Sayaka OharaMegumi OgataAkeno WatanabeSawako Hata
Konohana Kitan
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2017: K
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2017
Director: Hideki Okamoto
Writer: Takao Yoshioka
Original creator: Sakuya Amano
Actor: Ai Kakuma, Akeno Watanabe, Ayaka Suwa, Kumiko Ikebe, Manami Numakura, Megumi Ogata, Risa Kubota, Sawako Hata, Sayaka Ohara, Yuko Ono
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 7 December 2018
It's good and interesting, but its main cast get almost no dramatic progression and it sometimes made me a bit sleepy.
Is it "iyashikei"? (That's a genre, which can be regarded as "plotless, meant to be relaxing and soothing".) Iyashikei, for me, is a mostly pointless genre that fails quite often, but when it succeeds, it's terribly nice. I think this show has at least a clear iyashikei influence, c.f. the drama-free main cast, but you could also argue that it steps beyond it in being an anthology of gentle, heartwarming supernatural tales about death, blindness, moving on to the afterlife, etc.
Konohanatei is a hotel between the worlds. On one side is the living, but there's also Other Stuff. Sometimes gods will visit. Sometimes you'll meet a ghost that needs to cross the river (and you shouldn't try to accompany it). Sometimes you'll meet someone who's really only here in spirit, because his real body is in a coma and doesn't want to wake up. Konohanatei will accept any and all of these. It's a gentle refuge that doesn't want your money and will simply look after you for as long as you're there. Its staff are all fox-people, but the guests will include rat-people, bear-people and so on.
What's interesting about this show is the kind of stories it's liable to tell, especially those involving hotel guests and other one-off characters. These are likely to be a bit esoteric or mythical. They might be allusive. There might be a revelation that's being hidden until the last minute. These episodes are basically warm and happy-ish, but they be mingling that with an autumnal air by, say, bringing conclusion to the life of an old woman who's about to pass on. There will be regrets and people coming to terms with bad things in their lives. There are some genuinely interesting stories here.
(Also, in fairness, the show's also capable of wacky episodes like ep.9 and the boob goddess Awanami who can do something surprising.)
However the framework for those stories is dramatically static. I like the cast, but their motivation is mostly "work at the inn". Satsuki wants to quit one day and become a miko, but for now she's a conscientious workaholic. There's a lesbian or two. Yuzu (the main character) is the newbie who really loves working at Konohanatei and takes it all very seriously. There's a grumpy one who's capable of seeming a bit mean, but that's only when you first meet her. After that, uh... actually, no, there's one non-static character. Okiku the cursed porcelain doll is cool. She's introduced as a one-off character in ep.5, but then she sticks around because the cast refuse to treat her as a cursed doll and instead give her a haircut, a new wardrobe and a job at the hotel. Okiku is selfish and has no interest in customers, but that's good because it makes her more liable to behave like an actual person with motives and desires. I was always happy to see an Okiku episode.
Oh, and this hotel is a hot spring inn. Expect plenty of nudity, but it's the kind of gentle, family-friendly nudity that you eventually end up hardly noticing.
Is this a good show? In important respects, yes. It's got quite a few good stories and even the relationships of the regular cast can be well written. I liked the quite deep feelings of Ren in ep.7, for instance, having been taken to a festival by the tomboyish Natsume who never notices Ren's attempts to dress up and make herself beautiful for her. I think the show's capable of some nice but sombre stories with a satisfying tone. I think the cast are likeable, including the ones with significant personality flaws. (I approve of the latter. You need a bit of bite if you're not going to be bland.) However I can't escape the fact that I did sometimes find my attention drifting a bit, with my eyes sliding off the episodes. The big picture just isn't going anywhere. If you try this show, you might think it's beautiful and magical... or equally you might find it a bit dull and not bother finishing it.
It's definitely nice, though.