Image source: 『ひなこのーと』公式 on Twitter

What do you get when you combine cute anime high school girls with common examples of social anxiety and dysfunction? If my theory is correct, you might just get Hinako Note. While there’s absolutely no concrete evidence of creative intention to back me up, I am convinced that the show is a metaphor for how social dysfunction feels to those who have it.

Hinako Note is the story of a country girl in Tokyo and her unique set of roommates. They decide to form a theater troupe at their boarding house and in their high school. Most of the girls exhibit strange behaviors made even more extreme by the moé style of the show.

Image source: 『ひなこのーと』公式 on Twitter

Hinako, the title character, grew up in a small village with, it seems, no or very few other children; can’t speak to strangers; almost cannot speak to her farmer neighbors; and spent her elementary and junior high school years working part time as a scarecrow.

Hinako’s tendency to become a scarecrow (freezing up with arms out and eyes wide) any time she has to interact with strangers or in wider social functions seems to makes sense to me. It seems very close to some of the humorous yet internally accurate depictions I’ve seen from comic artists with social anxiety. (I tried to reach out to see if I could get permission to offer examples, but I wasn’t able to do so.)

Image source: 『ひなこのーと』公式 on Twitter

Hinako moves to Tokyo to attend a school famous for its theater club. She hopes it will help her learn to speak to others. However, while she is able to act effectively, and she does make friends with her roommates, she never really makes that much progress. Several times, she seems to seriously regress. This also is familiar to anyone with any serious functioning issue and I am no exception. Sometimes you’re going to slide back to an earlier state.

This is why I argue that Hinako Note is, in fact, a super cute, yet subversively accurate, metaphor for dysfunctional social anxiety and improper coping mechanisms. And Hinako is also not the only one with issues. Some of her roommates and friends also have seriously problematic coping mechanisms.

Image source: 『ひなこのーと』公式 on Twitter

Kuina is a compulsive eater. In addition to eating any type of food within grasp, she also literally eats the books in the bookstore in which she works. The bookstore is part of the first floor of the boarding house in which she lives with Hinako and the others. Kuu-chan’s eating constantly disrupts activities, conversations, school work, etc. It’s always very adorable. However, in real life, it would be seen as a huge problem requiring intervention.

I could talk about all of the characters in turn, but I’ll end with Yua, the “tsundere” character of the show. She’s a bully—although she’s not very good at it. She seems overtly mean, and it would be easy to write her off as a bad person. However, since we are able to hear her narrate her own inner thoughts, we know she suffers from extreme, sometimes crippling, insecurity. Her abuse of Hinako is actually an outlet for what internally she feels she deserves. Hinako is a mirror of what Yua hates about her own personality, so she uses bullying to differentiate herself from her “friend.”

Image source: 『ひなこのーと』公式 on Twitter

Ultimately the show’s moé style and cartoonish aspects aid the metaphor, in my view, as what I feel we are seeing is not reality as it actually is but how each character feels or experiences their dysfunctional coping mechanism. It’s “real” in the sense of feelings and lived experiences. The exaggerated way that dysfunction occurs in our own internal perceptions of events is very well explored by the medium of animation in a way that wouldn’t be possible in live action.

This is why, for all of its silly frivolity, I believe that Hinako Note is really so much more and deserves a watch. Especially if you know what it’s like to have social anxiety. You may just see yourself in the characters.

Hinako Note is streaming with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

Comments (4)
  1. Thank you so much for writing this! Hinako Note was my favorite cute show from the Spring season and yet I saw a ton of negative comments about. I personally related very well to the show because I am an extremely shy person irl, and Hinako’s character portrays exactly how I feel when I get social anxiety. The other characters relate to me as well. You did an amazing job of describing this show’s worth and its depth. Thank you again and I hope this article helps persuade more people to watch this show.

    • Pinkraichu,

      Thanks so much. I have a lot of my own issues (none are portrayed here, but there some some similarities across maladjustment). I do work with students with these issues and have friends with these issues, so for me, I felt Hinako Note really, really went there. And I didn’t see a lot of coverage of it elsewhere, so I wanted to really discuss this.

  2. Super cute yet accurate? This has piqued my interest.

    • Accurate to internal feelings. Obviously, as animation, it exaggerates things in ways that wouldn’t be physically possible. But it’s not about that, it’s about our internal perceptions. They can really distort the world around us.

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