Hansaku Iroha – 23

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It pisses me off to no end that HanaIro can annoy me, irritate me, bore me and throw its laziness and stupidity at me for two months, then turn right around and make me love it again – just ‘cause it wants to.  To paraphrase Wandering Dreamer – I’m not sure if the show is tsundere for me, or I am for it.

I could spend a lot of time (I already have) agonizing over the wasted opportunities, the chances this show has squandered over the course of 23 episodes.  A show that’s so beautiful to look at (and few are so beautiful as this one) and is capable of such subtle and moving character drama is a rare thing to be treasured.  It’s an elusive and rarely seen threatened species – and yet, most of HanaIro’s run has been wasted on silliness, driven by distraction.  I could easily rhapsodize about how much better this would have been as a one-cour series, with all the enforced discipline that implies.  But I won’t – I want to talk about why this was such a great episode and why it worked so powerfully, not why it should have come two months ago.

As is usually the case when I blog this show, I don’t know who the episode writer was – but I’ll certainly be surprised if it wasn’t Mari Okada (Edit: surprisingly it was Nishimura Junji, whose eps have not been among my favorites). That hasn’t been a guarantor of success by any means, but her absence has pretty much guaranteed the episode won’t be the classic this one was.  I was immediately transported back to the feelings of episodes 11-12, when Ohana went to Tokyo and the series achieved it’s greatest dramatic heights.  The focus this time was squarely where it always needed to be when the chips were down – on Ohana confronting the challenge of growing up, and on the continuing saga of her relationship with Kou.  Clearly, then, Satsuki is a character whose presence is needed to really make this drama fly, and she’s a character I’ve completely come full circle on since the series began.  She – like Minchi – will call BS, and there’s been a ton of BS in this show.  But unlike Minchi Satsuki has a sense of always being in control, and she uses her sharp tongue like a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer.  She’s smart, she’s morally ambiguous, she’s damn funny and she’s also intricately involved in all of the most important conflicts driving the plot.

It was interesting to see her used as a device to drive the Ohana-Kou storyline forward at long, long last – but it totally worked.  There were certainly shades of Mrs. Robinson in her meeting with Kou (as there were with Tohru, for that matter) who seemed to have a blush on during their entire meeting, and some fine comedic moments as well – such as her telling Kou that they weren’t about to watch porn together.  But really, it was a way to show that Kou hasn’t moved past Ohana at all, and for Kou to find out that she hadn’t moved past him either.  Satsuki and Kou are alike in that both love Ohana and both have been absent from her life, and would like to get back into it.  If there were any question of Kou’s devotion, the coffee should have answered them – rather than having “the same tastes as an old man” as Satsuki put it, Kou simply didn’t want to forget the taste of the crappy fast-food coffee he’d drunk the last time he saw Ohana.

Not coincidentally, as Kou was drinking coffee Ohana was also drinking what she’d had that night – tea and Coke.  Ganbare, Ohana – don’t lose to Coke!  The fact that she was drinking it with “Takako Oba-san” was made bearable by the fact that she doing on board a train to Tokyo, there to meet with the two most important missing pieces in her life to answer the two great questions of her life.  That Takako was on her way to get back the money she’d lost to the crooked producer (and blamed Enishi for losing) was incidental, a plot contrivance – but that’s fine, because it contrived to help a plot that needed it desperately.  For what it was worth this was both her apology to Enishi for not doing a better job helping Kissuiso financially and to let Okami-sama know that she wasn’t giving up keeping the inn open and taking it over.

This is what I always thought HanaIro was – a story about Ohana facing the difficult challenges of growing up and about her relationship with Kou.  Kissuiso was a great escape for her, but ultimately, Ohana has to face reality and make choices.  What about her mother – is it OK simply to live apart from her one surviving parent?  If she and Kou love each other (and it’s pretty clear they still do) are they willing and able to overcome the challenges that fate has thrust in their path?  Ohana is only too happy to butt in on other people’s lives and problems but has largely avoided confronting her own, but with her Grandmother’s choice to close Kissuiso and the fact that one of her unanswered questions is literally confronting her across a pedestrian bridge in Tokyo, zero hour has come.  Hard decisions are going to have to be made.

I’ve said all along that I’d be satisfied if the Ohana/Kou storyline received closure, even if the closure isn’t exactly what I want – and that’s still true.  I was worried for a while, but it looks as if that at least will happen.  Now that we’re here, though, as I suppose I always knew I would I find myself sincerely hoping that Ohana and Kou end up together.  The fact is, they clearly love each other and at their age, that should be enough to give it a go.  Their respective flaws are obvious.  Kou is too nice, too deferential, too unwilling to impose himself on Ohana’s life and pressure her at the risk that he might be doing so unwanted – yet he loves her dearly and worries constantly about her happiness.  Ohana is a mess, lacking in self-confidence and overcompensating wildly, and terrified of commitment.  Yet she loves Kou and always has, and never despite the pains of distance has he left her deepest and most meaningful thoughts.  I’m pulling for them, despite the fact that it still seems like a longshot to me.

But at this point I’m happy just to care again – it’s been a long time – and yet, a big part of me is trying to resist giving in.  I’ve been burned too many times, and I know Okada is more than capable of ripping my heart out and stomping on it with an ending as silly and infuriating as so much of the meat of this series was.  It would have been much easier to move on, to sever any emotional ties to this show and be free of it.  Yet here I sit, hoping not to be hurt again.  Please, Okada-san – give me another omurice ep next week so I can be free of your curse once and for all!

[HorribleSubs] Hanasaku Iroha - 23 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.11_[2011.09.04_16.00.02] [HorribleSubs] Hanasaku Iroha - 23 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.02_[2011.09.04_16.01.54] [HorribleSubs] Hanasaku Iroha - 23 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.15_[2011.09.04_16.02.06]
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  1. i

    currently I felt that the storylines are starting to merge together, with Ohana's newly minted au- I mean 'big sister' Takako shining off the Shijima women's spirit in pursuit of that producer…

    So who felt that the preview for next week is ANOTHER troll?
    …and are we going to see Ohana going back to Kissuiso to see Sui one last time with both Satsuki AND Ko in tow soon?

  2. It looks to me as if Kou is at Kissuiso in the preview, but who knows – this show has some of the trolliest previews ever.

  3. A

    Hmm.. I always thought your reviews were overly critical but this episode just showed how while those episodes you hate so much may not have live up to your expectations in an episodic basis, they were critical to the show as a whole.

    I mean, who would of thought that movie arc you hate so much would become a critical driving force for Ko and Ohana? For me the reason why I can never hate an episode of Hanasakau is because I've all enjoyed all of its little bits and peices which paints a mosaic of the entire show and this episode just vindicated it for me.

    My impression with your reviews is that you only care about Ohana side of story and if the episode wasn't specifically about her it was a black mark.

  4. I respectfully disagree. I think that impression of my position is wrong, although I think Ohana's episodes are the most important. My problem certainly isn't a few episodes about side characters in a two-cour series – but it is a problem if the main character becomes basically irrelevant for 10 episodes as happened here.

    There's also the problem that most of those eps about the side characters (and side dishes) weren't very good, and some of the characters aren't very good either. The fact that the movie arc was referenced as a plot device here doesn't mean those eps themselves were any better or worse than they were (in my view they weren't very good) – it just means that premise provided a convenient plot contrivance, as I said in the review. It could as easily have been anything else, as long as it was an excuse to get Ohana to Tokyo – the actual contrivance itself was beside the point.

  5. A

    I was specifically talking about the movie video with Satsuki and Ko and to a smaller extent, Minko and spinach. The fact that this show never forgets about past incidents weather good or bad is something I don't see often. I respect your opinion but I can't say I have ever outright hated any episode, they are just too fun so it's a bit disconcerting when I enjoy an episode and then I look forward to reading your review which I really like, only for you to blast it to pieces. Though I'd agree the episodes greatly vary in quality, I never felt "this episode is so bad" feeling.

    On a side note, Sui's late husband kind of reminded me of Ko. If he ever goes to Kissuiso, I hope she makes the comparison.

  6. l

    We finally reach Ko X Ohana arc. No matter how weird I think it is to see them get together again so easily, yet some how I felt it so natural at the same time. There are a lot of times where I feel (by RL standard) some of the things happen in Hanasaku is too ideal and yet it felt so natural. Let me put some examples out:

    1) Satsuki being a selfish mother and yet Ohana forgive her too easily

    2) Minchi was being very difficult friend and yet Ohana seem to dismiss all her bad point

    3) Takako is conned of a lot of money and easily got it back.

    4) Ohana dump(somewhat) Ko and Ko ACTUALLY wait for Ohana until the final episode to get back together.

    With all things said, I can safely said this is one of my favourite anime this season. Now if only all the unrelated side story character is out of the way, it will be perfect.

    P.S. I am so glad that the Beanman does not have his own side story, although last episode and this episode he plays quite a big role. It actually make me feel like it's possible.

  7. Anon, fair point – the DVD was actually nicely used this episode. Though that didn't make the two ep arc it came from any more entertaining! 😉

    Ikaze, coincidence is definitely all over this anime. It's really a fantasy as much as a slice-of-life, IMO.

  8. J

    I can't wait for a SatzukixKou Doujin with Satzuki giving Kou a "Test Drive" for Ohana's sake. That's HOT. I was expecting her to make some comment about being an older more developed Ohana, but I think my thoughts were on the wrong place when watching that part.
    The preview for next episode with Okami laying down and closing her eyes followed by clip of Ren, Takako, and Enishi had me worried. (Is Okami dying next episode?)

  9. "Matsumae-san – you're trying to seduce me…"

  10. B

    I don't think any images of the preview is showing Kou at Kissuiso , all the images of Kou are at the pedestrian bridge including that of Ohana crying.

    You know its very tempting to write a Satzuki x Kou are watching a porn movie together story.
    "Are you planning to do this with my daughter? You can tell me, I'm pretty open minded about this sort of stuff" awkweird. :p

  11. A

    Frankly I'm kinda excited if Ko comes to Kissuiso. I mean to the staff's perspective, he's pretty elusive character. He is Ohana's "boyfriend" that she always brings up but never met. Right now Ko isn't even a person but a faceless persona who gets Ohana's heart thumping that no one else can. I bet all of them has already built some sort of image of him in their minds and I'd love to see whether he will live up to their expectations or not.

  12. d

    Taking a breath of a cigar. The exhale felt so good. Let's hope the next inhale won't burn my lungs.

  13. Dude, most folks – myself included – don't inhale cigars. Savor the flavor, and blow it out…

  14. P

    Sounds like I did the right thing when I dropped this show at episode 5. :p

  15. A

    It seems Ko haters seem to be back in full force? Why do people have a problem with him? He's a generally faithful, caring and understanding guy who doesn't stutter around the opposite sex.

  16. Anon, I've wondered about that myself. Why do so many people hate Kou so much? Some of the posts on AS are among the silliest and unintentionally funniest I've ever seen.

  17. l

    I personally don't hate Kou, just feel bad for him since Ohana let him wait until final episode before she finally give him some sort of answer. Did my post come out as Kou hater? I think most of the peoples opinion is the same as me, is it not?

    P.S. Then again if Ohana didn't wait for Kou and went out with another guy like the couple in "5 Centimeters Per Second". I'll probably be in a rage…..I'm such a difficult customer to please :)

  18. No, I don't think your post comes off that way at all – I'm really talking about some of the posters over at AS.

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