Ohana begins to learn the ropes around the inn, but pushy customers and misunderstandings with her co-workers seem to foretell a bumpy road ahead.
What They Say
Hanasaku Iroha centers around 16-year-old Ohana Matsumae who moves from Tokyo to out in the country to live with her grandmother at an onsen ryokan named Kissuisou. While restarting her life there initially seems daunting, Ohana beings working at the inn, makes friends with the other employees and watched her life take an unexpected twist.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We start with a flashback, as Ohana recalls her earlier childhood, when she had no one to rely upon. This does much to explain her current personality. It seems that her willfulness and proclivity to charge straight ahead on her own (without much thought for the possible consequences) is derived from her trauma as a child, where her mother was not only completely unreliable, but tried to instill in her daughter the belief that no one can be relied upon, and thus, you must do everything yourself.
Slapping is out for the moment, and waitressing is in. The Manager (seems more suitable than Grandma) puts Ohana under the guidance of Nako, the quiet one, who is now to instruct her on her duties at Kissuisou. Unfortunately, Ohana takes her belief in herself and her attitude of relying upon no one else to an extreme, which results in the usual consequences. While she attempts to do a good job of cleaning in the morning, she ends up upsetting a guest, a rather pushy author who claims that his draft manuscript has suddenly gone missing. He manages to extort a free stay out of the Manager, who, of course, scolds Ohana. Further, when Minko makes a mistake in the kitchen, which possibly ruins the prospect of the staff breakfast, Ohana takes the initiative to cook them breakfast herself, which earns her some plaudits from the staff, but again does nothing but drive Minko to declare her desire for Ohana's death yet again, since the incident works to embarrass her.
Ohana can't help but charge blindly ahead, and the next one she runs into is Tohru. Or rather, he asks her to come along with him on a short road trip to pick up some things. Along the way, in his rather tactless way, he tries to point out to her the problem with her attitude, but Ohana is unfortunately far too self-absorbed to listen to his words. Some of what he says does sting her, and she tries to fire back, which almost results in the end of the show. But before we start to develop any serious animus against Ohana, the writers pull back from the precipice, and show us that deep down inside, despite her being far too self-centered, Ohana is a good person. So, it must be time to run away and think a bit. After which Ohana returns to the inn and tries to clear the air with Minko and Nako. Whether it will have any effect will be seen in the future.
We end on what at first seems like a hopeful note, with Ohana seemingly finding the missing manuscript of the author, except that the so-called "novel of the century" turns out to be something that would not be fitting reading for any but perverted adults.
In this episode, we have what appears to be the standard operating procedure for the early portion of the show: Ohana is going to charge ahead like a blindfolded bull in a china shop, oblivious to the damage she causes to herself and to others, even if her intentions are good (you know what they say about the paving on the road to hell...). Still, it is also quite apparent that this is not how things are going to stay long-term, as Ohana has already shown the inclination to make the changes necessary to stop being so insensitive and inconsiderate about others' feelings and how her actions can impact negatively upon them. For the moment, the show is playing out more along the lines of farce than serious drama, as Ohana is an exaggerated whirlwind of emotions. I give some credit to the writers for willing to take something of a risk earlier in this episode, as we see that Ohana's mistakes are not entirely due to others' being unable to read her intentions, instead being the all-too-expected results of her self-absorption and inability to take other people's feelings into account before trying to "better" their lives for them.
Fortunately, we don't wallow in piling on the heroine. Of course, this little detour into Ohana's shortcomings is a well-known device, making the protagonist more sympathetic by demonstrating that she is not a perfect being, but instead human like the rest of us, capable of making mistakes and filled with human foibles. That done, the writers can start to work again on building up her positive side. The upset author staying at the inn provides us with a standard stock villain, and his appearance seems well-timed to remove and refocus the audience's ire away from the Manager, whose harsh treatment of Ohana in the opening episode elicited a flood of commentary among viewers. This would seem to signal that Grandma is to be rehabilitated at some point, and not cast as the fount of all evil that some might have expected. Unless the writers are planning to go in a very dark direction at some point later in the series.
The second episode does not quite grab the viewer as strongly as the first one did, but then for a show of this sort, which has a long run ahead of it, that is no surprise. Ohana continues to try to move ahead with her life, but continues to hit speed bumps on the road. Still, it appears that she is taking some of the necessary steps to address her own shortcomings, though it may yet be a long time before she can truly leave behind the baggage of her past.
Apple Mac Mini with 1GB RAM, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles