Contains spoilers for the first volume of HakoMari
Time is a frequent theme in fiction, and in the anime realm it is just as popular as anywhere else. Time travel is one of the most common sci-fi ideas in fiction, but the idea presented in the first volume of Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria is much less commonly presented. The idea of a Groundhog Day Loop isn’t uncommon, but the length of the loop in HakoMari is something I haven’t seen presented elsewhere.
HakoMari features a time loop of roughly one day, something that is common to the genre. What’s not common is the fact that there are roughly 27,000 loops within the story. This comes out to be about 73 years, a period of time which is difficult to imagine. Living the same day 27,000 times sounds maddening, and to some extent the story presents it as so. However the only two human characters with complete knowledge of the situation are Maria and Mogi, with Mogi becoming somewhat deranged due to murder and Maria managing to stay entirely sane throughout the experience, as far as we can see.
This isn’t an inherently bad thing. No one has to go crazy for this scenario to be interesting, and in fact the novel was incredibly gripping. However, the length of time of the loop set up a unique situation that was not particularly used beyond making the setting.
Such a long time loop gives plenty of opportunities to see how people would rect when essentially stuck in a lifetime of the same day. This story only uses the length to explain how Maria knows all of what she does, but another implementation, one which I feel would be much more unique and interesting, would have many more of the classmates being aware of the loop, perhaps with them being “rejected” as they became insane and detrimental to Mogi’s goal.
This scenario would both include the general themes of a one-day time loop, while also factoring in other themes such as how people would react to immortality, as the functional immortality of such a long time loop would raise many of the same questions.
That said, one question that HakoMari brought up regarding time-loops was quite interesting. The question of whether a time-loop really matters if you aren’t aware of it is something I’ve put some thought into before, and seeing it in HakoMari was a pleasure. However it was not nearly as addressed as it could have been, with it only being touched on in the final loop, during the climax.
While HakoMari didn’t take approaches as unique as I would have hoped, it succeeded at what it needed to, that being an interesting time-loop series. I only hope that some future work will be able to go further in depth with the concept of an incredibly long one-day time loop.