Iro Aida’s ongoing Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun (Jibaku Shōnen Hanako-kun) is a Japanese fantasy manga series; it has been serialized in Square Enix’s Monthly G Fantasy since 2014. Volume 1 collects the first five issues.
Hopelessly romantic first-year-student Nene Yashiro spent three years reshaping herself into the sort of girl she thought her crush would prefer before confessing her love to him. Result: a brusk, rude rejection. Desperate for a boyfriend, Nene appeals to Hanako, the powerful supernatural entity who is said to live in the Kamome Academy High School’s girl’s washroom. She will ask Hanako to force the attractive Minamoto-sensei to fall in love with her.
To her surprise, Hanako is real. Even more surprisingly, Hanako is a he, not a she. The final surprise? He’s reluctant to use magic when mundane means could serve.
Hanako methodically assesses Nene’s better points, hoping to find something that would allure her new-found crush. No luck. Nene’s greatest skill appears to be failing to attract the boys with whom she is smitten.
Nene tires of waiting for a solution and steals some magic fish scales from Hanako. If she and Minamoto both eat a scale, they will be bound together for life. She eats her scale but cannot dose Minamoto. At which point she learns that this spell has a catch (all magic has a catch). If she had succeeded in feeding the scale to Minamoto, she and Minamoto would be bound by a shared curse: both would become half-fish. Since only Nene ate a scale, she is doomed to become entirely fish, and a slave to a horrific mermaid.
Hanako intervenes, saving Nene from slavery. He demands repayment. She is to serve as his new assistant, helping him deal with whatever supernatural problems show up at Kamome Academy High School. This is not an easy job. The high school seems to attract problems: malevolent fairies, human-eating stairs, and worse. It’s as though dark forces were at work, turning folklore to nightmare.
The art is very cute. Despite being high schoolers, the human characters look like grade-schoolers, visually out of step with Nene’s romantic obsessions and Hanako’s perviness (don’t ask). The monsters are horrific, in stark contrast to the other cozy characters.
Just so, the manga starts off as a zany magical adventure and turns into something grimmer. Dabbling in magic can cost one’s life or even soul. Hanako is by no means harmless. He is, in fact, the ghost of a murderer; the details of his crime will come in future volumes. There is comedy but also murder.
Volume One ends on a cliff-hanger, halfway through the Misaki Stairs sequence. A cunning scheme to entice readers to buy further volumes. I am impervious to such tricks. I will be picking up future volumes for entirely unrelated reasons.