Perhaps this is due to my coming from modern educational facilities from primary through to university and also missing out on an exchange month back in my high school years, but Japanese creators have this uncanny knack of making schools in Japan sound awesome. From mysteries and legends that have been passed down from class to class, to all sorts of fun activities and drama within their halls; having a series set in a school environment has lots of potential. Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is the latest in this long line of works to derive its narrative from popular and not-so-popular mysteries within a school with decades of history behind it.
Based on the ongoing Japanese manga written and illustrated by Aidalro, Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun (地縛少年花子くん) gives anime fans a look into Kamome Academy. This historical school is best known for its “Seven Wonders”. The show focuses on a self-conscious and somewhat shallow first-year high school student named Nene Yashiro – who wishes for her crush to return her feelings. The legend is that the seventh wonder of the school, “Hanako”, can be summoned from the girl’s bathroom and can grant any wish in return for something precious of his choosing. But this “Hanako” defies the typical legend and is instead a rather trendy, mischievous boy. Furthermore, a chance of fate sees Nene linked to Hanako – forcing her to become his assistant in dealing with the natural and supernatural threats which befall the students.
Across its twelve episode season, viewers are ultimately presented with an incomplete narrative, which ends suddenly. This is presumably making way for future seasons as the manga continues to be developed. However, as a series here and now, it is abrupt and risks leaving viewers with no conclusion should the anime not be renewed, nor a cliff-hanger keeping them waiting for me.
However, for what we are presented with, Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun proves to be a binge-worthy and pleasant series. It strikes that balance between comedic school life elements and some genuinely emotional and intense scenes. The plot progression can be haphazard at times and drawn out at others, but the concepts and content behind each episode is likable, with a fitting mid-season twist. Even if some episodes are more standalone than others, none of them feels wasted, peppering in new elements and concepts to reduce the risk of any feeling run-of-the-mill.
The most significant flaw comes in the form of protagonist Nene Yashiro. While male protagonists Hanako and Kou Minamoto are both well fleshed out and have their own arcs, which are a roller-coaster and have an impact on the overarching story, despite being the viewers’ conduit into understanding the world of Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun, she could be replaced by any other student cliche and be just as notable. Despite being dragged into many of Kamome Academy’s events, she feels like just an unimpressive character to occasionally poke fun at and keep the stories of the other characters moving. Here’s hoping future seasons offer us more from Yashiro, as I think there is some untapped charm to her character.
The source manga for Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun had a distinctive art style, which the team at animation studio Lerche (Danganronpa: The Animation, Assassination Classroom, Magical Girl Raising Project) draws from it effectively, having backdrops, character designs and animation all stand out from any other series on the market. The musical backing is also fantastic, from the atmospheric OST to its amazing opening theme “No. 7” by “Chibaku Shōnen Band”.
Toilet-bound Hanako-kun stems from one of the first massive simuldub seasons from Funimation Entertainment, where they tackled numerous seasons across different genres, with ADR Directors and voice actors sometimes tackling multiple projects at once. Despite this, the English dub features some good talent doing their voices above adequately. Justin Briner as Hanako is the clear star of the show, pulling off both the impish and serious sides of his personality. Tia Ballard and Tyson Rinehart also do amicable performances as Yashiro and Minamoto – but have certainly had better roles in the past.
If you are a premium subscriber of AnimeLab (Soon to be renamed Funimation Australia & New Zealand), you can watch the full season with dual-audio on the service. But… what extra content have the producers offered to encourage fans to purchase the Blu-ray edition instead?
The big ticket item is a recording of the Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun panel hosted during FunimationCon 2020 – the all digital convention created in response to COVID-19. This was a lot of fun and insightful to watch, even if it wasn’t as ad-hoc as the voice actor commentaries we usually see with Funimation anime releases. Would definitely love to see more of these in the future. Other than that, the only other offerings are promo videos and clean opening sequences.
Final Thoughts on Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is ultimately a fun, approachable and occasionally emotionally charged anime which makes for an easy binge. Initially luring me in by its fantastic visual style, which is a testament to the manga’s original designs, watching it feels like an investment towards many more hours of delight in the future. This is because, while adequate by itself, it provides a peek at a much deeper, creative and imaginative world that hopefully, the anime’s creative team will revisit sooner rather than later. Should the anime adaptation end here… I would genuinely be sad.