I’ve been pretty pessimistic that this series had any chance of a sequel, but the signals on that are perhaps a little more mixed than they have been. On the one hand the anime just skipped two story arcs to get to this point, one of which was rather more crucial than the other. Still, for the second week in a row now Hanako-kun has ranked as the #3 series in terms of total manga volumes sold in Japan, and the other names in the Top 10 are all serious sales powerhouses whose adaptations have multiple seasons. I’d hate to think that the anime was produced under the premise that there was no chance of a sequel and thus burns through most of the material, only to prove more popular than expected – what a shame that would be.
By sheer coincidence (or maybe not, who knows how the damn subconscious works) I grabbed a donut and sat down to eat it just as I started up this week’s episode of Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun. And it’s not like I eat donuts very often either, though they’re more popular here than you’d think. The donut was sweet, and so was the ep – but unlike the donut it was full of the nuance that makes this series special. The sense of tonal contrast Hanako-kun can unleash at a moment’s notice is pretty spectacular, and the anime has already conveyed that on more than one occasion.
Donuts, of course, is a theme that carries over from last week’s episode. And it’s rather telling that it’s Kou who chooses to make them, and not Nene. She’s certainly worried about Hanako, no doubt, just as you’d expect her to be. But that Kou would feel enough empathy for Hanako even without having seen what Nene did gives you some idea of the capacity for empathy he has. Nene is too busy being unnerved by the whole thing, which is certainly understandable. She doesn’t know what to think now that she “knows” Hanako the real-live boy as well as the ghost – everything about him is complicated, including her feelings towards him (no one repeats a mantra like “not my type” that often unless they’re desperately trying to convince themselves it’s true).
As for Kou, he does take advantage of this opportunity to get into the kitchen with Nene. He asks for her help with the donuts on the grounds that he’s a terrible cook, though that’s strictly a pretext. His intentions here are a little vague – all this could be interpreted as being a good wingman as easily as a form of courtship – but what’s not vague is his attitude towards spirits. Which continues to not thrill Teru, who takes a much harder line and wishes his brother would do the same. He’s content to observe for the moment, but a character you sense at this point is capable of going in either direction.
Things between Hanako and Nene do seem “normal” after she presents the donuts as a peace offering. And more importantly, clears the air about what’s been bothering her – and he’s been genuinely worried about that. But there’s no time to bask in the warm glow of their relationship, as this boy makes his return appearance. He shows up in the form of a black crane, and Hanako is clearly not thrilled to see him. He later tells Nanamine and Hyuuga – who he’s obviously working with – that he hasn’t seen “his brother” in a very long time. That and the fact that he remarks to Hanako that he was killed by him adds to the pile of mysteries surrounding him.
Just what is Nanamine and Hyuuga’s endgame here? They’re the ones changing the rumors about the Seven Mysteries, using Hanako’s brother and the school broadcast system as their tools of the trade. Just what’s in it for them, and how exactly do they get this other “Hanako” to cooperate (though Nanamine-san does imply that he’s a loose cannon)?
If what she saw shook Nene up, what he just saw has shaken up Hanako-kun even more. He’s singularly disinclined to discuss it, though, which leaves things once more rather awkward. Soon enough there’s a distraction though, thanks to Nanamine and Hyuuga’s rumor-mongering. A new apparition is the talk of the school – a spirit which assails you as you’re putting on your shoes. But in Kou it picks the wrong middle-schooler to target. The right exorcist, though – for Kou declares to Hanako that he “doesn’t do that anymore”. Instead he wants to try and help the spirit somehow, and Hanako suggests that he might try and clear up whatever regrets are keeping him around.
And so Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun reaches into its seemingly endless well of indelible characters again. This ghost (Kobayashi Daiki) doesn’t have a name that we’re privy to yet, and he seems rather meek and helpless. That all changes, though, when Kou-kun gets him away from Hanako and removes the tape from his mouth, because the little ghost really lets go. In fact he accuses Kou of being a pervert who wants to make porn videos to blackmail him with (he seems quite obsessed with that notion in fact). There’s a story to be told here, that’s obvious – but that’s a matter for next week.