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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.
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Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 25 – The Times They Are a-Changin’

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

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.
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Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 24 – Love’s Labour’s Lost

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Family legacies are tricky things. I suppose it’s a dream of every parent to pass on something of lasting value to their children, and to see those children follow in the same path. Family businesses may not be as strong in America as they once were, but they still exist; in Japan, with its shopping districts and its conglomerates alike filled with a sort of benign nepotistic spirit, the urge to have one’s progeny take over the family trade is given more freedom.

There are plenty of good things about such practices: a certain pride in one’s work as an extension of pride in one’s family, the possibility of vocational training from a very young age, and a sense of continuity that reassures as much as it maintains. The downsides are also myriad: the pressure placed on those who have no desire to follow in the family tradition, for example, or those who simply lack the aptitude despite however long a linage of forebearers. Yuina fell into the first category. The question at hand for the remainder of Hana-Saku Iroha’s plot is whether Enishi falls into the second.
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Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 23 – Backtracking

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

One of Hana-Saku Iroha’s few consistent problems is its tendency to bring up a problem at the end of an episode only to not properly address it for another couple weeks. We saw that in a particular way with Enishi and Kawajiri’s fight, fight, kiss at the end of episode 17. Not only were we not given any indication of how badly hit Kissuisou was by the scam they suffered, but we also didn’t see how Enishi won back over Kawajiri and what, if any progress the latter made on getting their money back.

Enishi’s nuptuals resolved the second of those issues by glazing over it. The first and the third, however, are intricately connected, at least in Kawajiri’s mind, with her mother-in-law’s decision to close the inn, which means she doubles down her efforts to find the scam artist in Tokyo. Thanks to the insistence of her mother-in-law, she has to take Ohana along too.
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Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 22 – Love is in the Air

With the enthusiastic yet romantically clueless Ohana tipped off to the fact she’s accidentally fallen into yet another love triangle, Hana-Saku Iroha continues to focus more on the romance and less on the coming of age aspects of its story. Also ignored (at least until the epilogue) is the loaded question of who will inherit Kissuisou’s legacy and become the new manager of the inn. This episode is all about love.

That’s not an entirely bad thing, as the pressure building from Minko’s crush on her mentor and the tension she felt as his eyes were constantly on her roommate has been one of the underlying character dynamics for as long as I can remember. Sooner or later, the topic would have to get its due. That happens in this episode.
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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.
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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.
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