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Hamatora: The Animation – Review

by Anthony Sulwer

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The first season of Hamatora can only be reviewed by looking at the season as two halves. Episodes one through five, in a first viewing, seem rather formulaic and even contrived in the mash-up of characters and interconnected plots. However, episodes six through twelve seem like a completely different show in almost every respect. In the second half of the season the plot becomes clear, the protagonists and antagonist are established, and the overall feel of the show becomes darker and more intriguing.

At the start of the series, we’re introduced to the Hamatora Detective Agency, led by partners Nice (voiced by Ryota Osaka) and Murasaki (voiced by Wataru Hatano). They rent a table for their agency at the Café Nowhere in Yokohama, along with several allies they’ve made over the years. Nice, Murasaki, and the others who make up their detective agency, are all adept at using Minimums.

Minimums are supernatural powers unique to the few in Japan who posses the ability. Those who use Minimums are called “Minimum Holders.” At the start of the series, those who possess the Minimum abilities are kept secret by the government, out of fear the general population wouldn’t accept them or, worse, demand powers of their own. Minimum Holders even attend a special school – Facultas Academy – to hone their Minimum until its revealed within them. Both Nice and Murasaki are former top attendees of Facultas Academy who left to start their detective agency.

Between the two leads of Nice and Murasaki, Nice is the principle protagonist of the series. Nice is always hungry and always looking for food, yet always broke, while Murasaki has a more well rounded, philosophical view of how the world works. As a result, Murasaki gets along much easier than his counterpart.

In the first episode, Egg of Columbus, Nice and Murasaki are each presented with a case. One is a low paying job investigating the kidnapping of local college girls; the other is a higher paying gig protecting a safe from thieves. Nice cares nothing about money, only that the lower paying job is the right one to take. Murasaki, on the other hand, takes the higher paying job because he doesn’t want to guess where his next meal is coming from.

The other members of the detective agency each have their own unique personalities, stories, and abilities revealed throughout the season. With names like Honey, Birthday, Three, and Ratio, you know you’re in for some crazy adventures and funny dialogue between all the young members of the agency. To the show’s detriment, however, at least three of the secondary characters seem rather useless in the grand scheme of the show.

During the first five episodes, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters at all. I felt each installment was a rehashed version of an old Scooby-Doo episode. There are always two cases, and after a few minutes it’s realized both cases are connected, even though they seem completely separate. At the climax of the early episodes, there’s reason for at least three of the members of the detective agency to demonstrate their Minimum. Just when I was about to abandon the show as a good idea but executed poorly, I watched episode six.

In the sixth episode of the first season of Hamatora, The Prophet’s Torment, all of the seemingly disconnected and disjointed cases from the first five episodes begin to coalesce into a fascinating story arc I wasn’t expecting. I continued onto episode seven, Black Cosmos, and felt as if I started watching a different show.

After looking back, I can see why the first five episodes were done the way Seji Kishi (Yugo the Negotiator: Pakistan Chapter, Arpeggio of Blue Steel) and Hiroshi Kimura (Naruto: Shippuuden, Final Fantasy: Unlimited) directed and ran them. There were a considerable amount of characters to introduce and Minimum explanation needing to be achieved. Unfortunately, the first half of the season does play as a mixed bag of a show; appearing to not understand what genre it fell into or what story they were trying to tell.

I can say now, having watched all twelve episodes, I am very glad I stuck with it through to the end. The second half of the season loses much of the silliness wrapped up in introducing the principle characters. The overall story arc, along with the villain, is also introduced; both of which are just plain dark and enthralling in their complexity and execution. Part of the plot involves the serial murders of Minimum Holders and the removal of their brains after death.

The villain (whom I will not name to avoid possible spoilers) is NOT the clichéd evil antagonist who is just evil for the sake of needing a nemesis. The adversary in Hamatora has real depth and tangible reasons – though warped and perverse of course – for carrying out his master plan. His endgame is equal parts sadistic and elaborate when finally revealed.

The season ends on a nail-biting, head-scratching, mouth-gaping cliffhanger. The plot twist in the last few minutes of the finale had me yelling at my television because I wanted to know what happened in the seconds following the fade-to-black.

Though unimpressed with the first half of the season, I became completely invested in Nice and Murasaki throughout the second half as the underlying plot was revealed. I found myself rooting for the good guys and cursing the bad guys, knowing the heroes would prevail but still nervous as to the outcome.

My recommendation for Hamatora: The Animation would be to watch the first half of the season as if it were a so-so appetizer. An appetizer you have to sit through before a main course that is so satisfying, you will hardly remember anything that came before it. I also wouldn’t be holding anything in your hand during the last five minutes of the season finale, or you might end up throwing said object when the credits start to roll.

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Author: Anthony Sulwer

A freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado, Anthony fell in love with anime while working part time jobs at video stores in the 90s. Nights off were spent watching Akira, Ninja Scroll, Fist of the North Star, and anything else to appear in the small "Specialty" section of the large chain stores.

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