Hanasaku Iroha finally arrests its downward trend and comes surging back with an extremely dense yet focused episode that recalled the energy of the excellent early episodes of this series. Like those, a lot of stuff happens in a short time, making the episode feel much longer than it actually was. With seven groups equalling twenty fresh customers descending on Kissuiso all at once, it’s all hands on deck.
But it isn’t: the manager falls ill with old lady syndrome; Nako is off; Tohru is at a wedding somewhere, and the chef, finally in a high-pressure situation for the first time in a long while, is starting to crack. The absences aren’t the only thing that need to be addressed, either. One or more of the groups could be a “mystery guest” from the travel magazines, meaning if their stay isn’t perfect, they’ll write about it with their more-mightier-than-sword pens. And, oh yeah, Ko is coming to see Ohana, but since her phone is off during work (and thanks to an awfully-timed tunnel), she misses potentially crucial calls to meeting up with him.
Throughout all the chaos, Ohana is running all over the place with a glimmer of doubt, like something is “off”, but that’s natural: the head honcho, her grandmother, is out of comission, and Ohana has never had to deal with the inn at this level of busy-ness. When she realizes she’s inadvertently ignored Ko’s calls, she flips her phone back shut; she has a mission to accomplish (locate Tohru), and cannot let her personal problems get in the way of her job and the people depending on her. That’s kind of a raw deal for Ko, but that’s the price of surprising your very busy would-be girlfriend. As for how things will work out at the inn, this is a two-parter, so we don’t know yet. But I damn sure want to find out! Rating: 4
So, five episodes in, and we get filler? Oh dear. Focusing an entire episode on cooking and food was a misstep, IMO, and I like cooking and food. And while it’s great that Rin loves cooking, it certainly wasn’t mentioned or came into play until this episode. Frankly, even with 26 episodes to play with, this was not the time or place for this.
Everyone’s behaviour is a bit baffling: I understand if you’re shy around girls, but why would Yukio repeatedly turn down lunches made especially for him by his admirers? He doesn’t have to eat them; he could accept them with gratitude, then give them to his starving half-demon brother. And why do they never question who cooks their meals in their dorm? They’re the only ones there. You’d think the fact they never had to pay for those meals (since Ukobach doesn’t need money) would be a dead giveaway that something was amiss.
Furthermore, when Rin trespasses in the kitchen and Ukobach goes on strike, why doesn’t Mephisto just let Rin handle the cooking as both he and Yukio would prefer? Doesn’t the headmaster of an enormous academy have other things to do? I could write more on the silliness of this episode, but I won’t. It was silly, period. Ao no Exorcist: if you’re going to go off on a tangent, do a better job next time. I know you can. Rating: 2.5
Was I surprised that the sweet, charming, adorable inmate-ette-next-door Minatsuki turned out to be a totally bonkers sadistic lying bitch? Not totally; I saw her in the opening credits looking totally bonkers, and she also has a pierced tongue, which clearly means she’s evil ;) What I didn’t know was that everything Yoh was doing was for her sake; not like she cared.
The past she narrates to Ganta at first suggests her widowed father beat her, leading to her using her branches of sin as a last resort, but her power works so quickly, she could just as easily inflicted her own wounds without anyone knowing. Minatsuki, or “Hummingbird” is consistently all over the place with her past and her motives, but one thing is certain: she isn’t happy. She’s also extremely unpleasant, but I like her anyway!
Another thing that’s certain: Ganta has a hard head, which he uses to win by KO, flipping off the crowd that wants him to kill her. He doesn’t. I’m glad he didn’t, because for all her lunacy and two-facedness, Minatsuki has a lot of potential. Like Crow, she is both entertained and tortured by her power, and sickened by the weakness around her. Perhaps not a perfect match for Ganta, but definitely moreso than Shiro.
Shiro, who as far as we know was a childhood friend of Ganta’s, is also an instrument of the Wonderland’s founder, “No Name”, who is holed up in a hospital ward/lab, and isn’t happy with how the promoter is doing things. After her outburst last week, she’s brought here to recover, but after seeing what she’s capable of, it will be interesting to see if her childlike demeanor or innate need to protect Ganta endured that incident. Rating: 4
Deep in thought about why Menma is haunting him to begin with, Jinta decides to attempt another return to school, as per one of her wishes-in-passing. He not only makes it through the gates, but into his classroom and to his desk, only to notice hardly anyone is talking about him, but rather the recent incident involving Anaru and the love hotel. Apparently, someone saw her walking around in a slinky outfit with an older man. (Though I don’t (or don’t want) to believe she was ratted out by her “it” girl “friends”.)
Just when he senses Anaru is about to lose it from all the murmurs, he stands up and sticks his neck out for her, with a passionate, heartfelt defense, the jist of which was: “She’s a great person who’d never have sex for money, so everyone shut the hell up.” While he let loose one too many personal details for Anaru’s taste, she is both grateful to him for the effort and greatly entertained by the embarrassing spectacle he lost. She’s also probably happy he’s back in class – if only briefly. Their relationship has come a long way.
When Poppo recommends they visit Menma’s house for clues, their mother is kind enough to let him, Jinta and Anaru pray by her shrine, enter her empty room, view her box of possessions, and even borrow her diary. After reporting this to Menma back home, Menma is upset by the prospect their visit made her mother remember and worry about her, causing her more grief. This could be the key to why Menma is still loitering around: she can’t stop putting others ahead of herself, even after death. Rating: 4
P.S.: In the beginning Jinta is watching Occult Academy! He has excellent taste.