The festival of dolls

Hinamatsuri is a manga about a powerful young psychic who’s adopted by a yakuza gang member. You might think it’s an action series fill of violent battles, secret conspiracies, and barely disguised metaphors comparing child soldiers to the academic pressure placed on modern Japanese kids. However, it’s actually a comedy about the daily nothings in the lives of a group of slackers and screw-ups.

The main character mostly eats, sleeps, and watches TV, while she uses her powers to move her video game controller so she can keep her hands free for eating potato chips. Of the people sent to capture her, one ends up homeless and sleeping in the park, while the other almost starves to death in a crappy apartment because she ran out of money. Her adoptive yakuza father accidentally gets her to attack a rival gang, but otherwise the most he’s done to exploit her is to use her existence to elicit a sympathy date from a woman he was pursuing.

Wisely, the author knows how superb the side characters are and does not hesitate to shift focus to them. Over time the series becomes more of an ensemble comedy. For instance, there’s a running gag about the protagonist’s 13 year old classmate that begins with her accidentally getting a job as a bartender and slowly builds up over time, culminating in the classmate being trained as a sniper at a Special Forces boot camp.

When your daughter asks you for money to buy a television, the smart parent gives it immediately instead of letting happy hour be interrupted.

I find that the best comedies are the ones that let the jokes come from the story instead of being a standup routine with a narrative hastily cobbled on, which is why I like this particular manga.

I dunno, it’s just funny.


You know, I’ve thought about it some more and I think I didn’t give enough attention to the manga’s emotional core. The comedy would not be as funny if the story was nothing but jerks being jerks. The girl definitely remains a self-absorbed asshole, and hilariously so, but she and her guardian still develop a relationship of genuine trust and reliance on the other person. There are moments of father-daughter bonding which warm the cockles of the coldest heart.

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