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Aug 072011
 

Episode 19 -

The one thing that has always stuck out about Hanasaku Iroha is that how it often manages to push character development in the most absurd, yet at the same time subtle, ways. It’s really quite something to see, where scenes that might be disguised as silly slice-of-life moments actually have a much more implicit meaning to them. This episode does just that with Minko, though not quite as subtle as the bits of development for other characters in this show.

The primary focus in this episode was Minko and her rather conflicting feelings regarding Tohru, as well as her rather antisocial position in relationship to her classmates. It’s actually quite the conundrum here, where Minko’s rather blunt personality sparks off a lot of drama and debate. Seriously though, is omurice that important? I’m guessing there’s something in Minko’s past that biases her against omurice, though I can’t quite imagine what the heck that would be. It’s kind of odd how Minko is working hard to try and impress Tohru, when the girl who wants to make the omurice is trying to do the exact same thing towards one of her own acquaintances. While the drama was a bit too heavy for my liking, it did it’s job of exposing quite a few of Minko’s problems and general demeanor towards certain things.

Aside from all the focus on Minko, this episode also tried to develop characters across the board. We see the rather small bits of development for Nako, Ohana, and even Yuina. While some of the development was a bit subdued and underwhelming, other bits of development were pretty darn good. Ohana’s odd dream, and her reaffirmation as a “shijima lady”, is subtling poking at some of her insecurities about herself. As for Nako, her involvement with the art exhibit turned out to be a rather genuine way of showing her struggling to grow a bit more capable. You could also tell that Nako holds some rather deep admiration for Ohana’s rather headstrong personality, and in retrospect, Nako’s character development episode last week does an amazing job at reinforcing this.

Anyways, this series seems to be continuing with it’s “one side character per arc” development setup, but the writing in this episode was surprisingly better than I anticipated. Hanasaku Iroha has a tendency to mask serious character development in some outrageous, silly plot events, and that mostly holds true in this episode. Don’t get me wrong, I still wish this series would bring some more focus to the star attractions (Ohana and the Shijima family), but the character development for these side characters is gradually improving.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.6/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Jul 312011
 

Episode 18 -

And here is another side character focused episode, this time with Nako starring as the main character. At this point, the basic story format to this series is fairly obvious, where PA works is intending for there to be a bunch of standalone side character arcs, mixed in with the occasional arc focused around the main heroine (Ohana). While I guess this does adds up to a nice blend of character development, at the same time these individual side character arcs lack impact, which certainly applies to this Nako-centric episode. This episode did have some pretty hilarious moments, yet if you considered Nako’s conflict at the same time, was also terribly generic. There was a clean, neat wrap-up for this one episode arc, and while the episode itself did have it’s merits and gave some insights on Nako’s personality, overall I think it was pretty lackluster.

The one thing that struck me as odd is how Nako lacked so much confidence in herself. Based on what I’ve seen of Nako, she always seemed to be a polite, and a rather reserved yet hardworking, waitress at Kissuiso. I never fathomed that she had such a huge complex about the outside world, where she feels uncomfortable everywhere aside from her home, and wants to change this two-faced persona she thinks she has. I do somewhat understand the perspective she is coming from though, so I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about her conflict, but at the same time I’m not exactly thrilled about the conflict either.

On the other hand, Nako’s pure level of naivety actually made this episode rather fun. She isn’t obnoxiously naive like some other anime characters (such as in No6…cough…), so her reactions to shopping for clothes and being hit on were rather cutesy and funny in a way. Nako looks pretty darn good in that new outfit of hers, and I’m not the type of person that looks out for fashion either lol. Ohana, Nako, Minchi, and Yuina getting hit on by a group of guys; now that was something I wasn’t expecting, but Yuina’s coldhearted “just go die” and Nako’s flustered cutesy escape were both hilarious. Nako’s “nice” insults to Ohana were pretty hilarious too. Nako can really blab on and say some rather unexpected things, eh?

Aside from all the fun, the episode explores some of the merits to Nako’s rather reserved, shy nature outside of her home. Though Nako lacked confidence in herself, the manager fittingly points out that Nako is thoughtful of others in her own little way, and is still a respectable waitress in many aspects.

Now, the flower-viewing incident that Nako had earlier in the episode was a completely cliche and obvious setup for the manager’s method of comforting Nako, but at the same time, I think it’s a rather fitting way for a cheerful girl like Nako to gain some self-esteem. The character development for Nako was fairly well done, but another important thing to note here is how this episode did an excellent job at describing some teenager anxieties and worries. At heart, One of Hanasaku Iroha’s main themes is that this is supposed to be a show that explores the growth of young girls throughout their teenager years, and in that aspect this series has done a fairly decent job. I guess the more standalone-arc focused nature to this series does have it’s merits by exploring things from several different perspectives, and that is one thing I do appreciate. In the end, though, I would prefer some more focus  and continuity to the plot, coupled with less standalone arcs.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.6/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Jul 242011
 

Episode 17 -

Well, the conclusion to Enishi’s arc turned out to be much more uneventful than I had anticipated, with a much more calm outlook on the events that transpired here. As many have suspected, the movie filming that Enishi was so hyped up about ended up being a complete scam. Now, I don’t know how a bankrupt director managed to trick an entire movie production staff (complete with actors and everything), but the situation turned into quite the mess. However, the fallout from the fake movie wasn’t all high tense drama or anything of the sort, but rather, it was simply Enishi reflecting upon his actions and trying to take responsibility for everything. While I do somewhat admire Enishi’s initiative and motivation here, he somehow still makes himself a complete bumbling idiot in this episode. In the end though, this episode was meant to take charge of developing Enishi’s character a bit, as well as develop his relationship with the consultant, and in that aspect this episode was good at subtly pushing both of their characters.

Like I said earlier, the big problem this episode was how the movie production ended up being a complete fake, with the director running away with the advanced payment that Enishi had the manager pay. While the money is important due to it’s large sum, the more important thing to note here is how Enishi’s first major attempt at taking charge and aiding the inn ended in complete and utter failure. Considering how optimistic and hardworking he has been with regards to this production, I feel somewhat bad for the letdown that this project turned into. While this was a small little disaster with all blame on Enishi, to be fair, he does try and do the right thing and take responsibility for everything.

All of this led up to a rather odd conversation with the consultant. While it’s been obvious that Enishi held some sort of inferiority complex in relation to her sister, it hasn’t been as noticable as it was in the heated conversation between the consultant and Enishi. Seriously, the level of passion in Enishi’s weird statements probably could’ve rivaled some of the bolder statements Ohana has made in the past. That being said, the consultant proved to a surprisingly good outlet for Enishi’s strange emotional rant. You could tell that he is definitely maturing a bit more as a character. He still holds a naive worldview that makes him seem like a complete idiot, yet at the same time you could see that he is growing up and trying to face his problems head-on, all while being with someone he trusts (the consultant). The bigger message to this episode pretty much is how Enishi is finally turning into a proper adult, although with some major hiccups along the way.

In the end, this was a rather subtle, quiet and very uneventful little episode that was awesome at pushing Enishi’s character development. Oh, I should also note that there are some rather strong hints that the Enishi’s feelings towards the consultant might not be as unrequited as they may seem. However, I’ll be rather honest here and say that both Enishi and the consultant aren’t exactly characters I cared much for. No matter how you spin things, the main point to this series is seeing Ohana’s emotional journey from her time in Tokyo, to her life as a waitress in Kissuiso, and how her worldview gradually changes over the course of time. Some of these side stories are marginalizing her role a bit too much for my tastes, especially this arc. While I don’t mind side characters getting character development, this super-focused “one arc per side character” approach is bugging me, whereas I would’ve preferred a much more balanced approach. The arcs where several of the characters got more heavily involved in the story have proved to be the most memorable in my mind, as opposed to this arc’s “Enishi and consultant only” approach. Maybe I’m just being too picky…

Overall Enjoyment: 3.7/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Jul 172011
 

Episode 16 -

Hrm, well I’m not quite sure on what to say about this episode. It was an episode devoted to Shijima Enishi, the manager’s son, which is kind of a surprise considering how he has played a rather minor role for most of the series. What makes this episode rather suspicious is that, while it delves into Enishi’s past and development as a character, this “movie filming” seems really odd for some reason. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something feels kind of off about the entire situation, though it might just be my mind playing tricks on me. As for the rest of the regular cast, they’re just enamored with the idea of a movie being filmed at Kissuiso; this episode was essentially completely devoted to Enishi and his feelings about the inn, as well as him trying to be a responsible guy since he was put in charge of the movie ordeal.

The main focal point of this episode is about Enishi’s rather complex feelings on both his childhood and upbringing in the shadow of his older sister, and how he is trying to pull through and be responsible for something. It seems that he has a inferiority complex of sorts, where he feels that he isn’t talented enough to run Kissuiso. To an extent I would have to agree on his notions of no talent, but this episode showed that he at least has devotion and a good work ethic towards what he does. He puts in honest effort into what he does, which makes him surprisingly more reliable than you might think.

At the same time, this episode managed to make the consultant NOT the most obnoxious character in this series. Even the porn novelist took things more seriously, which is a rather stark contrast to how silly and annoying these characters were in past episodes. They actually contribute a reasonable amount to the story, and complement Enishi’s hardwork at trying to make this movie a success.

On the other hand, while the silly characters get serious here, the normal focus of Hanasaku (Minchi, Ohana, Nako) are the ones goofing off and having fun. It’s refreshing to see them goof off and have fun. After all the drama they’ve been seeing recently, some goofing off is always nice to see. High quality animation never hurts either, with the scene where they were fooling around in the pool having some beautifully smooth animation.

Like I said though, I get the feeling there might be some sort of catch to this entire movie production thing, though it only remains a suspicion as of now. The most notable indicator would be the phone call that was ringing at the end of the episode, which was portrayed in a way to heighten a rather ominous feeling. Another potential, and somewhat more subtle, hint would be Beanman’s mentioning of the movie “Pale Flower”, which Mariko Kaga played a role in. According to the wiki, the two main characters for this movie “become involved in an intense mutually destructive relationship”. Hopefully that’s just a red herring, and this movie filming goes off without a hitch. Aside from those suspicions though, this episode was a solid development episode for Enishi, and revealed a lot about both his character, and how he relates to his overachieving family.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

P.S. The broom flying was a Harry Potter reference right? I still need to go watch that movie… =_=;

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Jul 102011
 

Episode 15 -

Hrm, well it seems that this episode was much less direct than I expected with it’s confrontation between Ohana and Yuina. Nevertheless, the episode did focus on the clash in the ideologies of Ohana and Yuina, only that Yuina figured out how Ohana felt based on seeing her hard at work voluntarily working as a waitress. This episode was good at showcasing both Ohana’s progress as a waitress (and her newfound love for her job and new home), as well as showing a good amount of character development for Yuina. Considering Yuina’s scant appearances in this series, seeing her get some good character development is definitely appreciated, but I get the feeling she won’t really be coming back into the big picture for a while.

Last week’s episode preview was, once again, somewhat of a red herring. Based on it’s tone, I had expected some sort of heated debate between Yuina and Ohana, but go figure that it ended up that the entire situation was resolved in a much more quiet (albeit normal) manner. I guess that’s what happens when I go to far and speculate ヽ(´ー`)┌

In the end, though, Yuina still showed a fundamental difference with Ohana in values and beliefs with regards to hard work, and being a waitress in general. Her blatant disdain for the profession does reflect on her “never worked before” status, and it does add a little layer of complexity to her persona. Yuina does realize that she’s never really worked before, so she doesn’t have quite the experience necessary to criticize the job, yet at the same time she has seen it being done enough to dislike how it looks. It’s kind of surprising how Ohana ended up being a foil for Yuina, but maybe that’s just because I’m used to seeing someone else be the foil for the main protagonist (in this case, the positions are reversed).

Ohana’s earnest personality and good work ethic do send a powerful message to Yuina, and definitely contradicts Yuina’s own notions of waitresses and such. Not to mention, how Ohana managed to get both Minchi and Nako, as well as a bunch of her other classmates, to rally behind her and help out, sets up a huge contradiction between Yuina’s notion that “because it’s tough work, nobody wants to do it”. I guess, in the end, it all really boils down to having a passion for your work.

The way in which the episode went about to change Yuina’s perspective of things was a bit roundabout and subtle, but it was a more natural way of letting things unfold, which I really do appreciate. As a whole, this episode was a bit more quiet and introspective at times, yet it did manage to keep things fun with the typical silly jokes we’ve been seeing in Hanasaku for a while now. And of course, once again, Ohana captures the spotlight in this episode, mainly due to her feisty attitude and strong personality.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.7/5

P.S. At this point, I’m just not going to watch the episode previews at all. They are far to unreliable to really reference too much (especially for this show =_=; )

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Jul 032011
 

Episode 14 -

Hahaha, well this certainly was a fun episode. Yet at the same time, this episode proved to be rather insightful about Yuina. Yuina hasn’t really played much of a starring role in this series so far, so seeing an entire episode devoted to her feels a bit strange, but is definitely a welcomed development. This arc does seem to be poking at what’s underneath Yuina’s “too happy” exterior persona, where her thoughts do seem to be a bit more down to earth and realistic (maybe even a tad dark). Along with the much needed development for Yuina, there was a ton of light fanservice scenes, and tons of comedy centered around Minko. What’s interesting here is that this episode does seem to be setting things up for a confrontation between Ohana and Yuina next week, which is definitely a turn of events I didn’t expect.

A vast majority of this episode’s screentime was devoted to silly antics, mainly centered around Yuina’s super bright and cheery personality. Her cheery way of doing things in a carefree manner is almost unbelievable at times, though it does mostly fit in with her character. What was very surprising here, though, is how even though Yuina outwardly shows a cheery persona, there are huge hints showing that deeper down she is more uncertain about how she wants to live her life. At least, the pressure from her position as the heiress for a famous inn certainly is starting to visibly show here. Her reactions to Ohana’s comment about wanting to become a waitress, or Yuina’s comments about how you need to be motivated and really like what you do, just reek of Yuina’s desire to decide her own path in life. The restraints and expectations put on her due to her family status has created a sort of two-faced persona in Yuina.

This episode also does do a decent job of showing the contrast between Ohana’s straightforward, honest and hardworking personality, and the values that Yuina holds in her heart. You could just tell that there is a conflict on the horizon between the two, and when it breaks loose it’ll probably be one heck of a clash. I’m making this assumption based on the next episode preview though, and we all know how Hanasaku’s episode previews tend to be red herrings. I guess we’ll see for sure what happens next week.

As for the light hearted parts of this episode, it seems that Minko suffered the most. Of course a lot of her suffering was done at the hands of Ohana and Yuina, all for some very embarrassing and funny scenes. I couldn’t stop laughing only a few minutes into the episode, which just speaks for itself on how over the top some of the stuff going on in this episode was.

Either ways, this episode proved to provide character insights for Yuina, which I might add were sorely needed after her lack of screentime in the first half of this series. The episode was a bit generic in terms of humor and such, but it was still nonetheless a fun episode. As for how things will proceed from here, I wonder what will happen between Yuina and Ohana. Oh, and I wonder if this arc is a signal about Yuina finally becoming more involved in the actual main plot… Who knows ヽ(´ー`)┌

Overall Enjoyment: 3.7/5

Screenshots, new OP and ED are later in the post.

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Jun 262011
 

Episode 13 -

Well, well, another great episode. This arc in Hanasaku involving Satsuki has turned out great, with a lot of development for not only Ohana, but Satsuki and the Shijima family as well. In particular, this episode focused in on the Shijima family’s rather complex web of relationships, and was quite well done. I had expected this episode to be messy now that Satsuki was returning to visit her childhood home, and while she DID do some crazy stuff, she did it all in a way that was actually with good intentions. There was quite a bit of hilarity in this episode as well, thanks to Satsuki’s presence. The one thing that I’m sure fans will be a bit upset with is how Ohana openly shouts out that she’s going to give up on Kou (for now, at least).

Satsuki has really managed to redeem herself as a parent in my eyes, at least in the past few episodes. Where before it just seemed that she was an outright irresponsible parent, we’ve been seeing a more complex side to her that shows that even she, indeed, thinks things through because of her status as a parent. She may not show it in the best or most conventional way, but nevertheless she does act like a good-hearted mother. Also, for all the crap she says about Kissuiso and her mother, you know how they say actions speak louder than words. Deep down, it’s easy to see that Satsuki does love both the inn and her mother, though she doesn’t openly show it. While Satsuki’s suggestions and criticisms of the staff were quite messy and crazy, at the same time her comments felt like genuine advice. It’s funny how her comments caused the staff trouble, only that the “trouble” was that they were surprised at how correct and proper her criticisms seemed to be.

Of course, Hanasaku could never not have some crazy goofy moments, and Satsuki’s charm assault on Nako was really funny, especially considering Nako’s reaction. What stole the show, though, was the heartwarming family meeting of the Shijima household’s ladies, complete with sake, beer, and soft drinks. Who knew anybody could get drunk on soft drinks, though seeing a drunk Ohana sure was something Lol. Surprisingly, while the scene was silly in tone, at the same time it was quite genuine and serious. Ohana may have wailed away her anxieties to Satsuki and her grandmother, yet at the same time you could see Satsuki’s respect for her mother, as well as how in the end even the strict Madam Manager cares for her beloved, yet troublesome, daughter. Adn not to mention, Satsuki is realizing how the mother that she has come to show respect for is growing old and frail, which seems to dishearten her a little.

The family drama in this week’s episode was very tastefully executed, even the bit mentioned by the Takako-obsessed uncle. On another note, it seems that Ohana has finally given up on Kou-chan for now, which I’m pretty sure fans won’t be too happy about. For some reason, it feels like Ohana isn’t really “giving up” on Kou-chan (she has to maintain the family tradition right? 5th time’s the charm, Lol). Rather, it seems that Ohana is prioritizing her newfound daily life at Kissuisou over everything she left back in Tokyo, signifying a true closure to Ohana’s past (for now, at least). Now that Ohana is fully integrated, and feels genuinely at home, at Kissuiso, I get the feeling this series might start focusing more on her school life and such there. And next week, it looks like we’ll finally get focus on the much neglected Yuina, only at a beach episode…? I’m kind of worried ^_^;;

Overall Enjoyment: 4.4/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Jun 192011
 

Episode 12 -

Considering that this is a continuation of the drama-packed episode from last week, oh boy did manage to play off of last week’s events rather well. The character development here is a tad subtle, but brilliantly built up to. The oddity here is that, while the characters do some rather odd things, for some reason it just fits in with their personalities, and adds a new twist to their persona as a whole. The scenes with Satsuki (Ohana’s mother) comes to mind the most, but Minko and Tohru are definitely included here as well. What makes this episode particularly memorable, though, is how for Ohana it has a genuine mix of teenage emotions and angst, mixed in with a dose of reality and introspective thought. It proved to really flesh out Ohana’s character quite a bit, and considering her rather strong outwards personality, is quite visible.

The main focal point here, of course, is Ohana’s mixed emotions about all of her relationships with the people around her. She does take a serious amount of time into considering how she feels about Ko-chan, the girl that has a crush on him, and even her own mother, and tries to see things from other people’s perspectives. The bit of alone time Ohana had to think things over really brought about some huge fundamental changes in perspective for her. I can’t quite describe it well with words, but Ohana definitely has started to see a slightly more mature worldview in comparison to herself before, where she realizes how she has never truly taken other people’s perspectives into consideration. Admitting, the Ohana moments here were cliche, but at the same time the execution was great.

Then there are the subtleties in the actions of Minko and Tohru, where Minko is gradually starting to get suspicious of Tohru’s feelings. Tohru definitely isn’t outright showing it, but he certainly does care quite deeply for Ohana. His suggestion to “kidnap Koichi” may have been very awkward and blunt at first, but it was a brilliant move on Tohru’s part. His suggestion really helped Ohana organize her feelings properly, and proved to be a good form of guidance for her. The anxiety Tohru does seem to have towards Ohana being alone is a small hint at a potential relationship between the two, and while I’m not quite the huge fan of the idea, this episode did a rather good job at fleshing out Tohru’s feelings a little.

The big surprise here, though, would be the final few scenes we saw with Ohana’s mother, Satsuki. Satsuki has always played the “bad mother” role, and even now I can say that she isn’t exactly being a good parent. But as I mentioned last week, she does have a rather mature perspective with regards to her daughter Ohana, and brings up some rather thought provoking details. I found it kind of funny that Satsuki, as a child, was in fact very similar to Ohana (though Ohana may win out a bit due to her stubbornness). Satsuki’s confrontation with her mother as a child is a stark reminder at how deep the mother-daughter relationship is here, and while they might not share the best relationship, they certainly are still family.

In the end, this arc proved to be a great little mid-series climax for this series. After the rather mediocre filler-esque episodes from before, this arc injected some fresh new energy into the series. The characters are developing oh so nicely, and I’m glad that we’re starting to see some of the complexity and depth to some of the character relationships here. As for the next episode, Satsuki returning home should prove to be a very, very interesting ordeal. I’m not quite sure how her family will react to her return, but it should certainly prove to be enlightening about the Shijima and Matsumae Families.

Overall Enjoyment: 4.3/5

P.S. Poor Minko, her “date” turned out to be one rather miserable affair, completely with several large meals and throwing up. =_=;

Screenshots are later in the post.

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