Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 25 – The Times They Are a-Changin’
When Sui decided to close the inn, her official reasoning (which she declined to share) was that since the inn was her vision, it wasn’t fair to force others to follow along with it. Her son Enishi and the rest of the staff should be permitted to follow their own dreams, rather than being trapped in hers. But that was only half the reason—perhaps less than half. What really disturbs her is that her particular creation, in the hands of someone else, anyone else, just won’t be the same.
A cliche isn’t less true for being a cliche. “To live is to change” is a cliche, but one which captures a real truth. That, as much as anything else, captures why Sui has been intent on closing Kissuisou: because she does not want to see the inn she has founded in her own image change. And in order to survive, it must change.
That change starts happening immediately. Kissuisou just isn’t used to the bustle of a fully booked inn (indeed, the scenes of full halls are unlike anything the show has provided so far) and doesn’t have the staff for it. Faced with a work crunch that makes their last overbooking crisis look like a quiet weekend, the strain begins to pile up. Suddenly the claims of the staff that they are too busy to help with the Bonbori Festival starts to make a lot more sense.
In the face of that, there starts to be a cut corner here, a change in policy there. Meals are switched to a group buffet; the quality of the food doesn’t drop, but a certain ambiance of eating in your room gets lost. The quiet halls become more lively. Worst, the inn staff is increasingly on edge, with the mounting pressure causing them to snap at the only people they can: each other.
Oddly enough, it’s not Ohana who saves the day this time, but Nako. Foiled in her attempt to talk to the manager last episode, she manages to get her feelings across to her this time (by accident), convincing Sui that letting the staff follow in her vision isn’t a bad thing. Nako also is the one, instead of Ohana, who calls the staff to account, reminding them that they are there to follow a particular vision laid out by Sui, one which puts the customer first, rather than settling scores with a manager who has seemingly abandoned them.
It sounds a bit trite written down, but the slowly building tension of the last two episodes resolves marvelously on the screen, with Sui coming in at the last minute, when the staff has hit a wall, not just to save them, but accept them. In the end she does the one thing she has always been reluctant to do, and allows Enishi to take on the role of a leader—and not just to have him fail.
That doesn’t mean the show has it easy with Enishi, who winds up having a breakdown over the thought of accepting help from his mother and (particularly) his sister, who showed up at random and volunteered to help. A well-timed slap from his wife puts him back in his place, but if the show wants us to expect the inn to succeed, it can’t keep emasculating the man who’s supposed to lead it. We know nothing about the character of Sui’s late husband, but there way no was he was as spineless as this.
The challenge of the remaining episode, which it may or may not choose to take on, is giving Enishi some little bit of dignity, enough to convince the audience that he won’t crash the place once Sui leaves the picture. And Sui might be leaving the picture rather soon: Ohana’s caught the latter in two minor health scares recently, and it’s possible this last burst of effort might be what it takes to end it. Certainly, that would be one way of adding drama to the finale.
Kouichi will also be stopping in for the final episode, giving some hope that the relationship which has been dancing around the outskirts of the show will come to a conclusion. I didn’t have a chance to talk about it last time, but the basic version is that Ohana kept Kouichi from confessing his love again because she wanted to reciprocate first. But she wasn’t able to voice herself properly the last time. Now, thanks to the logic of “it’s the finale,” we should be able to see a different outcome.
In that, Hana-Saku Iroha has been wise to keep Kouichi distant and off-screen; were he a regular cast member, the slow and halting pace of their romantic progress would be unbearable (and stupid). The barriers between Kouichi and Ohana, ultimately, were small and childish; those surrounding the final disposition of Kissuisou were longstanding, ingrained, and rooted in far deeper psychological issues. It’s thus for the best that the latter, and not the former, had been the driving force of the narrative as of late.
The final episode, therefore, is going to be very predictable. The question isn’t what the major plot points will be, but how well they will be presented and what will stand out as the ultimate themes of the show. Hana-Saku Iroha hasn’t been a perfect production; there have been false notes here and there. With it’s recent track record, however, I’m hopeful for the end.
You can watch the episode here.