Re: Hamatora Series Review

Overview:

The sequel to Hamatora, the story picks up immediately after the events in season 1 so be prepared for a few major spoilers for season 1 if you read on.

Review:

Hamatora is an enjoyable enough story with a bit of mystery, a bit of super powered violence, some friendship stuff and a lot of bright colours. Re: Hamatora is a passable follow up but taken by itself is not a good piece of story telling nor character piece.

Actually, Re: Hamatora falls into traps that many sequels have issues with. Firstly, we ended season one on an enormous cliff hanger.

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Art shot Nice. Nice had finally beaten the crazy serial killer and saved the city and Art shot him point blank (or at least seemed to but of course it happens ‘off screen’). Art was his friend, and a detective, and completely committed to protecting others and the formerly believed to have been killed Art turns up and shoots Nice.

That’s a pretty big finish to a series and is more or less a guarantee that people will come back for a season 2.

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And yet, by the end of episode 1 we might as well say, well, that was pointless and move on with out lives. Nice isn’t dead (given he’s the main character and displayed prominently on the DVD case and pretty much every image of Re: Hamatora) and the motive for playing dead is at best incredibly lame. While we’ll need longer to figure out what is going on with Art and why he took that course of action this would only be a good enough hook if Art’s character had been developed as anything other than the nice guy, powerless do-gooder prior to these events. We don’t care about Art because season 1 gave us no reason to. Art’s death was a shocking moment. It came suddenly and with only a few minutes between the foreshadowing and execution so it definitely shocked, but it wasn’t because we liked Art. It was more the impact his death would ultimately have on Nice and that up until that point we had no reason to believe the killer would target non-minimum holders.

So before season 2 even gets rolling we have a shaky foundation with some questionable choices but the issues don’t stop there for the story.

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The show has always had a vague focus on the discrimination minimum holders and/or normal people face in the world (those with power vs those who don’t) and yet this isn’t actually part of the overall motive for the serial killer, Art, or Nice as all three of these characters are more or less indifferent to the issue. Even Nice who protects others at times doesn’t really see the point of discrimination in either direction and he’s ‘off beat’ enough to just sail through life without really dealing with it. Art on the other hand has more issues with his own inferiority complex rather than an issue with external discrimination. So a major theme that attempts to build some sort of social commentary in this story, and scenes and sub-plots around this dominate whole episodes, but don’t actually link in to the main plot in a cohesive or meaningful manner. It’s more just a backdrop that takes up a lot of time and space.

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Season 2 also sees an increased focus on Hajime (Nice’s friend who he regularly feeds at Cafe Nowhere who seems tough but we haven’t really seen her do anything prior to season 2). While she ultimately gets a really intriguing back story and a great side-story the link back to the overarching plot is again tenuous. Her story does lead to some complications with the powers of the characters and is probably the most interesting of all the stories we see in season 2, but it isn’t enough to carry the whole series.

Re: Hamatora ultimately has a bunch of ideas all competing for attention to the point where you all but forget that dramatic conclusion to season 1 or even what it is the characters were ultimately trying to achieve (if anything).

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Despite the story issues, of which there are many, it is the fact that the characters seem so disconnected from these events and do not seem to undergo much development or growth that really causes it all to come tumbling down. A fragmented story could still come together if the characters drove through the plot and learned from each of their encounters and took something with them. But Nice is apparently perfect from the get go and others just need to see he’s fine. The other characters personalities barely blink over the course of the events and so as an audience member you are not asked to care about any of the goings on but are merely expected to embrace the zany colour pattern (which is intensely bright, even more so than season 1) and the sickening scene transitions.

This is a watchable follow up and it does ultimately answer questions about the school and Minimum Holders and it does end, but honestly there is little point in watching unless you just like anything involving super powers. Because it is not bad. It may not be good but there is fun to be found in watching this just don’t expect anything amazing.


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Hamatora Season 1 Series Review

Overview:

At the cafe Nowhere the detective agency Hamatora makes its base. Made up of a group of Minimum Holders (people with superpowers) they take on all kinds of jobs as long as they are interested. However somewhere in the city there’s a killer targeting Minimum Holders.

Review:

In case it sounds like the overview above is pretty derivative of a lot of other stories, you are absolutely right. As are the characters, the activations for powers, and the problems these characters face. We’ve seen pretty much everything here before, though maybe not in quite as many different colours (this show is bright). Despite that, Hamatora manages to be a fairly decent entry into the detectives with superpower line up. It isn’t going to blow you away but you should get a laugh or two out of it and as long as you aren’t going to question the physics of their powers and whether or not what they just explained actually made sense, you should get a reasonably decent story out of it.

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Hamatora’s main characters are Nice and Murasaki. Murasaki is the glasses wearing and slightly more sensible of the team (also a bit more grounded in reality realising that they actually have to take jobs that earn money occasionally) and Nice is the airhead who is going about life at his own pace (except he isn’t that much of an airhead when it comes to some things). These two met at a school for Minimum Holders though it seems neither graduated and Murasaki (who has an awesome power the few times he gets to use it) was pretty much always in Nice’s shadow. As a side note Murasaki was on my top 5 list for male characters who wear glasses.

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The other main pair that work for Hamatora (there’s another character as well as the staff of cafe nowhere but they are more important in season 2) are Birthday and Ratio, and already the names in this show are making you roll your eyes. While at first it seems like all four of these characters will play an important roll and we might get a team working together, the story chooses to focus almost exclusively on Nice (and Murasaki by default) with these two doing occasional filler stories and support roles. Which is a shame because their relationship and history are kind of cool.

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Another ex-student of their school, one who doesn’t have a power but now works as a detective, is Art. He’s serious and down to earth and is responsible for a lot of the jobs Hamatora manages to get. However, for a large part of this season, Art tries to keep Nice away from the serial killer case that is foreshadowed right from the start so instead of following along with the main investigation the audience is sidelined to the kiddy table with Nice and he goes about investigating an array of ultimately fairly pointless cases before he finally crosses paths with the case that the story is actually about.

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And remember what I said about the show being bright. While the normal character designs and clothes are enough to do your head in, the entire colour palette of this show is excessive in the sheer range of colours it throws at you and that’s before they start applying the effects for powers. The powers take an already incredibly bright show and make it nearly nauseating to look at.

That’s probably the show’s greatest weakness. It is trying impossibly hard to be cool. Cool soundtrack, bright colour scheme, characters who don’t have any real allegiances or ties so are free to make whatever call they like, and yet the story is so incredibly ordinary and while the characters are interesting enough they aren’t that different from anything we’ve seen before (though why Nice wears band aids on his face continuously is a mystery I’ll never solve).

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Despite that, this show is fun to watch. It isn’t amazing and you’ll have figured out mostly where this is going from the start. There are some good fight sequences though there’s also a little bit of gore (not extreme but it is a story about a serial killer). As a standalone story this would have worked just fine if they’d had one more episode to tie up a few loose ends. Unfortunately we end more or less after a major twist and then the second season spends a lot of time undermining some of the better elements of the first season but I’ll save that complaint for when I get around to reviewing season 2.

This is worth a look at if you are looking for something actiony with a bit of comedy. There’s issues but nonetheless it remains entertaining.

Tuesday’s Top 5 – Characters who wear glasses (male)

Last week we looked at the ladies who were rocking glasses so this week we turn to the guys. No self-interest in this but I was really looking forward to writing this list. There’s something about a guy who knows how to wear a pair of glasses…

As always, feel free to add your suggestions or who you would have chosen in the comments below.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to William (Black Butler), Maiza (Baccano), Yukio Okumura (Ao No Exorcist), and Reisi Munakata (K). Okay, leaving Munakata out of the top 5 hurt a little but I just couldn’t put him above some of the others.

Number 5:  Murasaki from Hamatora

Murasaki is an awesome character and a great partner to Nice in Hamatora. That said, he may have still lost out to Munakata except that this is a list about glasses wearing characters and not only are Murasaki’s frames amazing but he actually uses his glasses to activate his minimum (super power). While Murasaki is doomed to be the sensible decision maker in the pair, he is a solid friend and a naturally hard worker. Certainly one of my favourite characters from the series.

Number 4: Akito Takagi from Bakuman

I feel bad for Akito a lot of the time while watching Bakuman. He is the motivator and the driving force behind the pair initially and yet Mashiro continually sets the pace. Okay, Akito’s decision to become a manga author isn’t exactly the most sincere dream in the world but he commits everything to achieving the goal. Anyway, he looks amazing in those glasses and they make an otherwise generic face actually slightly memorable.

Number 3: Io Otonashi from Acchi Kocchi

Alright, Io is probably a weird choice but he’s fantastic (and arguable the best thing about Acchi Kocchi though that’s a whole other discussion). As the straight man in a group full of nut jobs, Io has it tough. That said, his mad pen spinning skills, his allure to felines, and his general level headedness all make him a great character and the glasses just help make him stand out even more. There was never a doubt that Io was going to end up on this list.

Number 2: Loki from Fairy Tail

Another great character, Loki kind of slips under your radar early in Fairy Tail but his story with Lucy was one of the moments in Fairy Tail that really moved me. On rewatching the start of this anime I paid a lot more attention to Loki and gradually found he was one of my favourite cast members. Yeah, his womanizing habits early on are irritating, but just look at that smile. Anyway, from the glasses point of view, I like that his are a little bit out of the ordinary.

Number 1: Uryu Ishida from Bleach

Second only to Hitsuguya, Ishida is my favourite character in Bleach. I feel really bad every time he get’s sidelined in a battle because he’s actually more interesting that Ichigo and at least he thinks his way through battles. Plus, it’s all about the gaze. The way he looks at his enemies through his glasses with absolute contempt. Okay, Ishida has an issue with arrogance (so does everyone in Bleach), but you must admit that is one intense gaze.

So that’s the list this week. What are your thoughts?