Hinamatsuri Volume 1 Review
Yoshifumi Nitta is a member of the yakuza, a crime syndicate in Japan, and enjoys a playboy-style way of life with lots of drinking, girls and gun action to boot. That is, until a mysterious girl named Hina literally falls on his head and forcibly becomes a part of his life. She’s a mysterious girl with psychic powers and little social skills, but Nitta just can’t seem to get rid of her! Against all odds, the pair begin to bond, and thanks to her special powers Nitta starts to gain favour within the yakuza – but can they keep Hina’s powers a secret?
Having a male protagonist paired with a mysterious girl with magical powers is far from a unique concept, and following someone who’s part of a crime gang that tries to keep their head above water is a bit more unusual but has also been done before. Put them together and package it as a comedy series? That’s a bit more unique, and perfect breeding ground for some decent comedy. This manga was adapted into an anime series for Spring 2018, and was positively received, but having the first volume out now in English is a good intro into the series if you happened to miss it before (as I did). Saying that, however, I personally didn’t find the volume all that ‘laugh out loud’; there’s a few scenes that were amusing but nothing that made me burst out laughing in the way the manga is clearly going for. Normally that would be a huge strike against it but considering the premise and the potential for great comedy in future volumes, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
What I did find the most endearing however is the relationship between our protagonists. Neither of them are your typical ‘hero’ archetypes; Hina may have the supernatural powers and mystery element to her but she’s very bratty, clingy and lazy, which rubs against Nitta’s lifestyle of shady day job and bachelor nightlife, so he is nothing close to the way a typical father figure would be portrayed. But it’s the clashes of personalities and finding a middle ground that make their relationship work. Hina hints that she comes from a world where, due to her powers, she’s expected to follow endless lists of orders and have no will of her own, and whilst Nitta does ask a few things of her, it’s mostly out of desperation and/or respect, rather than talking to her as his property, and he properly thanks her whenever she bails him out of a situation. As for Nitta, he’s not a bigwig in the yakuza, in fact he seems to be quite low-ranked, but it’s finding a girl with psychic powers that changes his luck for the better, and her being around gives him some stability that he’s never had before. What’s also interesting is that this isn’t a story of a girl with powers learning to deal with them; by the time Hina drops into Nitta’s life, she’s already fully aware of what she’s capable of and what she needs to do to keep control over her vast power. In fact, having powers is almost boring for her, which is in stark contrast to Nitta’s (and, to be fair, any non-powered human’s) excitement and wonder at what she can do. This allows for some future fun scenes where the author can pluck new powers out of her without playing it as a deus ex machina, and again there’s a lot of comedy potential here.
Masao Ohtake is the author, and this is his first (and ongoing at fifteen volumes!) manga. For a first manga it’s very well paced and the story is laid out clearly, which a lot of first-timers often struggle with. The art style is also very consistent and clear, with every character having a distinct design – even the side yakuza characters – so it’s easy to spot who’s who on each page. The only part of the art that’s a little hard to follow is the use of Hina’s psychic powers. When it comes to the really obvious big stuff (like pulling trees out of the ground) or small but simple acts (Hina levitating) it’s effectively portrayed, however some of the more complicated or subtle actions are lost. For example: in the side story where the yakuza are on a boat trip and Hina uses her power to keep the boat afloat (after unleashing frustration at not catching the fish she wanted) it took me a couple of panels to figure out exactly how she was using her powers. This is obviously a problem that the anime would not have as they can animate it, but the manga could do with another panel or two just to make it clear what is happening, especially as Hina’s powers are psychically based and not visually shown as anything.
Volume 1 of Hinamatsuri is a great opener that establishes a fun, unique comedy premise, with unusual but wacky characters and the slice-of-life format makes it very easy to drop into and follow the story. If you’re a fan of the anime, or simply missed it before and want to know what the fuss is about, give this a book a read.
One Peace Books have a short interview with mangaka Masao Ohtake on their website here.