Konohana Kitan
Episode 10

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Konohana Kitan ?

Despite ostensibly being Yuzu's primary companion (and not so subtle romantic interest), Satsuki has taken something of a back seat to the other Konohanatei girls for much of the season, with her own character development and relationship with Yuzu being fleshed out in fits and starts across small scenes wedged into other stories. This week's episode finally gives everyone's favorite Grumpy Fox some time in the limelight, though she's once again forced to share it with her incredibly popular older sister, the priestess Hiiragi. While this is essentially focusing on the same familial issues that got covered all the way back in the series' second episode, both Satsuki and Hiiragi get to explore different facets of their sisterly bond, and the result is yet another one of those heartwarming stories that Konohana Kitan does so well and makes look so easy.

Hiiragi doesn't show up right away; instead, “The Sister Strikes” opens with a silly little sketch involving a sleepy Satsuki and a magical medicine that looks like candy but happens to induce shrinking. The results are obvious and inevitable, but there is a lot of gentle comedy to be mined from having a tiny Satsuki perched on Yuzu's back all day, not the least of which being Okiku's look of tortured envy when Mini-Satsuki dons one of Ren's adorable hand-stitched dresses. Really, the whole scene is an excuse to have Kiri tease Satsuki once she's been restored to her full size, insisting that true love's kiss must have broken the curse. Satsuki does share a bed with Yuzu after all…

Yes, the yuri teasing is as strong as ever this week, and while I'd much prefer the show just let the foxes kiss already, I can at least rest easy knowing that Konohana Kitan tells good tales as it strings its audience along. Hiiragi's arrival is where the episode really picks up, with Satsuki's renewed ambivalence toward her sister's success finally giving her something more to do than play the straight woman to the rest of the hotel's dorks. Poor Yuzu is caught in the middle as always, trapped between her desire to please the hotel's guests and the pressure of upholding Satsuki's reputation, especially since Satsuki has spent years believing that her life as a hotel attendant is little more than a quiet embarrassment to her family compared to Hiiragi's work as a priestess. The two sisters have a complicated relationship, since both of them clearly love each other, but Satsuki constantly feels the need to play defense before anyone might compare her to her older sister. For anyone who's familiar with competitive sibling relationships like this one, it's a very real and messy minefield of emotions.

This messiness culminates in Satsuki getting decked out in fancy makeup after getting roped into performing a priestess dance with her sister at the behest of a particularly petulant princess, while Yuzu admires Satsuki's bravery and beauty. On paper this should be a beautiful, revelatory moment for Satsuki, proof positive that she can be every bit the priestess her sister can, but this is unfortunately the one moment where the episode really stumbles. Konohana Kitan has never had either the resources or the inclination to show off fluid animation, but if ever there was a moment to pull out the big guns, this performance was it. Unfortunately, the show goes in exactly the opposite direction, choosing to reduce the dance to a slide-show of well-drawn frames, accompanied with some admittedly pretty music. Thanks to the series' lovely art and the goodwill and affection it's built up for its cast, the scene still turns out perfectly fine. But given Yuzu's intense emotional reaction and her conversation with Satsuki that follows, the scene needed to be beautiful rather than simply acceptable.

All's well that ends well, however, and Satsuki's ultimate acceptance of the good work she does at the Konohanatei makes the missed opportunity of her performance go down easier. Not only that, but Hiiragi's final chat with her assistant reveals that Satsuki was sent to the hotel not because she was seen as the lesser sister, but because her family knew she was more the reliable and mature of the siblings. While Hiiragi would never admit this defeat to Satsuki, it only confirms what the audience and Yuzu have both known from the series' beginning. Satsuki isn't just pretty; she's pretty damned great.

This show in general is also great, and I can only hope that more people discover it as the season begins to wind down. It doesn't necessarily have the same level of prestige or intrigue as The Ancient Magus' Bride, but Konohana Kitan remains one of the most humbly excellent series I've seen all year. It has a rich love of Japanese folklore, a lush aesthetic, and a seemingly endless supply of sappy pathos. What more could you want from an iyashikei romcom?

Rating: B+

Konohana Kitan is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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