「ミサキ階段 其の二」 (Kokuhaku no ki)
There are times when I’m quite surprised by the sophistication level behind Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun, given the presumed youth of the mangaka team Aida Iro. I don’t actually know their ages but I do know that they only have a one shot (2012’s Nica and Killey) on their resume prior to Hanako-kun. There are plenty of excellent manga written by inexperienced and even first-time mangaka, but they generally trade on the youthful energy the author brings – this series just feels like the work of someone older and more experienced.
The deeper we wade into the story the more apparent that becomes. There’s a good deal of complexity to this mythology and it fits together with elegance and precision. The anime has tweaked the order of events just a bit but both it and the manga share a sense of having been thoroughly fleshed out in advance of writing – there’s no winging it going on here. Layers upon layers keep revealing themselves, both in terms of character and plot. And we really are still at the tip of the iceberg stage – which makes the fact that the series is almost half-finished that much more distressing.
We’re back to the anime’s original format of two half-episodes, though these two are really opposite sides of the same coin. The aftermath of Hanako’s kiss on the cheek has left Nene-chan fairly discombobulated – even though she keeps repeating how “not her type” he is, she can’t stop thinking about what it meant. Aoi-chan is of the opinion that it can only mean a confession is coming – especially as everyone in school seems to be canoodling under the “confession tree”. That includes Aoi’s admirer Aoi Akane (yes, the exact opposite of Akane Aoi), who practices his confession on their mutual friend Lemon with unexpected results.
Sure enough Hanako-kun asks Nene to meet him underneath the tree after school. And surer enough he confesses to her – though the reason soon becomes clear. Turns out the tree is the Kodama, another of the school mysteries whose overreaching has prompted Hanako to intervene. That doesn’t prove all that difficult for him, but what happens afterwards is much more problematic – and certainly calls into question just how honest Nene is being with herself with the whole “type” thing. It turns out that the earlier kiss has been Hanako planting a protective charm on Nene given her post-Misaki state of exhaustion (and a good thing, too) but that doesn’t soften the blow for her at all.
I really like the way this scene plays out on the part of both characters. Hanako in fact seems genuinely horrified that he’s wounded Nene has badly as he has – he was no doubt being a bit cheeky (pun intended) but misread the situation. Mysterious and alien he may be, Hanako is capable of remorse and of expressing it to boot. As for Nene as devastated as she is, once she sees Hanako’s reaction she realizes that for her part she hasn’t been acting like the friend she called herself, and resolves to learn more about Hanako-kun.
Meanwhile, Kou’s older brother Teru re-enters the picture – Nene only now putting two together and realizing they’re brothers. Teru most decidedly is Nene’s type, though she’s not kidding herself that it’s anything more than pure infatuation and she doesn’t even really know him. Teru can likewise see Hanako, and is none too pleased that his little brother has forgotten his orders to exorcise any seven mysteries on-sight, and instead seemingly befriended one of them. Nene, for her part, has tried the direct route in her information gathering – asking questions of Hanako supposedly for a compatibility quiz – but having failed, turns to the library as a potential resource.
We met Nanamine Sakura (Anzai Chika) and Hyuga Natsuhiko (Mizushima Takahiro) at the very close of last week’s episode, and just what role they play in the school is still very much unclear. But Sakura intervenes directly in Nene’s affairs for the first time here, after Nene’s failure at research directing her to Mystery #5. Aoi knows of it of course – it’s the “4:00 Library”, where white books are the records of the living and black of the dead, and the red books must never be
red read. Nene also has a (literal) run in with this fellow, allowing Jibaku Shounen to satisfy the legal requirement that all anime in 2020 feature Tsuda Kenjirou.
All of this may not fit together in any obvious way yet, but I assure you it will. And I can also promise you that there are hints scattered throughout these episodes (this one especially) about what may be coming, if the viewer is observant enough. It really is an elegant piece of fiction – and the characters are complicated and genuinely interesting in the way they interact. Combine that with the anime’s singular visual style and the wonderful soundtrack and you have a viewing experience that’s quite unlike any other, and for me the most intriguing and satisfying series of the season.