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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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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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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Whenever this series has gone off on a high school drama tangent, it can sometimes feel like a distraction from the primary inn setting. I mean, there are a lot of stories left to tell there, why deviate by doing a school festival two-parter? Alas, this is what we got, and to be fair, it isn’t bad. It just isn’t quite up to par. I found myself uninterested in chunks of this episode, which is never good.

Ohana, Minko and Yuina’s class decide to run a “princess cafe.” The class chooses Minko to be in charge of the food and Ohana in charge of the waitressing. This enables both of them to ply their craft in a new and less serious setting. Minko gets quite into it, but quickly runs into logistical issues – personnel – issues. If this is a dry run for running her own restaurant – something that’s no doubt one of her dreams – it’s not off to a good start. But it’s sure to build character.

Ohana and Yuina have fewer issues coordinating the waitresses, but Ohana manages to have a very bizarre dream featuring Kou in drag. The episode ends with a lot of uncertainty about how everything will turn out – particularly for Minko. Nako, meanwhile, is the only one helping a girl set up an art gallery. Probably not the best time to turn off her politeness filter…


Rating: 3

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Nako’s the quiet, shy, nervous one, right? Well, yes and no. Turns out Nako would have preferred to be born a fish, because she prefers swimming in a sea to the ordinary human world. But she considers her home a sea, and a haven, in which to be herself. She has a big, loving family that can be a hassle sometimes.

But this “Real Nako” is loud, cheerful, and assertive. Somebody we’ve only seen in the shortest of bursts – when she rescues the author from drowning, for instance. She is also grown quite comfortable with Ohana and Minko, to the point they’re almost like sisters…almost. She’s still nowhere near as loose and free around them as she is at home.

When she recieves a considerable raise from the madam manager, she assumes it comes with the expectation she’ll improve. This comes from her father’s philosophy towards child-rearing: praise your child, and she’ll strive to improve herself to be worthy of that praise (contrast this with her mother’s more tough-love stance). Nako is aware of the disconnect between her “real” self and how she acts at the inn, at school, and anywhere else in public.

After trying in vain to “change” herself by spending lots of money on a new outfit and coming to work trying to act like she does at home, she makes a mistake that lands her in trouble. It is then that the manager tells her her raise wasn’t a challenge, but a reward, after guests wrote her a glowing report. Despite not having to change, I do hope to see a little more of that real Nako; she was way more fun to watch.


Rating: 3.5

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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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After running around overexerting herself and working so hard the past few episodes, Ohana finally pays for it with what everyone refers to as a “light fever.” Always so chipper and energetic, Ohana finally has to lay in bed and do nothing, and it makes her mind wander. This is is an episode with many strange an dreamy moments, and perfectly depicts the combined feelings of weakness, helplessness, boredom, lonliness, and uselessness being sick can cause.

Ohana dreams of a Ko surrounded by light in a shrine who calls her home. Indeed, laying in bed hearing everyone say how well they’re getting along without her, combined with her delirium, lead her to question her usefulness at Kissuiso. She starts to doubt whether she even belongs there at all. After all, working hard has led to her being in this state; how can she go on?

One by one, the staff visits her. Tohru appears to be more outwardly smitten with her than ever, probably due to Ohana having temporarily losing her sharp edge. Minko notices how he acts towards and talks about Ohana, further complicating that triangle in the future. But in the end, everyone convinces her that she is a vital piece of the puzzle at Kissuiso, and once she’s better, the whole place will be better with her back on duty. Rating: 4

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I’ve been a bit disappointed at Hanasaku Iroha’s decline from excellent to great, and now, these past two episodes, simply good. I’m still enjoying the bathhouse hijinx, but those first couple episodes were truly outstanding, and the newest episodes pale in comparison. They’re too meandering, too episodic. I guess lulls are to be expected with a 26-episode run, but many other series of the same length have managed to impress from episode to episode. This is starting to verge on filler.

When I first saw snipers targeting Ohana and Nako, it was truly a WTF moment, and a worry that the show had already gone totally off the rails only seven eps in. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the newest guests at the inn are simply regimental “survivalists” who love hiding in bushes, pursuing targets and living off of rations. They’re really fun to watch. They’re also a clever mechanism for head waitress Tomoe – who is doubting her direction in life at the beginning – to get her groove back, so to speak. Clever, but random: I’d ask why survivalists are staying at a relatively cushy inn in the first place, but I won’t bother. Rating: 3

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It’s all that damn erotica authors fault…

Ah, a misunderstanding episode. While this series has definitely slowed down since the first two eps, it remains one of my favorites this spring. For some reason, this episode reminded me of an episode of Frasier, one in which a little misunderstanding is blown way out of proportion and everyone emotionally commits to an assumption that turns out to be false. Yeah, a lot of Fraiser episodes (and those of many many other shows) are like that, but for some reason Frasier came to mind first. Dunno why.

At any rate, Ohana is, as always, trying to get into Minko’s good graces, this time by going after Tohru, who the author deduces has defected to rival Fukuya. Combined with Minko and Ohana seeing the Fukuya heiress on a motorbike with him, Minko is devastated. She isn’t kidding anyone with her tough, dealing-with-it face, including Ohana. Of couse, as it turns out, Tohru only filled in for one night at Fukuya, and far from dating Fukuya, she just wanted a ride.

It’s a well-written and acted episode to me, because all of the factual omissions that lead to the understanding are very organic and fit nicely with the individual characters involved: the author’s tendency to jump to conclusions, Minko’s infatuation with Tohru, and Ren’s tight-lippedness. All of the facts they have seem to point to him leaving, and they have no reason to question for how long he’ll be gone, or whether he’ll come back. Those who know what’s really going on stay quiet too, because they have better things to do. While I knew the twist was coming from a mile away, it was still well-played and an entertaining watch. Rating: 3.5

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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