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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s all too common for anime-series to start off on a promising note only to end in a
disappointing manner. Sometimes creators are forced to rush an ending due to
external factors, other times they run out ideas or budget but most of the time
writers simply bite off more than they can chew resulting in cheesy melodrama
through all sorts of contrived situations.
Hanasaku Iroha is the complete opposite. Its first 6 or so episodes try out drama,
comedy, romance or slice-of –life in such a way that the shifts between
episodes feel jarring.
The good news? It’s after the clumsy start that it really manages to find its feet and
blossom into a touching, funny series that superbly celebrates themes such as
working hard and thinking before you leap. Best yet: it does so in a tender,
The story’s premise is that our protagonist, 16-year old city girl Ohana Matsumae, is
forced to work at her grandmother’s countryside inn after her mother got
herself in a jam thanks to her current boyfriend. Ohana is, of course, taken
aback by this sudden change. Especially since she was confessed to by a
childhood friend just a little earlier. She nonetheless packs her bags and
moves to her grandmother, and it’s here that she enters a world of joy and
Or so she thought.
Upon her arrival at Kisuisso (the name of the inn) she’s all but immediately put to work
by her grandmother, Sui Shijma - a stern old woman who makes it very clear
who’s in charge. The rest of Kisuisso’s staff is a colorful bunch that includes
the clumsy Enishi (Ohana’s uncle), the gossipy Tomoe and, most importantly, 2
girls of around the same age as Ohana: the grumpy, single-minded Minko and the
bashful yet kind Nako.
A large part of the series revolves around seeing these characters interact while taking care of the inn’s day-to-day business. It’s in this regard that the series does a great job letting you know
about every character’s quirks. They do this by showing how they react to
certain situations and people. An offhand comment made by a character can turn
out more meaningful once you know what it is that makes said character tick.
This subtle approach to characterization is one of the show’s biggest
Better yet, the characters actually feel pretty realistic. A character can be hypocritical,
petty or overly prideful one moment but balance it out by being a hard worker
or having a cheerful disposition that allows them to face a new day head on.
Nobody is put on a pedestal.
Another upside is that the series develops its adult characters in interesting way. Stories
like this usually relegate the adults to bit parts if they even bother to have
them around to begin with. But characters like Enishi, Sui and Ohana’s mother
Satsuki actually turn out to be interesting characters who interact with the
younger characters in meaningful ways.
The best part about the characterization, however, is the way characters develop. Rather
than making them go through instantaneous changes after a big, life-changing
event – characters change gradually and only if they work their ass off to keep
at it. This is what Hanasaku Iroha is all about, and it shows best through the
character arc of Ohana herself. She starts off as a well-meaning but indecisive
girl who leaps in 10 different directions but gradually grows into a more
assertive, mature person who learns to channel her energy in more constructive
manner rather than diving headfirst into things without a solid plan. The whole
arc is written so smoothly that the development may not be immediately
noticeable to some viewers. This, however, is the beauty of this show’s
writing. It shows, rather than tells.
Sadly, the storytelling and characterization also contain some flaws. The previously
mentioned bad start is one of its most significant ones. While the first 2
episodes consistently feature a light dramatic tone the 3rd episode
makes an extremely jarring shift in tone to comedy. It features, of all things,
a rape attempt and a suicide attempt being played for laughs. Thankfully the
series never quite does such disastrous things ever again but it’s definitely a
Another problem is that some of the characters aren’t fleshed out as well as they could
have been. Minko in particular never manages to have more to her than being a
hardworking if grumpy girl with a crush on an older guy. Yuina is another
character whose potential feels unfulfilled seeing as she goes from interesting
foil to the hardworking Ohana to (mostly) comic relief. Though she’s one of the
series’ better characters when it comes to delivering humor, the absolute low
point being the perverted writer Taro Jiromaru whose antics in the 3rd
episode are too repulsive to be funny. The fact that his screentime is very
limited suggests that the creators may have been aware of this.
Visually, the series is stellar. It features some gorgeous artwork and animation. The
amount of detail with which all the locations are rendered is truly impressive,
so much that every location really has its own feel to it which is all the more
impressive considering the realism of the setting. If you look real hard you
can find a few off-model drawings and budget-saving still frames but the fact
that one has to look for them speaks volumes for how fantastic the visuals are.
The audio is competent. I can’t personally judge the acting seeing as I don’t understand
Japanese but some bloggers have praised the performances of some of the seiyu
in particular lead actress Kanae Itou as Ohana and Tamie Kubota’s performance
as Sui Shijima. Other supporting characters are voiced by reliable veterans
like Junichi Suwabe and Mamiko Noto who are always pleasant on the ears. Haruka
Tomatsu’s Yuina wasn’t received so enthusiastically, seeing as more than a few
people found her voice to be very annoying.
Ultimately,however, Hanasaku Iroha’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. When the
series finds its groove it manages to explore its themes through wonderful
characters who are endearing in all their imperfections. It’s not a fluffy
comedy about cute girls doing cute things nor does it bombard the viewer with
melodrama. Instead, it’s a wondefully tender story about giving it your all yet
rolling with the punches when you’ve got no other choice. Very highly
MY VERDICT IS: WORTH THE WATCH
The tag "physical abuse" in this anime had me worried about it, so I put it off for a while, thinking that it was some serious case of domestic abuse where a drunkard father beat his wife and kids or something. That wasn't a kind of story I wanted to watch. While I in no way want to make light of the parts which merited the tag, it was nothing that someone who grows up in an Asian househould wouldn't know about, and therefore not entirely shocking -- although it was still bad because let me be clear: I don't condone corporal punishment.
Besides that, however, Hana-Saku Iroha is a very lighthearted anime. It definitely had tropes in it -- the shy girl, the tsundere, the gentle giant, etc -- but I wasn't looking for anything groundbreaking in and of itself from this anime. It seems more like a feel-good anime that you just watch to take a break from something serious.
So basically, its characters weren't very uniquely developed. It was cute, and I enjoyed it, but nothing really broke barriers except for possibly in the case of the main character, Ohana. But even she had her predictable behaviors, so I wouldn't necessarily call her unique, either. She was interesting, but not unique.
The story isn't something that drew me in, but since this is a slice-of-life, that's not really important. You don't go to slice-of-life anime to experience fantasy and shit. So it goes. I didn't follow the storyline so much as the characters, which is the point of slice-of-life, I think, so in that sense I'd call this successful.
It had its moments - parts where I felt moved or laughed out loud. Maybe if this was a one cour anime, I would have rated this higher, but truthfully I feel like I need more storyline to really love an anime. And while this was fun to watch, it's not something that I feel like would leave a lasting mark on me or something that I'd really need a second season of.
Warning this review may contain spoilers~
Secret Santa Review 2015
Quick 5 minute review while I have some free time, always a nice way to finish the day...to please everyone and getting them to watch an awesome series such as the one I am trying to persuade you to watch now. It goes by the name of 'Hanasaku Iroha', a cute slice of life following the story of a girl and an inn. What could go wrong?
So we have a sweet, light-hearted series that has been on my want to watch list for way too long and to be honest I have no idea why I didn't pick up this series ages ago. Yeah it's pretty slow and if you don't like the whole romance, slice of life then just avoid this but this honestly was beautiful. The story was laid out amazingly and each and every detail is in the story.
Once again we come to the animation...and what can I say, I really have no major complaints, There were moments where the proportions were off but the colors and the detail in each and every feature is well done. No complaints...not bad really XD
Though I'm not a big fan of the opening vocalist, it fitted the mood that was present throughout the series. The ending weren't great, I didn't feel drawn into it. Voice acting was to a high standard and once again, there was hardly any flaws but in the end there was some flaws in my view of how it should of been.
So I'm going to keep this short...Ohana, cute character but in the beginning probably the most annoying, urgh she drove me crazy throughout the first few episodes. Minko the calm cook that had a cute crush, a complete contrast to Ohana. Then finally Nako....the person you don't expect to be who she is in the anime but be prepared :3
In conclusion....this is a really bad review but oh well~
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.