Home > Episode Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha > Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 14 – Service with a Smile

Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 14 – Service with a Smile

It would be incorrect to say that last episode completely resolved all of Ohana’s lingering family issues or romantic tension with Koichi; both of those elements, I’m sure, will make a comeback sometime in the future. But such concerns were ultimately trumped by Ohana’s decision to live for something else, namely, her job at the inn and the success of Kissuisou as an institution. To summarize, she’s chosen to live as a career girl—at least for now.

With a fresh opening and ending sequence, the show feels like it’s started anew. Unfortunately, that means the show steps back into some of the old mistakes of some of the past episodes. But it also means that it brings up new topics, ones which have been lingering for months but which the show can only properly address now. Only after Ohana has established who she is, for example, can her proper foil be introduced.

Ohana is so dedicated to the ideal of good service that she and Nako do minor tasks around their vacation resort, just on instinct. That the staff there hadn't already taken care of it is a subtle sign of the rot

That foil is Yuina, the daughter of the owner of Kissuisou’s main rival in town. Yuina hasn’t the slightest interest in being Ohana’s personal rival, however, and that by itself signals the differences between them. Ohana is studious and a dedicated worker, while Yuina flips through interests like she does regional accents. Ohana was nearly driven catatonic with indecision over one romantic proposal, while Yuina accepts attention from boys with a perpetual smile (while still saying no). She’s far more carefree, but also much more careless with other people, than Ohana could ever be.

When their school takes a school trip to a beach resort, Ohana and her coworkers discover that Yuina is betrothed to the heir to the mammoth inn housing the student body. Yousuke Hiwatari has already taken on management responsibilities despite being only in his early twenties (if that), and like Ohana is devoted to the idea of making his inn great. But while Yuina enjoys his interest in her, it’s unclear if her feelings there are different than the ones she has toward any of her suitors. And joining him in running an inn is the last thing on her mind.

Yuina tries to subtly suggest that her childhood dream to become a great inn manager at Yousuke's side was just that: the dream of a child. Yousuke doesn't seem to get the hint

In many ways the inn is itself a foil for Kissuisou. It’s huge, with a great location and the resources to pull off events that Kissuisou couldn’t dream of. But it’s also mechanical and impersonal, sometimes literally. Yousuke brags about mechanizing parts of the inn so that they can get by with only part-time waitresses on staff. He doesn’t seem to notice that part-time staff have no investment in the inn, treating their jobs with a cash-checking mentality that mirrors his own desire to make things efficient and cut costs.

Yousuke, it should be noted, is a terrible manager, unable to inspire any vision in his staff (and apparently unable to hire for it also). He’s left with browbeating the waitresses for their many infractions as he only recourse for keeping them in line, and it doesn’t work all that well. Once they see Yousuke slacking off on his own work to make time for Yuina, the hypocrisy of it inspires them to quit en masse.

I'd expect for the waitresses to look unhappy as they quit, but they keep these expressions whenever they're on the job. I'm surprised girls like this managed to get hired in the first place; was Yousuke also behind some HR decisions?

Yuina takes the side of the waitresses, explaining that working at an inn, as she knows from experience, is hard enough that one needs a passion for the job in order to thrive at it. These girls obviously don’t have that passion, and neither does she. Thus Yuina manages to reject her fiance and humiliate him in front of his employers (who are also his parents, at the same time).

I suppose some credit is due to Yuina for being honest. She really needs to learn to work on her timing, but once she realized that Yousuke wasn’t going to give her what she wanted (the freedom to be something other than an inn employee), she knew it was time to move on. And so, she drops him as easily as she does the various accents she tries out, ready to move on to the next thing.

Although it's mostly his fault, Yousuke is already having a bad day when Yuina drops her bombshell on him. Ohana is just as shocked

It’s a testament to the show that this development seems natural both with everything we knew about Yuina coming into the episode and with dozens of hints during it. We’re constantly shown the various little flaws in the inn’s staff, and Yuina’s careless attitude toward love is contrasted not just with Ohana but also with Minko. Next episode, obviously, will have Ohana doing her best to fix things, but that’s just what she does. Despite their similar backgrounds and how well they’ve gotten along, Ohana and Yuina are anything but alike.

My only complaint with the episode is the absurd level of fanservice the show brings in to its beach scenes. While it avoids the obvious pitfalls of an inadvertent groping or a bikini top accidentally falling off, there’s still plenty of attention given to the girls in swimsuits, with some really questionable camera angles tossed in to drive up the “appeal.” There is also the most explicit bath scene yet.

Hana-Saku Iroha is a "look but don't touch" sort of show. But it does make it clear whom (and what parts) it expects its audience to look at

It’s frustrating, particularly since the show has more or less eschewed overt fanservice since episode three or so. But even while visually exploiting its cast, the show still manages to cram in characterization and thematic development. I just wish someone on staff would take the obvious respect with which Hana-Saku Iroha treats the emotional life of its characters and apply that to all parts of the production. But who am I kidding?

You can watch the episode here.

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