Hanasaku Iroha – 13

The last couple of episodes of HanaIro have been so intense that it really does feel good to have a break from all the romantic tension. While this one was still full of character development and meaningful plot movement, it was certainly slower and more wistful.

For one thing, stepping off the gas pedal allowed me to appreciate once again just how gorgeous the visuals in this show are. PA Works is certainly one of the best in this area and this is as good as they’ve done in terms of backgrounds. The torii gates, the gardens the small details of the inn itself – it’s really remarkable just how beautiful the look of the series is.

The other interesting observation after this week is that I actually like Satsuki now. Sure, she’s pretty iffy as a mother and sister, has questionable journalistic ethics and smokes like a chimney. But she’s also smart, funny and has some pretty good reasons for the bad blood between she and her mother. Not only that, her ideas for running the inn were actually quite smart. Choice of yukatas, using the local yuzu (yum) in the tea sweets, keeping the baths open to suit the needs of the customer – this is all good stuff. And she showed she was willing to be a slightly bigger person by giving Kissuiso a positive review in the end.

The scenes between the three generations of Shiima women were really wonderful, and, I might add, instigated by Satsuki. It would have been easy enough to go through the motions but she more or less insisted both her daughter and her mother spend time with her. The whole notion of Ohana getting “drunk on soda” is pretty laughable – I guess they just can’t show a 16 year-old getting tanked on beer – but their conversation about boys, men and fighting spirit was pretty memorable. As was Grandma getting drunk. That was certainly a new side for her, not least of which admitting that she still dreams of Satsuki taking over the inn. I can’t see Satsuki agreeing to that, but it’s still pretty touching.

Of course, in the final analysis people are still going to want to talk about Ohana and Kou, so I guess it can’t be avoided. Ohana let it slip in her drunken stupor (as if it were ever in doubt) that she was still hung up on Kou, and devastated at being “dumped” (though I don’t personally see it that way). She said out loud in the light of day that she still loves him. But the fundamental conundrum remains – she loves being at Kissuiso more than being in Tokyo. She’s growing up and can’t go back, and that’s where he is. So perhaps this really is a Kobayashi Maru situation for Ohana and Kou.

That seems to be the fundamental question overhanging this part of the story. Is it a “subplot” as some have called it, and one that has concluded at that? It’s possible, certainly – I predicted two weeks ago that time was Kou’s ally, and if the “Ko-Hana” end were to lose out, we would know soon. Alternatively, is this merely a setback, with the story to cover other ground for a bit before Kou comes back into the picture? That’s possible too – “Ja ne (So long)” is not the same as “Sayonara”. It’s just marginal enough to be interpreted either way, which is just how the devilish Ms. Okada wants it.

One definite piece of good news – more Yuina next week.


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