Review/discussion about: Konohana Kitan
Circles, triangles, and rectangles begone. In Konohana Kitan, rhombuses rule as queen.
A peculiar shape, that. Some people refer to it as a diamond (hence the royalty). Others, with technical knowledge of Euclidean geometry, are quick to point out that squares are special exceptions (to said rule).
No matter which side jousts first, this anime makes two ideas clear. One, a rhombus for a mouth makes for a darn cute reaction. And two, our lives have many sides and corners to hold dear.
In the ethereal space between the land of the living and the unknown beyond, a peaceful place known as Konohanatei exists. This otherworldly resort promises its guests serene views, relaxing environments, and fox-girl attendants aplenty. From weary “travelers” to the very gods themselves, either by accident or with intent, these visitors (coincidentally enough) visit this small reprieve in the hopes of achieving some level of spiritual enlightenment.
As such, Konohana Kitan showcases not a structured plot but rather a series of individualized mini-stories (with maybe the occasional crossover here and there). These asides often live up to the premise insofar as their content often takes on an almost-unexplainable nature. One set of scenes may feature the ladies dealing with an egg that sticks to them a little too closely, and another episode may instead find an attendant shrunken in size.
Either way, these supernatural happenings get at the anime’s numerous moments filled with laughs, cuteness, and a whole lot of wholesomeness. The characters have their specific pairings which lead to nice rapports between them. They fill their actions and reactions with sincerity and embarrassment, giving an adorable edge to much of what they do. And the constant flow of their workplace causes (especially for Yuzu) what can only be described as out-of-body experiences that in turn grant a different perspective to appreciate or simply hint at a thoughtful idea worth noting.
Such an iyashikei story takes this triplet of aspects and applies them to its afterlife setting by delivering messages about life itself. While Konohana Kitan mostly includes simpler truths such as the value in building relationships and satisfaction of a job well-done, these snapshots of the visitors and their own lives provide a sense of sympathy for the struggles they endure and the growth, however slight, they receive. In turn, these messages leave an impression on the audience as they think about what life has similarly brought for them.
In this way, the viewer is just as much a guest at this storied establishment as those depicted, reveling in and warming up from the quaint atmosphere curated. Altogether, the show provides next to nothing ingenious or groundbreaking, but it gets the job done. Considering that the show essentially revolves around a job – and the (ironically written here) interruptions that guide them – it is tough to ask for much more out of this simplistic yet kindhearted narrative.
ART & ANIMATION
To get at its iyashikei vibes, Konohana Kitan includes many techniques on a visual front to soothe its audience into a lull of rest and relaxation.
Key among these techniques, its main setting builds towards an idyll. Lush greenery, colorful trees, and pleasing sunshine await those who peer at the nearby gardens, evoking a sense of awe and beauty. The chill vibes of the hotel itself, replete with wooden fixtures and simplistic décor, likewise create a space with calmness in mind (and on the eyes).
The ladies’ designs also contribute. Yes, they have specific looks which distinguish them from each other and their personalities. Natsume is tall and tomboyish. Kiri is mature and reserved. Ren is pretty and adorable. However, their collective details, such as the fox-girl angle and the colorful, refined outfits, not only improve upon the fantastical nature of Konohana Kitan but also get at the desired pleasantries of the visuals.
It also branches out beyond the respite it so heavily endorses. Imaginative moments and stylistic changes support a plethora of sequences, such as when Yuzu finds herself witnessing the birth of the world through the baby bubbles. Super-simplistic caricatures of everyone when reacting to particular events push the comedic side along, too.
Truth be told, the show refrains from having a ton of movement, or it at least doesn’t have any standout animated segments of note. But, given the rest of the artistic direction in play, the collective visual offering reaches a soothing, impressive state, indeed.
In an anime focused almost entirely on the guests and their own mini-stories, it wouldn’t seem as if Yuzu, Satsuki, Ren, Natsume, Sakura, Kiri, and Okiku would manage to matter a whole bunch in comparison. However, Konohana Kitan strikes against this notion where it can, allowing the girls to find some semblance of meaning among the large supporting and side cast members.
As the star of this show (or at least the pseudo-main protagonist), Yuzu fumbles her way through her work and her duties, but she almost never loses the beaming smile on her face. Her meager backstory involving her caretaker and her drive to avoid being useless setup her humble beginnings as someone who wishes to impact others while learning more about the world around her. Better yet, she finds comfort in the fact that this place and these friends have given her a home and a family she can truly appreciate.
Thus, as an employee of this well-respected and well-established inn, Yuzu regularly helps the guests who visit as well as Satsuki and the others. She listens to their problems, and she takes each strange predicament in stride. Her constant positivity meshes well with Konohana Kitan and its mood in general, for her words and thoughts, while not exactly wisdom (since she herself has neither the age nor the experience yet to call it as such), enlighten those who listen with an optimistic outlook.
Yuzu not only dishes out this happiness but also receives some in turn. She gains perspective from them just as much as they from her, so she succeeds in growing as a character, too. Not that she has any major developments or a tangible arc to speak of. Far from it. Rather, she simply understands that these moments shape her soul, giving her an even bigger smile on her face to spread her shine that much more.
Satsuki is another interesting character. Many sides of her person surface now and again: fearing the dark, having a stern yet considerate personality, showing lots of determination, smiling despite that sternness. However, the anime pinpoints a conflict with and about her sister that defines her motivations. It gets established early on, gets returned to during the season, and ultimately gets addressed outright. This three-step process gives Satsuki and her conflict the necessary focus they require and therefore leaves this feisty fox on a high note.
The rest of the cast members do not stack up to Yuzu and Satsuki in terms of importance, but they serve their own roles nonetheless. Ren and Natsume share perhaps the most open relationship between any of the implied pairings, and Konohana Kitan at least explores their connection through their mutual awareness and affection of the other. Unfortunately, in the back half of the season, they aren’t around as much, falling on the wayside instead.
As for Sakura, Kiri, and Okiku, they round out the characters with some comedic relief. Sakura is a young girl whose curiosity and awe elicit joyous reactions. Kiri dodges any and all questions about her older age. And Okiku rides Urinosuke, her gallant (pig-like) steed, as she “spars” with everyone. While these ladies have their own minuscule moments, its their innocence, guidance, and difference (respectively) which provide their distinctive edge among the lot.
Thanks to Yuzu, Satsuki, Ren, Natsume, Sakura, Kiri, and Okiku, the guests of Konohanatei have a splendid time during their quick stay. And, thanks to Konohana Kitan at large, these attendants similarly have a solid outing.
MUSIC & SOUND
The anime finds further success with its audio elements, and it begins with the tracks off its original soundtrack. Several heartfelt tunes of acoustic strings and wind instruments, like when Yuzu exits her dancing daze as she sees a spirit leave, tug at the soul. Tiny piano melodies elevate that slice-of-life life feel as Yuzu and the others go about their daily business. Even the simple shamisen interlude which guides the audience from Part A to Part B within an episode delights as its few heavenly notes strike a serene chord.
“Kokoro ni Tsubomi”, the opening track for Konohana Kitan, likewise earns a bit of praise. A soft start gives way to drums and to bass that set the stage for an eventual optimistic flourish. The benign vocals complement the piece, and the airy delivery and light instrumentation in general prep the audience for simplistic yet positive times ahead.
Listening to the characters, the voice-acting performances have their place, too. Yuuko Oono as Yuzu brims with kindness in her attitude and manner of speaking, and Risa Kubota as Ren is cute in her arrogant yet embarrassed ways. While almost nobody particularly stands out, Ms. Oono and Ms. Kubota, the former in only her second major role and the latter in her actual first major role, show promise in their future careers by backing this anime project with some nice VA work.
And finally, Konohana Kitan composes four main different ending tracks that the audience can embrace: “Haru Urara, Kimi to Sakihokoru”, “Natsusaki Koihanabi”, “Akanezora, Kimi Mau Kouyou no Sanpomichi”, and “Yukihana Kirameku Ieji nite”. They correspond to the changing seasons, and their structure and sounds do the same. A refreshing spring’s warmth. A fun-filled summer’s day. A calm autumn’s air. A slow winter’s evening.
These EDs are not necessarily incredible or memorable. However, hearing the anime go out of its way to switch up these songs multiple times throughout its run must certainly count in some regard. For, if nothing else, they clearly went above the average one-cour show by having more than one to begin with.
Thus, with the original soundtrack, voice acting, opening track, and ending tracks doing pretty well overall, the audio decisions follow the presentation of the visuals by benefiting the show and working in its favor.
This anime made it its mission to win me over. Yuri undertones. A sweet direction. Fun characters. The cuteness ran deep, and the happiness was palpable, so it was pretty much impossible to dislike this show along the way.
Yuzu as a munchkin was super-cute as well, and the show in general almost never strayed far from such a path. Its moe-ness seeped in-between each of the more serious spots it depicted, so the constant switching between thoughtfully sincere and wonderfully adorable brought about a fluffy feeling that I quite liked.
I also got a kick out of the author of the source material popping into frame or even certain scenes now and again. That’s a level of meta not often achieved. And, on a grander scale, the themes of the anime, while perhaps overly saccharine on occasion, had me liking it even more. I’m someone who personally tries to find and see the good in life, and so having each event spin towards such goodness aligned with my own ideals.
Altogether, I wouldn’t go so far as to declare this show a favorite of mine. But I do like what it did and what it set out to accomplish, creating a nice anime both in its execution and in its portrayal.
Konohana Kitan may not be the most impressive cloud up in heaven, but it answers at least a few prayers for those who seek healing salvation. The visuals are pretty, the mini-stories are simple but appreciable, the music hits the right mood, and the characters bring different advantages when they so choose. It’s no diamond per se, but a rhombus is a-okay, too.
Story: Fine, an iyashikei narrative which features supernatural happenings, a wholesome atmosphere, and life messages to take to heart
Art & Animation: Good, beautiful scenery, varied designs, and stylistic choices form strong artistry with calmness in mind even if movement rarely stands out
Characters: Fine, Yuzu becomes the backbone for this tale, Satsuki goes through her own arc of sorts, Ren and Natsume have a clear relationship, and Sakura, Kiri, and Okiku round out the collective with comedic chances
Music & Sound: Good, heartfelt tracks from the OST, an optimistic OP, some promising VA performances, and seasonal EDs demonstrate the strength of the audio elements
Enjoyment: Good, happiness and goodness abounds
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
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