Have you heard the rumors at school? They say that in the girls’ restroom on the third floor resides a spirit. If you walk up to the third stall, knock three times, and repeat the name “Hanako-san” thrice, the spirit will appear and grant a wish. However, said wish comes with a price.

Thus begins the tale of AidaIro’s Toilet-bound Hanako-kun, where lovesick student Nene Yashiro aims to grant a wish by any means. That’s where she hears the rumors of the bathroom-based spirit. Upon initiating the call, Nene is surprised to see that the spirit is boy and not the bobbed-haired girl as legends have shown. Nevertheless, a spirit’s a spirit, and Hanako-kun aims to make her wish come true.

Realizing that Nene’s love is not 100%, Hanako-kun tries to coerce her to try non-magical means of winning the boy’s heart. When everything fails, Nene goes the distance and swallows a mermaid scale. As soon as she’s about to give the other to her crush, she has second thoughts, resulting in her being cursed to being a fish. To save her, Hanako-kun eats the second scale, binding them into a contract that leads to...lots of teasing and bathroom cleaning duties.

As the school Nene attends has seven strange mysteries (Hanako-kun being one of them), it’s up to her to find out their cause and possible solution. With the aid of Hanako-kun and the exorcist-in-training Kou Minamoto, Nene aims to rewrite the scarier rumors and transform them into something a tad kinder. Going to great lengths and through secret portals, the trio set out to save their fellow students, and bring some lightheartedness to the mysteries.

There’s a nice GeGeGe no Kitaro vibe coming off of Toilet-bound Hanako-kun, with the classic spirits from Japanese folklore and mythology given new twists. The look of the Faeries at first are quite frightening, only for them to transform back into the most adorable (and plushie-worthy) creatures anyone can imagine. All of this is captured via AidaIro’s creative and visually-stunning art, which blends cute, creepy, and beautiful imagery together to make one of the most unique-looking worlds in manga today. (Its anime adaptation by LERCHE this past winter does a perfect job with keeping with this style.)

One of the other things that makes this manga stand out is its sense of humor. Hanako-kun is a huge tease and kind of a perv, but he does it all with a hint of sweetness and childlike goofiness. Although Nene and Kou can often be seen having their lives threatened by these mysteries, the tone can change quickly via Hanako-kun’s confidence and words of advice. It also helps that he’s quite handy with a knife, which also hints at a darker element of Hanako-kun’s past.

Although the first volume ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, it’s hard not to want to dive in to see what Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is all about. It’s both beautiful to look at and fun to read, crafting new spins on some of Japan’s most classic ghost stories. While AidaIro might not reach the same level of legendary status as Shigeru Mizuki, at the very least they’re adding something very fresh to the Japanese horror comedy genre. A curse may await in the end, but Toilet-bound Hanako-kun’s first volume is worth giving a good knock to see what entails!

FINAL GRADE:

Promotional consideration provided by Erik Jansen of MediaLab PR

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