Hanasaku Iroha 26 has two main plot points to take care of: Ko, and what’s going to happen to Kissuiso? But, bah, plot. It’s the things around the often silly stories that make this show great, and the finale does not scimp.
The show wastes no time in resetting the mood it established last week as the staff go to enjoy the bonbori festival. It’s a beautiful sequence. The art in this show was always great to look at, and it’s laced with scenes of the characters talking, doing festival things, thinking about their futures. The wish plaques give us a reprise of all the wish-talk from last episode. All of these scenes are humorous in that way that we can see an old friend doing something, and smile from memories. Not that these are throwaway scenes. Sui learns that Ohana wants to be like her, and realizes that she hasn’t been walking alone all this time after all, though that thought had been brewing inside her for an episode or two. And it’s never said, but recent events have brought Sui and her daughter to, if not kinship, then more of an understanding.
And we get plot point #1. I should probably care about it more than I do, if only for Ohana’s sake (This is one of those shows where I actually care about the characters), but I can’t help but feel that it didn’t matter if she wound up with Ko or not. Either way, she would move on. And Ko never struck me as the type of boy that a girl want to carry a torch for. Especially not after his last, indecisive, non-visit. On the other hand, maybe he needed the time get his feelings together, helped by the video he watched not long ago. And at the closing credits’ “what the characters did next” montage, where we see him waving to her on the way to school, both of them back in the city, I couldn’t help but feel happy for them both. The other thing that scene did was make me realize that Ohana’s time at Kissuiso was so brief, really, a blip in her lifespan.
The second half is filled with goodbyes. A closing party. Kissuiso will be shut down but perhaps Enishi and Takako will reopen it. People leave. In a particularly moving scene, Sui walks through the inn she help to build and imagines it when it was open and lively, and then sees her late husband at the stairs. As usual, this show is too smart to get to maudlin, and the mood is broken when she hears Ohana, maybe her future self, shouting as she cleans the deck one more time. I say that the mood is broken, but the impact is just as strong.
And that’s about it. A final goodbye between Sui and Ohana. We see the staff in the near future, and flashbacks while the credits roll. I watch it and think: apart from the inn closing down, nothing big happens, nothing that doesn’t happen to everyone in their lives. They find themselves here, they change a little, they change the place where they are a little, and they move on. This is uncommon enough in an anime series, but what really sets it apart is that there isn’t a weakly-drawn female character in it. Everyone from Ohana on down (or should that be up?) is an individual; what’s more, they are all strong women. How often do you see THAT in anime? As I said before, the show was always great to look at and smartly directed so that there’s a steady feel even in its most emotional moments. There were a few weak episodes, well, there was episode 3, but that one was still fun to watch. An excellent series. With this show gone along with Tiger and Bunny and Steins;Gate (and, I suppose, Nichijou, though it took me a while to warm to it), the fall season is going to feel empty.