I woke up this morning and thought “Man I wish I could watch Hanasaku Iroha again for the first time, I really liked it.” And then I thought “Wow, I should totally review this today”. And then I remembered “Hey, Hanasaku Iroha is getting a movie later this year (yes, you heard that right fans)! And here I am. I actually don’t have the show on hand, and getting it is a matter of a 10 hour 53 GB download so while I don’t like to, I’ll end up pulling pictures from the web on this review. Anyway, moving on. Hanasaku Iroha. Aired from April to September of 2011, and is a Studio P.A. Works production. It’s a fairly new studio, some of their works including Another, Angel Beats, True Tears, and Canaan. Out of those I’ve only watched Another and Angel Beats, and comparing those with Hanasaku Iroha is kind of difficult since they’re all quite different types of shows. However you can tell the art style and animation are pretty similar throughout their titles, so if you’ve seen those shows, that should give you some idea as to what to expect for Hanasaku Iroha in terms of art and animation. But anime is always more than that, so let’s dig in and see what we find here~
Hanasaku Iroha is mostly episodic in nature. The first episode is of course some exposition to set up the rest of the show, and there are some arcs that take a few episodes, but for the most part all of stories are kind of self-contained. Things like a marriage or a trip to Tokyo or a class vacation are some examples of the small arcs found in Hanasaku Iroha. Of course all of these events serve as a kind of backdrop as you follow the story of Ohana. The show is really about her and her growth as a character from beginning to end, what she learns about the world and herself and what kind of path she wants to choose for herself going forward. So as we start the show, Ohana’s living in Tokyo as a fairly capable young woman with a fairly incapable mother. We quickly find out that her mother is eloping, and Ohana is to be sent to live in the middle of nowhere with her estranged grandmother. Of course, no one asks Ohana about any of this, but to her credit she takes these changes in stride, and moves to the middle of nowhere with her grandmother. As Ohana arrives, she finds herself at an old Japanese-style inn, and learns she’ll have to work for room and board. In addition, her grandmother, as it turns out, isn’t as grandmotherly as one would expect. In fact, she’s quite cold and seemingly unforgiving to her only granddaughter. Still, Ohana learns to deal and shows impressive adaptability and resilience for one so young. Quite admirable. Anywho, so begins Ohana’s journey in her grandmother’s inn, the Kissuiso.
Here’s where the real show stealers step in. Characters. Starting with the main character, Matsumae Ohana. In a word, she’s adorable. In several more words, well… It’s hard not to like her. If I wanted to use a word from the 50s to describe her, I’d say she has moxy. She’s an earnest girl who’s incredibly adaptable… But at the end of the day, she’s still just a sixteen year old girl. Honestly, if you just watched an episode or two of the show, it’s pretty evident why Ohana’s such a likeable character. And she’s one of the biggest reasons to continue watching. Of course there are other characters. This wouldn’t be an anime without Ohana having her own little posse of girls, and she does. Two of them also work at the inn with her, Tsurugi Minko and Oshimizu Nako. Minko is Ohana’s roommate, and kind of testy. She’s a cute girl in her own right, but she doesn’t quite like Ohana, at least at first. She often ridicules Ohana by calling her “balut”. I don’t really get it, but it’s cute I suppose. Along with Minko is Nako, who also works at the inn. Whereas Minko is a chef (well, assistant-in-training more like), Nako is a waitress/maid and seems to get along much better with Ohana than Minko does. She’s very soft-spoken, but a rather capable waitress and one year above Ohana and Minko. Ohana’s last friend is from school, one Wakura Yuina. Heiress to the Fukuya Inn, which is a rival inn in the area. Unlike Ohana however, Yuina isn’t really interested in running an inn or really the inn business at all. She’s an interesting character herself, though I wish she had gotten just a little bit more development. Hopefully the movie can satisfy me there.
Moving on to the art… Simply, I liked it. The backgrounds were so gorgeous. The fact that most of the show takes place in a countryside location is nice since it can show off a lot of that natural beauty. But considering the show starts in Tokyo and Ohana goes back there later in the show, you get to see some of that too. There’s some good variety there and it all looks good. Insofar as character design goes… I like that too. Ohana is cute, and so is Minko. Nako’s a little weirder to me, but she’s got huge knockers so she gets a pass. One thing I like about this show insofar as backgrounds are concerned (a trend P.A Works seems to be continuing in their upcoming show, Tari Tari) is how it uses the light from sundown to make some scenes look really neat. The good lighting was pretty enjoyable to watch. As far as animation goes… Honestly, I can’t recall it at all. At least, if it was particularly good or not. Normally I’d just check, but I don’t have the show on hand. So, as for most other shows I watch, I’m sure the animation for Hanasaku Iroha was totally and utterly average. And I’m stickin’ to it.
The music is… one little point of contention. Okay, so there’s this one little musical group called Nano Ripe that does both of the opening themes and several pieces of insert music for the show. And listening to that voice is like listening to nails on a chalkboard. I don’t know anyone that likes it (full disclosure, there is one song by Nano Ripe I’m moderately fond of, but I try to keep that to myself) and all their music is quite grating. That being said, there is more music to the show. The two ending themes, Hazy, and Hanasaku Iroha are done by sphere and Clammbon, respectively. I don’t know them (actually, I don’t know any of the musical talent behind this show, not that I profess to be some sorta Jpop guru), and while I don’t remember the songs, that’s probably good. Considering I DO remember Nano Ripe’s work, and it was awful. Interesting note, the four girls that make up sphere have an anime out this season called Natsuiro Kiseki. It’s super generic, but I am inexplicably a fan of the show. Sometimes I just like trash, haha. Anyway, insofar as the BGM is concerned, there were a few really solid tracks as I recall, so it was pretty good.