Jul 16, 2008
chelmquist (All reviews)
Hanada Shounen-shi is a very high quality show. Everything from the character design - quite faithful to the manga - to the backgrounds are top notch, with a soft, pastoral, water-color feel. Even the music is a cut above the usual, sounding almost like it came from a British television show about country life. It really helps set the mood for the semi-rural setting. The story arcs are usually from two to three episodes. It's very smart, and tightly written. The direction is excellent, with just the right angles and moods, capturing the moments of genuine emotion, while still being able to treat the harsh realities of life honestly. There is no gratuitous sappiness; nothing is forced.

Above all, it's really, really funny.

While it's not for the very young (there is some brief nudity, some fairly mature emotional stuff, and Ichiro swears like a sailor at his mother), the many qualities of the show should appeal to a fairly wide range of people.

We meet young Ichiro Hanada doing what he does best - fighting with his mother. He sasses and insults her constantly, and argues with his entire family, who certainly don't pull any punches with him, either. His happy-drunk father and grandfather often tease him relentlessly. He also really loves to eat. Of course, Ichiro's selfishness and foul temper make him bring it all on himself. In fact, it's while fleeing from a fight with his mother that he gets into the accident which sets the story in motion.

Ichiro is hit by a truck, and has a near-death experience. He has a vision of his recently deceased grandmother, who helps him get back to his body and wake up in the hospital, still alive. None of this affects Ichiro's temperament, however. The only difference is that he now has a scar across the back of his head, which was shaved bald for the surgery. And for some reason his hair won't grow back.

Ichiro soon learns that he can see and hear spirits. He has no idea what's going on, and gets frightened when the first one appears. It turns out that his accident gave him the special ability to communicate with the spirits of those who have just died but have not yet "passed on" to the other side. They all seem to have some unfinished business keeping them in limbo, and they enlist Ichiro's help. Naturally, Ichiro hates it, and refuses, and at first the ghosts have to resort to scaring him half to death to get him to cooperate.

Eventually, he gets used to the nagging spirits. They come in all sorts of varieties, and have different reasons for seeking Ichiro's help. There's the father who wants to tell his son that it's okay for his mother to marry again, an old man who happened to die in an undignified position and needs help, and a student who died while still a virgin and wants to see a naked woman before he goes. There's even a phony medium who, although she used to con people by pretending to be clairvoyant, actually developed real powers as a spirit.

Ichiro goes through a lot of personal trials in the midst of all this, slowly but surely learning not to be such a little monster. He learns a different lesson on life from each adventure with a spirit.

The series ends in a nice place, but the manga is apparently still going. Ichiro eventually grows up, and his ability to see spirits is passed on to his son. It would be great to see some new animated adventures at some point, so long as it's done with the same care and skill.