Scream without raising your voice– Rose of Pain, X JAPAN
lyrics from Genius
Hey, Kohaku here. Hope everyone is doing okay. Today, I wanted to briefly review a Netflix show that I finally got to and just finished watching: Hibana: Spark (火花). I don’t normally review movies or shows or anything really, but I had something to say about this one – so let’s just get to it.
Hibana: Spark is a 10-part Netflix original series first released in 2016. It’s based on the Akutagawa Prize-winning novel of the same name written by comedian Naoki Matayoshi (又吉 直樹), who is the boke of comedy duo Peace. (Full disclosure, I have not yet read the original book, so everything I say is an unread opinion based solely on the show!) The fictional story follows Tokunaga, boke of manzai duo Sparks, as he struggles to “make it” in the Japanese entertainment industry. Along the way he meets older manzai comedian Kamiya, who becomes a mentor of sorts, and together they strive towards understanding and expanding what comedy is, who a comedian is, and how to live genuinely in a conservative, convention-favoring world.
On the surface, Hibana can come off as strange. There is little action, so much of the show seems to be quite slow; there is also limited dialogue. Some camera shots and scenes feel incredibly long, and many of the things the characters do seem very odd and unexplainable. However, I feel that Hibana achieves its good qualities not in spite of, but because of, all these things. I felt that the cinematographers were trying not just to subtly break conventions, as Kamiya teaches Tokunaga to do, but they were on a quest to discover what fundamentally moves people. As I watched, especially in the second half of the show, I often found myself feeling something – not just brought to tears, although that almost happened several times – and I had no idea why. This I attribute not just to the emotional story but the careful cinematography that went into portraying it. I finished the series deeply moved without fully understanding what I was moved about – and not every show can do that. Very few shows, actually, in my experience. This is a series that will make you think, a series you will take something away from, and since this is a trait that so many shows nowadays seem to lack, I found it incredibly enjoyable.
Hibana isn’t for everyone. If you’re going to watch it, enter in open-minded. Be prepared to be slightly put-off and confused at times, and be prepared to reach the end with lingering questions and feelings you can’t name. Watch with some care – it’s not something you can just put on the TV and then fall asleep, and still expect to understand the following episode. Things come back, and as I said, the cinematography is careful, so attention to detail is worth it. For non-Japanese viewers – knowledge of Japanese language is sometimes helpful but not necessary, since Netflix has subtitles, but I would definitely recommend having some prior knowledge of Japanese comedy and specifically manzai (at least the basics, like understanding the roles of the boke and tsukkomi, and see some examples of what manzai is “supposed” to be like so you know what conventions Kamiya and Tokunaga are trying to break). All these things taken into account, I would also say to just not overthink it. Pay attention, but don’t get too caught up in the little things – if something is confusing you, remember it but let it go. I think this kind of mindset would give the best viewing experience.
All in all, I found Hibana to be a very enjoyable, meaningful show. It was entertaining, funny, thought-provoking, and tragic all at once – and most of all, I was moved by it (to the point where I decided to write this review!). If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix during quarantine, I would highly recommend this.
You all take care of yourselves. See you next time,