Oh boy; here’s a series that’s aiming for great first impressions. The OP and ED are sung by the Backstreet Boys of all people. The lead character, a nine-year-old boy named Ichiro, is downright the most annoying and obnoxious anime character out there: he’s loud-mouthed, a cry-baby, continually picks fights with both his friends and family. If you thought your average shounen hero was annoying, you haven’t seen anything yet with this guy. On top of that, his mother is a loud-mouthed old hag, his sister an ugly overly whiny middle schooler, his grandfather a senile old man, his father an egotistical drunk carpenter and his best friend an incredibly shy and spineless crybaby. Oh, have I already said that this is an really charming series?
Seriously though, this is a very ugly series. The screenshots above may be a bit misleading because this is a Madhouse series, so there’s bound to be eye candy somewhere, but just be glad that I didn’t take any shots of Ichiro crying, yelling, taking a dump, walking around naked, picking his snotty nose or whatever. A lot of people are going to find Ichiro and the other recurring characters very hard to swallow, and but those who do stick with this series are rewarded with a very heart-warming story about a boy who can see ghosts.
Basically, this series consists out of a couple of arcs, most of which consist out of Ichiro meets the ghost of a dead person who still has regrets left in this world, and asks Ichiro for help because he’s the only one around who can see spirits. They’re usually the spirits of people who screwed up really badly when they made the most important decisions of their or their loved ones lives and can’t leave to the afterworld until they solve these issues. The stories all have a touch of mystery, in the way that you’re never going to know what exactly the ghost wants from Ichiro when you first see them, and through a very good build-up it slowly becomes clear what their intentions are, closing off with a teary and heart-warming ending that hardly ever misses the mark. These stories, while not on the Mushishi level of quality still are nearly all very good (even the first ones) and an excellent recommendation if you’re in the mood for something sappy.
The rest of the time in this series is meant for character-building for Ichiro and the rest of the recurring side-characters. These ones obviously are a bit harder to get through due to just about everyone being obnoxious, but it’s not like they’re bad characters in any way. The characters here are really meant to be flawed, and the creators sometimes tend to take this a bit too far, but they definitely grow on you as the series goes on. I especially liked Mandame Katarina, the ghost who simply refuses to cross over to the next world because she has too much fun being a ghost.
Overall, Hanada Shounen Shi is a sappy story, but I mean that in a good way. From the outside it might look like a kiddie show, and Ichiro can and WILL get on your nerves, but despite that it again and again proves that it can be a heart-warming series.