September 26, 2011

Hana Saku Iroha Finale: Until We Meet Again

Posted in Hana-Saku Iroha, Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:43 pm by meotwister5

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand. 

– Irish Blessing on Partings

The long awaited Bonbori festival has begun, and everyone’s trying to have a good time with the town’s central yearly attraction even with the spectre of Kissuiso’s impending closure hanging above their heads.  Ko meets Ohana again, and while sharing noodles shaped in a heart together she finally tells him in a few simple words what she should have said a long time ago.  Sui walks along her daughter Satsuki as they discuss their relationship, and ultimately Ohana.  The wishing plaques are hung as the cast look on to the fireworks, perhaps knowing full well that this may be the last festival they’re going to have together for a long time.

And a long time it will be.  Enishi mans it up to admit that he has a logn way to go to learn how to be an inn’s manager, and his wife agrees.  Beanman announces his retirement as the staff collectively realize that there is, indeed, a time to be together and a time to be apart.  For the sake of the inn they decide to close it for a few years and move on with their lives, perhaps one day coming back to return the inn to its former glory.  Ren enters a new inn, Minchi and Tohru become apprentices in a new restaurant, Nako goes to teach swimming to young children, Tomoe takes a job as a head waitress in a new restaurant, Jiromaru still pursues his dream of becoming a writer, and Ohana goes back to Tokyo to live with her mother.

At the station before their final parting, Ohana makes her promise to her grandmother, who will now work as a waitress again, that when everyone is ready to bring the inn back to life, she will come back, just like her grandmother, a better person.

As I have mentioned before, Ohana is so much like her grandmother, and at our closing she admits to herself just how similar their personalities are.  For all the friction between them she ultimately respects her and what she has lived through, accepting her and even wanting to become a woman like her.  Ohana has come to accept that, despite her habit of always finding other choices and ways, that we all have to accept some things to be eventual and, inevitably, correct.  It would be easy for her to again rebel and fight for Kissuiso to stay open, but as she learned more about everyone and her grandmother, she has come to accept that some things must indeed happen.  Enishi is right, he isn’t prepared, and it would be foolhardy to demand that the inn maintain itself under poor management.  It all comes back to the one final thing she has had to learn:  acceptance.  She has accepted that she must one day face Ko, and now she has accepted that the inn must, at least for a time, close.

The staff has fought rather valiantly for the past few days to keep the inn open, but in the end have conceded to the truth.  Sui will not be around forever, and they can’t expect to run the inn perfectly under the current circumstances.  They have accepted that they are perhaps delaying something inevitable.  One day everyone has to move on, to part ways, until perhaps the when the stars align and they can once again work together.  That day, sadly is not in the near future.  Many things must still be learned, must still be taught, before such a day could happen.  They all know that, and that’s why they accept.

As for Sui… well… the old matriarch is not without her own feelings on the issue, and in reality she is the one who feels the most about all of this.  This was her home after all, the home and inn she built with her late husband, and closing it down would be like closing down a big piece of her hearts, but she of all people knows in her heart of hearts that this wouldn’t last forever.  If she truly wanted to pass the inn on to the next generation, this sacrifice must be made for that.  That is her sacrifice.  That is everyone’s sacrifice.

The decision to close Kissuiso was most likely one that Sui had been mulling over for a long time, probably even before Ohana had even come to the inn.  What I surmise is that part of Sui’s decision in closing changed.  Previously it seemed possible that she had planned to close the inn at some point for good, but all that changed when Ohana came into everyone’s life, bring with her Sui’s estranged daughter.  Ohana was a grandchild she never knew existed, the daughter of the daughter she had all but disowned.  But she saw something in Ohana: she saw herself.  Perhaps the youthful exuberance she used to have when her husband was alive, that excitement mixed with worry as she struggled with him to turn an old rundown inn no one wanted into a respectable establishment.  Ohana came into the inn determined to make it her new home, her new life, to breath into it her own sense of life and living that would invariably change not only the inn but also herself.  She did what she had to do to make the inn functional and, ultimately, a place where staff and guests alike could find a place to live and relax.  She did it for the customers, for the staff, and for herself.

And when she saw her younger self in Ohana, she knew that there was hope for the inn when her previously unknown daughter first started to wipe the floors.  Her faith was restored not only in her but her son, and everyone else in the inn, that she could leave it in good hands one day.  That day might not be today, but that day would come.  Until that day, everyone will be better, and she will wait on that train platform when everyone, not just Ohana, comes back.

There has been very few shows in recent memory that had such drastic up and downs as this show had.  When the show sucked, it sucked somewhat badly.  When the show was stellar, it blew me away in more than one occasion.  I cannot be sure if it is the result of Okada’s script, the pacing, the staff, or the 26 episode length, but certainly this show had diamonds in the rough that in the end, shone above the mediocrity that the show would sometimes devolve into.  This episode proves that, that the writer and studio was capable of creating something noteworthy, something memorable, a finale worthy of a show that had such lofty goals and ultimately would succeed in some of them.  That is quite sad when I think about it, because if the quality of the first two episodes were maintained, this could have easily been one of my favorite shows ever.

That slight pang of disappointment does not detract from the show by this point.

What ultimately began as a show about a girl being displaced, exiled even, from the world she knew and transplanted into the countryside eventually became a story not just about her, but of a group of workers of 3 generations trying to make a home for themselves in the hustle and bustle of running an inn.  Personalities clash, tempers flare, quirkiness ensues, but in the end in our brief glimpse of a little less than a year in the lives of Kissuiso’s staff we learn just how these things have brought everyone closer and have made them a family.  We have perverts, workaholics, anger issues, domineers and the like, a motley crew indeed, but families are made of of such motley men and women.  At the end of the day the inn runs and runs fine because of these people, their conflicts, and their idiosyncrasies.

And when there is a time to be together, there is a time to part ways.  What happens at this time and beyond is no longer within our sights to see, but I fully believe that there will be a time for them to be together again, older, wiser, more mature, ready to come back together and put the inn back in business.  They may have parted ways to build new lives, but their days and memories of the inn will always be there, waiting, in it’s wooden halls, steamy baths and busy kitchens.

Kissuiso is their home, is it not?


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