In comparison to the rest of Hanasaku Iroha's main roster of characters, you could probably argue that Nako has been relatively underutilised in terms of examining or fleshing out her character. Well, argue no more, for episode eighteen is very much a Nako-fest.
More precisely, this week's instalment introduces us to a very different Nako - the confident, outgoing girl who manages to keep her home impeccably organised as she marshals her siblings and even her parents while doing the cooking and so on and so forth. This "home" Nako is quite simply a world aware from the girl we see at Kissuiso and elsewhere, and she knows it, comparing her situation to that of a mermaid on dry land when she's outside of the confines of her own house, and more to the point it's something that she wants to change.
This opportunity to come out of her shell has perhaps arrived alongside Kissuiso's pay day, as Nako finds herself granted a raise which she assumes must be an attempt to coax her into working harder. With that in mind, she allows herself to be led along in some very un-Nako-esque directions - buying extravagant and sexy clothes, and even getting hit on by a bunch of almost admirably "unique" guys. Still, all of this doesn't really assuage Nako's feelings of insecurity, and to be honest her attempt to go about her business as Kissuiso "acting normal" doesn't work much better. The moral of the story? An utterly cheesy "be yourself"; particularly when being yourself checks a handful of boxes in the moe database, I would wager.
Anyhow, slightly auspicious moral to the episode's story aside, this was one of those episodes that really boils down and distils Hanasaku Iroha into the reason why I enjoy the series so much - the dynamic between all of the major characters were played off against one another perfectly, and alongside that there were plenty of fantastic moments of humour no matter how larger than life some of them were. I'm not even particularly fussed about Nako as a character, but she was certainly given a suitably warm treatment here to leave you cheering her on and (in my case at least) empathising with her curse of a lack of confidence. Overall then, a hugely entertaining episode to put the slightly damp squib that was this show's previous story arc out of both sight and mind.