[SPOILERS, expect them]
I said I would be satisfied with the greatness of this show 5 or so episodes prior to the finale. It didn’t matter how it chose to end it. In the end it both did and didn’t: I’d have been just as pleased if the finale wasn’t this good, but I’m glad it is. It was a fitting end. It was a resolution that carried out the conviction of its story. It’s something I would’ve excused it from, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.
The Kissuiso did shut down. I’m certain more than a few viewers, and some commentators didn’t count on the show pulling the trigger. But it did, in a way that mattered: not a cop-out. Sure it’s “temporary,” but the Kissuiso that mattered was the one that had everyone working there together. The cast was still dispersed, finding work in different places. Ohana came back to Tokyo to live with Satsuki. This is a shutting down that mattered.
What it did is give the cast two things:
1. A clear milestone in their personal life. “Thus ended my first stint at the Kissuiso.” It was short, but important to me. Any of the characters except Denroku, Sui (but who knows) can say this to themselves. It becomes a clear phase, period, or epoch in their life. It’ll be how I think of my time at university. It was something. I became someone, that is – a version of myself that is either who I am now, or an important part of what made me the way I am.
That’s what the Kissuiso is. It’s no longer just a place. It was a time. Mono no aware, etc.
2. A hope for return. The Kissuiso represents a goal for everyone, or almost everyone. We can be certain that at least for Minko, she no longer just wants to be a chef, but her life goal is to become the chef of the Kissuiso. We can be certain that Enishi and Takako want to return and re-open it. The show spelled out that this is the possibility for them, and gives the primary positive vibe that everyone leaves with even as they take on new jobs and are scattered in Yunosagi (and beyond). In Ohana herself, we see the most striking turn: Her wish is to become like Sui herself.
I can’t underscore the triumph this is. The three Shijima women are polarized against each other in a portrait of generational conflict. I don’t think that there was any real vilifying done by the story, but it’s clear that both Sui and Satsuki represented negative forces in Ohana’s life in the beginning. Satsuki was never ‘tamed’ by the narrative, but instead shown to be just as the free spirit she really is. Irresponsible, but not without the capacity for love and goodness. She pulled through for everyone whenever she was needed. Sui on the other hand, was colder and myopic. It took Satsuki to point out the kind of effect she had on Ohana.
This didn’t quite provide a neat conclusion; that is Sui keeping the Kissuiso open and grooming Ohana to take over someday. This is up in the air because Enishi – the outsider in his own family, the least talented, the male among the Shijima, possesses at least the determination that Sui must pride herself for having. His hope for the Kissuiso is the strongest and most relevant. Seeing him and Takako work as staff in some other inn reassures us that he will reopen the “Inn that will please Sui.”
There will be some who will find this ending bittersweet, and I won’t mind, even if I don’t find the finale bitter at all. There is no real tragedy here. At most we have the uncertainty of Kissuiso reopening. The resolution is necessary to create the effect of the transience of things. The irony of beauty is that the fleeting and ephemeral is desired to become eternal. And with memory, they can be; or, the possibility of it exists.
Years from now I will look back at Hanasaku Iroha the same way I will look back at K-On!! which is much like how I look back at Aria the Origination right now. I actually ended up rewatching Origination in anticipation of HanaIro’s finale. While I think the episode about the Traghetta alone (episode 04) is probably worth the weight of all of HanaIro, it’s not that fair a comparison. I love both shows for many of the same things, but for key differences as well. Ohana is driven and limited in ways quite distinct from both Hirasawa Yui, and Mizunashi Akari, and that to me is a kind of victory. Another awesome thing, is how in HanaIro, Sui is a main character. For all the credit I (and others) give to Tiger & Bunny for having a character over 30 as one of the leads, HanaIro has it beat. Shijima Sui is one of the lead characters of Hanasaku Iroha, and she’s an awesome one at that:
A powerful and commanding presence, possessing an endearing back story, and capable of maturing within the duration of the narrative as viewed (and at her age); she’s a dame Kabuto Juuzo and Dr. Hell would fight over with giant mechanical and monstrous creations.
In the end I found a show to add to my favorites, and this too is a kind of victory. More to love, more to remember.