Home > Episode Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha > Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 26 – Only the Beginning

Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 26 – Only the Beginning

I said last week that the final episode would be “very predictable.” This wasn’t quite the case. While the central messages are exactly what I expected them to be, the way they are presented, and the specific decisions of the characters as they demonstrate them, aren’t at all what I anticipated. What is more surprising is how much better the finale of Hana-Saku Iroha becomes by defying my expectations.

The central point of a show like Hana-Saku Iroha is to show the main character, in this case Ohana, mature into a better human being. What this episode does, however, is to show how Ohana’s maturation has not ended, and can never end. We are always (or should always) be seeking to become better versions of ourselves. And that process isn’t achieved by one year’s work in a hot springs inn.

Given how the Bonbori festival has been a topic of discussion since early in the series, it's only fitting that the show end with it

That’s not to say there’s no growth at all. Ohana finally reunites with Kouichi in time for the Bonbori Festival—and promptly spends it looking miserable as she tries to work up the courage to tell him her feelings. After a few false starts, she finally manages to blurt out her affection for him.

One might think that it should be the easiest thing in the world for Ohana to let someone who’s told her he loves her that she loves him back. But Ohana’s own conflicted feelings, along with the communication mishaps and her mother’s rather counterproductive romantic legacy, has made this the central confusion of Ohana’s life for months on end. For all her brashness, this is a part of her life she takes seriously.

Besides, watching Ohana's inner turmoil as she works up to courage to spit out "I love you" was greatly amusing to me, misanthrope that I am

Something similar happens with Enishi. While he’s just come off of the greatest high in his working career, it also taught him how much he isn’t ready yet. So he finally (and completely to my suprise) admits his mother was right and agrees to close Kissuisou, at least temporarily. He and his wife take jobs in the neighboring inn to further train themselves; when they are ready, they’ll come back.

From a business perspective, this isn’t what I’d choose to do. Kissuisou has just hit a boomlet of popularity, after all. But perhaps Enishi is wiser for taking the longer view. The show has been pretty clear that Enishi is not ready to take on the responsibility of being a senior manager; it’s shown this primarily by narratively exaggerating his incompetence, but it is what it is. So the act of maturity I was long awaiting for him to take was to acknowledge his own need for growth, and to accept that some things have to wait.

That we see Enishi and Takako taking to their next stage of training well and with a positive attitude speaks volumes about how they will eventually turn out

It’s a unique message, but one that also shines through in Ohana’s final thoughts. She realizes that she’s still a kid, really: that she has a lot of growing up to do, that she still needs to learn how to be devoted to a goal, and that her relationship with Kouichi might not work out in the end as both mature and seek out their dreams. She’s learned enough to know that she, like Enishi, still has much to learn.

That, frankly, is a far more mature message than I was expecting to hear. I thought the show would end something on how Ohana and everyone has learned from Sui’s example of hard work and dedication to the customer and that they would take that lesson into their daily lives. That’s a perfectly admirable achievement, and the staff does learn it. But the learning process doesn’t stop there. It can’t stop there. And Hana-Saku Iroha is wise enough to know that.

In another sign of this them, the staff's wishes at the Bonbori festival are all related to personal growth. Minko wants to be like Touru, for example, but even Touru realizes how far he has to go

And so we get a bittersweet ending, not because Sui dies (she ends the episode looking perfectly healthy, defying all the death flags that the past couple episodes have been throwing at us), but because the staff is for a time separated, and the dream that is Kissuisou lies dormant. It’s mitigated somewhat by knowing that the staff promises to reunite when Enishi is ready to reopen it. But the real reason the ending remains uplifting is how the show reveals that the entire staff (particularly the most vulnerable members, like Nako, Minko, and Jiroumaru) continue to develop and thrive.

This, too, must be the case. If all Kissuisou did was prepare its staff to work at Kissuisou, the life lessons conveyed by working there would be remarkably limited and shallow. The experiences they shared, however, prepared them to be better people; it prepared them for life. And by its unexpected ending, Hana-Saku Iroha illustrates that far better than it would have if the show kept the inn running forever.

Showing Nako in public, finding some new ways of being socially active and outgoing, is just one of the many closing snapshots of the characters. All of them, it is implied, will be fine in the next stage of their lives

Series Review: I hope it is obvious to the readers at this point exactly how much I liked the ending to Hana-Saku Iroha, and how I think the ultimate lessons of the show are both edifying and deftly delivered. Like its best moments throughout the series, it’s full of scenes which both respect the integrity of its characters and use their struggles to convey deeper themes.

The central problem of the show, to the extent I feel a need to carp on it, is how occasionally both the characters and the message got twisted or carelessly presented. While the show generally didn’t backtrack on its plot progression, it occasionally didn’t properly sell the message it meant to convey. The frequent recourse to bath scenes and other forms of fanservice also indicated the show, while interested in developing its high school cast, wasn’t above exploiting them either.

There's this great call back to the original episode when Ohana again turns her attention to wiping down the floors. Once, she did this task with a teary determination. Now she does it from an inner passion

Not all the characters develop in logical ways either. The transformation of Satsuki from deadbeat, chronically unprincipled mother to wonder worker and wise counselor is both rapid and unexplained. Jiroumaru, Enishi, and Takako are treated more as village idiots than real characters for the early part of series run. (I suppose it doesn’t stop with Jiroumaru.) Hana-Saku Iroha has flashes of brilliance with its characterization, but occasionally it just doesn’t come together.

Overall, though, I think the final package is impressive enough to justify my attention. It’s not a perfect series, but much like P.A. Works’s last project, it ends on such a high note (thematically and dramatically) so as to redeem the overall project. And Hana-Saku Iroha had a much better overall run than Angel Beats!, particularly when you consider that the former is twice as long, and P.A. Works’s first two cour project.

In their last meeting, Sui entrusts the most recent logbook to Ohana. I'm not expecting another season, but I think the show does want to insist that the dream of Kissuisou has yet to die

So, while the glowing praise with which I introduced the series hasn’t always been borne out, enough of it has that I can reference that initial review without embarrassment. Much as Blood-C managed to burn a great deal of my goodwill with its ending, Hana-Saku Iroha has managed to restore even what it lost after one too many shots of Ohana in the bath. Assuming you like these sorts of shows, it’s well worth your time to watch.

You can watch this episode here.

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