Hana-Saku Iroha

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cassiesheepgirl's avatar By on Nov 3, 2011

Story

Spring 2011 was bursting with several opportunities to overwhelm the fandom with awesome. But while the likes of Hen Zemi and Maria Holic Alive left little to be desired, the standout hit of the season came from an unexpected source: Hanasaku Iroha – a tale about a young girl named Ohana going to work at Kissuiso, her grandmother’s hot spring inn.

Hanasaku Iroha is an anime of two very distinct halves. The first thirteen episodes play out as a character-driven coming-of-age drama focusing on Ohana and her interactions with other people. This opening part unfolds with subtlety and grace and focuses on Ohana arriving at her new life at Kissuiso and learning the meaning of hard work in a manner not dissimilar to Chihiro’s plight in Spirited Away. On top of this, the show also places great importance on Ohana’s various relationships and how the girl ultimately affects those around her. The anime simultaneously explores the teen connecting with her stony-faced grandmother, deciphering how she feels about childhood friend, Ko, confronting her flighty and unreliable mother, and melting her roommate, Minko’s, icy shell. With all the strands of Ohana’s life weaving together and building up to a climactic thirteenth episode, it feels as if the series could have ended right there and then.

Unfortunately, some of the show’s latter episodes toss aside the exceptional storytelling of what preceded them and descend into little more than typical slice-of-life. Ohana’s development grinds to a halt as she becomes little more than Kissuiso’s enthusiastic cheerleader and resident ray of sunshine. Taking less of a back seat but more a completely different car and honking on the horn every so often, Ohana hands over the spotlight to her peers – though she continues to make her presence known by helping guide everyone down the correct path. Instead of subtly developing the secondary players alongside the protagonist as previously, we get far more blatant character-centric arcs mixed in with school life standards such as festivals and class trips to the beach. While still entertaining and sensitive to its cast, after seeing what the impressive opening has to offer, watching schoolgirls bicker over “omurice” is a let-down and add little to the central relationships.

Luckily as the show comes to a close, it starts to reclaim some of its earlier glory as tensions rise while everyone attempts to save their beloved Kissuiso. Much like the anime’s opening half, the interpersonal relationships between the main cast make the climax such a treat to watch and as the episodes continue, friendships regress, revolt, and renew. Hanasaku Iroha’s finale proves one of the most fulfilling I’ve seen for some time as it wraps up each individual plot thread, seemingly sending the narrative full circle, while simultaneously changing everything along the way.


Animation

One of the most striking aspects of Hanasaku Iroha is the animation. This show demonstrates some of the most luscious background imagery from recent years, and P.A. Works has excelled itself by including details right down to the veins on marble pillars or the natural wear and tear of a kitchen floor.

Hanasaku Iroha also displays a surprising attention to detail when it comes to movement, which adds a sense of realism wherever possible. Small details such as Ohana’s cheeks getting buffeted by the wind as she speeds down a hill on a bicycle and sparks floating in the air during a bonfire means that this series is less a feast for the eyes, but more an all-you-can-eat banquet. Likewise, the anime integrates its computer generated animation very well and, instead of appearing awkward and unwieldy, enhances the show by giving smoother movement for train rides or delicate snowflakes falling from the sky.


Sound

Much like every other aspect of the show, Hanasaku Iroha’s soundtrack is very gentle.  Quiet acoustic guitar tracks reminiscent of the background music from the Aria franchise help depict the feeling of happiness and calm that Ohana derives from her new life at the inn. The musical score may not be one that you must rush to get hold of, but it perfectly matches the series’ overall tone without resorting to sappy, saccharine harmonies.

The series’ voice cast fares just as well as the soundtrack with each actor providing the ideal vocals for their characters. Tamie Kubota’s performance as Sui fits the bill perfectly with her portrayal of the stern Madam Manager who isn’t to be messed with, while also retaining a softer, more maternal side that prevents her from becoming a figure of hate. Meanwhile, Chiaki Omigawa captures Minko’s vulnerability to a T, yet imbues the character with enough aggression and drive to depict the young chef’s more decisive nature.


Characters

The characterisation in Hanasaku Iroha is subtle, but top notch. At the beginning Ohana hovers somewhere between a poor abandoned daughter and a selfish brat, but through her various interactions with those at Kissuiso, she goes on her own journey and transforms. In particular it’s her developing relationships with two of the inn’s residents – her stern and indifferent grandmother, Sui, and her classmate the serious Minko – that mostly contribute to the young girl’s evolution. These two relationships are the most charming of the series, although Ohana’s interactions with both her mother and childhood friend Ko are also both engaging and integral to her development. That Ohana’s grandmother treats the teen as nothing more than an employee when she first arrives, watching the two gradually connect as Sui’s icy exterior slowly thaws in the face of Ohana’s determination and enthusiasm makes for unadulterated viewing pleasure. Certainly, the teenager’s desire to earn Sui’s approval goes a long way to how she matures throughout the course of the series.

Undoubtedly, the lynchpin of Hanasaku Iroha’s plotline is the effect that Ohana has on her peers. In some cases her enthusiasm simply becomes infectious, and re-ignites a flame within the staff. However, in the case of Minko, it’s more of a two-way street. Minko’s initial disdain of Ohana serves as one of the central reasons behind the new girl’s drive to improve, but at the same time as the inn’s newest hire becomes more competent, Minko’s competitive aspect ignites enabling the young chef to herself evolve.

Even in a relatively slow-paced show filled with deep interpersonal relationships, there’s still a lot of room for a sprinkling of eccentricity amongst the cast. Additions such as the over the top, perverted and flamboyant author, Jiro, and high-flying business consultant Takako with her random English phrases, there’s not only the option for more comedy to make an appearance, but they cause plenty of friction and open up opportunities for Ohana to further evolve and prove her worth.


Overall

Despite a filler-esque section following the half-way mark Hanasaku Iroha is one of the best series of the year so far. With brilliant characterisation, deep relationships between the players and a quietly graceful soundtrack all wrapped up in a sumptuously gorgeous visual treat, you couldn’t ask for more.

7.5/10 story
9/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
8.8/10 overall
Rifunger's avatar By on May 14, 2014

This was some hell of a show! That is exactly what I'm expecting from a slice of life - Drama(?) series. This show made nearly everything right. All the characters are good and nothing in this show seemed forced or whatever. Especially the kinda small romance part.

Though this show isn't focused on romance it evolves it nevertheless which is ok. But because of that the romance isn't the focus makes it great. It doesn't 'force' the romance to grow from episode to episode, it rather focus on the slice of life thing in finding yourself what you are and what you want do in life.

For my own opinion I think that the romance could be more 'solved' in the end. It rather stays as something unsolved and you don't get a conclusion what it's like in the end. But that is just me and i guess many people think that exactly this thing makes the show great and one of the best in the slice of life series (My guesses and own opinion on this).

After all i think that Hana-Saku Iroha is one of the best show in the slice of life - Drama(?) genre and i recommend it to everybody who likes romance, Drama or SoL genre.

8.5/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
8/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
StevenSAKUJO's avatar By on Jul 9, 2013

Story: [5/10]

The storyline? I was more interested in the filler episodes... Character development only happens after the credits, Predicting the plot isn't even fun because it's too easy. I am being genuinely serious when I say that I was more interested in the filler episodes, it's extremely hard to take a romance seriously when the only thing you know about a guy is that he confessed to the lead. It's extremely hard to care about Ohana's relationship with her mother when all you know about her is that she's selfish. This trend is similar with a lot of characters, there have been reviews where I have complained that unlikeable characters result in inconsequential dramas and thus make the anime boring but there was no attempt to give any reason as to why anyone should care about any of the possible outcomes of her "dramas" with other characters. 

No significant problems, no significant character changes and like I said, only filler content was okay.

Animation: [8/10]

I mean they produced some very kawaii anime girls which was crucial for me as none of them deserved to be liked on personality alone. 

Sound: [7.5/10]

Didn't care much for the 1st OP/ED or the OST but the 2nd OP/ED I liked a lot, especially the ED. To be fair, nothing really big really happened and so mostly the music was just background type stuff and so you can't blame the people involved but there was nothing really that stood out for me other than one song on the credits of episode 25 which was really nice and well-placed but that's it. Seiyuu were nothing special, does dialogue count as sound cause it was awful.. The first few episodes Ohana started dishing out some poetic language and I was like wow what an interesting character but that disappeared in a hurry and then she just says peoples names all the time.. like "KO" "KO "KO" KO-CHAN" and "MINCHHI" "MIIINCHHIII" sometimes her eyes sparkle a little when she says their names too, I think it's exciting for her. 

Characters [2/10]

I liked Nakochi (the shy girl) and no one else, and I didn't even like her that much. She is the only one who has a slightly intriguing problem to which a few episodes are dedicated to but at the end of the day, it is just a shy girl trying to be something different. Most characters strictly existed for plot purposes and can only maintain my interest for about an episode, unforuantly many characters with major relevanerace were really just pushing along the plot (to which their part doesn't even deserve to be called anything but a side arc) which leaves me with no plot at all really. Although the plot doesn't have much drama, the characters ruin the scraps thrown to us through stubborn lack of development in both their own habbits and of what we know about them.

Overall: [5.3/10]

If the quality of production was worse I'd not have finished it, Clearly this is a terrible review and im just expressing how I felt after watching it, on a more serious note I wouldnt recommend this to anyone looking for more than a very melo slice of life and I would also strongly suggest that this anime is for women, dudes like me probably wont enjoy it.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
2/10 characters
5.3/10 overall
DreadNaught1's avatar By on May 19, 2013

This is an anime that starts out slow but as you get into a few later episode it kinda grows onto you, so bare that in mind if you give this one a try.

Anyways the story follow a girl named Ohana who has to move in with her grandmother who runs an Inn named Kissuiso, after her mother leaves with a man. When Ohana first arrives she has a hard time due to the fact she's never really worked before, but as time progresses she quickly learns to love her job and the place she is living at.

The story overall is pretty standard for slice of life so it has no real problems, but the reason why I rated this anime just a little above average is because of the characters. The characters in general at Kissuiso are rather likable as you get more into the anime, because they develop rather nicely and at a same pace with the story.

Overall if you like Slice of Life anime's and don't mind one that starts out slow, I say give this one a try but again not it might take a few episodes for you to get into it.

Also side note, if your like me and get annoyed when you hear a term or phrase a lot but never the meaning of it. Perpare to be annoyed a little by the phrase in here "fest it up" odds are you'll try googling it's meaning.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
8/10 overall
cruyffbedroom's avatar By on Mar 15, 2013

The story of Hanasaku Iroha is almost ridiculously simple. A young girl named Ohana, thanks to the irresponsible behavior of her mother, is sent to an inn out in the country to spend her days. This inn is run by Ohana’s grandmother. But she isn’t a cozy grandma who’s going to spoil Ohana. She’s all business, all work, almost cold; and her coworkers are all rather ambivalent about Ohana, too. And although it does feel rather depressing at first, the beauty of this show (and of Ohana) is that, rather than get overwhelmed and feel miserable about her situation, she tries her best to make this place her own. She tries to take a situation that seems bad, and not so much find the positive, but rather tries to find a way to grow from it. The series is then about her growth as a person, the way in which she learns to find meaning in the work she does, the way in which she learns that she’s not the center of everything happens; it’s one of the finest portraits of a young woman I’ve ever seen in any visual media.

There’s a great line near the end of the series that handily summarizes a lot of what I thought was going on in this series: “what you gain from hard work can never betray you.” Time and time again the characters in the series strive to become better at their jobs. Whether it’s Ohana’s struggles to find her own routine and her own place, or Minchi’s struggles to learn the trade of being a chef or, hell, Ohana’s uncle struggle to become good enough to one day become the true successor to the inn – the characters in this series define themselves by how they do their job. Their job performance seems interconnected with their personal growth, but it’s also connected with their character – if I’m not working my hardest, what kind of person am I?

There’s a telling episode about halfway in the show’s run where the main trio of girls visit another inn for a school trip. The inn apparently has a new automated system for taking plates up and down the floors; this saves time and it does away with having full-time waitresses so the inn has some part-timers to do the work. Ohana is at first impressed with the work that everyone’s doing, but then she sees some of the waitresses talking on their phone while still at work, and of course they’re typical “high school” girls who have an attitude. Later on, these girls walk off the job because they say it’s too hard and you have to remember too many things. These girls, because of their unserious attitude toward their job, are painted as bratty monsters (later on we see them all wearing makeup and making fun of the inn of where they worked at). In Hanasaku Iroha, if you’re not trying to do your best, then that reflects badly on your character. In one of the funniest scenes in the show, Ohana more or less attacks them. Ohana only has patience for people who are trying their best, every character in Hanasaku Iroha is giving it their all.

This series reminded me of one of the most overlooked movies of the past few years, Margaret. One of the most important lines of dialogue in that film is: “We are not supporting characters in the fascinating story of your life!” During the first few episodes, Ohana is only concerned about what is happening to her. She sees the situation she’s in as hers alone, and she kinda steps on a few toes around the inn as she struggles to acclimate herself to this new place. She even gets called out as “inconsiderate,” at one point. One of key themes in the show is realizing that everyone around has their reasons (as in Renoir), their own beliefs, their own dreams. The great realization later on in the show where she learns to actually place herself in someone else’s shoes (first with her mom and then later on with her grandma) is so fantastic. She’s such a strong-willed girl that for her to give in and rescind her original feelings is marvelous.

I can’t write about this show without also mentioning how much it understands how impernance of life. The show spans roughly 6 or 7 months. In this period of time, all the characters grow and are shaded with depth and are fully realized. But the reason why the time we’ve spent with these characters is special is because it’s something that’s untenable. People are destined to move away from you, your group of friends won’t always be there in the same exact configuration that you’re used to; things will always end. What Hanasaku Iroha understands most of all is that things are meant to change; it can be a positive change, it can be a negative change, whichever. Late in the show’s run, Ohana’s grandmother makes a decision that disrupts the natural order of what we’ve been watching for the last 20 or so episodes. She forces a change in these characters’ lives. Now, we may want these characters to remain the same way, like in Ranma ½, and never deviate, always acting out the same patterns of behavior, but that betrays a misunderstanding of how life actually works. We’re all working toward our own goals, and sooner or later, we might have to go our separate ways. The places that meant so much to us might become a memory, an important one, sure, but something that was not meant to last. Hanasaku Iroha feels like that. It’s a series that reminds me how much pain and how much laughter are required before you can truly grow.

copied/pasted from my tumblr: cruyffbedroom.tumblr.com

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
8/10 overall