The Hamatora anime series includes two 12 episode seasons titled: Hamatora: The Animation and Re:_Hamatora.
Hamatora takes place in a world where people have superpowers. These powers are known as “Minor Miracles” or “The Minimum” because, somehow, those two phrases seem like they should be related to each other (maybe it makes more sense in Japanese?). People who possess the abilities are called “Minimum Holders” and are the result of a genetic evolution in humanity. Minimum Holders are given special training at the Facultas Academy and are usually given preferential treatment in society because of their abilities. However, the academy has it’s own dark secrets to hide. The academy is run by a larger organization called the “Minimum Agency” that has its own agenda.
The main character of the show is Nice. He’s the lead detective of Hamatora, a small detective agency composed of three Minimum Holders: Nice, Hajime and Murasaki. The members of Hamatora run their business out of the Nowhere Cafe, which is run by Master and Koneko. Not a lot is known about those two, but it is revealed that they have some connection to the Minimum Agency. Nowhere is also frequented by the Odd Jobs, Birthday and Ratio and a team of bodyguards, Honey and Three. These groups also consist of Minimum Holders and they often end up working together. At the very least, their individual assignments often end up overlapping. The other significant faction is the police. The superintendent of the police department is Art, a graduate of the Facultas Academy despite not having his own minimum. Art is old friends with Nice and Murasaki and often works with them on Minimum Holder related cases.
The story of the first season revolves around the hunt for the Minimum Serial Killer, Moral. Moral is working on a way to harvest Minimums from his victims by removing their brains so that he can create non-innate Minimum Holders. His general philosophy is that he wants to create equality in the world be getting rid of the advantage that innate Minimum Holders have over others. Moral also has an obsession with Nice because Nice is a genius who’s intellect and abilities are far beyond anyone else who’s come through the Facultas Academy. In the interest of not being spoiler-y, I will only say that this season ends on a cliffhanger after a confrontation between Moral and Nice.
The second season, titled Re:_Hamatora, picks up a few months after the cliffhanger in season 1. Season 2 does have a primary villain, but it’s more about the events set in motion by Moral’s actions in season 1. Certain public events related to Moral cause a social rift surrounding the existence and treatment of Minimum Holders. An underground group of Minimum Holders, calling themselves Freemum, emerges with the claim that they want to live freely without discrimination. On top of that, several Minimum Holders begin to notice kick-back or failing of their Minimums, with Murasaki being one of the most heavily affected. As the series reaches its conclusion, the show takes us back in time to show us the pasts of Art, Skill (Art’s younger brother), Hajime, and Nice. The events of their pasts lead to the series conclusion where a plot is hatched to remove the Minimums from existence using a powerful ability known as the Nihilist Minimum.
This was a really hard show for me to get my head around. It manages to succeed and fail in large degrees when it comes to it’s plot and characters. The other aspects of the show are above average, but aren’t enough to allow me to ignore the more confusing disparities in the plot and character departments.
This series showed all kinds of promise. There’s some really nice visual effects and action animation using a unique color palette and effects when the different Minimums are deployed. The series also uses some nice sound effects and musical transitions. The way they use the music to transition is reminiscent of Samurai Champloo. The music itself sounds kind of like a fusion of the hip-hop effects that Champloo used and some of the rock riffs used in Trigun. At the very least, the sounds are reminiscent of those two shows. There’s also a lot of really good moments in the show. Unfortunately, there are only moments.
Where this show suffers a serious letdown is in it’s story telling. For every moment that’s fun, charming or intriguing, there’s another that makes you go, “wait, what’s happening now?” or “I guess, that happened”. Unfortunately, the worst offender in this respect comes in the series final episodes. We find out right before the series final battle that certain characters have been motivated, this whole time, by events that haven’t been revealed to the audience. Almost every time something is revealed in the second season I felt like it was something that would’ve made the show make a lot more sense if it was revealed sooner. On top of that the entire thing is solved by a deus ex machina from a character introduced very late in the series.
There’s also the issue of taking episodes for one-off stories. In a show that’s only 26 episodes over 2 seasons, there’s not a lot of room for throw away episodes. Especially in a show that’s already got a pretty convoluted plot. These episodes do succeed in highlighting some of the individual characters in the show. This is a plus, because the characters personalities are one of the stronger points of the show, even if developing those characters is a weakness. For example, we don’t get to know a lot about Birthday or Ratio, but watching them interact with Murasaki when he ends up in the hospital in season 2 was probably the best one-off episode in the show. That episode works really well because the character’s personalities are very strong even if they aren’t much more than archetypes.
The Hamatora series is a mixed-media project, with manga and music to accompany it. The anime is just a piece of this overall project, so it may not be fair to evaluate it as an anime on its own. Still, that’s what I’m doing here. The entire show feels like it’s built on a potentially compelling story that has a lot of potential subplots. Unfortunately, the show only briefly touches on those aspects, which causes it to end up with a lot of the story unexplored or unexplained. On top of that, the stories that they do focus on feel like they really lack in direction or sufficient exposition for most of the show. Overall, it makes it a pretty frustrating viewing experience. There were too many times when I felt like the show was going to turn a corner and become a good show for me to say that the show is absolutely bad. Still, the show never turns that corner making it feel like it’s constantly teasing you with its own potential. Because of that I can’t bring myself to recommending that anyone actually watch it.