Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan

July 1, 2016

Japan loves their hotsprings. So it is no surprise that eventually they would make one with a theme of a fairy hotspring that lay dormant for centuries until she is awakened in modern times. And thus to regain her powers of old, she cooperates with locals to get them back. Well, it doesn’t sound like anything special, Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan. But what do you expect in this short anime lasting only 3 minutes? Wait a minute. You mean you are telling me that this anime is not about girls soaking in hotsprings and giving us the much needed fanservice?!

Episode 1
In the town of Hakone Yumoto, a place famed for its onsen (hotspring), Touya has been sweeping the water source believed to house an onsen spirit every day and thus he always makes an offering that he wants to get close to the girl he has a crush on, Haruna. Little did he know after he offers his manjuu, a little girl pops up. She is Hakone and claims to be the onsen spirit. At first he couldn’t believe it since she is trying to eat the offering right now. But he might think she is the real deal when she chides him for not being a man as he doesn’t even have the guts to go confess to a girl and needs to pray to a spirit! So true! Hakone then tries to extort more manjuu from him. He thought he could shoo her away by doing so but here comes Haruna. She is introduced to Hakone but she too can’t believe is her. Doesn’t the onsen spirit have a great beautiful body? Hakone is insulted and claims she has been sleeping for so long that her powers diminished and therefore she has taken this form. Haruna pacifies her that she is still a kid and shouldn’t be worried about her body and then thanks her for protecting the onsen. Hakone is delighted with her words and then puts it bluntly that a good person like her doesn’t deserve Touya! But she decides to help Touya with his love and pushes him as he falls over Haruna. Those soft buns he is feeling… Oh sh*t! Was that helpful?

Episode 2
Hakone is brought to live in Haruna’s home. She is introduced to her little sister, Aki. Seeing the onsen spirit is here, Haruna suggests taking a bath right now. It goes without saying that Hakone starts questioning Haruna’s big boobs. Is it because she has been using the onsen for a long time? Then why are Aki’s boobs so small? I think Aki didn’t like that and claims Hakone is a fraud. To prove she has powers, Hakone makes the water sparkle in which turns their skin smooth. Too bad her limited powers mean it is only for a limited time. Hakone feels the need to regain her powers but Haruna being the strict onsen regulator has Hakone soak longer instead of getting out. Poor Hakone became dizzy after that. But the manjuu reward was delightful. She becomes impressed and possibly considers Touya and Haruna to be her God because their household makes thousands of manjuu every day! As Touya still doesn’t believe she is the fairy, Hakone materializes a mosaic puzzle box. The steam makes Haruna fall in love with him as she hugs him. Of course the effect doesn’t stay long. This has Touya thinking if she gets her powers back, will the effect last longer? He is very interested to get her powers back but Hakone isn’t quite sure…

Episode 3
Did Hakone wet her bed and is proud of it?! Actually she had a manjuu dream and salivated by spouting water from her mouth like a geyser. As Haruna is going for a resident association meeting, Hakone wants to follow thinking all the important people will be there. Hakone is introduced as Haruna’s distant relative. The topics are so boring that Hakone fell asleep and bumped her head on the table! So Haruna takes her to play with the other kids playing with this yellow box cat mascot, Hakoneko. Similar name? But Hakone is surprised at this creature that doesn’t look anywhere close to a human. She thinks it is a vengeful spirit and becomes scared. Till another kid stars crying because he too is scared. Feeling the need to do something and not shame herself, she attacks the cat! Everyone is impressed she spits powerful geyser from her mouth. They want to see her power again so she demonstrates making a geyser out of a nearby onsen. That is when they request her to be the sightseeing ambassador. It is a job where she tells everyone about the wonderful parts of town. Hakone is revved up and will do it.

Episode 4
Hakone shows her ‘tricks’ and impresses the crowd with her newfound position as an ambassador. Unfortunately she uses too much of her power and faints. Time out. Touya shows his appreciation to her by making a pair of hair clips in the form of those mosaic puzzle boxes. He also pats her head but she becomes embarrassed and as penalty he must give her a manjuu. No, take her to the place where manjuu is made. So here they are at the factory. Yeah, heaven for her. Time to go meet ‘God’. Too bad the maker has gone home and production has stopped for the day. Hakone is sad because ‘God’ died!

Episode 5
Aki is shocked to see Hakone all grown up! This is supposedly her original form and because she wants to show off to the townspeople, Aki can’t let her go out in her small miko priestess outfit since her adult size has outgrown it for indecent exposure. She lends her uniform and probably regrets seeing how big Hakone’s boobs are. Hakone shows off herself but nobody remembers. Even when she claims she is Hakone, they believe she is just a small child. This makes her sad that she runs away but bumps into Touya. He too doesn’t recognize her. But why does Haruna feel jealous of seeing him with her? When Hakone sneezes like a geyser at him, only he recognizes her. It’s because she reverted to her kid form. Haruna relieved? Hakone explains that because the people believed in her after becoming an ambassador, her powers grew and was able to return to her original form. Now she has returned being a kid, it will take some time to regain them again. Touya pats her head and assures everyone will help her. But she gets embarrassed and doesn’t want to be treated like a kid.

Episode 6
A big hotel pops up next to Haruna’s inn. Aki is worried this will steal their customers. They meet the owner, Miya who is just a little girl! She invites them to her event in which she is stealing the hearts of the crowd. Not to be outdone, Hakone tries her tricks but nobody is looking. When Hakone tries to usurp her on stage, it seems some affect wears off from the crowd. Hakone regains some of her power to turn into her adult self. I think the guys love this busty girl. However Miya takes back control of the crowd again. Touya has been suspicious of Miya, grabs her container and realizes it contains some magic to sway the crowd. That is when Miya reveals she is an onsen spirit like Hakone. It is then Hakone remembers her from Miyanoshita onsen. They are rivals and go way back in trying to compete over everything. Hakone didn’t recognize her at first because of her flashy clothing. Miya declares she will take her power and become popular but since she uses too much of it, nothing happens. Hakone uses hers and causes Miya to get a little dizzy. Touya catches her and she starts liking this nice guy. Oh boy. And don’t tell me there are a couple of other onsen spirits thinking they can usurp the moment too…

Episode 7
Miya invites Touya and co to her swimming pool event. I’m sure Haruna’s sexy bikini is more attractive than Hakone’s old fashion swimsuit… As they have fun, Miya in her bid to get her revenge on Hakone, causes a whirlpool to make her dizzy. Hakone is going to get back at her when other onsen spirit rivals pop up. However everyone is usurped by monkeys! The onsen spirits cower behind Touya as they fear the primates. It goes back a long way how they just splash into onsen and eat offerings without permission. Touya had no choice but to throw the manjuu into the forest and make them go back there. Poor Hakone… Miya once again is head over heels over Touya’s bravery. Haruna comes over to see if everything is alright and she misinterprets Touya and Miya’s ‘lovely’ scene. Touya is in sh*t… Hey, at least Hakone gets to eat some manjuu.

Episode 8
As part of her ambassador duties, Hakone and gang ride the tram up the mountain. At the top of the mountain, Hakone starts to become scared because this valley is rumoured as Hell Valley. Of course it was just a rumour to scare children that the oni will eat them. Aki teases Hakone by scaring her with this but she went too far when Hakone really starts crying and runs away in fear. And those onsen rivals also spot the ‘oni’ and freak out. Turns out to be Hakoneko. Hakone thought she could hide inside Hakoneko. But she will get the biggest shock of her life when she sees the dude behind the mascot taking off the outfit. Your nightmare has come true… Meanwhile Miya isn’t thrilled she is the only one who tagged along and handing out brochures to promote their onsen. Where the f*ck did everyone else run off to?

Episode 9
Touya, Hakone and Miya are on their way to a neighbouring town to deliver manjuu. What are the chances Hakone won’t be a monster and devour them all? Though she did not for the delivery, she did eat those that are awarded to them. She’s not admitting to it. Can manjuu just disappear? Because of this, Touya decides to play a prank of her by telling a ghost story that a woman who was executed here, her ghost still roams the place. Don’t turn around now because there she is!!! OMG! For real?! Wait a minute. Onsen spirit fears ghosts? But that turn to surprise when Hakone recognizes her, Otama. Yeah, they’ve known each other for 300 years. As she wants to experience her onsen again but being a ghost bounded to this place, Hakone will bring her onsen here since this is her soil and the onsen water resonates throughout. Otama is delighted to soak in one again (can ghosts do so?). The onsen rivals jump in but upon seeing the ghost, they run for their lives. Really, do onsen spirits fear ghosts? Otama has found her peace and soon crosses over to the other side.

Episode 10
Finally we know the name of those onsen rivals, Ashinoko and Gora. They blame each other for the recent failures. From monkeys to ghosts… When Hakone and co are seen entering the area, Gora becomes upset that they dare set foot on her territory. She proceeds to attack them by unleashing wave after wave of her onsen power. Luckily Gora stops her before she ruins the beautiful garden and takes her away for a tactical retreat. While Hakone and co are left bewildered, the watery attack seems to enhance the sparkly garden as they continue to have a picnic. Meanwhile Gora is ashamed over losing control of herself and almost destroyed her garden. Only the bench is destroyed, right?

Episode 11
Miya has been paying visits more often to Touya and Hakone. Checking out her rival? Sure it is not because she has a thing for him? When they question why onsen spirits are afraid of monkeys we are delved into a quick history of the Seven Springs of Hakone. They were the most powerful onsen before Japan opened up and since then it has bloomed to 20 and with newly developed onsen areas means new onsen spirits were born (Gora and Ashinoko). With people’s devotion becoming scattered, the original power of the 7 weakened and only Hakone and Miya were awakened. Hakone remembers if they travel to the shrine that is the source of their power, maybe they can do something about it. And so the gang take a train and boat ride. Each time Hakone enjoys herself, Miya would scoff her. But when Touya is enjoying himself, she relents. Love or double standards?

Episode 12
Miya tries to use her box to impress Touya but was easily snatched away by Gora. Their plan is to steal their boxes so they could rule the area as new onsen spirits and replace the old ones. Miya starts crying for being useless but Hakone jumps into action to try take the box back. She wonders why Hakone would help an enemy but Touya explains Hakone sees her as a friend. This gives Miya courage to go help Hakone. As they battle on the top of the mast, everyone else thinks this is some sort of attraction. Hakone’s power weakens when Gora tries to play mind games with her that they are being lazy and thus the box would be far more use in their hands. Miya struggles with Gora to retrieve her box. She is successful and unleashes her power to make Gora grovel before her. When they reach land, it is a race to the shrine.

Episode 13
Once they reach the shrine, Hakone and Miya regain their power and revert to their adult version. Gora wants Ashinoko to let this go seeing stealing their boxes doesn’t mean they will attain true believers. Ashinoko considers her a traitor and blows her out of the way. With lots of spouting hot water here and there, Ashinoko’s power starts to go berserk as she can’t control it. To save everybody, Hakone absorbs Ashinoko’s power and plunge into the lake. She was never found. Touya, you crying for her? Seasons passed, Haruna’s inn is bustling with business. Gora and Ashinoko are helping her. Miya visits Touya making his usually delivery at the water source. He accidentally drops a manjuu offering and just like the last time, Hakone pops back out. Why didn’t he think of this? Maybe he did but it didn’t work except for just now. I’m not sure about her onsen current that had her swept back here but it took seasons? Anyway everybody is happy to have her back and now they can continue with their boring daily lives.

Not Making Any (Hot) Splashes
I know the series is very short in its duration but what the heck is this rushed ending feeling? It just makes everything so unbelievable. For some reasons (for dramatic sakes, I guess) we have new onsen spirits trying to take out the original ones in hopes of gaining power and perhaps rule the world. And of course since Hakone is the heroine (because her name is even on the title of the series) we see her do some self sacrificing move to return everything back to normalcy. The bad girls repent and Hakone returns for the weirdest reason and in the lamest way and there we have it, our happy ending. What crap is this? And don’t get me f*cking started on questions like why the shrine only temporarily grant them their powers. So does it mean they can never recharge there again? And if every other darn onsen spirit materializes, are they going to hang out with Touya and co?

I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with the series because it wasn’t anything much. It was just trying to capitalize on a cute girl doing cute things in the form of an onsen spirit. That’s all. There isn’t even a real proper story if you think about it. We see her just doing some antics in her territory but even so as her job as an ambassador, I don’t really see how it is going to bring in the tourists. Maybe more water spouting tricks? Yeah, that should bring in the tourists. Other than all that standalone antics from a ghost to monkey trouble and onsen rivals, the ‘drama’ of trying to regain back their power wasn’t anything entertaining either. That is why it is sad to say that it was a good thing that the series lasted only for 3 minutes. I don’t know if I could stand it if it was a full length episode.

Despite this series is adapted from the manga of the same name, one of the disappointing things of this series is the lack of introduction of the Hakone hotspring tourist attraction and its corresponding areas. Perhaps the manga isn’t about promoting the place and it is just a story that takes place there. But I can’t help feel that maybe that they should also have subtly promoted the wonders of the Hakone area. I know. You’re going to accuse me of shameless advertising and promotion if they did that, right? Well, if they do it the right way and subtly. Heh. Maybe so subtle that I didn’t even realize it was being promoted. Sure, there are other tourist attractions shown here like the cable car, tram and the iron ship but what about the onsen?

The characters themselves feel lacking. Sure, blame the short duration of the series but I’m not saying there should be deep character development whatsoever. Because generally they just feel bland. Like Hakone as the titular and main character who tries to appeal to us with her cuteness and naivety in her loli form. It was fun at first but the novelty soon runs out fast. Sometimes she is just another brat and at other times easy to be bullied. Is it no wonder that nobody makes a big fuss or even bother to believe she is an onsen spirit? Yeah, and they try to give her some character by making her a manjuu maniac. Just like how some anime characters have a certain food they are crazy about that will make them go weak in the knees. So you want to make Hakone your personal slave? Just feed her manjuu. That’s all she needs…

Then the other supporting characters… I don’t know what else to say. Touya is the only guy in the series so I suppose he is there to provide some distraction in the love department because I don’t really see how he is getting closer with Haruna. Everything just feels like status quo. Whatever happened in Hakone’s quest to help Touya get closer to her? Sure, they hint about Haruna having that jealous look when he close to other girls but that could be just red herring for all you know. Towards the end, these human characters just feel redundant and unimportant. Because who gives a f*cks about them when the onsen spirits are battling against each other. Touya’s tears for Hakone are supposed to tell her that he cares for her despite being a bratty nuisance all the time? Oh well. It happens to every anime character in such situations.

And yes, having Miya to have a crush on Touya is another typical cliché of an unrequited love. A reason to have her follow and hang about Hakone and co. Ashinoko and Gora started off as clowns because of the running joke that they could never introduce themselves and whenever they want to foil Hakone’s plans whatsoever, they are put out of the picture. I don’t understand why onsen spirits have to fight each other for territory. Can they just work together and bring more happiness to the people? Ah well, even spirits would like to become more powerful (the more believers and followers the better) and rule the (onsen) world. Other than that, they can do nothing special except command where the hot water should pop up (good for party tricks, I guess) and shoot hot water out from their mouth. That’s the only fighting arsenal they’ve got?

Art and drawing feels rather okay too and nothing spectacular. If you are hoping to see the wonders of the Hakone hotsprings and see how the art reflects the real life counterparts, you will be very sorely disappointed. As already said, this entire series doesn’t even try to promote the Hakone hotsprings and what more feature the sceneries of the place. Because I am sure that if you are visiting the hotspring spot, it is going to be just more than the hot water, right? As for the character designs, I just can’t help feel that the characters have that one kind look. I don’t know. I just can’t describe it in words. And doesn’t it just feel weird that the onsen spirits dress like cosplayers? A miko priestess, a lolita, a sailor-fuku and a Sakura Wars main character wannabe (Taisho era clothes, that is).

Voice acting wise, just feels pretty standard with me only recognizing Ayana Taketatsu as Ashinoko and Aoi Yuuki as Gora. Fans might instantly recognize when the duo are together, they are an idol unit known as Petit Milady. This means they sing the reasonably catchy and lively opening theme, Hakone Hakoiri Musume. I have to admit that hearing this song is perhaps the most exciting thing throughout this series. Seriously. For the rest of the voice acting cast, they are Saki Ono as Hakone (Unko in Himegoto), Taishi Murata as Touya (Ibusak in Shokugeki No Souma), Mao as Haruna (Madoka in Denpa Kyoushi), Ayaka Asai as Aki (Mio in Shinmai Maou No Testament) and Yuuki Kuwahara as Miya (Hakua in Shomin Sample).

Overall, it might be disappointing but it isn’t so bad that it should be erased from history and all traces of it buried in an unknown desert. Of course with the series being simplistic which is much better than being convoluted, it also falls into the trap of being nothing out of the ordinary. Hakone isn’t that bad but it could have been better. How much you enjoy this depends on how much Hakone appeals to you. And since it doesn’t to me, so sorry lah.

My advice that could have made this series better? They should have just inserted mindless fanservice scenes! I know. You’re going to accuse me of shameless fanservice to attract male viewers just to increase viewership and then hope to translate all that into money making potentials with the release of the BDs, right? Of course. But at least having some pantsu shots is many times better than watching this atrocity. What a wasted potential. All onsen scenes must be accompanied with fanservice! It’s da rule! We all just hope such great onsen spirits will go back to slumber for a long time and let us enjoy our hotspring quietly. Yeah, maybe a real hotspring can have a rejuvenating effect to heal our soul after watching this.

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