Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 11 – Contra Mundum
The last few episodes of Hana-Saku Iroha have returned to exploring Ohana’s maturation into an adult, tracking her slow shift in attitudes while avoiding a focus on some of the more … colorful members of the inn staff. Watching Jiroumaru screw something up or Enishi slavishly follow the idiot advice of Kawajiri was wearing thin on me, so I’m not going to complain on that score.
The largest blocks on Ohana’s growth, however, are tied into her prior relationships, the ones she left behind. Ohana’s mother Satsuki is hardly the worst mother in the world, but she is selfish, inattentive, and unable to communicate what affection she has for Ohana in a way that the latter (or most outside observers) can recognize. Ohana’s best friend Koichi desperately wants to be more than a friend, but Ohana has been dancing around giving him a straight answer, uncertain of her own feelings.
Those two unresolved relationships continue to influence and guide Ohana in her work in the inn. Thus, it’s appropriate that her work at the inn leads her back to both of them.
Given the considerable efforts the staff put in to impress possible reviewers, the inn staff is obviously eager to figure out how they ranked—and understandably disappointed to discover they only got five out of ten stars. Immediately following the release of the rankings, multiple customers call in to cancel reservations. The struggling Kissuisou has been dealt another blow.
While the manager takes such news calmly, having no doubt read other negative reviews in the past, her granddaughter has no such perspective, and is outraged by the patently unfair rating. She’s upset enough to take the day off and charge back to Tokyo, to complain directly to the publisher. While I wouldn’t expect such an approach to get her anywhere, her passion is such that the editor eventually caves and provides the name of the writer: Satsuki Matsumae.
Finding out that your mother was responsible for a hit piece on your place of employment (and her mother’s inn) is not a good way to start your day. It gets worse as Satsuki admits, without any guilt, that she was paid to discredit not just Kissuisou, but every inn in that town, on behalf of a new competitor. According to her, such tasks are a common occurrence in her work, and helped support Ohana as she grew up.
While it’s not as much as a shock as finding out your parent is a drug lord or committed war crimes, it’s still much more than the idealistic Ohana can take. She launches a one-woman protest movement, trying to convince her mother to at least come to the inn personally. Ohana would love a retraction, but she’ll settle for Satsuki seeing how good the inn is and feeling guilty about what she wrote. In short, she wants her mother to admits she’s wrong and Ohana is right.
Guilt does not seem to be a word in Satsuki’s vocabulary, however, and she basically ignores her daughter’s actions. It’s telling, however, that she does stop to provide Ohana with some food late in the day. Satsuki recognizes her ability to provide for her daughter’s physical needs; it’s the emotional ones she has trouble with. We’ve seen how Satsuki is willing to accept “punishment” from her daughter for various broken promises or selfish actions. But she never changes her behavior as a result.
For that matter, Satsuki dumped her louse of a boyfriend and returned to Tokyo to work. Did it not occur to her to bring her daughter back? Granted, the inn is a far healthier environment for Ohana, socially or otherwise, than a crowded apartment with an absent-even-when-present mother. But mothers are at least supposed to pretend to care about their children, beyond the assurance that basic physical needs are met. It doesn’t seem like Satsuki has ever provided this.
The other major relationship of Ohana’s past life is Koichi, and here there’s an interesting reversal of roles. Ohana is the one to try to avoid her responsibilities to Koichi, among them to give a straight answer to declaration of love. Ohana’s own feelings on the subject are incredibly confused, so when she accidentally runs into Koichi in a bookstore, she tries to hide. Hiding her true feelings, even from herself, is seemingly her only coping mechanism.
There are some signs that she can’t deceive herself for much longer. She’s obviously discomforted when she learns that one of Koichi’s coworkers has the hots for him, providing a rival who could steal him from her. And she’s also afraid, deathly afraid, of losing Koichi’s friendship and support, so much so that she runs away. If she leaves on her own accord, he can’t leave her first—and she still is desperately hoping that he will follow. (He doesn’t.)
When Ohana is left in the rain, exhausted emotionally and physically from her day, her signs ruined, and having fled by some random jerks who tried to hit on her in a creepy and aggressive way, it’s Koichi she wants to come rescue her. She knows he’s the support she’s always relied on, when her mother failed her and she was left alone. She may not love him in the traditional sense, but she needs his support, even though her actions are only driving a further wedge between them.
To go through your teenage years is having your world turned upside-down, as new experiences call into question old beliefs and physical maturation is followed, ever so slowly, by the emotions. Ohana is forced to face many uncomfortable truths about her mother this episode—but also about herself. At the end of the day, Ohana is powerless to make others do the right thing and unable to do the right thing herself. It’s often claimed that the youth are impassioned about great causes and sure of their own moral rectitude. Part of becoming an adult is having reality beat that self-righteousness out of you.
You can watch the episode here.