And so, maddeningly, HanaIro shows us once again just how great it can be, but most of the time isn’t. This episode was so strong it’s probably enough to keep me strung along till the end, even if the rest of the episodes are disasters like #3 and #7.
I don’t think they will be – my hope is that as this series gets into it’s final cour it will buckle down and focus on the things that really matter. To me, that’s Ohana’s relationships with her mother and Kou, her conflict between the bonds of the past and her own budding sense of self, and the hard choices she’ll have to make. What’s that you say – you just described this episode? Why – so I did!
It should give you an idea how highly I regard this installment that even before Ohana texted Kou, I was marveling at what a solid effort it was – a break from the shipping nonsense that’s been taking over the discussion of the series, brought forth by a very convincing and impacting reunion with Satsuki, her mother. And the Okada-san went and made this the most interesting romance episode of the series so far, all in the second half. I can hardly remember an episode of any series this year not named AnoHana that covered so much emotional ground, and did it exceptionally well.
Ohana can be a bit much for me sometimes, frankly – when the plucky cuteness gets out of control and she really seems like – forgive me – a cartoon character. But this was Ohana as I love her – idealistic, hotheaded, but emotionally immature and vulnerable in a very believable way. He mission to “fest it up” (LOL) by going to Tokyo to confront the writer of the 5/10 star review Kissuiso received was a fool’s errand, and the fact that it was Satsuki that wrote it a coincidence beyond belief – but it totally worked dramatically. Ohanamama transcended her initial status as a pitiful ogre here – she came off as a believable and complex person. I won’t go so far as to call her likeable, but I believe she was empathetic. Her message to her daughter was a cynical one, but I one I think she truly believed – this is what adults do to make a living. This is what I did to put food on your table (that you cooked, admittedly) for 16 years. This is how I put a roof over your head. And in a strange way, I thought her refusal to be shamed into playing into Ohana’s fantasy was refreshing and even admirable – barely. I may not agree with her POV on the review, but from her perspective I think she was trying to tell her daughter that this is how the real world is – and it’ll be less painful for you to learn the lesson now. She’s still not a very good Mom, but at least now I can understand who she is as a person – more or less. In terms of her “moonlight run” from the first ep, well – that’s one I still consider pretty unforgivable.
Of course, in the end what people will want to talk about is the Ohana/Kou development, and what it means. And since this is a complex show about complex people, I can honestly say I don’t know. I was worried that we’d get another maddening near-miss, but that didn’t happen – they did meet face-to-face at last. i was worried that Ohana would flee the bookstore unseen after seeing Kou and the shop girl, but that didn’t happen. Full points to the staff and Mari for not taking that dodge again.
But what did it actually mean? That part is hard to pin down. What I saw in that situation is that Kou is still the most important person to Ohana, and she to him. While in real terms she has no right to expect him to wait, I think it’s clear that he did turn the shop girl down – and Ohana of course realized that when she was scolding Kou for not answering clearly she was really scolding herself. Their scene in the fast food restaurant was fantastic – their mutual awkward shyness but obvious affection. The way she fiddled with the straw wrapper, and the way he gently mocked her coke-tea mixing. It didn’t end well for them, but it clearly displayed for the audience that they’re still totally hung up on each other.
But that’s where we leave things, sadly. Ohana lives in Yuwaku Onsen and Kou in Tokyo – and there’s more than just physical distance for them to overcome, given the emotional crossroads Ohana is at in her maturation process. And there’s the handsome, charming Tohru at Kissuiso, who clearly likes her. Okada is not above the bittersweet ending, certainly – and even if Kou and Ohana are in love that doesn’t mean they’ll end up together, especially since this isn’t a pure romance series. The PV seemed to imply trouble for that pairing – Tohru referring to Ohana by her first name, and Kou’s “So Long” (also the episode title) at the end. But PVs can be trolls, and this series has trolled that way more than once. Of more significance to me where two things Ohana said – the first being “I don’t want to see Kou’s back anymore”. I see that as a confession that she doesn’t want to say goodbye to him. The other being when Ohana – as she always does – thought of Kou at the very end when she was in despair. It’s always Kou that comes to mind when she’s in need – not her mother, Grandma, Tohru or anyone else.
I can honestly see this series going a couple of different ways with the relationship game at this point. Perhaps the Kou thing is a creature of the first cour – Ohana and Kou come to terms with the fact that it can’t work, she moves on, and that element disappears from the show in the second cour. If that doesn’t happen, it’s hard for me to see her not ending up with him given how much developing that relationship has been at the karmic center of events for the first cour. If he’s still around in a month of episodes, I think we’re headed for a Kou end. If he’s going to lose out, I think it’s going to happen very soon – maybe even next week. The PV certainly offers that possibility.
I confess it – I hope not. Ganbare Kou, I say! I think they’re a great match and adorable together, but if doesn’t happen I’ll deal with it – the show has done a good enough job establishing the alternative possibility that it would be quite believable if that’s how it ended up. As long as we get more episodes as good as this one, I’ll be OK with whatever happens.