Hanasaku Iroha 26 (Fin)

The Bonbori festival is a magical evening when people all over the prefecture converge and bring fresh vitality to Yusonagi. Everyone strings up their wish planks, all of them reinforcing their character arcs. Ohana wishes to be like her grandmother, Sui, who herself believes she should “fest it up” more often as Ohana does. Ohana seeks out Ko and finally confesses to him. Beanman announces his retirement. Enishi, realizing he has a lot to learn about running an inn, agrees with his mother to close Kissuiso, but only temporarily, so that he can train.

The staff pledges to return to work there when it reopens, and can live up to its name of “A place to make Sui happy.” Ko wants to “find his place” as he sees Ohana has, and if it’s the same place of her, all the better. Minko dreams to be Kissuiso’s next chef. Sui gives us one last tour of the inn where dreams are born. The series finishes with a montage of the staff in their new places, and in Ohana’s case, back in Tokyo with her mom and Ko.

It’s been a hell of a ride, with its share of bumps, but IMO Hanasaku Iroha couldn’t have had a better finale. It ties up all the loose ends, doesn’t cheat by keeping everything the same, gives everyone a solid goodbye and dream to follow, and, of course, Ohana gets the guy by finally speaking up. Even better, she gets that out of the way in the first minutes, before the suspense grows excessive, and moves on to other things. Just about everything worked here, from the utterly gorgeous visuals to the not-too-cheesy soundtrack.

I really liked Angel Beats!, but I think I have to consider this P.A. Works’ finesst work yet, which is encouraging, because it’s also their latest, and I can’t wait to watch their next one. After AnoHana wrapped, this has been the series with the most involving, likeable, fun-to-watch characters, as well as the prettiest setting and some of the best animation values. The inn itself was a character, and given no less fitting a sendoff. When it was populated, it was hard to sit back and admire just how beautiful a building it is, inside and out. I’m glad that the series was able to take its time and say a decent goodbye that left me wanting for nothing.



Rating: 4 ~series elevated to favorites ~

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On the eve of the Bonbori festival, it appears that Kissuiso is overbooked. The staff is overworked, accidents are happening, and everyone is more focused on “winning” the battle with the Madam Manager. Ohana is caught in the middle, but little by little, everyone realizes they don’t have the guests’ comfort at heart. When Tomoe sprains her ankle, The manager fills in, Ohana’s mom volunteers to help, and they get back to “festing it up”, rather than just grinding.

The Battle for Kissuiso was fought for all the wrong reasons. Last week I sided with the staff for wanting to keep the inn open, not thinking about how it would have to change to become profitable. This week, I was on Ohana’s side, who was basically on her own side. The frantic inn where the customers’ needs were obstacles to overcome was not the Kissuiso she loved. Overwork was making the staff short with her, and clumsy in their duties. Tomoe’s ankle sprain provided the catalyst to snap everyone out of it. Jiromaru’s corny narration was icing on the cake.

On the evening of the festival, Sui, Satsuki, and Ohana marching three abreast down the hall is a triumphant sight, and unlike the first half of the episode, everyone is working like a well-oiled machine. Not only that, they’re enjoying what they’re doing, rather than just doing it mindlessly in the pursuit of profit. This was a great final “inn arc” episode that brough everything and everyone together beautifully, and was simply oozing with emotions. It’s still in the air whether Kissuiso can make it, but it seems the finale will deal primarily with Ohana and Ko.


Rating: 4

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Ohana and Ko all but confess, and he agrees to come to the climactic Bonbori festival. The manager insist that Kissuiso will close for good after the Bonbori festival, despite a glowing review by her daughter which nets the inn gobs of business and the fact that everyone loves the inn and wants to stay. Enishi stages a coup in order to keep the inn open, leaving Ohana split between family and friends.

A little of everything this week, and all of it good. Ohana and Ko finally talk about their feelings, but rather than taking up most of the episode as I expected, it’s just the appetizer. With Sui intending to close the inn, some are starting to look at future employment, but then Satsuki puts Kissuiso on the front cover of her travel magazine, and suddenly it looks like they can make it work. Thus this becomes a battle of wills, between Sui, who doesn’t want anyone else sacrificed for her and her husband’s dreams, and everyone else, who want to keep the inn open and running anyway.

I can feel for Sui, but ultimately I’m on the side of Enishi and everyone else. Sui may be old and wise, but she isn’t infallible, and she isn’t a god. Her pride is blinding her to the arrogance of thinking she can protect the fate of others when in reality, her actions threaten to crush dreams and change fates she has no business changing. Whatever Kissuiso was, it is more than just her and her late husband’s dream. With all this seriousness going on, there were also moments of comedy, like Tohru and Minko disocvering their favorite manga was written by none other than Jiromaru, and Sui’s ridiculously quick and efficient bath.


Rating: 4

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The inn has an ill-favored mood as it’s likely it will be shut down. Takako is off to Tokyo to track down the producer who duped Enishi and the inn, as she plans to take over as madam manager. Ohana (now her niece) tags along, both to discuss her future with her mom and to possibly see Ko again. But her mom has already ‘kidnapped’ Ko. After spending the day together talking about Ohana, she plays the test footage for him, reignting his hope just when he was about to give up on her. The two then meet by chance on an overhead crossing.

“Never give up,” Takako says in her characteristic Engrish. That sentiment pertains not only to her goal to save Kissuiso, but to Ohana and Ko’s distance-strained relationship as well. Takako somehow finds one man among millions and gives him a judo throw…by not giving up. Whether she’ll get the money the inn lost back or not, she’s restored honor. Meanwhile, Ohana’s mom, while a bit nosy and manipulative here, has her heart in the right place, setting Ko straight vis-a-vis Ohana.

Ohana abandoned Ko when her mother abandoned her, but she never went to Yusonagi to learn to be a waitress, or fulfill her calling. She wouldn’t have gone at all if her mom hadn’t acted like a spoiled, impulsive child and run off with some random guy. So in a way, what Ohana’s mom does is amends of a kind. Now that Ko understands a little more, he and Ohana can proceed accordingly. But considering the manager needs Ohana back in two days (two episodes?), Ohana will have to be quick about it.


Rating: 3.5

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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…


Rating: 4

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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…


Rating: 3.5

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Pretty much around the time Yuina was jumping out of a second-story window and she and Ohana were getting riddled with bullets, I started to wonder exactly what this film was about, anyway. Well, it didn’t matter, because it was all a scam. The funny thing is, hardly any of the staff skip a beat about it. Especially Ohana’s spirits remain high.

Of course, there are some bruised egos. Takako feels like a fool and rightly so for advising Enishi, and rightly so, but initially tries to run away and pin all the blame on him. Their long, complicated relationship reaches a catharsis of sorts, in the pool, of all places, where a memory of Enishi’s still drives him.

When his perfect sister is out-swimming him in the pool, he looks up at the sky and sees two jet fighters screaming across the sky; one trailing the other. Like he trails her. But after some whining and lamenting, Enishi eventually sucks it up, takes the blame, and even calls for revenge. He doesn’t regret trying to elevate Kissuiso’s standing with a film. He’d do it all again if given the opportunity.

His scenes with Takako, his mom, and his phone call with his sis are easily the best things going here; it’s a shame no cameras were turned on his drama. Contrast this with Ohana, Minchi and Nako’s roles, which were really tiny and peripheral these past couple weeks. So far this season, Ohana has taken a backseat to Yuina and now Enishi.


Rating: 3.5

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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

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At one point in this week’s proceedings, in which Ohana arrives to the rescue of the same inn her class is staying at, she proclaims with surprise: “I’ve learned my job!” She was taught so well, she wasn’t even aware of when she transformed from more of a Yuina-like liability to a serious inn professional. Her “waitress’ instinct” wouldn’t allow her to stand by and let the inn’s service suffer. So in her free time, she volunteers to work.

Nakochi and Minchi soon join her, and they do what they do best. Yuina goofs off around town a little longer, but eventually returns to the inn to find that her friends are hard at work preparing dinner for the class. She stops by the bath, where an annoyed Yosuke tells her if she doesn’t want to work by his side in the inn when he inherits it, there’s no way they can marry. What’s interesting is that Yuina laid out her desired future so confidently and bluntly, and it turns out she isn’t nearly as sure about everything as she would let on.

All it takes is Yosuke praising Ohana and even suggesting a girl like her would be more suited to be his wife, and Yuina grabs a mop and starts scrubbing. This is a girl whos classmates call her princess, and she is in a lot of ways, having never done much manual labor. But she’s determined not to let Yosuke fall (settle?) for Ohana: she can work to, she just chose never to do so.

Yuina indeed helps Yosuke finish cleaning the bath just in time, and the dinner is a success thanks to the Kissuiso staff. The experience not only makes Yuina rethink whether an inn has no place in her future, but also leads to Yosuke rethinking his managing style. It also reinforces the friendship of the three Kissuiso girls, who proved that no matter where the inn is, they can make it rain, so to speak. Rating: 3.5

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Click here to read more reviews of Hanasaku, including the first thirteen episodes.

“What’s the point of him yelling?”Exactly, Minchi; Exactly. On their high school summer getaway to the beach, Ohana, Minchi, Nako and Yuina are suddenly thrown into the bizarro world, inn-wise. Rather than serving customers, they are the customers, and must act as such. But while the head clerk and ‘heri’ of the Fukuya Inn, a certain Yosuke, may be Yuina’s fiancee, he isn’t the most pleasant guy to work with.

I’m going to be the bitches’ advocate here and say the part-time workers can’t possibly see what’s going on in any other light than Yosuke lumping work on them and treating them like crap while he woos his girlfriend. Or can they? Hard to say, but I doubt it would be an issue if they weren’t part-time to begin with, but rather girls like Ohana, Nako, and Minchi, who work full-time and are passionate about their work at the inn, and about improving themselves. It’s more than just a job for them, because they have time to make it so. If it’s just a part-time job, it’s harder to, well, care.

Even if Fukuya Inn is big and booming and can accomodate high school classes, and Yosuke hasn’t even heard of Kissuiso, it’s state-of-the-art technology and business practices have their cost. But even more pressing to Yosuke is getting an answer from Yuina regarding her future. It turns out she doesn’t consider running an inn to be part of the future she wants. This is harsh, but it’s also her life and her decision to make. Her answer also comes at a particularly knife-twisting moment when Yosuke’s underlings stage a mass quitting, undermining his leadership in the eyes of his superiors.

This wasn’t the idle beach episode I was somewhat dreading (and it’s good that so many anime recently have turned off that desperately-beaten path), but actually contained some development. Despite her enviable position as heiress to her family’s inn, Yuina apparently wants something else in life. Meanwhile, Ohana, who still tears up whenever she remembers Ko’s last words to her, nevertheless resolves to not let such things disrupt her life or drag her down. That’s probably a good attitude. Rating: 3.5

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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

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After a phenomenal start and a rather less inspiring middle, the final third of this first season of Hanasaku Iroha is really ‘festing it up’, to borrow a phrase from Ohana. This week picks up where we left off; Ohana plucked off the street by Tohru and Minko. They spend the night in a hotel room, Tohru and Ohana have a late-night chat about Ko, which Minko listens in on. The next morning, Ohana wants them to help her kidnap her mother. Tohru agrees, but only if they bring Ko too.

Before that though, Tohru takes Minko on a dizzying culinary tour of Tokyo and makes her eat way too much. At times she considers this a date, but the fact of the matter is, Tohru may just be doing it to get her acquainted with famous tastes, without an ulterior motive. As Ohana said last night, he is kind, but his manner with women leaves too much to said womens’ imaginations. I feel pretty bad for Minko, since she (and we) know for sure that a part of him likes Ohana, but he won’t make a move. That said, Minko could be a little more forward with him regarding her feelings.

While in Tokyo, Ohana learns that she’s been acting selfishly, without regard to anyone else’s thoughts or motives. This is hammered home for her when Ko tells her he went to visit her but came up empty. This episode marked an even lower mark than was reached last week as far as their future together is concerned. They may both like each other, but they remain firmly lodged in a holding pattern, at best, while both of them have other potentials (Tohru in Ohana’s case; Igarashi in Ko’s). This is probably it for their story, until next season.

I was as surprised as Ohana when her mother had packed to come back with them to Kissuiso. Something finally clicked in her; perhaps the same thing that clicked in Ohana. At times, both of them play the villain in the lives of others (“Deferring her answer for a later time” is pretty villainous). Ohana had so much to yell at her mom for, but chose her bad review of the inn. When she heard the indignation in Ohana’s voice, it reminded her of the arguments she once had with her mother. Now for good or ill, there’s going to be a family reunion. Rating: 4

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Sure, there was a little bit of coincidence in this episode, but I still enjoyed how Ohana’s mission to “Fest it up” with the author of a bad review of Kissuiso turned into a bit of a review of her life so far. She returns to Tokyo, and it turns out her mother wrote it (one coincidence), without even visiting, because a superior told her to. Ohana’s reunion with both her mother and with Ko don’t go well, and by the end, she nearly has a breakdown, when just at the last minute, the van from Kissuiso shows up to ‘rescue’ her (another coincidence).

Never mind how they managed to track her down on the streets of the biggest metropolis in the world, or the fact her mother wrote the scathing staged review – I liked this episode. It was great to get out of the inn and the small town setting and return to Tokyo, if only for an episode. It led me to renew my hate of Ohana’s frankly awful, self-absorbed mom. I’m glad Ohana put up a brave front, and refused trifling bribes.  It also renewed my frustration with Ohana and Ko’s lack of progress in the relationship arena.

They finally meet after so long, but their meeting is soured by Ohana seeing the cute girl he works with at the bookstore. Well, and the lack of a plan going in. She just decided to…meet him, just like that. She’s about to scold him about not giving the smitten girl a firm answer, when she realizes that’s exactly what she failed to do for him. She can’t or won’t express all the pent-up feelings rattling around in her head, and decides the best thing to do is to turn tail…again. With this new low, and the fact that Ko is in Tokyo and Ohana…isn’t, perhaps romance lies elsewhere for her. Tohru, for instance. Rating: 4