Welcome back to Manga Talk!
Today we are going to take a look at a manga that when I first saw kind of confused me, at least the title did.
We will be looking at the first volume of Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun, and as usual there will be MASSIVE SPOILERS for it.
Let’s get started!
The story follows a high school girl named Yashiro Nene, who goes seeking a supernatural spirit to fulfill her wish.
In a scenario that is reminiscent of the Bloody Mary chant seen here in the United States, Nene calls for the spirit in the girls bathroom to grant her wish.
Instead of meeting a girl spirit, she encounters a boy spirit named Hanako instead. Regardless of the gender of the spirit, the deal is the same, Hanako helps Nene with her wish and she must give something in return.
Her wish? To have a boy in class fall in love with her.
Hanako acquiesces to the wish, and the two try to get Nene’s crush to notice her. Their attempts fail miserably, and Nene explains that she was originally pining for another boy for many years who rejected her and that she seeks another boy to fill her heart.
Hanako accidentally drops something, and Nene picks up the small bag to find a pair of scales, mermaid scales. As Hanako tries to get the scales back, Nene accidentally eats one, and Hanako explains that when the pair are eaten, the two people who ate them would be bound forever, but cursed.
As Nene goes to give her crush the other scale, not caring about the curse, she sees another girl confess her feeling to the boy, only to be rejected. Nene realizes that she just jumped into liking this guy and doesn’t know much about him.
As she sinks into sadness, she transforms into a fish, all because she didn’t have someone else eat the other scale.
As Hanako sets her up in a fish bowl, a mermaid comes to claim Nene as its pet, but Hanako steps up to save Nene. The mermaid mocks Hanako for being a weak spirit, but Hanako gives a mighty slash from his knife, which damages the mermaid severely.
The mermaid flees, and Hanako asks if Nene wants to become human. Nene does, and Hanako eats the scale and Nene returns to being human. In exchange, Nene will act as Hanako’s assistant.
Nene’s life of being an assistant is mostly cleaning the toilets and hiding getting water on her body, which reveals fish scales until she dries that part off.
While dealing with a set of spirits named mokke, little spirits that occasionally steal things, we learn that the abilities of the spirits are tied with the rumors that are told about them. We also learn that Hanako, being one of the schools seven biggest mysteries, he has a considerable amount of power and responsibility to maintain balance at the school.
This isn’t the concern of a Minamoto Kou, a boy younger than Nene who comes from a family of exorcists, who believes that Hanako is an evil spirit haunting the school.
The two clash, with Kou looking like he has the upper hand, and Kou spills the beans saying that Hanako murdered someone with the knife that he always carries.
Hanako doesn’t deny that, saying that he did kill someone and was told by God to fulfill a duty and his sin would be forgiven.
Hanako manages to beat Kou, mostly due to Kou’s weapon hurting Kou as he used it, and knocks the young man unconscious.
Hanako asks Nene if she was worried about his safety, which she is, and then asks if she is ok being friends with a murderer, then trying to pass it all off as a joke.
As Nene remembers that moment, she noticed something odd about how Hanako said it, but that is pushed aside for the new mystery.
Apparently there is a staircase where if someone steps on the fourth step, they are taken somewhere else. Nene’s friend and a few of Kou’s friends vanish because of this and they are the only living people who remember them.
Hanako explains that the missing students must have been taken to the Netherworld by one of the seven locations in the school that has a direct connection there.
Namely, he also knows the spirit most likely at the cause of it, one of the main seven spirits named Misaki.
Hanako, Nene, and Kou head to the Netherworld to try and find the lost students, with Hanako explaining that the seven spirits that govern the school also govern the weaker spirits in the school.
Misaki then begins to mess with the group, giving them the task to find her missing right arm in a certain amount of time.
The three fail, and a massive pair of scissors and some minor spirits come after the three, focusing on Nene to end the volume.
There are a few things that this manga has going for it, one of the big ones being the character design.
It’s almost cartoony in a way, but not so much that it feels like it is a cartoon, which gives it a unique style and flair to manga.
The way that the spirits are handled is interesting as well, going down the route that the belief of the spirit and what is said about the spirit informs their abilities.
The mokke were said to be small spirit that took things from other people, but were also given the distinction that if they saw a human that they would kill the human that saw them.
The mokke didn’t want to do that, so Nene changed the rumors about them to give them a friendlier outlook, and the mokke changed because of it.
It establishes an interesting interaction with the actual abilities of the spirits and can provide a lot of interesting potential in the future, especially as Hanako says that the fear of a spirit can strengthen them as as well.
The way the characters are handled is interesting. Nene, as a character, starts the story off as someone trying to deal with a rejection by getting with a guy she barely knows.
It is through her own, self admitted, selfish actions that she fell into the world of the supernatural. She owes a lot to Hanako for saving her, but she is also observant enough to see that there is more to him than meets the eye.
Speaking of Hanako, he is also a fascinating character, in that he has a cheerful personality, but there is something clearly much darker about his past.
What that is isn’t said, but there are a few theories that can be implied, namely why he killed a person and what is the duty he is meant to fulfill, and why is he so powerful?
Plenty of questions to mull over as the story goes on, especially as more of the school’s powerful spirits come to the forefront.
The comedy of the story is not for me.
With the comedy sort of being directed to Nene not being desirable because of how she looks, her obsession with getting a boyfriend, and her fantasies of being swept away by a hero, it doesn’t land for me.
The dialogue boxes also don’t flow all that well, making a lot of the dialogue jumbled and clunky to follow.
Panel layout is fine, but the dialogue bubbles are not something that can just be thrown around without some thought.
Kou, while a neat character in theory, is a bland character to me. He isn’t interesting and he comes across as a try-hard, which may be the point, but that makes him insufferable at times.
There was also a weird interaction with Nene’s friend that went missing and a guidance counselor or teacher that made it seem like they had a romantic encounter planned? I don’t know if that was a translation error or something, but that was a weird part of the story.
I would recommend this story if you like supernatural stories, some funny bits, and some interesting characters and development.
I don’t know if I’ll continue this story. I will probably give the second volume a try, but I am in no rush to do so.
This story is sort of jumbled and I hope that the issues I had were early story issues that get fixed as it progresses.
For tomorrow, I am going to be doing something a little bit different.
As I said in one of the updates, I will be using the Saturday articles to write about things outside of manga, and tomorrow will be the first one of those that I do.
We delve into a fairly recent hobby of mine and talk about a world that is reminiscent of Japanese culture, and a look at some things I like about that world.
We will be taking a look at Magic: The Gathering’s most recent set, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and some of my favorite cards of the set.
Buckle up, it’s going to be interesting.
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!