Just in time to enjoy Toshikoshi Soba for the New Year
Konohana Kitan was one of this season’s cozier slice-of-life anime as a comforting alternative to the zanier fare this season with emphasis on character development, tasteful yuri, and the mysticism of Japanese folklore. Yes, the fox-girls are incredibly cute in looks and personality as they interact with supernatural entities, but they are also nuanced characters with motivations and interests beyond working with each other at the inn. Yuzu is the glue that holds everyone together as the protagonist who aims to keep everyone united and energized when the going goes rough. Her positivity is an influence on the rest of her co-workers and the inn’s guests as they look up to her despite the deep respect she has for them as her superiors.
Satsuki, my personal favorite, is a no-nonsense employee who takes her work seriously, and expects her colleagues to do the same. But over time, we see insight into her vulnerabilities as she has to content with the expectations of having to fill in the shoes of her highly talented sister as a prospective miko. The gradual warmth she has towards Yuzu is something that slowly builds, and you get a sense that Satsuki’s feelings about her are strong despite not wanting to be outwardly about her emotional state.
Although Satsuki is too shy to express her fondness for Yuzu, the most heart-felt relationship is through Natsume and Ren. Ren, a perfectionist with high pride, has a not-so-secret crush on Natsume, her childhood friend whose tomboyish looks and personality won her over. Natsume initially acts oblivious to Ren’s affection, but over time, we learn that Natsume is observant of her and wants to spend more time with her. Sakura and Kiri don’t get as much attention, but Kiri as an older mentor figure for the girls is another great character on the show.
Within the last two episodes, we learned about a character I’ve been wanting to know about the most; Okami. At first, we see her as the stern yet caring inn-keeper who resembles an actual fox. By the end, however, we see that there is more to her when she appears in Episode 11 with her make-up (looking like an actual person) visiting her sisters and in Episode 12 as a young girl that Yuzu visits in the past. Okami’s past visit from Yuzu turns out to be what inspires her to go from answering New Years wishes to starting the very inn that Yuzu ends up being a part of. We’re even able to see the person who runs the inn as a full-fledged character who enjoys company and hospitality as much as Yuzu and her fellow employees.
But Konohana Kitan‘s depth isn’t only with the main group as the guests and spirits that come to visit the inn are also given deep, personal stories that are resolved beautifully through reflection and introspection. Episodes such as “Spring Journey” and “The Transient Guest” soar above and beyond as stories that are visually captivating and thought-provoking. They are only some examples, but they are indicative of how much love the series puts into the artwork, visuals, and storytelling. For a cozy anime that has the charm of a slice-of-life set in the hot springs and the captivating lore and feel of Natsume Yuujinchou, then I couldn’t think of a better way to cool off than with Konohana Kitan. I’m excited for what the future of this series holds, and would be happy to check out the manga.