Well, we reevaluated our schedule today and realized we really should not have been so laid-back yesterday. We are now crunched. Like, two books and an anime episode a week for three weeks crunched. So instead of reporting about Japan, we're going to take advantage of the fact that it's Review Rednesday! This week, we bring you our review of Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun volume 1! Spoiler level: moderate for a volume one.
Oh my gosh, this series. So what happened was, we were working on another book that should have been announced by the time this review gets posted but hasn't been yet, so let's just say it's a horror series. We were working on that, and wondering why in the world we agree to do horror series, and seriously considering telling our editor that we can't do anymore horror because it's just too blah, when our editor emailed and asked, "By the way, how's your schedule? Do you have time for a new series?" And we were like, "Uhhh, we like to think so because we can never resist the pull of exciting newness! Let's just go ahead and say yes! ...If there's not too much text." And she said, "Great, how about this one?" and included a link to its Amazon Japan page. And I thought, "Hanako-kun...how odd that it would be -kun with -ko..."
I was completely oblivious until the page loaded and we saw the cover, and then I was like, "!!!" in a "WHYYYY!?" sort of way. I think it was a little bit later that I finally made the connection with Hanako-san, the famous school ghost story that comes up in manga all the time. So based on the cover and the title, it combined major elements of our two least favorite things to work on: the gender-bent Hanako from First Love Monster, and horror stories. But the descriptions and reviews said it was a not-scary horror, and in fact the reviews said it was a comedy (although one of the negative ones said it basically just claimed to be a comedy). The back cover even says it's heartful. And that all put us in mind of Gugure Kokkuri-san, which we loved, and all that plus our inability to refuse shiny newness had us agree to do it anyway.
And boy are we glad we did! It turns out that two negatives multiplied do make a positive. Content-wise, the series is more like a combination of...something I don't remember anymore (it'll come to me the next time we work on whatever it is--oh! I think it was In/Spectre! more on that later) and, more importantly, Noragami. In fact, it clearly took a lot of inspiration from Noragami, because it deals with the Near Shore and the Far Shore, the main character is a girl who is now stuck to a supernatural being because of some bizarro condition, and the main guy is one of those "can't tell if he's awesome or pathetic" types whose job it is to grant wishes to make sure as many people know about him as possible. And just in case you still had any doubt, she meets him in the girls' bathroom. It's just like Yato's first appearance! ...Only Hanako is supposed
to be in the girls' bathroom...except that Hanako is also supposed to be a girl. So far the only explanation as to the different gender is from a gag comic under the slipcover, which says he gave into his lusts. I'm guessing he was just making a joke in order to keep his secret...which is something Yato has been known to do as well.
Okay, so let's start at the beginning. The school has Seven Mysteries. We chose to translate it as Mysteries this time, because Wonders sounds happy and Horrors sounds scary, and we wanted something inbetween, because Hanako explains that the reason they do scary things is so people will remember them better, but that indicates that maybe they would exist in a not scary context, too? Or something. Anyway, the point is, if you find the "correct story" for all of them, something is supposed to happen. But our heroine, Nene Yashiro, doesn't care about that; she's only interested in the seventh mystery, Hanako-san of the Toilet, because the ghost is said to grant wishes, and she desperately needs a wish granted.
It turns out she needs the school's prince, Minamoto-sempai, to fall in love with her, because she needs to get revenge on a guy who cruelly rejected her a month ago. After a few attempts using the non-selling-your-soul way, Nene gets impatient and demands that she be able to sell her soul! This is where we see that Hanako really isn't a scary ghost, because he doesn't want to let her do it. But she finds his mermaid scales anyway and gets herself cursed, despite Hanako's very stern warnings, and even though she has no idea how it works. I don't even know why she assumed she was supposed to eat one; maybe she just put it in her mouth to keep him from taking it away from her, and then she swallowed it. Well now she had to go get Minamoto-sempai to eat one, too, but when she finds him, he's telling another girl that he can't accept her love confession because he's already in love with somebody else. The first time we read though it, I thought, "It's Nene, isn't it?" But the second time, I thought it might be a different character, but more on that later, because at this point he's still supposed to seem like a one-chapter-only character.
Anyway, Nene realizes she was only thinking about herself and decides not to curse Minamoto-sempai...and then she passes out. She wakes up in a fish bowl! What! Hanako saved her just before she dried out. The mermaid scale turned her into a fish, you see. Having someone else eat one would make them share the curse, so they wouldn't be 100% fishy, but they would be bound together in common misery. And they'd be forced to serve the mermaid whose scales they ate, and by the way, here it is to get her! So Hanako fights it off, and then, because Nene's wish wasn't granted, he agrees to grant her wish of making her human again. Well, he doesn't do that completely--he eats a scale himself, so now he
shares the curse with her, and she has to be his assistant. Tadah! (Now she only gets scales when she gets wet. The assumption is that if she gets all
wet, she will turn into a fish again. There is no indication of what affect the curse has on Hanako, if any.)
In the next chapter, we meet the faeries, who take things. That's all. It was a cute story, and the faeries turned out to be pretty adorable, mostly because of the whole candy thing. The important lesson in this chapter is that the supernaturals have to act just like their rumors say they do, or they'll disappear from the Near Shore. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, since they're technically Far Shore creatures to begin with, but maybe they just don't like it as much there. Oh, and Nene decides that she's Hanako's friend. That's important, too.
Moving on, just as Nene is wishing that a cute boy would fall from the sky and into love with her, who should appear but the young exorcist Kou Minamoto. And you can bet that as soon as we heard the name Minamoto, we were like, "Like her Sempai? And he's in the middle school division? They're brothers!" Then later he mentions his Nii-chan. Then, on our second readthrough, we noticed that in Operation: Corner of Love, when Nene crashed into a middle school boy, she was approaching Minamoto-sempai as he was talking to someone who, on closer inspection, looked remarkably like Kou. So we're guessing that Kou's insistence on vanquishing Hanako has less to do with finishing what his grandmother started and more to do with something that has to do with his big brother. That's why one of our theories about Minamoto-sempai's true love is that maybe it's Hanako. I'm sure we'll find out later. I think there's a lot of stuff in this series that's been mentioned in passing that will turn out to be very important later.
Kou is a really fun character...who also happens to be about Yukine's age...hmmmm. He's not very much like Yukine, though. He's trying to be a great exorcist but he's just not ready yet.
And finally, we have the Misaki Stairs, which seem to be heavily inspired by Corpse Party. Our favorite</sarcasm>. But it's much more lighthearted and less exhausting to translate. A lot less gory, for one thing. But it shares the elements of taking students into another dimension and erasing their existence, and at the end there's a pair of scissors.
So...that summary was kind of disjointed, but that's for the best, because where's the fun if I just tell you everything? I think it's a comedy like Noragami is a comedy...by which I mean it's funny, but I wouldn't classify it as a comedy if somebody hadn't told me it's supposed to be. I'm not sure why that is, because both of them have characters that are pretty much just not serious at all, and some of the things that happen are pretty ridiculous. I guess it's the subject matter, and the fact that the characters do seem to have at least sort of serious motives...well, except for Nene. She's fun, too. But anyway, the point is, it's a lot of fun, and I definitely recommend it!
Aww, Hanako-kun. That makes me feel juuuuust a little bit better about the fact that it's one of the things crunching us this month.
This week...I don't think we have any new releases. But tune in next week, for our review of Waiting for Spring volume 2!
Today I'm thankful for making better progress on work than our first stint today led us to believe, having our new printer all set up when I needed to print sheet music, constant reminders of how awesome our job is (we kind of need them right now), cozy blankets for the cool weather (the forecast says it will be significantly less cool next week, but for now, we enjoy), and having an entry pre-written for today.