…Welp. Time for another trip to the denti- Wait is this a-… oh. Oooh. Oooooh dear.
I really should do my homework before agreeing to cover something. So apparently this is a Shoujo Ai? Or at the very least has a lot of those implications. I was not prepared for that. Mind you, I have Absolutely. No Problem. With This. Just didn’t expect it. Not sure how much more I can really say on that subject than I already have, but the initial statement still holds – it’s about time for another trip to the dentist because this is tooth-rottingly sweet. In a good way, mind you. Mostly.
Konohana Kitan is a very breezy watch, across the board. Honestly, there isn’t a lot to very deeply analyze in it. It’s exactly what it says on the tin – a slice of life series that happens to take place in a hot spring hotel. Though there’s obviously the factor of what element of life the story chooses to focus on. This is the case of a series that doesn’t really lock in on any specific aspect of life. The characters go about their work day, certainly, but their work is very much in the background, similar to something along the lines of Wagnaria!! The focus is clearly on the relationships between the characters, as well as the life lessons learned by the people who come to visit them.
Another thing to keep in mind is the format of the show. While not every episode does this, some of them do something very familiar to us Western audiences. While certainly not something exclusive to us, those who grew up with shows like Spongebob Squarepants or The Fairly Odd Parents will indeed notice that some episodes essentially have two stories. There’s one plot that resolves itself at or around the midpoint of the entire episode, then a bumper, followed by a second story. The most recent episode followed this, for example. The difference is that unlike those shows, this one actually maintains a sense of continuity. Things introduced in previous episodes aren’t swept aside. Thus the show doesn’t come across as episodic. There’s no real sense of buildup, but there is a passage of time, going on. And that only helps to further appreciate the relationships developing between the characters by making them feel more genuine… and I feel the need to point out that I do mean both the platonic ones and otherwise.
Interestingly, the series brands itself as neither a comedy nor a drama. And I honestly think that suits it. It’s not really all that riotous, though it is funny when it wants to be. At the same time, it’s not the most moving story that ever was told, but it knows how to pull on your heartstrings when it feels like it. What? Episode 4? I-I’m not crying! You’re crying! S-shut up!
How are the characters? Not especially complex. Shoujo Ai/Yuri implications aside, most of them are pretty one-note. Not in an insulting way, mind you. There are subtle bits of nuance to the majority of them (so far, anyway). Perhaps the least interesting one is ironically the protagonist, Yuzu. She has a background that we’re not entirely privy to yet, which I’m looking forward to learning more about. But that aside, she comes across as a little… basic. Cute. Friendly. Innocent. Kinda Clumsy. The works. I don’t get the impression that she’s supposed to be perfect, but her genuineness does have a way of endearing her to the rest of the cast very easily.
Part of the issue with Yuzu is possibly the very distinct lack of a goal or personal drive. We know very little about why she’s doing any of this. She just wants to work hard and… that’s it. Having a vague motivation is one thing. In most of those cases, figuring out what that motivation is is at least part of the point of the story. We have no idea what Kino wants in Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World (unless you’re familiar with the source material or past adaptation). But that’s part of the allure of the series – figuring it out. And even beyond that, Kino may be aimlessly wandering, but she does have lesser goals. She’s traveling to all these countries to learn about them, their people, their cultures.
Yuzu doesn’t really have that. And that takes away from some of the interest in the character. She’s certainly entertaining. I’d be lying if I said her antics weren’t funny or capable of making me a little misty. But that is honestly a pretty important layer to have. The lucky thing is that Yuzu does genuinely have a very actualized personality, which is endearing and fun to watch. Thus that lack of motivation can be partially forgiven. However, it’s still felt.
And now if I may gush for a bit, I’d like to bring one other thing into this that really adds a personal layer of interest to the series. The setting. Not so much the hotel, itself, or even the town they’re in, but the world itself. This is a world that is dripping with Japanese mythology. And I actually really like how it’s implemented, here. It’s woven in as if it’s simply a part of everyday life. Japanese mythology is fascinating and filled to the brim with a lot of stories that are just incredibly unique and captivating. The world actually manages to do an exceptional job and bringing certain corners of it to life. The last two episodes, especially, really did a pretty fair job of tying those things in, and actually connecting some of those elements to the characters and their own stories. Was it the most elaborate or intricate job I’ve seen of implementing that cultural thread? No. But I’m glad anytime I get to see that kind of thing.
I think the amplest word to describe the tone of the series (and indeed much of the series as a whole) is “sufficient.” It’s not going out of its way to do more than its job. Gut-busting humor and heartwrenching character drama aren’t really anywhere to be found. It’s simply funny and kind of sentimental. With an added layer of cuteness for the sake of being aesthetically pleasing. Plus the added intrigue of including Japanese mythology, which I admittedly have a weakness for. It’s essentially just there to be a feel-good anime, and that’s fine. I’m not going to say this is Highly Recommended, or anything, but while I personally find it enjoyable enough to consider it Junk Food, taking its flaws more in mind I’d probably sooner tell the average viewer it’s simply Harmless.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll like it. I certainly find it charming, if nothing else. But if it’s not really your thing, then there are plenty of other anime out this season. And we have reviews on a lot of it. Why not check those out?
Konohana Kitan Simulcasts on Crunchyroll, Wednesdays at 8:00am EST.