Sakuragi Hinako has a hard time talking with others. In order to get over her paralyzing shyness, Hinako leaves her home in the country because she ends up starting school at the high school that has the drama club that she admires and ends up staying at Hitotose-sou. There, she meets Kuina, who loves books and to eat, Mayuki, who’s a bit older but smaller who’s good at cooking, and the quiet landlady with the hot body, Chiaki-san. A cute and fun drama comedy about the former girl who was paralyzed from shyness.
Hinako is a very shy girl from the countryside that moves to more populated area and has to begin a new school. Initially reluctant and anxious, she makes a small group of friends and they help her adjust to her new lifestyle. In order to combat her shyness, they suggest that she joins the theatre club at school but alas, the club has been disbanded. Determined to not have this as a setback, the group form their own little theatre troupe and have some fun together.
All teenagers suffer from a bit of anxiety now and then, but Hinako is a completely different case. She can barely speak in front of her fellow students and when she gets too flustered she just stands very still, like a scarecrow, until she feels she can move again (she was so good at this that she was actually employed as a scarecrow at time by her country neighbours, which is hilarious). At the beginning of this anime the only way is up for her as the smallest things would render her incapable of speaking. Because she can be so still and gentle, animals seem to adore her: farm animals come stand beside her, cats follow her home and birds always perch on her – she’s a veritable Japanese Snow White. But any approach from a person and oh – she’s back to being a scarecrow.
Alongside Hinako’s antics we have Kuina, who gets so hungry she often eats pages from books; Mayuki, who works in the local coffee shop and loves dressing as a made; Chiaki, who used to be in the theatre club before it disbanded and is now the landlady of the place where Hinako stays and Yua – a student who has a rather one-sided rivalry with Hinako.
The characters are drawn in a very moe style – big eyes and rounded features and long legs that are likely adapted from this narrative’s origins as a four-panel manga. This art style also makes for an easy transition into super-deformed characters at points in the story that make our little group extra cute. Due to their personalities and diminutive statures, Hinako and Mayuki in particular are made to look so cute it could be illegal. In this way, the characters and storyline in Hinako Note really do remind me of this in Kiniro Mosaic and Anne-Happy in the way that things are very ‘moe girls doing cute things’ and the appropriately similar art style. Hinako’s cute-sounding, breathy seiyuu reminds me so much of Alice from Kiniro Mosaic that it’s uncanny. Mao Ichimichi and Manami Tanaka have that really cute, innocent and well-meaning voice that is absolutely perfect for cute girl anime.
Hinako gets thrown in the deep end during theatre rehearsals as the theatrical adviser realises that all her anxiety goes away whilst she is singing. Despite Yua’s protestations, Hinako is given the part of the heroine in the revived theatre club’s first play – to be performed at their school’s summer fair in just a short month’s time. This is the first real breakthrough for Hinako and her seemingly unobtainable dream of performing in a theatre troupe looks like it just might come true after all. Despite this revelation, the process is quite believable as even though she’s found a way to stop being painfully shy, it doesn’t solve all her problems. Big groups still intimidate her and when people innocently talk to her in the street, she instantly freezes up.
One things that occasionally disrupts my enjoyment of this one though is the bizarre breast close-ups. They are so unnecessary and it doesn’t seem like the kind of show that would do these gratuitous shots. In one episode where the group practise their dance steps, boobs seem to be flying all over the place. Do Japanese girls not own sports bras? Even more disturbing is the well-endowed nine-year-old coaching everyone. Why?
I don’t think Hinako Note is the strongest anime this season, but it does provide a good dose of cute characters doing largely inoffensive things: singing, starring in plays, finding their talents, getting to know each other, indulging in light situational comedy and, most importantly of all, being adorable. This isn’t a mold-breaker – it’s not even the best moe slice-of-life I’ve seen recently. It’s an average watch and it requires no brain power to enjoy. So if you want to give your brain some time-off and enjoy some cute characters, I’d give this one a go.