Re：␣ハマトラ 第1話 「Re:Resolution[EGO]
Re: Hamatora #01. 「Re:Resolution[EGO]」
I’ve been following the Hamatora project since the first season’s airing from January to March, and boy, has it been quite the emotional thrill ride. Back then, I definitely viewed the series through the lens of a pretty well-established crime-solving and mystery series, but this second cour has definitely broadened the series’s genre palette some more.
I’ve said through live-blogging various episodes that Hamatora is a show that definitely has the potential to be a part of the top ten anime series of the year (a potential that has officially been truncated with this final episode); its story structure rivals just about every standard ongoing long-running shounen series today and it can definitely boast some more shocking plot twists and turns along the way. The cast of characters is condensed enough just to imbue every protagonist with a genuine touch of personality alongside their alleged archetypes, and the over-arching premise of Minimum abilities is an acceptable basis for combative face-offs alongside, again, familiar tropes in characters and story-telling, such as the self-conscious loner with no powers of his own (until he dies and is resurrected that is) or the one with the out-reaching power of amplifying or nullifying all others’ abilities who is ultimately used in the hair-brained scheme of the antagonist (Misfits THE ANIMATION, anyone?). In the midst of all convention, Hamatora executes many points quite finely; but at the same time, in this article I mean to cover what I consider the show’s greatest misstep: its points of focus. Its apparent budget allocated to animation is another heavy point of disapproval, but not quite as influential in this case (the impression you get from the show’s presentation itself is something along the lines of very admirable given the apparent budget in fact; they pull off some improvised texture usage and animation techniques such as the blood splatters to satisfaction – though that’s not to say that with enough money thrown into the piggy-bank, this show still could not have forced its way into the top ten of the year, because production values can go a very, very long way).
In both episode-by-episode direction and atmosphere, Hamatora has touched on all kinds of styles. When the over-arching narrative of best-friends-come-sworn-enemies isn’t at the forefront of attention, we’re faced with crime-of-the-week episodes; what could be construed as the anime equivalent of bottle episodes based on the misadventures in a hospital building or a theatrical contest to seize the role for a play; and more. It’s undeniably all over the place, but the thing is that it does each aspect pretty darn well and that the show wouldn’t have shown so much promise if it didn’t transcend the weekly mystery-solving antics of season one; in the end it’s only really at fault in how it organizes these segments. One particular scene I’d like to do a subtle close-reading of is the interaction between Ratio and Birthday at the end of the ninth episode in which Birthday quite literally starts spewing blood out of his mouth and all but falls out of commission; it’s as if the whole twenty minutes preluding the scene (pretty much the entire episode) was meant to emphasize the gravity of this situation by means of its own contrasting light-hearted debauchery with the rest of the rascals of Café Nowhere. This juxtaposition is of course one of the key examples of the show’s promise that is apparently only eligible subsequent to a rather questionable direction of focus. In contrast to this scene is the brawl scene at the end of the third episode, 「Madness Flower」; in what is quite possibly the most shounen moment of the year, Nice is saved from Art’s final blow by first, Murasaki, second, Birthday, and third, Ratio, all of whom get their respective attacks dished out on Art, to much satisfaction (as some bonus parallel points, the street-fight setting is highly reminiscent of the recently concluded Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta.) It’s a celebratory occasion of the purest shounen nature, and I was even sitting on the edge of my seat questioning why the same fate couldn’t be bestowed upon another certain resemblant character of another certain resemblant series (boy, that would be a lot of attacks from a lot of characters). And for the most part, that scene in particular has its own standalone impact; it’s the concluding scene to an episode that is wholly focused on the prime narrative, and that overall structure delivers well. Such is not always the occasion for the series though, as when the show is especially centered on its grand narrative, the script introduces a lot of bases, though, again, it doesn’t quite fully cover them; so it’s not entirely shocking when antagonists are finally dealt with in the span of seconds in the form of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head in the last episode.
All in all, for a story of its caliber, Hamatora definitely incites some thrilling plot elements and plays off of the shock-factor well. To that extent, as aforementioned, it can hold its own against the run-of-the-mill shounen series; but while the shounen genre is undeniably the powerhouse of the anime (and manga) industry, the medium itself is vast, brimming with both variety and potential, and ultimately transcendent of the peak of Hamatora‘s execution. Well, when it comes to judging the best of the best on a yearly basis, at least. By any other criteria, I can comfortably say, “Good show, Hamatora, good show.”
*I can’t help but laugh at how Chiyu doesn’t make an appearance at all during the actual episode but manages to sneak in at the end for the group photo.