That was certainly an odd way to bring the saga of Hinamatsuri to a close, but then this was a pretty odd series altogether. If ever a show seemingly needed two cours it was this one, but… you know the drill. I won’t deny that some of the directorial choices were odd, but for the most part I think they were odd by choice. And most importantly, the vast majority of those choices worked either comedically or dramatically (and sometimes both) I’m not sure the last one did, but I give Oikawa Kei (who’s looking an awful lot like the new Oota Masahiko) credit for swinging for the fences.
I had the feeling we weren’t going to get anything too “final” here, and indeed we didn’t. First off we had the conclusion of last week’s cliffhanger, which told us that Hina went missing during the school ski trip. What wasn’t revealed till this week was that she was with Hitomi, Takashi and Kengo, which led to a vastly entertaining segment with the four mismatched 7th-graders trying to survive in the mountains. Frankly as soon as Hina let loose “Snow nanu da” (that’s one of the best Japanese puns I’ve heard in ages), I was on-board.
This was pretty much good, straightforward comedy, full of clever gags like Hitomi and Takashi’s reaction to Kengo’s reaction to their absolving him of blame for what happened (we’ve all been there – you say it to make the person feel better, but you know it’s actually their fault). In the end Hina has no choice but to reveal her powers to the others, all of whom are understandably highly skeptical at first. As for the end of this chapter, it gives is a smidge of Nitta-Hina bonding without going over the top – and Anzu sneaking into Nitta’s flashback Hina montage was like a dash of vinegar to keep things from getting too sweet.
Then things got really odd. I guess Mao was always going to get circled back to in the end, since she was the one that featured in the anime’s very first scene. Given the time limitations it was operating under, though, it kind of feels to me as if Hinamatsuri would have been better off dropping her character altogether. As it was, we got a perfectly entertaining but very disconnected (especially as the entire B-part is post-credits) chapter set three years later, featuring Mao and Atsushi (the street rocker Hina hooked up with all those years ago) in China. He’s looking for somebody who can help him achieve the same magic he had with Hina; she’s a living commercial for a martial arts dojo posing as a Buddhist temple. Given that she’s desperate to get to Japan these two are in a position to help each other – especially after Mao realizes Atsushi knows Hina.
Atsushi’s quest to pioneer “Rockusion” is a cute sidebar, no more, and for me at least I never really got to know Mao well enough to be emotionally vested in her character. I am curious to find out what happens to her once she gets back to Japan – but since the anime will never tell us, that seems like a mixed blessing at best. The fight scenes were good at least, but on balance this chapter feels like the first episode of a spinoff rather than the last episode of an existing show.
So in the end, the end wasn’t Hinamatsuri at its very best – but there’s no shame in that. It was still very good, and this series at its very best was some of the best anime of the season. Oikawa-sensei, as I mentioned, is reminding me more and more of a young Oota Masahiko – a vastly gifted comedy director who can excel in a variety of styles. Given that they both worked on Minami-ke it’s not impossible that Oikawa had Oota-sensei as a mentor of sorts, though as far as I know they never worked on the same season of that show.
It’s also worth noting that .feel is quietly emerging as a force in anime, and they’ve had a very impressive calendar year indeed – Tsuki ga Kirei, Kono Bijustsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru (which Oikawa also directed), the original (and better) season of Dagashi Kashi, Hinamatsuri – that’s a hell of a run, especially for comedy. .feel has been around for a long time, but they’ve leveled up in a big way. Hinamatsuri isn’t the very best of that group, but at its best it could trade punches with any anime comedy both in terms of laughs and feels. I should have listened to the folks telling me the manga was special, because clearly it is – I missed the boat on this show, but I’m very happy to admit I did.