Hinako Sakuragi is an almost handicappedly shy girl who clams up when she knows she's interacting with people, going into "scarecrow mode" while at it. To try to cure herself of that huge handicap, she wants to join the theater club at her new school.
Is there any appeal in MOE? Obviously so, or we'd never have shows so saturated in it. Of course, "cute" is a rather wide-ranging term to use, because you never know what that term means for each individual potential viewer. I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry about whether I'd be "corrupted" by the MOE, especially after clearly MOE shows like Is the Order a Rabbit?!, so in a weird way, I'm grateful towards Hinako Note, if only because it proves that there needs to be more than MOE to make a show appealing.
If that's all you want, though, Hinako Note will probably make you happy. The characters are downright adorable in design, and while almost all of them rested solely on the "mildly airheaded" part of the MOE personality scales, none of them are particularly out there. The show aims to be pleasant, and for what it's worth, it succeeds in that. To make matters even better, the girls all have a varied modes of dress styles that prevents the show from becoming visually boring. Save for a few racy costume sequences once or twice during the show, their styles are fairly non-sexual too, and that's including Maiyuki's maid outfits. (More on that later.) Animation quality varies a bit, but seems generally fine for the most part, though backgrounds tend to be limited to the school or the cafe/library building where Hinako lives through her high school years. If there is one downside to be mentioned, than that would be this character:
This girl is nine years old, or so the show would have us believe. She is the somewhat evasive president of the acting club at the school Hinako is attending, a club that's now on hiatus. She was apparently a famous child actor before that -- and yes, if her age is correct, she is still a child. A child with a chest that would be huge on an adult. I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking she might be lying about her age, but she's a famous actress even from childhood, so that's the sort of thing that would be found out pretty quick.
Thankfully, aside from pointing that out, said nine year old isn't really used in any of the scenes of fanservice the show whips out on you from time to time. Aside from putting our main leads into rather salacious outfits in a service to the viewers, the show is weirdly innocent... as befits MOE in general, I suppose. Still, there is no pattern, nor any kind of advance warning before the show basically whips out the fanservice on you, which makes it feel out of place. It mirrors Strike Witches there, in that the show is a very good-natured one, but said fanservice is more about weirdly invasive camera angles at times -- like under-the-table hip shots -- rather than the more typically semi-innocent cleavage shots or bath/hotspring scenes. (Though there are those too.) Hinako Note would have been better served with the solution Is the Order a Rabbit?! went with: swimsuits and lively waterfront games, fanservice that's more about fun rather than leering.
The show is also arguably trying to be a comedy on the side, and that's Hinako Note as its weakest. Kuina Natsukawa is a first-year like Hinako. She works at the book store, and her repeat joke is the well-worn "she's always hungry", but Hinako Note takes it a step further by having her eat the books she reads because she likes them just soooo much. Funny, no? There's also Mayuki Hiiragi, a second year who has complexes about being tiny and cute, and she really likes maid outfits. She also wants to be a Princess, but she doesn't want to be on the stage, weirdly enough. Funny, no? There's also Chiaki Hagino, the silent but sensible landlord of the cafe/library building and the old theater club's president, and the straight-woman to all this. And last member of the up-and-coming club is Yua Nakajima who is a bit of a tsundere for Chiaki and as such unleashes all her tsundere jealousy on Hinako before predictably becoming her begrudging friend. Funny, no?
No, it's not. It's Hinako Note as its laziest. It's the McDonalds of comedy; the laziest kind, made all the more aggravating when the show ever so rarely manages to throw out a line or a joke that's actually funny, as if the creators of the whole thing actually has it in them to be funny, but couldn't be bothered to put in the effort. It's just scarecrow position, book eating and "mou mou I'm not a middle schooler!" *puffy cheeks* most of the time. It's got all the soul of a prepackaged meal made in a hurry so that people can devour it on the go and then forget about it an hour later.
To make matters even more tedious, the show pretends at being about acting, but you don't really get to see a whole lot of that. Shades of Ha Na Ya Ma Ta to be sure, but to its credit, Hinako Note is at least a little bit more generous than that, as low a bar as that is. Not that I'm that interested in acting in particular, but a show that portends to be about something in particular should at least dedicate some amount of its time to that topic. I wouldn't be nearly as kind to Encouragement of Climb if it hadn't spoiled me rotten on the topic of going on mountain hikes.
I'm not even sure I can blame the show for lost potential, outside of maybe the few scattered jokes that were actually funny, which just makes the times when the show is not -- which is to say most of the time -- even worse. I've never been a huge fan of "number one or bust" idealism that I see from time to time, both in anime or real life, but as tiresome as the "do your best" routine can be to hear in anime, I'm more on board with that lesson. The show is visually pleasing, that much it has, and it has a generally pleasant atmosphere. But it doesn't have much more than that to offer, sadly.
Visually pleasing, and funny maybe once or twice per episode, but otherwise dry, uninteresting and underwhelming. Add a star if cuteness is all you care about. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: There isn't a lot of fanservice, but half of what there is feel a bit invasive, like the camera angles in Strike Witches or Uta Kata. A more consistent tone would've been appreciated; cute and clean, or saucy and dirty. Pick one.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Hinako Note © 2017 Passione.
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