#1 An LGBT-oriented show from the 80’s
Kousaku Sakamoto is a teenage boy who has lost both his father and mother within the span of a few years. Left with no other family, he is told to move in with a friend of his mother in Tokyo. There he finds a new family and quickly grows familiar with the head of the household and his 3 daughters. Or is it 4?
Hibari Oozara was born as the only male of the household, but has since decided to live as a woman. As Kousaku moves in with their family, Hibari takes an immediate liking to him and their interactions soon turn flirtatious. However, Hibari faces many setbacks as her family doesn’t approve of her lifestyle and her classmates are unaware of her being born male. Even Kousaku is unsure if he can come to accept Hibari. She might have been born male, but she also is pretty damn cute.
Stop! Hibari-kun!! is a show about how Kousaku and Hibari sort out various problems and about whether the two will end up growing closer through these trials or if it will eventually destroy their friendship. Episodes can be about jealous girls in class trying to get Hibari to strip to confirm her gender or Kousaku trying to desperately prevent a classmate from confessing to Hibari and getting caught in a love triangle for his trouble.
Seeing tasteful anime about transgender characters is rare even today, so it was a great surprise to see an older license do it so damn well.
#2 Hibari can not be stopped
Despite valiant attempts of the show’s title, its opening song, and various plot devices throughout its 35 episodes, Hibari-kun simply can’t be stopped. Not only is she cute and completely devoted to her desire to be female, she also has the capabilities to counter anything and anybody trying to stop her.
Hibari is intelligent and popular in school, though that also earns her many rivals and dangerous admirers. She is quick to outwit such people and has a sharp enough tongue to even fluster her own father. And when the situation calls for violence, you better believe Hibari can defend herself. She never hesitates to fight back when she needs to and she knows how to take people down in such a way that they stay down.
Hibari is immediately interesting due to her desire to be female, but it’s also great to see a property from the early 80’s not paint her as some weak girly-girl or overly-flamboyant. Some of her highlights include beating up a boy who cheated on her sister and settling a score with a Yakuza family by ramming a motorcycle through their front door.
#3 A yakuza household
So, a little detail I omitted before is that the family Kousaku moves in with is… a little criminal. They have a large estate protected with a sturdy wall, an army of goons patrolling the grounds, and guns to last them for days.
The yakuza lifestyle is mostly played for laughs with silly henchmen and slapstick violence, but it also gives the Oozara’s an interesting familial bond with plenty of challenges. I was really fond of one episode where the youngest daughter is sad because she never feels comfortable asking any friends over due to all the thugs, or another where the oldest daughter falls in love with a boy from a rival family, which ended up being one of the funniest twists on Romeo & Juliet I have seen in anime.
Their status as an important family also puts a strain on Hibari, who was supposed to be the household’s heir due to her male birth. Her father and the middle daughter also consider it shameful to have “a weirdo” in the family and fear what it’ll do their reputation.
#4 It’s openly sexual
A story like this doesn’t work without being direct about sex, but we all know how prudish Japan can be, especially when it comes to TV anime. For reasons that are beyond me, Stop!! Hibari-kun! was somehow spared from the usual censorship and was allowed to air with full nudity from the waist up. A privilege it wasn’t about to pass up on.
One can often spot naughty pictures and posters in the background of shots and the show sometimes has scenes where the characters are entirely naked, such as in episodes that deal with a group of bullies that try to expose Hibari by stripping her. Besides that, there are also more regular fan-service scenes where panties, bras, swimsuits, or… loincloths are visible.
Hibari helps out a lot in this regard because she makes her romantic intentions very clear and deliberately wears provocative clothing to seduce Kousaku or irritate her family members.
Kousaku is very much a comedic doofus and often ends up being a victim of Hibari’s pranks or overreacting to her seduction attempts. He’s what you expect from the male lead in a romantic comedy in that regards, but a detail about him that stood out is how he wants to get strong.
During one storyline he ends up joining the school boxing club and I was surprised when it turned out that this decision is a permanent one. He remains a member and you often see him train or spar while Hibari watches from the sidelines. You even see him improve and become increasingly better at fighting against his bully, a club senior called Shiina, and then also apply these skills outside of the club, such as when fighting off a bunch of thugs that have it out for him and Hibari.
It’s actually cool to see such a small story within a story, a character arc that spans the entire show, but only affects this tiny aspect of the character. It even has an exciting pay-off in the form of a boxing tournament later in the show.
#6 Love trouble
The club is a great inclusion that allows us to see an interesting side of Kousaku. However, it is also through this club that a romantic issue arises.
Hibari likes Kousaku and, on occasion, Kousaku wonders if he also likes Hibari. However, he also has a crush on the club’s manager, Rie Kawai, and the two of them share many scenes, including a very romantic and funny training montage. However, Rie likes Shiina, a club senior and the guy who bullies Kousaku. Shiina flat-out rejects her and is even a little abusive and manipulative, because he actually likes Hibari as well and voices this whenever the opportunity presents itself, causing Rie no small amount of distress.
This also puts Kousaku in a difficult position. People are entirely convinced him and Hibari are a couple, which sometimes gets to the point where Kousaku wonders if exposing her secret would solve his problems. However, doing so could also mean Shiina loses interest in Hibari and ends up with Rie anyway, ending his chances with her for good. It would also be an absolute dick move, but a man blinded by love can make stupid decisions, can’t he?