to the time and talent that made it. When I sat down to devote my attention to it, I wasn’t blown away. A young girl, Nene Yashiro, hears the supernatural rumors of her high school and goes to see Hanako-san, the spirit who haunts the third-floor girl’s bathroom in the old school building, to make a wish. Shenanigans with this Hanako-san, who ends up being a boy— thus the kun—ensue and Nene ends up working for him to keep peace between the spirits and students. Easy story to get behind. It’s a worse Natsume Yuujincho…a better Holmes of Kyoto…I was in. But then, out of nowhere, I was really in.
After its initial episodes (proof the three-episode test is so important!), Hanako-kun started peeling its layers back. Why was Hanako haunting the bathroom? How did he die? Why is the school connected to so many spirits? More and more, the show started asking questions and, better than answering them, Hanako-kun only hints at the answers. Each episode gives you a clue, a little piece of the bigger mystery behind the madness. This slow-burn unveiling alongside complex character relationships (I like the Hanako, Nene, Kou triangle’s dynamic, especially Kou’s recent epiphanies) is creating an entertaining and exciting show, wrapped up in a uniquely stylized package. It leans into its drama and characters, stinging us with tragedy and the power of hindsight. If Chihayafuru wasn’t airing, it would probably be my anime of the season (Haikyuu needs to pick up the pace).
Jibaku Shonen Hanako-kun is a slice of life anime with an emotional edge I wasn’t expecting. Its twists and turns are hitting me in all the right places. Rarely does a show do exactly what I want it to do; I wanted more context— more of a historical nonfiction vibe— I wanted the show to make me feel something. Do you hear that noise? It’s Hanako-kun checking off all my boxes.
Watch the show. Let me know what you think. No one I know is watching it. I would love someone to gush over it with.