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.

Another – 06

Sakakibara gets used to being ignored along with Misaki in his class, and he uses the time to learn more about Misaki and the “curse”, which defies both memories and records and is more like a force of nature than anything overtly evil or malicious. He even learns his mother was in Class 3. He wants to know if there’s any precedent for the killing ending midyear, and if they can stop it this year, but their teacher enters class one day with a butcher’s knife…

As the pieces of the picture fall into place one by one for Sakakibara, this episode plays mostly like slice-of-life, or more accurately, slice-of-near-death, since his class now pretends he doesn’t exist. The more he talks to and learns about Misaki, the more intrigued he is by her, particularly the strength and dedication needed to accept being the pariah that she is. She says she’s glad it was her, so she didn’t have to pretend someone else didn’t exist. She says she understands that the class has to do everything it can – but we’re with Sakakibara when we say we can’t believe this is how things go down, especially when it only avoids deaths half of the time, at best.

Above all, we’re impressed with Sakakibara’s poise so far. He’s taking his situation in stride. Because hey, things could be worse, right? At least he has a pretty girl to talk to. The meat of the episode was some really nice dialogue between the two, mostly about their situation. His growing fondness for Misaki culminates in a hilarious daydream that caught us totally by surprise in which the two of them get up in the middle of a silent study session and start laughing and dancing. After all the dark, brooding atmosphere built up thus far, it was nice to know the series doesn’t completely lack a sense of humor.


Rating: 4

Another – 03

Misaki removes her eyepatch to reveal an artificial green eye. Misaki tells Sakakibara the story of the Misaki from Class 3 26 years ago, whom she claims to be her cousin. Whenever he asks his classmates about it, they react with shock and dread, and tell him never to ask about such things, and to not worry about things that don’t exist. Misaki herself tells him he’s the only one who can see her. Not long after asking Sakuragi, she sees him in the hall while he’s talking to Misaki, runs in the other direction with her umbrella, and trips and falls down the steps, impaling herself through the throat.

Third time’s the charm…or in this case, the horror. For 9/10ths of this episode, we didn’t know what to expect, and were contemplating the ramifications of a ghost student traipsing around who only Sakakibara can see. Well, now we know; the episode’s climax was quite emphatic: it’s not fucking good. Poor kind, innocent, big glasses-wearing student officer Sakuragi meets a most grisly death – the first blood of the series. And looking back, it was subtly foreshadowed through the use of umbrellas as well as long shots of the staircase – not to mention Misaki asserting “she doesn’t dislike the rain.”

Sakakibara must now feel partially responsible for the death of a classmate. That, combined with the realization he can see a dead person no one else can, will deal blows to his sanity. And he partially caused it by going against the warnings of his classmates. Still, if I were him, I couldn’t help being curious about just what the hell the deal is with that old, scratched-up desk in the classroom where no one sits, and why no one’s allowed to talk about it. Well, now he knows. And now, when we see that calm, soothing, beautiful ending sequence which reveals each character one by one, we’re left wondering who’s next…


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 7

This week Sket Dance crosses over with The World God Only Knows to fill the holes in a couple’s hearts! J/k, but the gang is on a mission to, well, if not reunite two soul mates, at least get them to catch a look at each other in passing. A large, burly man named Tetsu comes to the Sket-dan with a skeptical attitude, but after telling a tear-jerking story of his lost love and the guilt he lives with, Bossun, Himeko, and Switch take the job.

Some words about Tetsu: he looks at least thirty-five years old. I understand that some kids look older than their age, but this is ridiculous. If the animators were trying to be funny by casting an adult-looking high school character, they failed; it isn’t funny; it’s stupid. Same with the Samurai guy, he’s not a kid; he’s an adult; I call ’em like I see ’em. It calls into question the animators’ ability to actually draw a diverse array of high schoolers correctly. In short, Tetsu is too big and old-looking, and that definitely made it hard to take him seriously.

With that out of the way, I did like Tetsu’s reluctance to confront his frail true love, Misaki, after what happened in the past (he was careless, she went in a river and almost died) I really enjoyed Bossun cleaning up a bit and going undercover to meet her. But it was clear pretty early that Misaki knew Tetsu, not, Bossun was really her pen pal. The farewell of Tetsu running along the riverbank chasing the train in a cloud of paper sakura petals was definitely cheesy, but Sket-dan accomplished their mission: I believe Tetsu got the catharsis he wanted, and he was able to shout encouraging words at Misaki as she left for an operation in America. Rating: 3