Monday, September 26, 2011

Hansasku Iroha – 26 (End)

[HorribleSubs] Hanasaku Iroha - 26 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.28_[2011.09.25_18.48.31] [HorribleSubs] Hanasaku Iroha - 26 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.38_[2011.09.25_18.48.40] [HorribleSubs] Hanasaku Iroha - 26 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.17_[2011.09.25_18.50.31]
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I’ll be honest – I could spend a lot of time complaining about why this final episode of HanaIro being such a good one fills me with regrets about what might have been.  But I won’t – instead, let’s celebrate the fact that the series ended on a lovely elegiac note, striking just the right tone and hitting some real emotional home runs without trying too hard.
As a longtime Kou supporter, let me reach out to the legions of Kou haters and Tohru-philes now that the series has ended, with these simple words of reconciliation:

Neener neener neener.

Now that’s out of the way…  I was a pretty strong KoHana supporter as you know, so I was naturally pretty pleased about the way things turned out on that score.  While their relationship was left somewhat open-ended and – thanks to pervert Jiromaru being in the wrong place at the wrong time (which is anywhere on-screen, any time) – it was never sealed with a kiss.  But it was abundantly clear that those two crazy kids would be giving it a chance, which is all I was hoping for.  They’re 16, not 40 – there’s no reason they should worry about long-term commitments.  For now it’s enough that they were tested by living apart (and by alpha-male line cooks and megane-girls at bookstores) and never stopped thinking of each other.  It was never going to make sense for this series if they didn’t end up together, but I was certainly worried right up to the very end.

On the other hand, I’m pleased that their romance was not the primary focus of the finale, but rather handled in a very understated way.  This isn’t a romance series and never was, and what’s more, I’d argue that in the end the series wasn’t really about Ohana at all.  No, I think we were sold a bill of goods, and it was really Sui who was the main character.  And since the moments when she was at the center of the action were generally among the best the series had to offer, that’s fine.  In a way, she was the one constant that ran through the show and she provided all the best emotional moments of the finale.  I loved the scene where she walked through the Kissuiso saying goodbye to the empty rooms, and I loved the scene where she ran into Ohana who had “missed” her train, and broke down at last.  Ohana is the granddaughter who it turns out is so much like her, after all.  When she told Ohana she’d be waiting for her when she returned, I suspect in Sui’s mind she was thinking of the way her dear husband was waiting for her at the Kissuiso.

There were a few issues with the finale.  There was a bit of the “Return of the King” syndrome in that the episode felt like it had about 5 different endings, some of them five minutes in.  Of course with a long series like this one, it’s hard to wrap things up quickly and I’m certainly willing to put up with a bit of that in order for everyone to have a chance to say goodbye.  I also thought that the resolution of the closing of the inn was a bit too convenient.  Enishi will close it – but only for a while, with plans to reopen it later, and town will conveniently maintain the place as a historical landmark?  That’s a bit much for me, to be honest, and does detract from the emotional honesty of the resolution a bit.  Perhaps if it was made clear that it was meant to be one of those promises we make so everyone will feel better, never intending to keep – but I got the sense that isn’t the case, and we’re meant to believe that the inn will reopen someday.

They crossed the streams!
The pluses far outweighed the minuses though.  The finale was an instance where PA Works’ magic visuals really made a huge difference.  The Bonbori Matsuri (leave it to PA Works to capture all the magic of a Japanese festival – there’s nothing like it), the empty rooms at the inn, the fog…  The level of detail and sophistication in the animation was superb, and everything felt so real as a result.  This was an ending where it really only worked if you put yourself in the shoes of the characters and feel what they felt, and it was so much easier to feel the mystical pull of the matsuri and the sadness of those empty rooms because they were presented so beautifully.

I’m truly glad things ended on a high note with HanaIro.  This was a finale of subtlety, grace and restraint, and it left all the characters in a believable place.  It took a lot of patience to get to this point as a viewer, but I’m glad my lasting memories of the series will be mostly positive because of the way it concluded its business.

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10 comments:

  1. I really don't get "supporting" KouHana. Kou's such a nothing character. I mean yeah, I guess she likes him, but I can't really make myself care either way, since he is really nothing more than "that boy Ohana likes". Not that I would have wanted him to have more screentime, but excising the romance side of the plot would have made the show better, IMO.

    Of course, I still think that Ohana's ideal partner is a certain foul-mouthed tsundere with long black hair, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

    Still, good ending, and very fitting. Would have liked a flash-forward, but its fine without it.

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  2. I'm surprised to see that a Ko fan enjoyed this ending! I felt those two (Ko & Ohana) were sold immensely short for all the 26 episode build up. That being said I (proud Tohru fan btw *raffles pompoms*) was extremely happy with this finale. Partially because: Yay I wasn't subjected to excessive Kohana! Lol, but MOSTLY because the focus fell squarely where it should have ... right on Sui, her unshakable strength, and the legacy of Kissuiso.

    As much as I'm a Tohru supporter, I for one wasn't really hung up on him ending up with Ohana. To be honest as long as it was ANYONE ON THE PLANET BESIDES MINKO, I was fine. I personally can't stand a bratty one note tsundere ... and to me that's all Minko was.

    In any event, the Bonbori festival was stunning and I think this episode stayed very true to what the series promised us would be a "coming of age tale". It was lovely to watch not just Ohana but also her mother and grandmother, discover that even with age, we never really stop evolving.

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  3. Anon, I'm a bit puzzled by this notion that KoHana was sold short. He'd already confessed - she confessed to him. They ended the series walking off together. Did people expect them to have sex or get married? They're shy 16 year-olds - I never expected anything more than that they'd start dating.

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  4. @Guardian Enzo

    *shudders* Lord no, had they knocked boots or gotten hitched I would have probably flung my laptop out of the window in horror lol. I do think the few moments they were given were highly anticlimactic though. I mean they were hardly even allowed a proper conversation! We've known that Ohana liked Ko for what five or six episodes now? It wasn't like her saying it aloud was anything major. Confessions aside, I actually was left with the feeling that they weren't even officially dating in the end. Eh I dunno, I guess after all that Ko/Ohana drama we've been subjected to, I just expected to see those two go out with a bang ... figuratively of course.

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  5. I think that's a Kou haters perspective. ;-). From where I sit I thought their ending was very satisfying, for the reasons I laid out in the post.

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  6. But he's a complete nothing! There's nothing to him at all. He's a male shaped object, with "Ohana likes him" stamped on him. You whine about the "emasculation" of male characters, and then praise this cookie cutter character who has less personality than the Daikon Minchi spent half the episode peeling.

    I'm not opposed to the concept of Ohana being in a relationship with someone, but they never gave a reason for us to care.

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  7. Feel free to speak for all of "us" - I'm sure no one will mind...

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  8. @Guardian Enzo

    How so? I mean yeah I'll admit, if you said pick one: Tohru v Kou ... that would be a no-contest instant Tohru all the way for me lol. BUT I don't dislike Kou, he just doesn't do much for me as a character. I actually really enjoyed him in that one moment of victory roaring/manic sprinting out of the bus station after Ohana asked him to Bonbori ... all three seconds of it. I'm not a "Kou-hater" by any means tho, and I might be presumptuous in saying this but I highly doubt someone who WAS, would've cared to see ANY action with him and Ohana in the finale, and probably wouldn't be complaining that they weren't given enough closure ...

    To each his own tho, eh?

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  9. Anon - as I have no idea which Anon is which (why don't you guys use a name and a Gravatar?) I'm not sure what you're responding to specifically. But sure, to each his own - that's what opinions are for.

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  10. The miko was cute. The graphic scenes were majestic. The empty rooms were shouting emptiness and loneliness yet full of emotion.
    What more can I say. Great finish. Would have liked to see ohana back in the inn working but I guess they expected us to realize that it is going to happen. She is going to return. No need for any visual/audio confirmation. It is the feelings they bring through which matters.
    @Enzo: KouHana ending was nearly perfect. If they kissed in the room or if Ohana clings onto his elbow when they are walking to school it would have been better. Near perfect but not there.
    Of course, the best ending would a repeat of another SuiXSui's husband. Ohana X Kou comes back and makes a Kishanaso.

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