Yozakura Quartet – Hana no Uta – 11, 12
「ハナノウタ 1」 (Hana no Uta 1)
“Song of Flowers 1″
「ハナノウタ 2」 (Hana no Uta 2)
“Song of Flowers 2″
Apologies to anyone who properly expected a double post, and didn’t see it delivered. It’s hard to separate the individual thoughts for both episodes after having to watch them back-to-back…or at least, not sufficiently enough to prevent most thoughts from being backloaded on the second post, so it just seemed to make sense to condense it into one big collective stew. Truth be told I’m mostly hesitant about putting down my thoughts on this two-thirds of the Hana no Uta arc until I’ve seen its finale to decide on a verdict. The storyline centering around Juri’s supposedly dead sister Lila (Kayano Ai) has thus far has been a bit of a kerfuffle for me; some things I liked, some things I didn’t like so much…and many more things I was too indifferent about. If it does seem like I’m complaining too much here (in retrospect it certainly seemed that way to me) I’m not deriding these two episode; they’re solidly entertaining as much of the series has been, mostly in the way it excels at moments, but these episodes are not the best of the lot.
What I didn’t particularly have any strong opinions about mostly came from episode 11 which was a lot of the show waffling around again, strange as it is to see in any sort of final stretch for a show. Serious, plot heady moments in the show like the terse exchange between Lila and Enjin(e) are interspersed with light moments of Hime’s classmates trying and failing to catch the “ghost” among other snippets of the Sakura Town life. This is all standard fare for the Yozakura Quartet which has always charted its own course in storyline, always seeming to have straddled the fine line between hit or miss…and here we see quite an assortment of both. More Zakuro is fine in my books; I enjoy every creative entrance she makes, whether it’s by flying kick or massive earth golem. What I can do without is the Hime spotlight session the show gives so much time to: the “I’m fine because of you” speech given to Juri that I’ve seen at least 3 other times in the season now. A segment featuring the elders talking about their progress of their magic-science confounds equally at how out-of-place it feels in the episode…although with the current knowledge of Lila’s humanity, I suspect there might be a much stronger connection between Lila’s bag of impossible tricks and the implied message about how suitably advanced technology would pass off as magic.
No questions that the meat of episode 11 really was the backstory of Juri and Lila’s childhood: we’re shown the twisted love Lila has for her sister, going from simple card tricks to the branding of her own face, all to get Juri’s undivided attention. I’ll grant that the immediate horror is still effective…somewhat, but with this we’re getting to the crux of the (my) issue, at last. The acting is solid and cinematography is top-notch, as is with much of Yozakura Quartet…but the story falters more than a little.
As hard as the show tries to sell the emotions, I find myself incapable of buying into the broken relationship of Juri and Lila. Theirs’ is not a particularly hard tale to ever be told; one of neglect and familial love gone incredibly out of control, past a point where things seemed irreparable, yet the show seems to fumble constantly with the illustration of this message. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing for what turned out to be a relatively simple resolution through acceptance and forgiveness of their hurtful past. Simple indeed, but I suppose little else could be done when the storyline suddenly decided take that all away to reestablish Enjin as the principal antagonist of the moment. Any Enjin moment is a good one…that’s a notion that seemed to have affirmed itself over the course of the season, but having him appear here significantly takes away from the impact of what they wanted to achieve with Juri and Lila’s relationship.
Nevermind that the foundations for this fragile relationship were a little weak to begin with; I never understood Juri’s obsession with Frankenstein – There wasn’t even the clichéd reason of a grudge passed down from generations before! – which makes her neglect of Lila that much harder to swallow. Similar for Lila, whose gradual descent into derangement seemed a little too deliberate, and consequentially unoriginal.
Funny I’m only saying all this now, because Yozakura Quartet’s showed us quite a bit of zaniness in the time we’ve spent with it, demanded more than its fair share of belief from its audience. I’ve let it come and go with a wave of the hand and a tip of my hat, but just this once I can’t seem pass by; mostly because I do like how Yozakura Quartet has carried along the characters and the emotions in the show with a good deal of heft, and I really can’t see that same sincerity as much in the sisters’ relationship.
But then, this is also precisely why I’m hesitant to make any strong statements about the show until I see the last episode; there’s still things that needs to be explained, such as Lila’s faked death and subsequent return to the living. Equally important is the great twist of episode 12, where a well-placed stun shot from Elder Shidare and his assistant Shiina reveals Lila’s true nature as a squishy human instead of being a hardy Hanyou…which I suspect might have a greater significance in how Lila turned out the way she did.
If my expectations for Hana no Uta were too biased from the OVAs (admittedly as it has been for most of the series, and my sincerest apologies for that) this was the part where it really hit hardest. The drama here is simple, but there’s not as much appeal as I’d hope going into it, so it falls to the other aspects of Yozakura Quartet to make up for the deficit. Suffice to say that the presentation here is strong as ever, and the show delivers up some really sumptuous moments; Lila’s grand magic trick with the massive sword hanging over the trapped Hime being the real standout and offering some of the funnier moments in episode 12.
I suppose there aren’t many better ways to end Hana no Uta on, than a climatic battle between Akina and Enjin; after all, theirs is pretty much the overarching conflict in the story, and a reasonably fitting resolution for this short segment of a long story. At the same time, I really want to see what else it’ll be able to add to change my mind about the Hana no Uta arc and the resolution given to the story of these two Frankenstein sisters.