Home > Episode Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha > Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 2 – Eating Your Words

Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 2 – Eating Your Words

I was effusive in my praise for Hana-Saku Iroha’s premiere, calling it potentially the best show of the season. And perhaps it still will be—but now I’m not quite sure. This episode seems to contain all the elements that made the first episode great. But it also contain one sizable misstep, one obvious enough to make me wonder what the writers thought they were doing.

Ohana was left with two major challenges from the first episode: prove her worth as a worker in the inn, and try to befriend her hostile roommate Minko. Her attempts at both just seem to get her into deeper trouble. But both serve as opportunities to further explore her character, and for the most part that exploration is very revealing.

Tooru seems to delight in belittiling Minko at every opportunity. I'm guessing his own issues will get covered in some future episode

After Minko messes up a baking order and has to spent the time she would be devoting to cooking for the staff to fix it, Ohana tries to cover for her by making the staff breakfast herself. But Ohana’s actions only makes Minko frustrated about being one-upped again, particularly as Minko’s superior Tooru Miyagishi openly declares Ohana the better cook of the two. (Then again, he’s a bit of a jerk.)

For her official work, Ohana takes the initiative to clean out a room without help from her instructor, Nako (an ultra shy high-school student introduced last episode). What she doesn’t know, because Nako was too intimidated to tell her, was that the room’s occupant is an extremely fickle author named Tarou Jiroumaru, who doesn’t like having his writing space disrupted.

Minko is the master of the contemptuous death glare. One wonders on how many people besides Ohana she'd like to use it on

When Jiroumaru accuses someone of tossing away a precious manuscript, Ohana winds up taking the blame—even more so when she covers for Nako by pretending that the latter did tell her not to clean the room. By the middle of the day she’s in even worse a position than when she started: with her grandmother, her roommate, and the inn as a whole.

Two things turn the day around for her. First, when she’s with the obnoxious Tooru on a shopping run, she copies Minko’s turn of phrase and tells him to die, just as they almost get into an accident. With the prospect of him dying suddenly no longer a rhetorical matter, Ohana finally figures out what upsets her so much about Minko’s attitude.

Jiroumaru apparently has been obnoxious to the staff for his month-long stay, but things get really bad now that he has a legitimate excuse

Second, Ohana recalls how she dealt with her unreliable mother, who broke innumerable promises to her growing up, only to counter that this was to teach Ohana the invaluable lesson that people could not be trusted, and you should only take care of yourself. That in itself, of course, is a completely horrible lesson for a mother to teach her daughter, but what makes this interesting is the followup. When Ohana (who was always the cook in the family) serves up dinner, it happens to be her mother’s least favorite food, which the latter eats with gusto.

It’s an interesting exploration of the very odd relationship Ohana has with Satsuki, and how the latter is willing, in some partial way, to own up to the fact she’s a bad mother. It also gives Ohana a way to “get back” at Minko and Nako while still keeping the lines of communication open: She tells them why she’s upset, and that she’s cooking their least favorite foods for breakfast tomorrow as punishment, but lets it be known that she’s willing to move on from there. It’s the technique she used with her mother, and it actually speaks of a certain maturity on her part to use it and not hold grudges.

Encouraging her young daughter not to trust anyone (including her own mother) might well be the most terrible act of parenting Satsuki committed. Then again, we are only two episodes in to the series—who knows what the writers might have in store

So, what’s the problem? Why am I disappointed? It’s because when Ohana comes to ask Minko and Nako to do better, she lists her own problems too: a certain lack of consideration for other people’s situations, and a stubborn refusal to rely on others. The latter problem is the one identified as the major one she has; it’s talked about from the beginning of the episode to the end.

But that’s the issue: It’s talked about, but not demonstrated. It’s all tell and no show. Ohana might not rely on Nako to the extent that she proceeds without the latter’s instructions (although after the latter proves less than forthcoming), but she doesn’t act all that scarred by her mother’s behavior. For someone who isn’t supposed to trust or rely on people, she came with high hopes for how her grandmother would receive her, and she has a noticeable desire to be liked by the entire staff. Were she really dealing with trust issues and overly concerned about self-reliance, she should be closed off, hostile to being those who make her look incompetent … really, she should be acting like Minko.

Ohana is far too open with her feelings and caring about other people to have the problems she supposedly has. Having said that, she does mature during the course of the episode

I appreciate that we’ve learned more about Ohana and her struggles, but I wish the result seemed more coherent, and that the desire to make Ohana a likable character (which she certainly is) wouldn’t have to interfere with showing the psychological struggles that the writers seem to want her to have. Ohana surely has issues from her mother’s constant irresponsibility. But they don’t seem to be the ones we’re told they are.

Anyway, the episode does seem to show Ohana making progress on winning over both Minko and Nako, which is good. But it also ends on a rather odd note: Ohana finds the manuscripts she accidentally threw out, only to realize that Jiroumaru is writing erotic fiction with Ohana as the lead—and that Jiroumaru is also standing right above her acting a little loopy. There is something menacing in his tone, which seems out of place in what Hana-Saku Iroha has been so far.

This was just not the sort of scene I was expecting this show to have

Despite my complaints, this episode does enough nice things with character development, pacing, introduction of themes, and the like to remain on my list of good shows. We’ll see in the resolution of the cliffhanger if I have cause to revise that opinion next time around.

You can watch the episode here.

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