Home > Episode Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha > Hana-Saku Iroha Episodes 8 and 9 – Heir Apparent

Hana-Saku Iroha Episodes 8 and 9 – Heir Apparent

Hana-Saku Iroha, on its better days, is about Ohana’s slow maturation from an immature, somewhat clueless girl into a mature young woman, sensitive to the feelings of people around her and taking charge of (and responsibility for) her life. Her work at Kissuisou and interactions with its quirky staff have been a catalyst for that, so I wasn’t looking at the inn itself as anything other than a unique setting. I am now beginning to wonder if this impression is dead wrong.

There have been hints—more than hints, really—of how Kissuisou is having financial difficulties and is in a period of slow decline. This episode suggests that there are greater problems lurking over the inn, owing to a fundamental conflict of visions. The manager is inflexible and unyielding, but still has the fundamentals right in putting the customer first. Enishi, her son and presumptive heir, is far more willing to innovate, but has no guiding vision for the business. He’s content to follow the advice of Kawajiri, who is both unscrupulous and incompetent.

It’s up to Ohana to be both bold and principled, which she has been before, to resolve the latest mess the inn gets itself into. And the way she does indicates that she might be the missing piece to making Kissuisou work.

Even hospitalized, the manager's first concern is for the inn and the customers. She dismisses Ohana from her side by noting she has far more important duties at the inn

The episode begins with Enishi overbooking the inn in a fit of enthusiasm as several potential clients all call in at once. While there are technically enough rooms, both Nako and Tooru having taken the day off, and the manager takes over serving duties herself for less than five minutes before suffering a minor medical scare. When she’s taken off to the hospital, Enishi is in a complete panic.

Tellingly, it takes Ohana to convince him to ask for help; even then his first thought is not to recall Nako or Tooru, but to bring over Kawajiri. For her part, Kawajiri correctly deduces that in the glut of customers, some “secret shopper”-type investigators have come in to rate the inn. (It’s the season, and it explains why there are most customers than usual.) Her plan is her usual idiocy, however: guess which customers are the investigators, and give them special service to raise the inn’s rating.

Every time Kawajiri is on screen I want to smack her. But somehow her confident bluster keeps overawing the staff

This is stupid for a variety of reasons, starting with the difficulty of properly identifying the reporters. (It’s strongly implied that she guessed wrong.) But at first the staff is willing to go along with it because Kawajiri claims that the other customers won’t be getting worse service than usual, but only that the probably reporters will be getting better than usual. That claim falls apart when, after a mishandled pep talk from Kawajiri, chief chef Ren freezes up and it becomes clear that the current kitchen staff can’t serve everyone.

Kawajiri’s solution is to have the “ordinary” guests fend for themselves for dinner, a move as short-sighted as it is irresponsible. Here, Ohana finally makes the objections that the rest of the staff has been thinking, but her complaint isn’t practical, but moral. It’s the duty of the inn to serve all customers, and serve them equally. That’s what the manager would do, and that’s good enough for Ohana.

Ren's freakout is a bit overdone and out of character. For the normally unflappable head chef to be so panicked by a few words seems unusual; for him to take anything Kawajiri says seriously, given his opinion of her, is absurd

And so it’s Ohana who calls Nako in to help. It’s Ohana who charges into the city, with little knowledge save an address, to find Tooru at the wedding reception he’s attending and bring him back. And it’s Ohana who inspires the rest of the staff to stand up to Kawajiri and make sure each guest gets proper treatment.

Much like the last time Kawajiri got this much screen time, I’m disappointed that the rest of the staff takes her as seriously as they do. Aside from Enishi, who’s obviously infatuated with her, none of the rest of the staff has the slightest respect for her. (Well, thanks to flattery Jiroumaru now does, but no one respects him either.) I still can’t figure out why they let her bamboozle them with her schemes.

Ohana arrives haggard to the address she was given, only to realize there are several wedding receptions in the building, staffed by people hesitant to divulge information to a oddly dressed teenager. She presses on anyway

Unlike the last time, Ohana’s response isn’t to imitate Kawajiri, but to counter her. Both times Ohana is driven with a desire to help Kissuisou in a moment of distress, and both times she succeeds where Kawajiri fails. The first time, however, she implemented a short term solution to a chronic problem. This time, she addresses a short term problem with a set of principles that will serve her well in the long run.

Last time, it was suggested that Ohana’s methods were not unlike that of her grandmother, decades ago. Here, Ohana’s methods—putting customers above personal concerns and laboring intensely to meet their needs—are in line with her grandmother in the present, and illustrative that she is beginning to appreciate the importance of those values in her work.

The staff discovers the manager's notebook is filled with particular details about clients' likes and dislikes, dating back decades

When Ohana suggested in the first episode that her grandmother might be grooming her to take over the inn, she was met with a rude rebuttal. But, looking at the grander scheme of things, that’s exactly what events like this one are preparing her to do. Toss in her youthful vigor, and she might be the best thing to happen to the inn in a long time.

You can watch the episodes here and here.

Kouichi gives Ohana crucial moral support over the phone, though Ohana doesn't figure out that he's actually trying to meet with her. He misses meeting her twice, probably because the show isn't willing to give Ohana a active suitor yet

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