Hanasaku Iroha – 11

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.



  1. A

    Not really much to add since you had covered how much this episode was excellent, so I'll comment on the opening sentence.

    Does giving a side character a day in the limelight make a disaster? Is switching to a more comedic tone make one?

    I'm among what is most likely the few who think like this, but I honestly think this series works because it works with both comedic and dramatic elements. I honestly think that accepting both parts as being of the same one show rather than a divorced aspect from the other is what helps episode like these have this much impact.

    I mean this episode also had comedic parts to it, even during the most tense part where Ohana was running from what she thought would be her kidnappers, where she ran into that pole post, or how she ended up confronting her mother at work. Episode 7, on the other hand, also had dramatic aspects though they were underplayed as well.

    And again, they were two lighthearted episodes. It wasn't like they didn't offer plot advancement in them or character development. They helped the show, their tones were livelier than the normal tone the show runs on, but they still had all the feel good result produced, and quite well I might add.

    I honestly respect your opinion a whole lot Enzo, but I have to disagree with you here on the term disaster being latched to any episode of this show thus far, as I have yet to see one.

  2. You're certainly free to disagree about whether 3 and 7 were a disaster – that's a totally subjective matter no matter which view you take.

    I do want to make clear, though – as I think you'll see if you read my reviews here and posts on Animesuki – that I don't disdain those eps because they mixed comedy and drama, or because of the focus on a side character (in part with *which* side character in 7, yes). My problem with those eps is that I simply don't think they worked. The comedy wasn't funny to me, I didn't care nearly enough to want to see 7 focus entirely on Tomoe. I don't think Jirou and the management consultant are good characters, and worse – they feel like they're in a different show.

    Mixing comedy and drama and slice of life is fine, no problem. I defended this show from many attacks against it for that reason. My issues arise from it falling down rabbit holes that feel incongruous with the show as a whole. I don't think the slapstick comedy works here – that's not what Mari Okada does well. I also have issues with the way the weaker episodes of the show manipulate character behavior and coincidence to serve the short-term needs of the plot. That's weak, lazy writing to me – and this show is capable of being so, so much more than that.

    If I didn't love HanaIro so much when it's good, I wouldn't be so hard on it when it's (as I see it) bad.

  3. m

    As I posted on my blog I agree with you here: this episode is pretty much a microcosmic representation of everything the show can be and can achieve with almost unparalleled clarity. The tension between past/present/future and the things we want to change and the things we want to stay the same are so thick you need to cut it with a sword.

  4. A

    I think it's best to keep this issue on hold until another episode, since this was a fantastic episode and we all agree on that, and I don't really find myself up to debate this until when the series starts going into it's final run, but one thing

    ''that's not what Mari Okada does well''

    The thing is, I don't think Okada knows what she does well at time. She can certainly do some very powerful tales, but there is going to be a major screw up somewhere down the line with her (do to her nature mainly)

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