Hanasaku Iroha 4

The school trimester starts, and Ohana ends up in the same class as Minko and Nako. There she quickly learns how a school full of teenagers from the boonies react when a “Tokyo Girl” arrives. She never gave it much thought before now, and neither did we. She even seems to have a boyfriends – of sorts, though she’ll always deny it. That said, all her little inner retorts to the rapidfire comments of the classmates are quite funny…and true too.

A beautiful girl comes to release her from the oglers. She turns out to be Ohana’s sworn enemy, Yuina. Well, not really, just another heiress to a profitable bathhouse, Fukuya. She’s the first to approach Ohana as a regular girl. Ohana learns a lot at school, between the classes: Minko is very popular with the fellas, but rejects them all before they can even get their confessions out.

In her resentful interactions with Ohana throughout the episode, she ends up slipping up, attributing the same qualities she sees in her ideal man to Tohru. This shocks Ohana, who has always seen Tohru as a tiresome tease. But Minko is serious, and Tohru likely has no idea, especially when the twist arrives: Yuina is dating him! All this human drama is nicely punctuated by the presence of a very bold grey heron who is always bumping into Ohana. I’m not sure if there’s some symbolism in that, but it’s intriguing all the same. Rating: 3.5

Hanasaku Iroha 2

Another absolutely masterful twenty-four minutes of coming-of-age drama and slice-of-life. Ohana tries to ingratiate herself with her grandma/manager and co-workers by being pro-active. This serves to show them she knows how to work; her useless mother saw to that. But constantly taking initiatives and surprising people is not always ideal in a business as complex as a bathhouse. It’s more about everyone being a part of a well-oiled machine, not acting independently.

Ohana doesn’t keep acting inconsiderate and spontaneous. She vows to change her behavior. But she’s not going to change who she is, and she isn’t going to allow Minko to keep telling her to die, nor Nako to keep being so shy and tight-lipped. These two girls are still not quite her friends, but with much effort, they’re getting there, slowly. I like how nothing, nothing comes easy for Ohana. That’s what makes it so realistic.

An especially great little moment occurs when she’s relaxing outside thinking about boys the very moment Tohru appears. Their non-flirtation in the van which almost gets them both killed, is kind of a wake-up call to Ohana. She can’t just do things her way. Thoughtful effort can be construed as thoughtless to others. Thus, one shouldn’t tell someone to “die” carelessly.

Finally, this episode is just as gorgeous as the first, if not moreso. Not only is the bathhouse itself an intricately-detailed, labyrinthine feast for the eyes, but the town and the skies above it – be it dawn, dusk, sunset or misty morning, are nothing short of breathtaking. The opening theme is really grating, but I don’t care. The show that follows is a home run. Rating: 4

Spring 2011 Season Preview

The Winter 2011 season was a welcome respite from Fall 2010, with only four shows we felt we needed to watch, plus three Fall carryovers. All seven of these shows end when the Spring 2011 season begins, so it will be a clean slate (Bakuman 2 will come in a later season). If Fall 2010’s fourteen (or was it fifteen?) shows taught us anything, it’s to be more discriminate; giving a few decent-to-great shows our full attention is far better than spreading it out amongst more than a dozen or more of varying quality.

To that end, seven to eight shows will be our limit this spring, so a couple of the ten Spring series below may be dropped before their runs end. Which ones, we have no idea; we always go in as blind as possible, let the anime speak for itself, and decide after two or three episodes. And we will have no regrets. The eleven we’ve chosen here are based solely on their initial synopses, promo art, and in the case of some, the fact they’re sequels to stuff we’ve already watched (God Only Knows.)

Similarly, we won’t be watching any sequels to franchises we’ve never watched, and there are many this season that fit that bill (Kaiji, Gintana, Maria+Holic, Chaos;Head, etc.) There’s just too much new stuff coming up to get bogged down in shows that have already established themselves (though lately we’ve gotten into Haibane Renmei; retro wrap-up pending). So here’s the list. Looking forward to April: leaves, sunlight, baseball, and…the following:

Hyouge Mono – Beetrain – April 7 NHK BS2
Ao no Exorcist – A-1 – April – MBS
Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise – April – BS11 / MBS
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai. – A-1 – April – Fuji TV
C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – Tatsunoko Production – April – Fuji TV
Sket Dance – Tatsunoko Production – April – TV Tokyo Kei
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – SHAFT – April – TBS / TBS BS
The World God Only Knows II – manglobe – April
Hana-Saku Iroha – P.A.Works – Spring
Deadman Wonderland – manglobe – Spring