The optimist in me wants to be believe that HanaIro has finally gotten all the nonsense out of its system. The experiments with ecchi, the bad slapstick, the two-part episodes about egg dishes. Maybe, with a month of eps left, all that is behind us and the series will focus on what’s important. It can never undo all those past mistakes, but a lot can be redeemed with a strong finish. I’ve been burned so often, though, that a part of me is going to be skeptical until the credits roll on episode 26.
Between the episode itself and the preview, it does appear that one of my major fears has been put to rest – there’s going to be some sort of resolution to the Ohana/Kou relationship. It might not find them together, but at least the matter will be dealt with. I never believed even a series as maddeningly obtuse as this one could simply ignore that altogether, but I was beginning to worry. I do have to question Ohana’s sanity a little in saying she has a “one-sided crush” on Kou – after all, the guy did confess to her in the very first episode! But if that’s what it takes to get her off the pot and confront her feelings (which always seemed pretty obvious to me anyway) than so be it. It was fortuitous that she had that conversation with Satsuki, who always manages to impact events in a scale disproportionate to her actual physical presence. Nice job blowing off your brother’s wedding, Mom – although that “Make sure she’s wet!” note made up for some of it. Especially seeing it delivered by Yuina. If only she’d been in a massage chair as she read it out…
I remain singularly unimpressed with Takako and Enishi as characters, and my sincere hope is that the wedding allows them to fade into the background for the last four episodes, though the converse is a frightening possibility too. That said, their wedding was an important watershed to drive things forward (at long, long, long last) and not just in terms of the phone conversation mentioned above. It was the impetus in forcing the “is it or isn’t it” triangle of Ohana/Minchi/Tohru out into the open. Though the way Minchi’s feelings to Tohru were revealed was rather clichéd and hackneyed, at least they were revealed – and it forced him to come clean with her about his feelings. Non-committal as they were – “I’m fascinated watching her but you leave me in great suspense” – I think it’s clear that Ohana has no romantic feelings for him whatsoever. I never thought there was anything to all that no matter how much space it took up in the fan discussions, but it’s nice to see the series following that route, too. And Minchi certainly held a lot of resentment towards Ohana, who was guilty of nothing worse than cluelessness – if she couldn’t figure out Kou liked her after he confessed, she sure as hell had no idea Tohru did.
Minchi is a troubling character for me. In a lot of ways I like her – she seems like the only one who realizes when BS is happening on this show, and that’s been pretty often. But it’d be a lie to call her likeable – empathetic maybe, but certainly not likeable. Not only is she prone to anger, but to violent anger – and when she gets angry, she tries her hardest to hurt the source emotionally and even physically. This character is so unlike any other Omigawa Chiaki character than I wonder if she didn’t go a little overboard in that direction, though I think most of the problem is in the way she’s written. With Kou and Satsuki on the sidelines and Ohana pretty much having laid her character on the table in the first episode, there hasn’t been much in terms of watching a good character actually develop in this series. Yuina is strictly a diversion – a fabulous max one, don’t get me wrong, but not a serious character. That’s why Nako has assumed a fairly important role, because she’s not excessively annoying or unpleasant and she’s actually grown a bit. But the onus is Ohana now – she has to do the heavy lifting in that department in the home stretch.
As was hinted at last week, Madame Manager made the announcement that she’s planning on closing the inn after the Bonbori Festival (which always felt like it would provide the dramatic conclusion). She and Beanman (who caught the bouquet – is he getting married? To Jiromaru, maybe?) have been together running Kissuiso for more than 40 years, and it appears that both of them are just tired – though it’s interesting that she’s not choosing to give her family a chance to follow in her footsteps. Clearly she doesn’t think Enishi is up to it, but I suspect she would have given Satsuki the chance if she’d wanted it. As she apparently does not, that leaves only Ohana – and she’s the one I can’t imagine being happy about the inn shuttering. She might be too young to run it now, but she won’t be in a few years. What does Ohana want, though? Her heart is with Kou and Kou is in Tokyo, but she’s come to love the people at Kissuiso, too. Whether this is what she would have wanted for her future or not, I suspect Ohana will be pretty pissed off about not being part of the decision.
While it wasn’t among the best we’ve seen, nevertheless this episode finally moved things along considerably, opening a few doors and seemingly closing a few others. Next week will likely go a long way towards deciding the ultimate fate of the Ohana/Kou relationship, though probably not definitively given that there are three more eps to follow. My money is still on the “Forever Alone” end, with the closure of the inn being a 50/50 tossup. But hey, we’re at least talking about things that matter – and that’s a huge step in the right direction.