Hanasaku Iroha 26 (Final): Budding Futures

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This is the episode we’ve all been waiting for. Will Ohana finally muster up the courage to match what her yakisoba plate is trying to tell Ko about her feelings for him? Will either party (Sui vs. za warudo) ever win and will Kissuiso actually close or continue to prosper after the days leading up to the Bonbori Festival? More after the jump to find out!

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Ohana’s face explained it all this past week. Contrary to what this scene was explicitly implying, I thought it was a great snapshot of emotions that portrayed everything that happened in this final episode: withdrawal because of being unable to accept fate and moving on, embarrassment from being unable to easily let out one’s emotions, love from all of the memories and events experienced up to this point, anger because those memories will soon be the only thing left to remember those moments, and sadness for a chapter in these characters’ lives coming to a rather dramatic close. It’s rather ironic, since Ohana has been wishing for drama to come into her life since we were first introduced to it and all those involved. Twenty-six some odd weeks later and she got a culmination of that plus that awesome feeling of not wanting the chapter in her life to advance.

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Nevertheless, the staff of Kissuiso slowly bid their farewells in a rather chirpy mood – a rather stark difference from their initial feuding with Sui about the planned inn closure. I’m not too sure how many people can relate to a situation like this, but I sure can. Seeing how the writers conjured up this cast of characters for a behind-the-scenes look at how this fictional inn was run made for an evenly contrasted (albeit different industry) comparison to my real-life experience in retail fashion. In my case, working for the same two stores over a five-year time span creates bonds and friendships (and even familial relationships at times) to last and appreciate for a lifetime, even when establishments close like the retail company I used to work for did. For me, it was easy to see how the staff of Kissuiso could get so riled up about the closure, then seemingly dissipate their frustrations and ultimately accept moving on. It made for some very touching and heartfelt scenes that even Usagi Drop couldn’t match up to (I know, different sub-genres within slice-of-life; but still).

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I found it highly amusing how Sui won over Satsuki in Ohana’s inner battle to seek someone to look up to. But it definitely makes sense. The most impressive aspect of Ohana’s wish to be like her grandmother was how she remembered Sui’s hard-working and serious attitude in getting things done, while at the same time remembering her initial desires and dreams. Bravo for having a sensible person to look up to, Ohana. Now if only Ko won’t bite the dust early like the luck the women of the Shijima family have been having over their lifetimes (yes, it’s a crude statement, but it’s true if you think about it).

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Oh, Yuina. I’m going to miss you and your carefree attitude. Despite being a little loopy, she seemed like the only normal one of the four girls. And you have to admire her for wanting to study abroad (most likely France based on what we saw towards the end) and still figure out whether she really wants to stay in the inn business. I mean, she has to have the financial backing to do so; might as well, right?

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Huge kudos to Nako! Besides Ohana, she may have been the one to change the most since Ohana’s arrival to Kissuiso on day one. And now she has higher authority to keep Minko in check. Brilliant!

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Hate me all you want, but I’m still going to wave the Tomoe x Ren flag. HanaIro S2, here we come!

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I totally related to these few scenes of Sui walking around an emptied Kissuiso. Every time I walk by the places I used to work at (primarily because the economy is in such bad shape, no one wants to occupy the retail spaces), I get the same nostalgic feelings of how things used to be. And for Sui, it must have been a lot harder, considering how those walks really will be the final steps she’ll be taking in that inn either forever or until the time it takes for Enishi and Takako to reopen the place. Still, it was fitting how so many scenes in this episode paid homage to the first episode or two of this series; in particular, Ohana’s final scrubbing of the outdoor wood flooring compared to her initial scrubbing sessions in her track suit when she first arrived at the inn. Way to make your grandmother break down from all of the nostalgia, Ohana.

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All great things must come to an end, and everyone goes about their lives the best they can. Enishi and Takako take up jobs at Yuina’s family’s inn, Minko and Tohru land a job with none other then Nakagami-san of True Tears, Ren begins work in another kitchen with a larger staff, Tomoe continues to fumble over men at her new waitress job, Tarou continues to submit his novels for review while he works as some service position (fancy bar?), Nako teaches kids how to swim (how fitting), Beanman goes to live with his grandchildren (that look exactly like him, unsurprisingly), Sui goes to work as a waitress for another inn after proclaiming how she’s better of doing things herself rather than managing others, Satsuki… well, she stays the same, and Ko and Ohana actually start their lives fresh again at the same school. Am I missing anyone? I think that covers everyone.

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Will the Kissuiso reopen one day after all that transpired this week? I’d like to think not. The twenty-five episodes leading up to this point were a great chapter in the growth of the characters’ lives and an important phase that will shape their outlooks on life whether the inn is revived. And even then, I only see the likes of the older inn staff coming back (Enishi + Takako, Ren, Tomoe, etc.). If anything, I’d like to continue to see the younger ones succeed on their own paths (Minko catching up to and surpassing Tohru, Nako as an olympic swimmer?, Ohana… well, she actually might just go back to Kissuiso, being the old soul she seems to be). That’s how life usually works out anyway.

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But if the writers really wanted or had to based on sales (not likely), then I’m all for it. I said it before and I’ll say it again: HanaIro S2!! More drama (in the city this time) is fine with me! Or better yet, how about a hybrid True Tears meets the cast of Hanasku Iroha, dribbled in with some underground detective/hitman work, a la Canaan? The relationship between all three shows makes perfect sense now. =)

Final Impressions

What a series. The epitome of mostly all things slice-of-life that I enjoy so much has come to an end, and I’m at a loss for when another show of the same caliber will come along, much less for a two-season run. Put simply, Hanasaku Iroha is about waking up from what one perceives to be a dull and unrewarding life to realizing that the things one wants out of life are already available and waiting to be taken full advantage of. Ohana’s life was never really dull or boring and uneventful as we’ve come to realize after all these weeks; all she had to do was make something of herself and her surroundings, and in came all of the drama and unexpected occurrences she’d wanted for so long. Except instead of being a third-party witness to it all, she got to have the front row seats to her own misgivings.

In addition to allowing Ohana to develop her character (even during some agonizing moments like her Ko x Ohana bouts mid-season), the people that came into her life also made for a wonderful environment and colorful cast of memorable characters. Of all of the side characters to choose from, I still choose Yuina as my favorite because she got to be that very same third-party witness to everything as I’d previously mentioned, without actually succumbing to too much that was happening all around her. She was like those passive-observant characters you see in other shows that chuckle at the very end because they already knew the outcome of everyone’s lives in the story (Dogma comes to mind here, for some reason).

Animation-wise, P.A. Works does it again. They must have a penchant for doing cultural festivals because the Bonbori Festival (and even the high school cultural festival) was such a pleasure to watch. Everything from the music to the usage of color tones highlighting what it’s like to attend a festival in the mountains on a nice summer evening was captivating. Even the choir music from last episode began to make more sense as the festival pressed onward. And the animation didn’t really dip dramatically at all across twenty-six episodes either. Bravo, P.A. Works.

The series had some nice fillers that allowed for some amusing and in-depth character development (I’m looking right at you, Tomoe) and enough humor mixed in with the light drama to keep the show fresh for the most part. For any slice-of-life enthusiast, this will be a show to easily nab and enjoy. And if you had only one lesson to take from this series, it would be to remember what Ko said in the aftermath of the Bonbori Festival: the places you find yourself occupying are never there to begin with; you need to find them and build them yourself. In other words, go and make something of your own future, your own destiny. People come into your life for a reason and oftentimes when you don’t even know of their importance to you just yet. But surely enough, you’ll find your way and onto a road you built for yourself while knowing there will always be important people in your life to go back to and share in all that you’ve accomplished.

Final Rating: 9/10. High enjoyable and highly recommended. Just keep in mind not to mind Ohana dere-dere’ing herself over Ko-chan too much and you’ll be fine.

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