Home > Episode Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha > Hana-Saku Iroha Episodes 19 and 20 – High School Drama

Hana-Saku Iroha Episodes 19 and 20 – High School Drama

Hana-Saku Iroha spends far more time in a work setting than in school, so occasionally one can forget that this is first and foremost a high school anime. And one thing required for all high school animes is the culture festival. While culture festivals are meant to be a time for classes to band together and present something original and exciting, their own unique project. Given how high school students really are, most of the time in anime classes default to the overused standbys of a cafe or a haunted house.

Ohana’s class opts for the cafe, but at least they opt to theme it. Using the kimonos Ohana discovered several episodes back as uniforms and taking advantage of having school idols Yuina and Minko in their class, the students opt for a “princess cafe” where Yuina leads the waitress staff and Minko the cooking staff. It’s actually quite a nice fit, especially since Minko both is good at and loves cooking and Yuina both is good at and loves being adored.

Yuina's response to being praised is to beg for more. For some reason no one has ever failed to oblige her

Of course, two episodes of everything being fine would be boring, so a conflict breaks out with Minko and the rest of the cooking staff. One is desperate to cook for her crush his favorite dish, omelette rice, but Minko vetoes the idea immediately. They won’t have the proper supplies and equipment to do it right, she says, and anyway bringing love into work is a stupid thing to do.

It’s just the sort of overly aggressive and insensitive thing one would expect Minko to say, but it also is hypocritical. Minko signed off on the idea of the cafe in the first place out of a desire to impress Touru, who promised to come; making an inferior dish might offend his sensibilities and lower his opinion of her. She too is acting out of love.

The situation is even more awkward because Kirito declared his undying love for Minko just a month or two before

Minko then sets off with her usual determination and stubbornness to try to do everything herself, and Ohana as usual butts her nose in anyway. Ohana doesn’t really do anything to resolve the issue, but she does show herself a faithful friend even when dealing with someone as mule-headed and rough-edged as Minko.

As it happens, the situation resolves itself with minimal effort, as the two sides (thanks to an accidental push from Nako) come to understand what the other was thinking. The other cooks realize how skilled Minko is, and thus what high standards she keeps for herself; Minko in turn realizes that just because something isn’t restaurant worthy doesn’t mean it can’t be done well. It’s a bit of an anticlimax, but that’s reflective of how small the issue really was in the first place. It’s only because high school crushes were involved that it got out of hand.

Minko, when thinking of omlette rice, was thinking of a particular version that she ate as a child, which gave her a love for cooking. She would never admit to such sentimentalism, but living up to that standard drives her decision

Speaking of Nako, although I was sort of harsh on how the show handled Nako’s character development last episode, I’m happy to report that gets built on here. From the very beginning Nako is more open and assertive in how she deals with others, taking on a leadership role in her class for the culture festival.

That doesn’t work out exactly as planned: Nako’s class “decides” to have their class be devoted to showcasing a student’s artwork, but only because that way the majority of them can ditch helping out. Still, Nako perseveres, working tirelessly with the artist to set up the gallery and making a new friend as a result. It’s not a complete turn around, but it feels like a more natural development than what Nako got in the episode devoted to her. So there’s something to be said for that.

Nako's classmate comes to appreciate the effort which Nako places into everything. It's only one new connection, but it's one Nako has earned

Really, what makes these two episodes work is how it continues the quiet development for the entire cast. I had some complaints about episode 18 regarding how it treated Nako’s development, but it managed to pack in some great insights into the other characters in a remarkably short period of time. We see some of that here too. Even though Minko is the featured character in these episodes, Nako and even Ohana and Yuina get little bits of characterization. And that sort of incremental growth is where the show is at its best.

The show is not nearly as good at creating impressive conflicts, but I suppose that comes with the territory. When dealing with the inner life of teenage girls, the issues and fights will naturally be catty, shallow, and unreasonable. That’s sort of how teenagers are, and that’s the sort of drama they create. Minko is sort of an exception with her intense dedication to becoming a chef, a goal for which she has made considerable sacrifices. Most others her age, it is noted in a passing conversation, are far more uncertain and indecisive in how they live from day to day.

Ohana has yet another an odd dream that shows how she's not really over Kouichi yet (and that she has a really warped mind). Expect to see him again in the next few episodes

In some ways, that makes high school romances (which make up an absurd amount of all anime romances) necessarily cheap and shallow too, which makes me slightly worried as next episode looks to be taking the show in a romantic direction again. But I was reasonably pleased by how the show dealt with Ohana and Kouichi the first time, so I’m hoping his return will prove just as engaging. Only one way to find out, I suppose.

You can watch the episodes here and here.

Minko writes out her love for Touru on his serving of omlette rice. As one would expect, Touru is kept from understanding the significance of it. Next time, Minko, wait until the end of the series before you try to upset the status quo

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