Home > Episode Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha > Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 21 – Dream Stealer

Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 21 – Dream Stealer

For those of you who were turned off by the crushes, confessions, and general air of high school romance that permeated the last couple episodes of Hana-Saku Iroha, I’m going to be blunt: You won’t like this episode. There are plenty of things going on that don’t relate to Ohana’s unwitting romantic rivalry with Minko, covering the gamut from a more adult (although not necessarily more mature) romance to the issues of succession within the inn. But the core of this episode—and likely the next one, too—revolves around how Minko hits breaking point, realizing that the object of her affections has eyes only for Ohana.

On the other hand, for those who have been waiting for this tension to burst out into the open, it’s shaping up to be one of the best plotlines of the show. What’s particularly interesting is how it plays not only on Ohana’s weaknesses, but also her strengths. By now the audience is well aware that Ohana is rather clueless at noticing the romantic attention of men. But we also know that Ohana is a born problem solver who has rejuvenated Kissuisou just by being there. Only now do we see whom that hurts.

Most of the staff is (in my view appropriately) skeptical of Enishi and Kawajiri in their newfound romance. Leave it to Ohana to give the couple the benefit of the doubt

The proximate cause of the event is Kawajiri and Enishi declaring their engagement. Suprisingly, Enishi’s mother approves, on the condition that they have a proper wedding rather than heading to the local clerk’s office. Neither of them can easily afford it, so—with Ohana leading the charge with her usual burst of enthusiasm—Kissuisou’s staff promises to provide the venue and the manpower. The couple will still struggle to stay within budget, but they have a shot of making it work.

Surprisingly, this makes Kawajiri more reluctant, not less. It’s hard to discern her motivations, but if I had to guess I’m thinking that she doesn’t want to be a burden to Enishi anymore. Seeing him struggle to keep up with his mother’s expectations, she interprets it as the manager informally blocking her son’s wedding, blocking it because she disapproves of Kawajiri in particular.

Kawajiri is remarkably uncomfortable with Enishi struggling on her behalf. She doesn't seem to realize that men love to fight for the women they love—or maybe she still doesn't think Enishi is ever capable of winning those fights

Her confrontation with her potential mother-in-law disproves that, at least in part. Instead she gets a pep talk on the importance of constancy in marriage, and an expensive (and emotionally charged) ring to use for the ceremony. It’s as clear a sign as the manager can give that she is willing to approve of the marriage.

But, having expressed all that, she also makes it clear that Enishi will not inherit the inn. Some other bloggers have expressed a feeling that the manager is doing this as a test, to see if Kawajiri is really interested in Enishi, or in a safe investment. It might serve that purpose, but I don’t see the manager as the sort to talk out of both sides her mouth like that. Rather, I think she’s simply decided to give the inn to the person most qualified to run it, which is not her son but her granddaughter.

Little things like the smile the manager has on her face here makes me think she is genuinely happy for her son

That’s the downside to Ohana’s personality: She makes others fall behind as she pulls ahead. In Enishi’s case, he arguably deserves it. He was always heir by necessity rather than by desire. With Minko, the problems become all the more clear. Minko, arguably, might have a shot with Touru if his eyes weren’t on someone else. But Ohana is there, so he does.

Minko is driven into a funk by all the wedding hallaballoo, and Touru takes the time to give a little pep talk. Minko is touched by how much he cares for her … until he brings up Ohana and her example. It’s obvious he’s been struck by how lively and energetic she is, and how’s she’s turned the place around. Those are the characteristics that attract him to her, and they are all characteristics the businesslike, terse, unfriendly Minko lacks.

Thanks to Touru's pep talk, Minko looks as lovestruck as she's ever been, and is practically willing to confess right there. It takes one mention of Ohana to drive that out, and Touru gives several

The real irony to all this is that Minko has inadvertently done this multiple times in high school, with the plot of last couple episodes revolving around a girl whose unrequited crush had an unrequited crush himself for Minko. Minko too, simply by being there, has set back the romantic interests of other girls. But Minko is also careful to explicitly reject all suitors; Ohana is too clueless to know they are courting.

We’ve also seen this with Yuina and her fiance Yousuke, who was likewise drawn to Ohana’s example. But he and Yuina had an established relationship, and Yuina’s jealousy led her to follow Ohana’s lead, restoring her position. Minko has no position to speak of with Touru, no long romantic history to leverage, and thus, from her perspective, no means to catch up. All she can do is rage, and Minko is very good at that.

For some reason, the show delights in having moments of major character development happen in the bath. Scratch that: I know exactly what the reason is

Ohana is thus finally clued in to the fact that Touru not-so-secretly likes her, and she takes it only slightly better than she took her discovery that Kouichi did. But this time, Ohana knows and likes the girl whose own romantic dreams are quashed due to her very existence.

How will she deal with that? How will she deal with the fallout when everyone learns of Enishi’s effective disinheritance and figures out what that likely means? Minko, in her rage, tells Ohana to “take responsibility” for her actions. Until now, we’ve had every indication that Ohana’s actions have only changed Kissuisou for the better. But change, any change, means disruption. And for someone as sensitive to criticism as Ohana, dealing with those hurt by these disruptions might be her toughest challenge yet.

Ohana is left overwhelmed by the most recent relationship disaster she's been caught up in. She'll try to make it right, but given what happened with Kouichi, there's no guarantee she'll succeed

You can watch the episode here.

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