Hey all, and welcome back to Why It Works. As the season has continued, my appreciation for the very strange Hinamatsuri has shifted over time, but definitely grown as well. While the show doesn’t feel as laugh-out-loud funny as it did in its first few episodes, it’s made up for that by becoming ever more compelling as an endearing character drama, somehow turning Anzu’s “I’m a psychic girl who teleported to earth and now lives in a homeless commune” story into a grounded and poignant reflection on society and family.
Anzu started as a headstrong and temperamental brat, but she’s come to understand the harshness of this world and care about its forgotten people so intensely that when she’s presented with a simple home-cooked meal, she cries at the thought that she might not deserve it.
Through both Anzu’s story and the evolving relationship between Nitta and Hina, Hinamatsuri continually celebrates the validity and power of found families – families you’re not born into, but which you come into later in life. Personally, I have a great love for stories about found families. The idea that “you gotta love the family you’re born into” never really sat right with me, as there are many, many biological families who treat each other in terrible ways. Additionally, what does celebrating the unique power of a biological family say to those who have no direct relatives, or who are persecuted by their birth family simply for being who they are?
For those who lack an immediate and loving biological family, the families we find in the world are absolutely crucial. These are the families we choose – the people we love and who love us, the people who genuinely want what’s best for us because they’ve chosen to stand beside us. Like with a long-lasting romantic relationship, choosing to become a family is a choice we make again and again, reaffirming what we mean to each other and how far we’d go to support each other. Found families are an acknowledgment we all deserve and can find love in a relentlessly imperfect world, and today, I’d like to branch out from Hinamatsuri to highlight a few other great found family shows.
First off, March comes in like a lion offers an alternately devastating and inspiring story about one boy’s long journey towards a family that appreciates him. Protagonist Rei Kiriyama’s biological family die in an accident early in his life, and so he is adopted by his father’s old shogi rival into a family defined by shogi fanaticism. Wanting to impress his new father, Rei dedicates himself to shogi, but his effort and excellence only result in resentment from his new siblings. Eventually, Rei’s sense of displacement in this new home leads him to leave entirely, and he falls into a deep depression before eventually meeting three strange sisters.
That’s essentially where our story actually begins, as Rei’s random dinners and errands with the Kawamoto sisters slowly teach him that there’s more to life and love than impressing an ever-distant father. Balancing exciting shogi battles, harrowing psychological drama, and uplifting moments between close friends, March comes in like a lion embodies the beauty of slowly building a family you choose.
At the much weirder end of the spectrum, I also highly recommend the bizarre World Conquest Zvezda Plot. Centered on Kate Hoshimiya, a tiny girl who’s determined to literally conquer the world, it balances madcap episodic adventures with thoughtful reflections on society’s disregard for its outsiders, who gather together within Kate’s villainous Zvezda group. Though the show is likely more remembered for wild standout episodes like the time Kate tried to kill all smokers, its heart lies in moments like Kate’s declaration that at her dinner table, all are family. Ultimately, Kate’s desire to “conquer the world” seems more like a desire to make the whole world her family, a reflection of her fundamental generosity of spirit.
Finally, I’d like to highlight a show that demonstrates a family can indeed be one put-upon programmer and two hungry dragons. In spite of its absurd title, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is actually one of the most endearing and compassionate shows of the last few years, balancing terrifically executed gags with charming moments starring two unlikely moms and their adopted daughter. Touching on topics as charged and wide-ranging as the responsibilities parents have towards their children, as well as the difficulty of coming to accept that you deserve love at all, it’s both consistently hilarious and totally heartwarming. Oh also, it’s animated by Kyoto Animation, so you know it’s beautiful at the very least.
That’s all I’ve got for today, but I hope you enjoy at least one of these endearing shows, and please shout out all your own favorite found family stories in the comments! Everyone deserves a place where they belong, and I’ll always appreciate more shows that demonstrate how people who truly care for you can be found in the most unexpected of places.