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[DVD] Anime Review: Hamatora: The Animation (2014)

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It is the year 2014. In this world, a select number of humans have been discovered to possess supernatural abilities also known as ‘The Minimum’. These Minimum Holders attend the special Facultas Academy where they confidentially train to develop their skills to their full potential. As a result, those who graduate from Facultas are given special benefits and privileges that enable them to be successful in life.

Hidden away in a nifty Yokohama cafe called ‘Nowhere Cafe’, a group of individuals hang out all day in this innocent-looking eatery. But they’re not just casual cafe-goers. Labelled as ‘HAMATORA P.I’, this private investigation group consists of former Facultas Academy alumni and dropouts who sit around waiting for cases to drop through.

At a price,  you can hire 17-year-old Nice; Nice’s partner-in-crime, Murasaki; Hajime; Birthday; Beast and Honey. From missing individuals to bodyguard roles, Nice and his teammates investigate a variety of cases — some of which are mysteriously (and coincidentally) interrelated. Little do they know that a serial killer is on the loose who desires nothing but to kill Minimum Holders and attain their brains.

Just like any other crime-fiction setting, Hamatora certainly executes elements of mystery and a modern city tainted with corruption and power-hungry individuals. With no standard prelude outlining the history of Hamatora P.I as a group, Hamatora wastes no time exploring the world as it jumps straight into the action, and life as a private investigator from Nice’s point of view.

At a glance, the story of Hamatora is predictably two-dimensional with a lack of depth in its storytelling. While we do love the thought of callous detectives who will do anything to crack perilous cases, the cases presented in Hamatora are ambitiously told — and somehow easily solved by the end of the episode. This rapid pace in storytelling can only leave viewers in limbo — where is Hamatora heading with this story? 

Luckily, Hamatora is saved by its squad of calm-collected, attractive characters on the foreground. Nice and his colleagues aren’t just ordinary humans or private investigators. In fact, thanks to their abilities as Minimum Holders, they possess gifted abilities where they become superheroes by day and night, despite their ordinary appearances (well, maybe not).

This spotlight on Hamatora‘s characters may divert our attention from the story but that doesn’t mean it spell bad news for the show. Amongst the amped action sequences, the show somehow manages to find the time to sufficiently develop the characters’ stories. As we embark on different cases with the Hamatora P.Is, we learn more about each member’s past, unique Minimum ability, and how each detective pairing came to be the way they are now.

For a detective series, Hamatora is a very stylish series that will charm viewers with its slick art direction and animation. From lightning speed to superhuman strength, NAZ Animation Studio (Dramatical Murder, Space Dandy 2) has done an incredible job highlighting the action sequences and Hamatora P.I’s abilities in a highly-charged manner. Combining a mix of vivid choreography and a palette of retro colours, the overall direction is refreshingly dramatic and Westernised in its delivery, especially for a Japanese animation.

However, beyond Hamatora‘s shenanigans and kaleidoscopic vibrance, lies an ominous future for Nice and his colleagues. Biding his time in the darkness, former Facultas professor Moral has a twisted ambition to achieve world equality by giving everyone Minimum abilities. Empowered by fear and power, newborn Minimum Holders are now embroiled in a revenge plot, vowing to eliminate those who once looked down on them. A classic villain at best, we praise Moral’s menace and villainous actions to initiate this glorious upset in civilisation. With this turnaround in events boasting everything we love about the crime-fiction genre, the conclusion to Hamatora feels complete and immensely satisfying. Or is it? 

Overall: HAMATORA: THE ANIMATION is a flamboyant detective series that will have you gripped with its Western-inspired animation, art direction and attractive characters. Hamatora may kick off as a generic series but its directorial presentation and underlying twists and revelations will amuse viewers. If the ending cliff-hanger doesn’t convince you to watch the second season, then we don’t know what will. A must-watch!

Rating: 8/10

HAMATORA: THE ANIMATION SEASON 1 COLLECTION is now on sale. You can view more info on Madman Entertainment’s site [here]

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