Once in a while these things pop up, a slice-of-life anime gem that most of us may have skipped in favor of other more hyped series running in the same season. Hitohira had absolutely nothing going for it. High-school setting about a drama club, zzzzz. Didn’t hook me up that much from the get-go. But what I was about to experience is something special. It may not have the greatest story in the world, but it is a story well told, by very lovable and relatable characters.
Meet Mugi, a very shy high school student. She has a very weak normal voice, in which she stutters a lot, especially in panic, and her volume is generally low. But there are times that she can shout out a perfect voice, loud and clear. This strong voice was noticed by Nono, the president of the Drama Research Society, and from then on she set her sights on the girl, to recruit her for the upcoming stage play. Actually, there are ‘two’ Drama clubs in the school (the other one named plainly Drama Club), and that the Drama Research Society was actually just an offshoot from the Drama Club. Nono wasn’t too happy with the Drama Club for some reason, so she formed her own. The school doesn’t want two Drama Clubs to exist, and so a stage play competition will decide which club to disband.
It sounds like the story is a pretty standard fare for a high school anime slice-of-life drama, but don’t be fooled. This story didn’t drive the show at all, the characters did. It’s hard to describe without spoiling the story, but these events are not much the point of this series. The characters are simply lovable. I can relate to them, share their pains and happiness, and dream their dreams. Some of them had incredible character and relationship development. Firstly we have Mirei and Nono. They were best friends until the Drama Club fiasco arose because of them. Mirei actually introduced drama and acting to Nono, and their huge fight started when Mirei discovered about Nono’s voice-related sickness. She wanted Nono to quit drama because she may lose her voice, but Nono was so determined to follow her dreams no matter what, and thus she created the Drama Research Society. Mirei started hating Nono and that club because she was so worried about Nono, and it was basically a deadlock between the two. Their story was heartfelt, an interesting test of friendship. More heartfelt was the story of Kayo and Mugi, also best friends. Mugi was always dependent on Kayo, her personality so shy and her confidence weak. As Kayo realizes that Mugi is slowly getting stronger because of her being the part of the Drama Research Club, Kayo threw her own bombshell in that she is moving abroad to fulfill her own dreams. Another interesting test of friendship. Finally, Mugi and Nono’s relationship was such that we have a weak-willed person versus a strong-willed person. The extreme divide of their personalities shows as the two tries to balance each other out, making Mugi stronger and Nono sacrifice a bit of her overconfidence.
But Mugi was clearly the winner here. Although she still acts shy and quirky even at the end of the series, I felt distinctly that the things she experienced, especially what she saw from Nono, gave her strength. From saying that it is impossible for her to do things out of her norm, to being confident enough to raise her soft voice and act in a stage play. From being overly dependent on her best friend, to having the desire to stand up on her own. And she finally realized her dream towards the end. Mugi’s growth throughout the series was really beautiful, making her character very lovable. The rest of the cast are also wonderful, from the other club members to a energetic rival of sorts to Mugi (affectionately calling her Mugi-choco), adding much more color to the anime.
I don’t really need to comment about animation styles or the music and stuff like that. Technically it is not a groundbreaking production, it just works with its simplicity. Hitohira is a small but heartwarming series that I would recommend to anyone. It’s very easy to overlook an anime like this, especially with today’s times where we sometimes tend to pick the our entertainment based on its popularity, whether it be word of mouth or online. The few writings I read about Hitohira were unanimously positive, and so I hope that with this review I could have added another voice in calling the world about this wonderful little anime.