Hanasaku Iroha Episode #04 (Mania.com)

By:G.B. Smith
Review Date: Sunday, April 24, 2011
Release Date: Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ohana finally gets to go to school and meets many new people including a young woman who could be her parallel world twin: the granddaughter of an owner of a hot springs inn. But the differences between them make it clear that they are not mirror images in any way.
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)
With the farce and melodrama of last week's episode now fully resolved, we move on. As has been hinted in the opening animation for quite some time, the high school-aged girls who work at the inn do have to go to school at some point. And that point is now, as Ohana appears in her new school uniform. She gets compliments from Enishi and the perverted Mr. Jiroumaru, who is now working at the inn to pay off his bill. Tohru the assistant chef, however, thinks that the uniform is too big for Ohana, making her look like an elementary school girl.
So, it must be time for the school comedy to start. And we get treated to the full run of school comedy cliches: Ohana is the new transfer student. When she is revealed to be from Tokyo, she suddenly becomes an intense center of interest to the other students. Her hairpins (bought for 300 yen, about 3 dollars) are the height of fashion seen in magazines and they notice that she had rolled up her skirt (which is something that real Japanese schoolgirls do only when they are not in school–in real life schools, there are students who monitor how other students are dressed, and if a girl came in with her skirt hiked up too high, she would be admonished to adjust it back to the proper length quite sharply). At the first class break, Ohana, who happens to be in the same class as Minko, would like to talk to her, but Minko quietly storms off, unwilling to so much as look for very long at Ohana. Ohana is too busy anyway, as she is first assaulted by a gaggle of girls who want to know all about her, and then two boys in the class, who want to know all about Minko, who is seen as something of an unapproachable princess. From this social scrum Ohana is saved by another girl who walks into the classroom, parts the other students like the Red Sea, and whisks Ohana away.
This is Yuina Wakura, one of the most popular girls in the school, and the heiress to the Fukuya hot spring inn. In comparison to Kissuisou, which is a modest and traditional place, Fukuya is a large, high end luxury resort that is known from tourist guides. Yuina, however, is not the serious type, studying hard to succeed her grandmother in the business. She prefers to have fun, which draws out Ohana's admiration. It seems that Ohana might have found a new friend. As for her old friends, Ohana has lunch with Nako, and they discuss Minko's popularity at school. Just as they are talking about it, Minko appears on a separate balcony behind the school, having been asked there by a boy who is trying to make his confession. As could be easily guessed, the boy is shot down, rather harshly as Ohana notes. But the boy persists, asking Minko what kind of guy she likes. She replies with a description that sounds very specific. It sounds very much like Tohru, though Ohana thinks that that is exactly not the person that Minko is talking about (Nako is much more on the ball, but then anime likes to have romantically dense heroines, it is practically a requirement). Later back at the inn, we see Minko working in the kitchen again, obviously nervous in Tohru's presence. Comic relief is provided by Ohana and Nako speaking to Tomoe, who apparently is jealous of any girl who has a boyfriend, since she hasn't been able to find a guy.
Fortunately, the show and its writers know that balance will be the key to maintaining the proper tone and tension to the work. The school adventures do not take up the entire episode, though I am certain that we will be seeing more of the dynamics there at some point. Having returned to the inn and work related to it, Nako and Ohana are sent off to Fukuya to discuss something with the staff there, on behalf of the neighborhood association. On the way there, they come across a very large bird, a grey heron, which freaks Ohana the city-deweller out, while Nako just takes its appearance in stride. But the situation is turned on its head when the pair head indoors and have to deal with people. Nako can barely operate, while Ohana is her usual bubbly self. When a very self-important and haughty older woman appears in the lobby of Fukuya asking about the girls from Kissuisou (we can assume that this is Yuina's grandmother, the owner), Nako cowers, but Ohana is there to step in front of her and shield her, offering a greeting when not offering one would have been seen as being rude. On the way back to their own inn, Nako tells Ohana why she started working at Kissuisou to begin with, that she wanted to overcome her shyness. This leads to some local history about a town festival, and then morphs into a conversation about nicknames when Ohana calls Nako "Nakochi," modeled after Nako's nickname for Minko, which is "Minchi." We also learn the original of that name, and, of course, it was a result of Nako's shyness.
At the inn, we get back into the relationships between the staff, and the obvious little love triangle whose bread crumbs are being laid. After Nako is called away by a telephone call, Ohana is left on her own to set the dinner in a guest room. As she is starting, Tohru comes along to scold her, telling her she's doing it wrong. He goes on to interrogate her about her school day, bringing up the heiress of Fukuya, noting how he finds it hard to believe that she and Ohana are the same age, since Yuina is, in his opinion, much more developed in her body. This fixation on Ohana's body, as we can note this is the second time this episode that Tohru has called attention to his opinion that Ohana's body is underdeveloped for her age, certainly might appear to be a sign of some interest on his part. Before he can continue his berating of Ohana, however, Minko shows up and saves Ohana from further teasing, by offering to help Tohru set the meal on the tables. Ohana, as usual, misinterprets this as Minko being nice and saving her, when in reality we know quite well that Minko just wanted an excuse to be near Tohru. Tohru, of course, seems to be oblivious to Minko's interest in him. A classic set up to a potential love triangle. We shall have to watch things as they develop.
As Ohana continues in her delusion while in the bath, that Minko helped her, Minko herself comes in to take her bath, and Ohana thinks that this is a chance for her to try to make friends. Alas, Tohru's nickname for Ohana, Miss Inconsiderate, continues to apply since Ohana seems incapable of properly interpreting events and the actions of others. When she tries to get on Minko's good side by complaining about Tohru's sharp tongue, she gets not agreement but an earful from Minko. Dawn breaks over Marblehead as Ohana suddenly realizes that the description Minko gave before of her ideal man is none other than Tohru. As she blurts out this realization to Minko, the latter turns beet red and runs from the bath. Ohana tries to make up with Minko, but the latter is of course hostile as ever. When Ohana finally tries to confront Minko and settle the matter, the two of them make a discover that threw me for a loop and brings into question some of the things I said above. The clues were all there, however, earlier in the episode.
In Summary:
We get the introduction of the school comedy part of this slice of life show, having put aside the overdone melodrama and farce of the last episode. But we do not get an entire episode devoted to the girls' time at school, which is just as well, since that would be a troubling sign that this show is just going to be a series of short arcs that will flirt with other genres, one at a time, never finding its own voice. Instead, after a brief look at school, we return to work at the inn, with the usual sparring between Ohana and Tohru, the assistant chef. Things turn out to be very complicated, however, in terms of one particular relationship at the inn, especially when the ending of the episode reveals that there has been nothing wasted at all in what has been shown to us this whole time.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Apple Mac Mini with 1GB RAM, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: NA
Video Rating: NA
Packaging Rating: NA
Menus Rating: NA
Extras Rating: NA
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Crunchyroll
Running time: 24
Aspect Ratio: 1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hanasaku Iroha