Hanasaku Iroha 13

With this episode, the first half of the 26-episode run of Hanasaku Iroha comes to a strong close. And even though [C] ranked slightly higher this season, I consider this my second-favorite of the season, after runaway best, AnoHana. What’s more, I’m actually looking forward to the second half. This series has staying power.

Unlike those two 11-episode series, Hanasaku Iroha really is one of those series that benefits from being stretched out. It’s chock full of great characters, great atmosphere, and great slice-of-life…and has looked consistently awesome. I haven’t seen True Tears, and Canaan was underwhelming, but going forward this definitely could give my standing favorite P.A. Works piece, Angel Beats!, a run for its money.

This week was a family reunion of sorts, as the prodigal daughter Satsuki returns as per Ohana’s request. The horror stories of her little brother Enishi, who stayed by his mom’s side in the business, are really nicely depicted. Satsuki, for her part, has the typical gripes about the place and her mother not having changed a bit. But she isn’t just there to criticize; in fact, she invites her daughter and mother to her room and the three generations of Shijimas have a nice heart-to-heart-to-heart.

During this, a tossed(?) Ohana spills the beans about Ko; her mom and granny both think she’s giving up too easily; but this isn’t the only family reunion that took place. The other was Ohana returning to her family at Kissuiso; her friends Nako and Minko are like sisters to her, and she’s come to love the inn and everyone she works with. This is her life now; a life in Tokyo with Ko just wasn’t in the cards. Of course, this is her mom’s fault for shipping her here in the first place, but what happened happened, something good came out of it, and Ohana is staying put. She misses Ko, but she’s where she wants to be. Rating: 4

Deadman Wonderland 11

Things can’t get much worse, but they will -that’s a good slogan for Deadman Wonderland. After managing to survive the first raid attempt, Karako rallies what’s left of Scar Chain to attempt to rescue Nagi. She keeps Ganta out of it, guilty of what she’s already put him through. Little does she know, her dear leader doesn’t want to be rescued, or even to live. And he doesn’t want anyone else to live either. He’s become a nihilist.

Ganta, desperate to do something and make a difference, trains with Crow – losing nearly all his blood in the process – and is introduced to a very creepily friendly Mockingbird (aka Toto). In fact, true to his/her name, Toto mocks both Crow and Ganta here, and it’s pretty unnerving to see Crow actually afraid of something; in this case, a deadman who’s stronger than him. When Genkaku calls Scar Chain out, having captured both Karako and Shiro (and seem to be threatening to rape them before they’re killed), Ganta is off to the races, having just improved his Ganta Gun by speeding it up, but very low on blood indeed.

This episode also had a brief cameo by Minatsuki, who gets Ganta out of an initial spot, but refuses to fight for Scar Chain – as she explains, she has to look out for Yoh, and she wasn’t framed; she is a murderer. She isn’t interested in freedom anymore. Ganta proceeds, and manages to knock out a bunch of undertaker guards with his faster blood bullets – but he’s far from out of the woods, as he still has to deal with Genkaku, the second grader, and a new, “sane” Nagi – while suffering from anemia. Most important, he has to apologize to Shiro. This was definitely one of Ganta’s more assertive moments…but will it mean anything? Just one more episode to determine that. Rating: 3.5