Now we’re getting somewhere! Well, kinda. Peace, understandings, and declarations are all either made or starting to be made. Not since the first week of the series last season has so much stuff been packed into an episode. I got that same feeling like it was three-quarters over when in reality it wasn’t even half-over. That makes me optimistic about this series ending as strongly as it started; perhaps even better.
It’s still to early to be sure of this, but as I said, I’m optimistic. Thanks to advice from her mother (who didn’t know she was giving it), Ohana has decided that a one-sided crush is okay vis-a-vis Ko (whom we’ve neither seen nor heard from all summer), and that she’ll confess to him next time she sees him. Minko and Ohana are at each others’ throats once more, but when Nako breaks them up, Tohru is seen to have been standing there, hearing everything.
At last, the air is cleared, as Tohru finds Minko crying by a shrine and they finally talk to each other about something other than cooking or Ohana. It’s just what Minko needs to keep going, and it helps Tohru not only realize how much he means to Minko, but also the source of her distractions. He brings her back on board the wedding food. Minko and Ohana finally call a truce, as they realize they aren’t even going after the same guy anymore (and never were), and both need to be more direct where their crushes are concerned.
After all that, there’s a whole wedding to be had! And having been to my older brother’s wedding earlier this year (and a damn fine wedding it was), it was a lot of fun to watch it unfold just as it had been to watch it be prepared. It goes off without a hitch, and even the manager is humbled and impressed by what everyone managed to do without her help or direction. She decided to kill two birds with one stone: marry off her son, and put everyone to the test in seeing how they’d fare with her merely observing. They paseed. Now Ohana has four episodes (barring an OVA or film), to make things right with Ko. Fingers crossed…
So the young master Enishi and the lovely Engrish-spewing Takako have decided to wed. But the only ceremony they can afford (and his mother demands they have one) is a ceremony at Kissuiso, with everyone doing extra work so as not to disrupt normal operations. I say forgone, but it required Ohana to speak up and suggest it (though Beanman is the one who wordlessly suggests it to her).
Tohru agrees to take charge of the food, and he and Minko go on a market date, but even alone with him for an extended period and with multiple opportunities, Minko is unable to make her true feelings known to him. This is lame. We’ve only got a handful of episodes left, and she’s still silent as the grave. He’s not going to figure it out on his own, Minchi. You. Have. To. Speak. Up.
She’s clearly upset with herself for not being able to do so, and that frustration, combined with her resentment of Ohana’s penchant for speaking her mind (and speaking so comfortably with Tohru) boils over in a naked bathroom wrestling scene with her, where I though someone was going to get hurt. Ohana claims to not know what’s going on, and she has a point: Minko makes the odd choice to order her to go out with Tohru, to just get things over with. Ohana may be dense, but she knows Minko likes Tohru…and all of the emotional stress she’s causing Minko hasn’t been intentional.
Regardless, their relationship regresses back to the “Shut up and die” stage. Unfortunately Ohana and Minko are the only members of the love triangle who know anything; Tohru may be the densest of all, but I won’t say he’s made it overly difficult for Minko. Meanwhile, Takako sees all the prohibitive costs, and assumes Enishi’s mother won’t accept her, but on the contrary, the manager gives her the ring she was given when she got married. She’s okay with the marriage, but doesn’t seem ready to name Enishi the successor yet. Uh-oh…
It’s lonely at the top…or at least one step below the top. Like Yosuke last week, the manager’s son Enishi is a boss – not the boss – at the moment, but one day Kissuiso – or whatever’s left of it – will be his. Not just his inn but the entire town of Yunosagi is struggling to survive in the cutthroat Japanese hospitality industry.
He hired Takako as a consultant to help come up with crazy ideas to create revenue and/or buzz. And to her credit, Takako hasn’t torn the traditions of the inn to shreds. And now it seems she’s helped reel in a director interested in making a film on the premises, and even letting the staff audition for roles. Nothing like a film to create buzz for a location.
This plan is not without risk, and there’s no sure guarantee it will help the inn. Enishi even shoos away other innkeepers wanting a piece of the action, firmly stating it will be a Kissuiso film alone. To some, this means putting the PR fate of the entire town on his inn’s – and his – shoulders. But in doing so, assuming success, Enishi may finally step out of his sister Satsuke’s (Ohana’s mom’s) vast shadow.
His mother seems to be giving him his chance. If he screws up, it will only justify his lack of faith in himself, and (what he perceives as) her lack of faith in him. Looking at her with typical younger sibling’s eyes, Satsuke seemed to him like a more advanced form of human (note how dolphin-like she seems in his daydreams) – which is particularly amusing considering we (and Ohana) know all too well how flawed she truly is. But whether he’s chasing reality or merely an ideal, Enishi has never seemed more assertive.
Oh yeah, the girls just play with the hose in the drained pool this week…so they’re suddenly twelve now…I guess. Rating: 3.5
Hanasaku Iroha was instantly enjoyable, wisking you along with Ohana on a semiepic journey from the cramped and monotonous big city to the sprawling grandeur of the countryside, then into a fircely strict and unyeilding work environment the likes of which she’s never seen, experienced, or expected. I also found the character instantly appealing; easily moreso than many others Kanae Ito has voiced.
That her mother essentially abandons her and makes her move away from her life and friends to the home of a grandmother who wants nothing to do with her (and slaps her) and it all happens so fast. Still, as we listen to her inner monologue, she is acting quite mature for a 16-year-old: certainly unprepared for her plight, but keen enough to know it and be ready to adapt, which she’ll have to do.
And while this introductory episode was just about perfectly paced, with nary a dull or wasted moment, it felt like an hour (and I say that as a good thing); so dense was the narrative. It was also exceedingly good-looking, with loving attention to detail and some truly gorgeous vistas, both urban, rural, and, er, town-y. Immediately this series establishes itself as both coming-of-age tale and slice-of-life, and I haven’t seen one as good as this since Working. The bathhouse also brings to mind Spirited Away, though Ohana is older and far less bratty than Chihiro, and its role as a world in and of itself, where everyone has roles to play.
We got a sneak-peak at some of the people who will help shape Ohana’s life, including Minko, a taciturn girl who immediately takes a dislike to her (and is voiced by a toned-down-for-once Chiaki Omigawa) and Nako (voiced by Aki Toyosaki, also voice of Railgun’s Uiharu). These three girls will likely form the nucleus, but the creepy uncle and battlaxe grandmother should prove entertaining supporters. I’m definitely stoked about this one. I don’t often toss out “4”s to first episodes, but this one’s deserving. Rating: 4