Hanasaku Iroha – 10

While HanaIro has been driving me mad with wild swings in quality and believability from episode to episode, it hasn’t been above some pretty dramatic fluctuations within the eps themselves – and this one was no exception.

On balance it was a pretty solid effort, written by Junji Nishimura – director of True Tears. As such it won’t be too surprising that it was a pretty ‘shippy episode, seemingly full of good vibes for the legions of Tohru fans and ominous for Ko’s small but zealous army of backers. But as anyone who’s survived a serious shipping anime (which I still don’t believe this is) will tell you, one of the worst things you can do is peak too soon. It’s easy to forget that we’re less than halfway through the run here – and it’s far too early for Kou to be out of the picture.

One problem I had with the episode was that the conceit – Ohana coming to believe that she was no longer needed at Kissuiso – was build on pretty shaky ground. Really, it was a massive overreaction, even for someone with a fever – and there’d really been no development leading up to it whatsoever. Wasn’t it just last week that everyone was working their butts off because the inn was so busy?

Ah, the Japanese cold – no culture can seemingly pack more drama into a simple virus. But of course, in anime the cold is a time-honored vehicle for exposition of the other characters, and so it was here. Nako, we see, is a big sister who loves taking care of her younger brothers (and Ohana). I kept wondering why she kept turning the TV on when she left the room, and to its credit the show told us – she thinks it’s too lonely to wake up with no voices. We learned that even Minko has a soft side for someone who’s ill from working too hard – though she fantasized about defacing Ohana (heh) – primarily because it was so clear the impact she was having on Tohru – she spoke up in her defense and tried to cheer her up. And we learned that Jiromaru is still a sick SOB. Seriously, Man – going into a sick 16 year-old girl’s room to read your porn to her? Not funny – more disturbing, I’d say.

Of course, the biggest learning was that Tohru is absolutely, unquestionably warm for Ohana’s form. That was something that was very strongly implied already, but now it’s confirmed. Is it creepy for a 23 year-old to openly lust after a 16 year-old? Well – everyone can make up their own minds on that one – but it’s now a fait acompli that Okada-san is taking this seriously. Taking it seriously too is Minchi, as mentioned. This is a hard blow for her, and we’ll see how she responds. What we haven’t seen, of course, is any indication whatsoever that Ohana has romantic feelings for him.

The other big development was Ohana’s series of fever dreams about Kou. That do seem to auger ill for him – the implication being that Ohana is choosing Kissuiso over Kou. But again, with so many episodes still outstanding this isn’t anywhere close to the end of the story. Ohana did cry at the notion of leaving him behind, giving some indication of just how difficult this choice is for her. And it’s still Kou she reaches out to when she’s in trouble or upset, which counts for a lot. If Kou were at Kissuiso instead of in Tokyo, would she see him in a different light? That could still happeb – as could an Ohana return to Tokyo at some point. Right now the sample size is just too small to say what might happen.

For all the flaws this week, it’s still an episode I’ll gladly take from HanaIro. It’s on-point and relatively free of irrelevant and inane distractions, which have plagued this show at times. One function of its scattershot narrative has been that it’s not very difficult to guess where it might be going from here, which is a good thing, I suppose.

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