Considering how intense last week’s episode was, this one was surprisingly low-key considering that it dealt directly with pretty much all of the outlying plot points. But it was effective for the most part, with the spotlight shining squarely on the wrinkled face (and…more) of Shijima Sui, final boss.
The Kohana part of the story was actually handled early, and pretty definitively. I was just about ready to strangle Ohana for actually starting to run away when Kou approached her on the bridge. Seriously – after all this, you clueless girl, you’d run away? But she didn’t, and they talked, and if they don’t end up together now it will be one of the all-time great trolls in the career of the trollmaster Okada Mari. Ohana said Tokyo was beautiful again if Kou was in it, Kou said Tokyo was boring without Ohana but Kissuiso looked beautiful with her, and she invited him to fest it up and Bonbori. We even got a victory cheer from Kou at the bus stop. What a massive waste of time their relationship has been if they don’t end up together.
I confess I take a lot of joy at watching the Kou-hating crowd stew at the prospect of a Kohana end, just as I know they’ll cackle wildly at the suffering of supporters like me if it doesn’t happen. Kou takes massive amounts of abuse for having the temerity to be a nice, normal kid – but I think his devotion to Ohana has been beautifully portrayed and I think he’s a true romantic. For those who decry the Kohana relationship on the grounds that they haven’t spent much time together on-screen and they’re under-developed, well – I disagree but even so, we’re not talking about a fracking marriage here. It’s two 16 year-old kids deciding to make a try at going out. Deal with it.
While there was a brief not to Minko and Tohru, most of the focus was on Sui once the scene shifted back to Kissuiso. Tohru and Ren have already accepted a gig at another inn, and Minko is dismayed at the idea of being left behind – though they do bond over a manga that insirped both of them to become chefs. Regrettably, it was written by Jiromaru in one of those preposterous and unnecessary anime coincidences that torpedo the realism of the entire episode. Meanwhile Satsuki has written a glowing review of Kissuiso, which appears on the front page of her magazine and causes a flood of reservations to pour into the hotel. The only problem? Sui flat-out refuses to budge about closing the inn.
Here’s where the ep will win you or lose you, I suppose. When Ohana returns (I knew that heron was going to be there on that staircase, never a doubt) she’s thrust directly into the middle of the growing war. Enishi shows uncharacteristic backbone in standing up to his mother over the closure, and there’s an extraordinarily surreal and awkward scene with Sui sharing a bath with the three horrified teenage girls that just had me alternating between laughter, gasps and head-scratching. But it’s the trip to the cemetery to visit Grandpa’s grave (animated and drawn with astonishing beauty by PA Works) that serves as the key scene of the episode, for it’s here where Sui lays out her reasoning for wanting to close the inn.
Some will cynically argue she wants to close it because she knows Enishi will screw it up. Some will say she’s just wrong altogether. But I had a lot of sympathy for Sui’s reasoning here. Kissuiso was the dream of her late husband and herself – “An inn to please Sui”. And she doesn’t want to saddle her family and the staff with the responsibility to uphold her dream. Yes, even with the review there are huge long-term money concerns and Sui sincerely feels Enishi is not well-suited for the work. But she also knows Satsuki never wanted the inn, and that Enishi gave up his own dreams to act as successor. Even more, she wants her children and grandchildren to have the experience she had – to build their own dream starting from nothing. She might be wrong, and they may all love Kissuiso so much that the right thing to do is keep it open. But I believe this is a noble sentiment, and I think it comes from the heart.
So the obvious questions with two episodes left are two – do Ohana and Kou end up together and does Kissuiso close? As I said, if Kohana doesn’t happen the entire series effectively amounts to a massive troll, as far as I’m concerned – which with Okada at the helm means it could very well turn out to be just that. If they do, would it be in Tokyo, presumably (though not necessarily) with the inn closed, or would Kou move to Kanazawa? I’m still not confident in any specific scenario – if I were a betting man, I think Kissuiso may stay open although from a dramatic standpoint I think it makes more sense for it to close. It’s very possible that Kou and Ohana may decide they will be a couple, but a long-distance one for now – the kind of compromise that would likely please none of the fans in either camp. If Kissuiso does live on, the vital question is under whose stewardship. Enishi steps up? Satsuki throws it all away to move back? Kou moves in and Sui decides to hang on long enough to hand it over to Ohana directly? I think all of these scenarios are still realistically possible.