Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 12 (Fin) – No Daughter of Triton

The finale of Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun begins with a rare look at Nene’s house, where her exposed legs…look like they’re of normal thickness?!? We’re brought up to speed through her narration: Kou told her and Hanako about his connection to Mitsuba, leading Hanako to worry about Kou and trying to determine a way to cheer him up.

Her preoccupation with Kou makes Hanako jealous, and he visits her when she’s in the middle of class before skulking off, leading Aoi (who can’t see or hear apparitions) to wonder who Hanako was talking to. I was a little surprised Nene hadn’t dealt with this kind of situation to this point!

But just as she’s worried about Kou and frustrated by Hanako’s lack of openness and tendency to tease, she’s courted by Puffy the pufferfish of the Fish Kingdom for the title of Mermaid Princess. She’s already eaten the mermaid’s scale; all she needs is to drink some of her blood and boom, she’s a princess.

While she likes the sound of having a harem of hot guys and being at the top of the popularity pyramid in said Fish Kingdom, Nene is not okay with breaking her contract with Hanako, and she becomes far less enthusiastic about the princess offer when she learns all of those hot guys are just hot fish, and henceforth she’d be a fish too.

Puffy drops the kindly act and goes for the low-hanging fruit in criticizing Nene’s judgment with men and her fat legs, assuring her neither would be a problem once she comes into her fishy throne. Then the Mermaid grabs and pulls her under water to further force the issue.

The blood is mere millimeters from Nene’s lips when Hanako pulls her out and restores her human form, scaring the fish off by threatening to turn them into sashimi with his knife and declaring his cleaning assistant officially off the market.

When Nene was asking Tsuchigomori-sensei for advice about what to do, Hanako was listening from behind a curtain, and he apparently got the message, because he finally does let Nene in a bit by telling her about the little brother he killed, following that up with the question of whether she really wants to learn more.

Again, the answer should be obvious: she almost became an apparition, sacrificing her very humanity, in order to try to understand him more, when him simply talking to her would have done the same job! Nene may not be in love with Hanako, but she finds herself unavoidably charmed by and drawn to him.

Nene won’t accept anyone else’s ideas about who or what he is. Sure, a lot of the problems she’s had that required him to save her were of his making, but the fact remains, he saved her! And so, she’ll keep visiting him in the girls’ bathroom, and helping him keep the balance among the School Wonders. It’s a heckuva lot better than being pursued by presumably hot fish suitors!

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 11 – Artificial Ghost

After fruitlessly prostrating themselves before the bathroom mirrors, Hanako and Kou seek help from Spider-sensei, who directs them to the boundary of the former Second Wonder, Yako, which still exists but is simply no longer under her authority. She leads them to a mirror within her realm (which looks a lot nicer), which leads to the boundary of the Third Wonder.

By the time they arrive, a lot has happened in the Hall of Mirrors. Nene has been put to sleep after trying to stop Tsukasa from forcing Mitsuba to eat the remains of the Third Wonder, which he claims is the only way to keep him from disappearing altogether. Hanako is surprised to see his brother in the boundary, but not as surprised as Kou is to see the friend he thought was gone.

As it turns out, Mitsuba may look, talk, and act very much like the “old” Mitsuba ghost, they’re not the same entity. New Mitsuba is the result of Tsukasa taking the soul, or “reason” he stole from old Mitsuba and placing it in an artificial spirit body constructed from myriad lesser spirits. This new version of Mitsuba becomes the new Third Wonder after eating his predecessor. He also doesn’t seem to remember Kou at all, which is disappointing.

Interestingly, a big battle doesn’t ensue, which surely subverted my expectations. Instead, Mitsuba uses his newfound authority to send Hanako, Nene and Kou back to the living world via mirrors. He may not know Kou, but he knows Nene well enough now to not want harm to befall her, while Tsukasa made a point to be gentle with her earlier. I doubt Hanako can let Mitsuba the Third Wonder stand, but can Kou still find the Mitsuba he knew, or is he truly gone forever?

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 10 – Through the Very Rude Looking Glass

It looks like it’s back to business as usual in Hanako’s bathroom, as Nene reports disembodied arm lesser spirits infesting the school garden. They quickly learn the way to make them disappear is to fulfill their desires, i.e. play with them. Whether it’s arm wrestling or rock paper scissors, they dispatch the spirits one by one, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Unfortunately, the very last arm remaining, which has emerged from a bathroom mirror, is actually a snare for the living Nene. She’s grabbed and pulled through the mirror into the world behind the mirror; in other words, the boundary of a School Wonder. There, she meets someone she doesn’t remember, but whom we know intimately.

There’s no reason she would necessarily know Mitsuba, as she was barely present in the episode where he was the focus. But wait, back up a bit: Mitsuba is ALIVE?!? Well, not alive, but not in the horrible pathetic monstrous form Tsukasa left him in, which shook Kou to his very core. He’s a cute boy in this mirror, and he’s initially just as much of an asshole to Nene as he was with Kou.

However he’s back in this form, I’m glad to see him again. The thing is, he’s trapped in the boundary just like Nene, and it’s apparently his first, making her his senpai in more ways than one. She knows in order to exit the boundary they’ll have to find the rogue wonder’s yoshihiko, and spots it at the very top of the vast, spiraling Hell of Mirrors, the name of both the Wonder and its realm.

But on their way to the top they encounter a mirror that blocks their path, and the Wonder demonstrates its power to reflect a person’s fears—in Nene’s case, her distinctively stout ankles. While Mitsuba was just ragging on her based on observation and vanity, the Wonder shows her the face of everyone she knows in other mirrors—even the kind Aoi—and has them bully her until she’s virtually swimming in her tears.

Things take a sinister turn when the Wonder reveals his true, crow-like form and unleashes a legion of mannequin-like minions to “hunt the Ugly Daikon down” and replace her in the living world; the Wonder’s ultimate goal and why he didn’t really care about Mitsuba. When Nene is captured and about to be devoured, Mitsuba actually sticks his neck out to distract them.

While he has no real plan after that, he didn’t end up needing one since Tsukasa—not Hanako—appears to free Nene and beat the Wonder to a pulp, leaving both Nene and Mitsuba somewhat confused. I’m not sure yet what Tsukasa is up to, but I wager he’s far more dangerous than the Hell of Mirrors, with whom he kinda mopped the floor. More importantly, I hope Nene can find away to get herself and Mitsuba out of this boundary…but for that we’ll have to wait until Part II.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 09 – Be Wary of Lost Things

The focus immediately returns to Nene this week, as last week’s parting shot of Kou mourning his friend was meant to close the door on that storyline for now. I’ll admit to a bit of tone whiplash, but as great as last week was it didn’t mark a permanent change in either character focus or tone, but rather an exception to the norm we return to here.

Things begins with Nene being unable to refuse an invitation from pretty face, or two in this case: her senpai Hyuuga Natsuhiko and his senpai Nanamine Sakura. Tsukasa appears and splashes water on Nene, transforming her into a fish.

She wakes up in cute new duds in the middle of a sumptuous tea party hosted by Sakura. The doll-like senpai explains that the two of them are in the same situation: bound to a ghost by a wish. To that end, Sakura apologizes in advance for what Tsukasa has decreed: that Nene should “disappear.” It’s not her wish, but she must obey her master.

Sakura, Tsukasa, and Natsu triad works as a sort of bizarro analog Hanako-kun/Nene/Kou trio; it’s fun to watch them bounce off each other in much the same way, albeit populated by different personalities. That familiarity initially puts Nene at ease…until she’s chained to a chair and the water level starts to rise. Natsuhiko is similarly detained, simply because Sakura is normally this “rough” with him, which he sees as her way of expressing her affection.

After being fully submerged, Nene and Natsu wake up in a strange place she assumes to be a boundary. Her pleas for Nanako-kun to come to her aid are answered when some mokke present her with a speaker with Hanako on the phone on the other end. He tells her she’s actually “nowhere”, and all of the doors she sees floating around lead to different worlds and times.

Hanako has sent one of his hakujoudai to find Nene, but she can help by finding the door back to her world. Natsu recklessly opens one door after another until a monster on the other side swallows him up, leaving Nene alone, but she eventually finds the door, recognizing the music that plays at 5:30 when it’s time for kids to go home.

Nene recognizes the old school building’s classroom and walks through, and encounters a recently beaten-up Hanako. She kneels down to offer aid and comfort, but a skittish Hanako flees, dropping a key with a rocket keychain in the process.

Shortly after her encounter, the hakujoudai locates Nene and teleports her back to her world, and we catch a glimpse of a calendar that reads “July 18, 1969.” Nene had the door to the right world, but for the wrong time.

Back in Hanako-kun’s bathroom in the present, Hanako wastes no time embracing Nene and offering a heartfelt apology for ruining her donuts. Naturally, Nene forgives him, glad they can put the awkwardness aside. Hanako just saved her from certain doom once again, after all.

Now, however, having seen Hanako in the past clearly in the midst of some kind of physical and emotional crisis, Nene wants to be the one to protect him for once. And with Past Hanako’s key in her possession, she may have the means to do just that. Just don’t sleep on the evil-by-nature Tsukasa making another attempt to get Nene out of the picture.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 08 – Turning Nothing into Something

As Steve Zissou said: “That was a goddamn tearjerker.” I had no idea that would happen. The opening minutes of Mitsuba Sousuke were horribly grating, with the ghost spewing endless random insults as Kou intermittently shocked him with his exorcist’s staff. But then we learn a little more about Mitsuba…and a little more. And before I knew it, I cared about this girly, cocky, moody guy.

And you know what? So did Kou. It’s almost as if Kou was my emotional surrogate in this episode: initially super-irritated with this ghost, but then extremely empathetic of his plight. Even Kou wasn’t prepared to hear that Sousuke was in his class and had introduced himself. Alas, worried about being bullied for being too much of one thing or not enough of another, Sousuke became neither…and was forgotten altogether.

Kou gradually warming up to Sousuke and vice versa has some lovely yaoi undertones, and it’s a testament to the writing, voice acting, and direction that such a close and meaningful bond is formed in such a short period of time. All Sousuke wanted was a friend, so Kou offers to be his first, encouraging Sousuke to simply be himself. It starts to feel like there could be something to Kou’s less adversarial approach to the family business.

And then Hanako’s dark twin Tsukasa ruins everything, plunging his arm through Mitsuba’s chest, and everything turns to shit. Just as Hanako-kun grants wishes to the living, Tsukasa does the same to the dead, and in befriending Sousuke, Kou inadvertently provided Tsukasa with the answer he needed to grant Kou’s wish, something he was duty-bound to do. To quote the Oracle: “We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do.”

With an assist from Sakura on the school radio, a new rumor is formed before Kou’s eyes, of the broken-necked kid in the entrance who reaches out and tries to befriend people. Sousuke adopts a Picasso-esque grosteque, Picasso-esque form and can no longer talk, but sheds a tear as he is forced to attack Kou. He comes within an inch of killing him when Hanako-kun intervenes. (Throughout this sequence I was practically yelling “Where the fuck is Hanako-kun??”)

Unfortunately, all Hanako can do is stop Sousuke from killing Kou. Before disappearing, Tsukasa twists the knife by telling Hanako “it was great” to be killed by him. A visibly shaken Hanako then gravely informs Kou that there’s no bringing Sousuke back. Dead is dead, and the living shouldn’t be too kind, because there’s no future for the dead. “Nothing new begins.” Their only salvation is “annihilation”. Kou can’t believe it. He doesn’t want to. He’s sure there’s more he could have done…can do.

When Kou repeats all of his insults at Sousuke before telling him he’s his friend, I thought for a moment that the kid would actually come back; Kou has supernatural powers, after all. But he doesn’t. He’s gone, and all that’s left his his camera and the photos he took, including a candid one of his friend Kou.

Late into the night Kou stays up, remembering the friend everyone else forgot, grieving for that friend but not disheartened in his belief exorcists like him can do a little more than nothing about The Way Things Are regarding life and death.

Nene didn’t utter a single line and all we see of her is from behind for a couple seconds, but it doesn’t matter. This was the best, most affecting, most devastatingly beautiful episode of Hanako-kun to date.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 07 – Donut Unto Others

Ever since digging into Hanako-kun’s past, Nene has felt awkward and uncomfortable around him, to the point Hanako starts to notice. She wants to learn still more but isn’t sure how to broach such sensitive topics, or even if she should. It’s not about anything Hanako has done, just about what she now knows.

Enter Kou, who despite being a great cook asks Nene to help him bake some donuts for his “little sister.” Turns out the donuts are for Hanako, and making them with Nene was meant to give her some space and time away from the bathroom to think things through.

Nene is appreciative of Kou’s friendship, and the donuts work great…until a black crane appears and transforms into…Hanako’s twin brother, whom he murdered. Nene manages to shoo him away (he doesn’t seem to be the most powerful as far as spirits go).

Still, after that things are right back to being awkward between Nene and Hanako. Even though she didn’t actually pry, circumstances exposed still more elements of a past Hanako would clearly not get into, even with a friend like Nene.

Hanako’s brother, meanwhile, seems to be in cahoots with the doll-like Sakura, who along with her lackey Natsuhiko’s help and the use of the broadcast club room seems to be responsible for a lot of the rumors that are causing problems around the school.

We’re not yet sure why she’s doing this, mind you, which is a little frustrating as we’re now past the halfway point of this season. Withholding secrets is fine, but with Hanako and Nene’s story basically going in a circle (donut?) this week, hopefully they’ll confront Sakua’s plot sooner rather than later.

Then there’s the cute ghost of a dead student Kou finds, which just kinda comes out of left field at the end. Kou’s mission to extract the ghost’s “regrets” is way too rushed and to make much of an impact, though the ghost’s protestations of Kou being a pervert bent on doing things “just like in porn” was amusing enough.

For now, there’s a lot of pieces now on the board, with parties of varying interests observing one another and sizing each other up, and Nene’s complicated bond with Hanako stewing in the middle. It’s anyone’s guess how those pieces will be move and interact with one another in the final five episodes.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 06 – Staying Put

When the entrance to the 4 O’Clock Library is revealed, Kou accompanies Nene inside, and it isn’t long until she finds her own book. She can’t resist the temptation to read ahead into the future, whereupon the book starts to turn red with blood and the Fifth Wonder attacks. Kou forgets his staff was sealed, but Hanako-kun arrives to save them.

Turns out the fifth wonder’s manager Tsuchigomori-sensei, was only teasing them. Hanako-kun is the leader of the seven wonders, who are dedicated to keeping the supernatural peace at the school, but one one of them is working with a human like Nene, only stirring up trouble. His solution is to temporarily sap the wonders of their power by neutralizing their Yorishiro.

Hanako chooses Nene to accompany Tsuchigomori to the site of his Yorishiro, which turns out to be a moon rock Hanako gave to him back in the sixties during the moon landing. When he was alive, Hanako was Yuji Amane, a Tsuchigomori was his homeroom teacher who was always concerned about Hanako getting bullied and beaten up.

Hanako was the only human Tsuchigomori knows about who was able to change the future as written in his book. Hanako’s book said he’d have a future as a science teacher at the school, but he died when he was still a “brat”, which Tsuchigomori considers a tremendous shame.

The flashback plays out like Yako’s, with Nene experiencing his memories as if in a dream. When she comes to, she’s in the infirmary. As she desired, Nene now knows a little more about Hanako, including his real name and enthusiasm for space and science when he was alive.

But as she greets him with an almost maternal hug, he can tell she’s learned something about him, and if anything seems a bit miffed. Still, he can hardly have expected to keep all his secrets secure considering the amount of time Nene is spending with him.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 05 – Love is In the Air

…Or at least it seems that way, with Nene and Aoi’s class suddenly chock full of new couples. Rumor has it when you confess to someone under a certain tree on school grounds, you’re assured to become a couple. When Aoi’s childhood friend who likes her practices on his male friend, the next day they’re a lovey-dovey couple.

When Hanako-kun suddenly asks Nene to meet him under the tree, she begins to consider if he likes her, rather than wonder what apparition he’s trying to rein in. The source of the successful confessions turns out to be a kodama, or tree spirit. Hanako does indeed confess to Nene, but compels her to reject him, rendering her bait for the kodama, which he then defeats.

Afterwards, Hanako teases Nene for hoping it would be a real confession, only to make her cry genuine tears. Realizing he was reckless with her feelings, Hanako chases after her, takes her hand, removes his hat, and offers a sincere apology, and insisting she stay with him until her tears stop. It’s a very moving scene, aided in no small part by Ogata Megumi’s excellent voice acting.

Seeing Hanako-kun without his hat sparks a newfound interest in learning more about the mysterious ghost boy, including what crime he committed and how he died. Hanako is suspicious of her prying, however, and places Kou between them as a buffer. When Minamoto-senpai is brought up, Nene sings his praises in an admiring, flowery tone, unaware the subject of her praise is not only right behind her, but Kou’s big brother.

As it happens, Teru has come to take Kou aside and admonish him for his lack of progress. His duty is to defeat the Seven Wonders, including Hanako, and Teru is not pleased with the fact Kou seems to have become chums with him. “There are no good apparitions,” warns Teru, who decides if Kou can’t do the job, he will, setting up a major confrontation with Hanako in the near future.

Nene, meanwhile, just wants to learn more about Hanako, and having limited success in the school library. Then a gorgeous, doll-like green-haired girl approaches her, and suggests she visit the Fifth Wonder, the 4 O’clock Library, for more info. Later Aoi warns that while white and black books are fine, one must never read a red book. Three guesses what color Hanako’s book is…

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 04 – Foxy Lady

When a beautiful woman appears she’s initially delighted to find that Nene, Kou and Hanako have constructed a human-ish body. But when she makes it move, it crumbles into a pile of parts; another “failure”she’ll add to the growing heap behind her, where Aoi and all the others who fell into her stairs lie, neither dead nor alive.

However, her scissors have the ability to turn a human (or a part of them) into a doll, so Hanako reiterates their goal of finding Misaki’s Yorishiro (or weakness). If the highest spot isn’t the deepest, then perhaps the lowest spot is…so he shoves Nene off the edge, and she falls, falls, and falls some more.

When she comes to she’s lying near the gate to a temple, surrounded by concerned Mokke. She finds a desk, an old photo, and a notebook that contains a kind of dialogue between a girl and her handwriting teacher. The handwriting gets better as the pages go on, but one day the teacher, named Misaki, doesn’t return.

Misaki, then, isn’t the woman in the kimono trying to turn everyone into dolls, but the teacher who abandoned her, likely when he died, or simply moved away. In any case, Nene now knows the woman’s weakness: a pair of haircutting scissors gifted to her by Misaki.

When the lady finds Nene and attacks her, Hanako intervenes, protecting Nene and giving her cover to make a run for the shrine containing the scissors. While the woman’s story is a sad one of unfulfilled love, she’s gone too far and way beyond her duties as a School Wonder. With her Yorishiro broken, Hanako strips her of her power.

Back in the realm of the living, Nene is safe and sound, while both a doll-ified Aoi, Kou, and all the other victims will be restored to their humanity. They were never dead, just trapped in between worlds. Then Hanako reveals the true form of the woman: an Inari statue in the form of a kitsune, or fox spirit.

In the past, Misaki-sensei befriended the ghost who inhabited the kitsune statue, name turns out to be Yako, and even included her when a photo was taken of him and his class. Yako grudingly agrees not to continue her mischief, but isn’t in a hurry to befriend Nene nor anyone else.

This latest School Wonder case thus solved, the black crane, really a black Haku-joudai  hiding in Nene’s hair, returns to its master, who then returns it to his master, a green-haired girl wearing the same uniform as Nene. She seems pleased things worked out. I assume at she’ll reveal herself and her intentions to Nene and/or Hanako at some point.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 03 – Into the Stairs

Nene gets lost in the clouds wrestling with the knowledge that Hanako-kun was a murderer. Her BFF Akane Aoi notices, and wants to cheer her up. Knowing Nene likes scary stories, she tells her about another School Wonder, the  “Misaki Stairs” by the art room. Anyone who steps on the fourth step is dragged into the underworld and torn to bits.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun comes in a few days later than Magia Record with its cursed school stairs. But Hanako-kun makes a great point to Nene: Apparitions need human attention to survive, and scary or unsettling stories about them are simply more memorable, because they serve both as entertainment and caution.

As soon as Aoi’s teacher came in telling her to meet him in the art room—beside which the Misaki stairs stood—I knew she’d fall victim to the very rumor she relayed to Nene. And so the next day, not only are Aoi’s plants and Aoi’s desk gone, but classmates, teachers, even her parents have never even heard of her.

The only one who remembers is Nene. The episode is very effective at building dread as Nene exhausts all possibilities and it dawns on her that her best friend has been erased. Fortunately, Nene is friendly with the Seventh School Wonder. Not only that, she’s not the only one who lost someone; Kou lost two classmates.

Nene and Kou meet in Hanako’s bathroom, and he tells them that their classmates were pulled into the Spirit World. The fourth Misaki stair is a boundary between the worlds, so the trio crosses that boundary and finds themselves in a lush, multi-leveled whimsical city populated by creepy masked dolls.

Hanako-kun warns the humans that while in the domain of a School Wonder, that Wonder holds all the cards and thus can’t be defeated by outsiders. To that end, they must play the Wonder’s game. Here, the Misaki Stairs manifest not just in the mad town, but in a woman who calls them on the phone.

We learn Misaki was a teacher who was slashed to pieces in the school years ago, so the “game” consists of Nene, Kou and Hanako finding a part of her in order to advance to the next level of the town. Hanako believes if they ascend high enough they’ll reach the location of Hanako’s Yorishiro, a precious object that serves as a Wonder’s power source.

This could all be an elaborate attempt to generate more buzz in the human world, but if that’s the case, why are Nene and Kou the only ones who notice anyone is missing? And what was up with that unusually hot guy Nene bumps into, and who leaves a black crane in her uniform?

We’ll have to wait until next week to find out, but this was a strong start to a two-parter, full of dread, atmosphere, and stakes.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 02 – Boy in the Sky

Nene finds herself worked to the bone cleaning bathrooms by Hanako, to the point it interferes with her modest attempts to snag a man. Still, the fact that same pursuit led to her turning into a fish means she still owes the apparition who saved her big-time, and Nene is nothing if not honorable.

Toilet-bound Hanako-kun‘s art is so goshdarn colorful, whimsical and immersive you can forgive that it’s quite light on actual animation. It looks like absolutely nothing else airing, lending it a certain specialness.

When rumors spread of a spirit that makes off with people’s stuff and will kill anyone who looks at them, Nene ends up cornered by just such a monster, and has to be saved once again by Hanako. The monster turns out to be a group of small, bunny-like apparitions called Mokke.

Nene learns the Mokke must conform to the rumors people spread about them to continue existing, be they good or evil. To that end, Hanako asks Nene on behalf of the Mokke if she’ll help change the rumors about them to something more positive and less murder-y…which she does!

Nene is just getting the hang of her new boss, to the point she starts considering him a friend and adding “-kun” to the end of his name, a more familiar way of addressing him. Enter eigth-grader Minamoto Kou, who while not the prince fallen from the sky Nene hoped for, is the bearer of a sacred, ancient art of exorcism…and Hanako is his latest target.

Exorcising Hanako, however, proves difficult for the relative newbie, as his unmastered lightning staff hurts him as well as his target. Still, Kou informs Nene (whom he finds rather cute, and who can blame him) that Hanako was a murderer when he was alive, and still carries the kitchen knife he used to do the deed.

Hanako-kun doesn’t dispute this, but asserts that God gave him a chance to redeem himself in his current role. While Kou is no match for him, in a gesture of good faith he only punches him out to end the fight, and looks forward to the “excitement” of having Kou around, sensing he’s destined to be a great exorcist…just not today!

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 01 (First Impressions) – Meeting the Seventh School Wonder

From Lerche, a studio that specializes in highly-styled high concept school series, comes Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun, a title that initially invokes dread: will this be full of toilet humor? Fortunately not at all; it centers Nanako, one of the School Wonders of Kamome Academy: the ghost of a student who resides the girls’ bathroom. Legends claim that Nanako will grant a wish if the wisher pays a certain price.

Yashiro Nene wants to have success in love with her current crush, and manages to summon Nanako, only to learn she’s actually a boy, and someone mischievous and somewhat inexperienced in matters of love. Nene doesn’t exactly have a lot of options, so she follows Nanako’s advice, which unfolds in a similar fashion to a Wile E. Coyote-vs.-Road Runner scenario: ill-conceived scheme after another fails.

By the time an impatient Nene swallows a mermaid scale and transforms into a fish, she’s realized that all of her efforts thus far were for naught, because she never bothered to actually talk to her crush. She doesn’t even know his name! She just placed him on a pedestal and appointed him as her one and only goal in life. Then a mermaid from the “other side” comes to claim her, and Nanako whips out a big knife and protects her.

When Nanako eats the second mermaid scale, he’s able to grant Nene her wish to be changed back into a human. In exchange, she must serve as his assistant with his wish-granting business. Gorgeously adorable design, top-notch voices spewing witty banter, a fast-paced, energetic story, and that prototypical Lerche “edge” all conspire to make this an enticing option for Winter 2020.