Making manga vs. anime comparisons is so commonplace (and obnoxious) that I was really thinking if it was worth my time to write this. But in my defense, I did decide to do this because I believe it was necessary. It’s one thing if the adaptation looks a bit off visually, but when actual meaty parts of the narrative aren’t included, I think some nitpicking is well deserved.
Arata Hinohara, the boy from Japan, didn’t fare well in the anime adaptation. His situation and the entire backstory of why he wasn’t liked in school was totally glossed over. The anime scenes seem like they were told from the viewpoint of his (bullying) classmates as well. Hinohara was presented like a snobbish, unfriendly douchebag that nobody would like anyway — so maybe it was better that he would just up and disappear.
In the manga, it explains how Hinohara was a victim of bullying. He had to take off his last year of middle school and stay at home since the abuse was just that bad. That particular chapter shows him starting his first day at high school, a new place where nobody knew of him or his reputation. Even his entire family was coddling him, making sure that he was fine to return to the school environment that had traumatized him that much.
At first, Hinohara’s high school life was rosy. He was meeting new people, actually making friends, and being admired for his athleticism and overall niceness. He would be invited to join all the sports teams and clubs, but he always refused, hesitant that the others would feel bad if he picked one over them. Then, the worst possible scenario happened: Kadowaki, the boy who had bullied him and traumatized him in middle school transferred to his class. You could almost see Hinohara’s world break up and fall apart.
Once a bully, Kadowaki knew that Hinohara was still an easy target, if not easier since he’s already been wounded once. He starts off small, pushing Hinohara around, pouring half a jar of soy sauce into his lunch, throwing Hinohara’s gym clothes in the garbage, spreading rumors about him, etc. Hinohara knew that Kadowaki wasn’t going to stop bullying him, but things were different now that he (Hinohara) had friends. Because of his friend Suguru, Hinohara didn’t feel as alone anymore, that at least he had a person who supported him and would listen to his woes.
Now, here is where the anime starts to sync up with the manga again; what destroys Hinohara isn’t Kadowaki’s bullying (he’s already lived through that once, he knows how to deal with it) but Suguru’s betrayal. Suguru joins Kadowaki in playing a mean prank on Hinohara, and was overheard in saying that he didn’t even like Hinohara either. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It’s difficult not to sympathize with Hinohara; to a certain extent, we’ve all experienced a form of bullying, be it in school, in the workplace, or even in the internet. But where some people are more resilient to the bullying, there are some people (or personality types) that are very sensitive to the abuse. Hinohara seems to fall in that latter category; when it happened the first time, he quit all of his school activities. For it to re-occur, so close and with probably an increased severity, must have been much more painful.
So, while he’s still not perfect, I feel that fleshing out Hinohara’s past makes him a more sympathetic character. I just didn’t feel the adaptation did him justice… and because his situation reminds me of a certain Youko Nakajima, who was also bullied, lost confidence in herself, and almost didn’t want to live anymore. Here’s hoping that Hinohara will at least be shown regaining faith in himself and getting to kick some traitorous Shinsho butt in the process.