Home > Episode Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha > Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 6 – Managing Decline

Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 6 – Managing Decline

First, the bad news: Hana-Saku Iroha still seems intent on building its plots from the stupidity of its various cast members; this episode barely scrapes together enough character development to justify keeping the overarching storyline in stasis; the “moral” of this particular episode isn’t taken very seriously, and may never surface again.

As for the good news—not coming up with much here—the closest thing I can come up with is that the episode does bring back from suggested plot threads from more than one episode, and the overall impression (that Kissuisou is in perhaps terminal decline) may prove important later. If that and some of the other events and themes prove relevant in later episodes, I might revise my opinion of this episode ever so slightly. For now, I don’t have much positive to say about it.

Enishi manages his clumsy grin even when (especially when) Kawajiri is dismissive and domineering. No one says he’s in love with her, but no one needs to

This episode reintroduces Takako Kawajiri, a management consultant whose monthly visits the staff has come to know, and dread. Enishi Shijima, Ohana’s uncle and the presumptive inheritor of the inn, is utterly taken with her, and has been since they were in college together. As such, he’s oblivious to how spectacularly bad Kawajiri is at her job.

The rest of the staff isn’t, and so mostly groans its way through Kawajiri’s harebrained ideas and gratuitous English. This time, Kawajiri hits on the idea of sexing up the waitress uniforms, which would be foolish and completely out of place for the atmosphere of Kissuisou even if the current clients weren’t a young family and some elderly couples. Eventually the manager intervenes directly and tells Kawajiri that her services are no longer required, to both her and Enishi’s dismay.

The sad part is these were two of the most modest outfits Kawajiri brought. Nako still can’t take more than a minute of wearing it

It’s easy to view both of them as fools, but Enishi, along his obvious reasons for wanting to stay close to Kawajiri, does have the inn’s best interest in mind. He, like his mother and just about everyone on staff, knows that Kissuisou is in decline, with its old client base slowly, well, getting old, and attempts at getting a new one frustrated by the larger, better advertised Fukuya. The inn won’t collapse overnight, but it well may not be around by the time Enishi would inherit it, and I can see why he would care about that.

His mother, by contrast, doesn’t seem much to care at all; the manager seems more intent on keeping things running according to her particular style than pulling in new clientele. The episode makes it clear that, however dumb Kawajiri might be, at least she is trying new things in an attempt to liven up the inn. And that sort of innovation, it’s implied, will be necessary to keeping the place afloat.

Of the staff Ohana is the first (and really the only) one to be convinced that trying out new uniforms might be a good idea. Whatever else can be said about her, she’s willing to try new things

Oddly enough, the “solution” to the problem comes from groundskeeper Denroku Sukegawa (affectionately known as “beanman”), who is the only person on staff older than the manager. But because of that, he also knows that at one point she was young and innovative too, so he takes the frustrated Ohana to see a private collection of traditional Japanese kimonos—all of them, it’s implied, made by the manager herself.

Ohana then conscripts Nako and goes about a day with a very different uniform change, one far more modest and yet elegant at the same time. There actions liven up the inn and create an atmosphere that is both fresh and respectful of the inn’s character at the same time.

Beanman, aside from the manager, is the only one old enough to remember what the chamber on the other end of the laundry room is for. I wonder what other secrets he knows

Only nothing changes. The uniform switch is a one time thing, and just as important there’s no indication of a general change of operational strategy to take Kissuisou out of its doldrums. Ohana’s grandmother is once again secretly pleased with her and her initiative—not so secretly this time—but starting the next day everything will be exactly back where it started.

In its devotion to the status quo, Hana-Saku Iroha is beginning to resemble a sit-com, albeit one with plot consistency. Kawajiri may not come back (although I suspect she will at some point), but her consulting was never strongly tied to the previous story anyway. None of the major character relations shift at all. At least with last episode, the relationship between Minko and Ohana changed fundamentally; this episode can’t even work in that degree of growth.

I must confess that I’ve never quite seen the appeal of kimonos, but they are lovely designs, and Nako isn’t overwhelmed with shame wearing them. That’s two positives

What makes this stasis all the more frustrating is how counter it runs to the themes of the episode. If this show has any moral at all (besides “don’t mix business with pleasure”), it’s about the need to do new things and to change paradigms. That’s precisely what doesn’t happen here.

I believe Hana-Saku Iroha is scheduled to run for 26 episodes (if so, it will be the longest series P.A. Works has ever done), so maybe they are saving the serious plot for later. Fair enough. But there’s a difference between “introductory episodes” and “pointless filler.” And this episode falls firmly into the latter camp.

One early throw away scene is Ohana being blown away by her (comparatively modest) salary, noting that she did about as much work for her mother with less than half the compensation. I wish the show had explored either that or Ohana’s reaction to her new found financial empowerment; either might have grown Ohana as a character

You can watch the episode here.

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  1. June 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm

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