ACAA 2011: Hanasaku Iroha
11. Hanasaku Iroha
I feel like HanaIro should be higher up on this list. The production values are off the charts, to the point where I’d have no issue calling it the best looking show of the year. The country onsen setting and the three generations of women at the center of the story offer so much promise, particularly in the very strong first two episodes and the final story arc. But somewhere in the middle HanaIro seems to lose its focus one too many times and never quite lives up to its potential. What could have been a beautiful Anime of the Year contender ends up being a breezy slice of life show with occasional bursts of drama. Still, I don’t regret watching it, and it finishes so strong I think it’s worth checking out and judging for yourself. Or you can read my review of the series if you’d like to hear me continue whining about it.
[Every day for the next few days I’ll be posting my personal Top 12 anime of 2011 for the Ani Bloggers Choice Anime Awards. What is the ACAA? Click here to find out!]
Recapped!! Hanasaku Iroha 26 Final
Completing a beautiful circle.
The grand finale of HanaIro arrives as the Kissuiso crew (Sui included) finally gets around to Festing It Up, all loose ends are tied, and we’re left with one of the best final episodes in recent memory.
Everything about this episode is beautiful. Whether it’s the actual artwork and music portraying the Bonbori festival or the sentiments shared between good friends and family, it’s all just beautiful. I know HanaIro has put together a string of good episodes leading up to the finale, but this far exceeded my expectations. They did a perfect job resolving the remaining issues at hand: finding a satisfying solution to the Kissuiso succession and bringing Ohana’s journey full circle. In between there are some genuinely touching moments, particularly between Ohana and Sui, that just about left me in tears.
I’ve given HanaIro it’s fair share of criticism over the past dozen or so episodes I’ve been covering, but as the old cliché goes, all’s well that ends well. The fantastic final impression this episode left on me has already improved my perception of the series as a whole. I’ll be touching on that thought in my final review, but needless to say this was as good an ending as we could have hoped for.
Recapped!! Hanasaku Iroha 25
It’s hard to fest it up on three hours of sleep.
Tensions rise in this week’s HanaIro as the staff tries to handle a massive wave of customers and convince Sui they can run Kissuiso without her. Of course, only Ohana knows it’s not a matter of if they can handle it so much as if they want to, making everyone think she’s taken Sui’s side on the matter.
HanaIro really has stepped up it’s game the past few episodes, as this is the first time I actually cared about the whole succession plot line. The episode gives us a natural, unforced way to understand what’s so great about Kissuiso by simply taking it away. It was easy before to think they should just stay open, but as everyone is unhappily stumbling around doing things Enishi and Takako’s way, it makes you question whether Sui is right or not. Kissuiso was always a labor of love before it was a business, would it really be worth saving if it was the other way around? Fortunately everyone seemed to be on the same page by the end, but I definitely have a better appreciation for Sui’s point of view.
As we approach the ending, HanaIro has done a good job of leaving just enough conflict to be resolved in one episode. After building it up for most of the season, we will FINALLY get to fest it up as the crew departs for the Bonbori festival. I’m expecting plenty of drama, romance, tears and laughter in the final 24 minutes as we not only tie up the fate of Kissuiso but Ohana’s relationship with Ko. We’ll see if HanaIro can carry the quality of the past few episodes into the finale.
Recapped!! Hanasaku Iroha 24
Patching everything up for a happy ending.
HanaIro continues it’s appropriately paced final arc as Ohana is finally reunited with Ko, but the fate of Kissuiso hangs in the balance… nah who am I kidding, we all know it’s gonna stay open, right?
I mentioned appropriate pacing and HanaIro wisely picks up immediately where we left of last week: Ohana finally face to face with Ko. Their scene was maybe a little more vague than I would have wanted, but I guess in anime language “I want you to go to the Bonbori Festival” is pretty much a tacit “I Love You.” Ko seemed to understand, so I guess that’s all that’s important. I still think their relationship was left entirely undercooked, but they’re doing the best they can with the time they have left.
The other big issue of course is the whether Kissuiso will continue operations, but again, HanaIro is fooling no one here. Especially seeing that the issue is more emotional than financial, I’m sure they’ll find someway to make Sui understand that the Inn has become their dream as well. As to who will be running the place, well that I’m not so sure.
I’ve given HanaIro credit for being less predictable than your typical romantic-comedy-drama but it seems like we’re still on track for a happy ending regardless. Even Minko and Tohru finally found a way to connect. I think I’m OK that. A show as pleasant and generally unoffensive as HanaIro should probably go out that way.
Recapped!! Hanasaku Iroha 23
Ko is a nicer guy than any of us.
HanaIro continues it’s Endgame this week as we are quickly running out of episodes. Takako and Ohana return to Tokyo to clean up their respective messes, while Ko gets a mildly uncomfortable assist from Satsuki. Yeah, Ohana probably doesn’t deserve him.
This episode made me realize how badly Ko needed more screen time. It’s not that he’s particularly fascinating, it’s just that he’s the love interest of the main character and we’ve really only seen him a handful of times. He’s known Ohana for years and they’re supposed to have this close, special relationship, but as a viewer we never really get to see that. I found myself more invested in Minko and Tohru simply because we spent more time with them, and that’s probably not a good sign. But hey, I’ve been asking for more Ohana and Ko all season. We’ve got them now, I’ll take it.
The other issue brought to light this episode is Takako’s refusal to fade quietly in the background with the rest of the supporting cast. Aside from the obvious JUDO FLIP scene, her time with Ohana on the train had me a bit confused. Takako started out as sort of an antagonist, are we supposed to like her at this point? I still don’t think Kissuiso is going to close, but is there really anything that she can do to get Sui to hand it over to her? These are questions I didn’t really want to ask but we’ve spent probably a third of the show answering.
Ranting aside, this was one of HanaIro’s better episodes, featuring a good mix of drama and humor. The kind of episode I expected to see all series long but rarely happened. With only three episodes left we’ll see if they can finish strong.
Recapped!! Hanasaku Iroha 22
One love triangle down, one more to go.
If there’s one thing I will give HanaIro credit for is that it’s not predictable. OK, it’s also very, very pretty, but that’s not my point right now. In a perfect world, this episode would have ended with Einishi and Takako married, Ohana finally admitting she likes Ko, and Tohru telling Minchi that she has nothing to worry about since he likes her too. Well, only two out of three of those things happened.
While HanaIro always suggested Tohru might have a thing for Ohana, I never really took it seriously. Sure, there were a few moments like when he took care of her when she was sick, but I think most people just thought those were tossed in to add drama to the Love Pentagon. Looks like I was wrong! I actually felt really bad for Minko when Tohru broke the news to her, even if she kind of deserved a little retribution for her increasingly intense obsession with him. It will be interesting to see what happens with the three of them in the last few episodes. What if Ohana finds out that Ko has moved on, would she consider Tohru? I don’t think so, but they’ve gone out of the box enough times to make me wonder.
Speaking of Ohana, the whole recurring “one-sided crush” phrase was kind of irking me this episode. I mean Ko already said he loves her, he even held off dating his cute co-worker for months without an answer from her. I don’t know what else the guy could have done. Maybe it was just more of HanaIro’s intentional word mashing or something lost in translation, but it was still a little annoying. Of greater interest to me was learning the fate of Ohana’s father, I really don’t remember hearing about him before. It was just another piece of perspective we needed for understanding Ohana’s mother, again emphasizing the Shijima women are the most interesting part of the show.
The bombshell at the end about the closing of Kissuiso sets us up for the final arc, the much hyped Bonbori Festival. I’m going to venture a guess and say Kissuiso will NOT close and Sui may even hand the Inn over to Ohana. Maybe? We shall soon find out.
Recapped!! Hanasaku Iroha 21
There’s only a few episodes left, everyone hurry up and fall in love!
HanaIro gets romantic this week as Einishi and Takako announce their wedding and the Ohana/Minko/Tohru portion of the Love Pentagon heats up. I mentioned before I felt like too much time was spent on Einishi and the succession of Kissuiso, but it looks like they’re at least giving it a proper wrap-up. Hearing Sui’s story of how she came to inherit the inn with her late husband was one of the series’ more heartwarming moments and helps us to understand her as more than the cold, uncaring woman we saw in the beginning. It also reminds us that the three Shijima women are interesting, multi-faceted characters, and that HanaIro is much better when it stays focused on them.
Speaking of getting off track, the wedding is also a device to get Minko fired up about Tohru again. She’s still hung up on the fact that he mentions Ohana in conversation every now and then, clearly a sign that he’s in love with her… sarcasm aside, I won’t mind if Minko gets her man, but I think it would be more intriguing if Tohru wasn’t actually interested in either one of the girls. Minko would be left to feel the sting of rejection, much like the boys in her class she keeps turning down. It would be going down a less traveled path, which leads me to a much bigger point. *WARNING: RANT AHEAD, PROCEED WITH CAUTION*
My little intro sentence was inspired by one brief moment in this episode when Tomoe turns her gaze to Ran-san and suggests she may be interested in him. Where did that even come from?! Anime or otherwise, it drives me crazy when the writers insist that every character be paired off by the end of the story. I understand why they do it. They want all the characters to be happy and love = happiness blah blah blah but all it does is give us unrealistic, awkward, and out-of-the-blue moments like this one. On top of that, it’s simply a waste of time. Support characters exist to “support” the main cast. I really don’t need to know nor do I care what the chef who hasn’t said more than 10 words in 21 episodes has going on in his personal life. He could be single, divorced, happily married with three kids, it really has no impact on the rest of the show. That effort, and more importantly the viewer’s attention, should stay focused on developing more important relationships. *END RANT*
Judging by next week’s episode title, I may be right about Minko’s feelings being unrequited. It could also just be the writers trolling us. We will just have to wait and see.
Recapped!! Hanasaku Iroha 20
”It’s like I’m watching some teen drama.”
No recaps of Baka Test Ni and Penguindrum this week as I am away and trying to watch/blog strictly from my iPhone. Thanks to the magic of Crunchyroll, I will have the usual HanaIro and Steins;Gate coverage though.
After building up to the school festival, HanaIro tosses us a bone and gives us a little payoff for one of the series’ major relationships. Minko finally does something proactive about her feelings for Tohru, and as small as sending a message via omelette rice may seem, any bit of progress is big news in HanaIro. After last week’s blow up, I was expecting Minko to be overwhelmed by work and come crawling back to her classmates, life-lesson learned. Instead, Ohana gets involved and patches things up. Oh right, she’s the main character, I was starting to forget. I guess the show figured Minko had already learned that lesson and just needed a gentle reminder, but regardless I appreciated the slightly less predictable outcome.
One area that HanaIro always shines is the visuals, and this episode seems as good a time as any to mention it. The amount of color and detail, whether it was bland glasses girl’s art or something as simple as a bottle of ketchup, always manages to impress. It’s unfortunate the rest of the production hasn’t quite lived up to the visuals, but with a few episodes left we’ll see how far they can go.