The story basically follows Ohana Matsumae who, after hearing that her mother is going on a midnight flit with a random boyfriend, has to go and work at an inn run by her strict and proper grandmother. This is a very, very good example how a slice of life/ drama anime should be produced and conveyed to a viewer. The day to day events are inspiring, exciting, informative about the numerous characters and sometimes you cannot help but seeing yourself in some of the situations Ohana finds herself in. This anime grabbed hold of me in the first episode I watched and I never looked back after that, but did look forward to the next week when I could get to set my eyes on the next episode. In this anime you find yourself caught between so many emotions, anger, joy, sadness and this is my point: this anime could grab onto you on a very realistic emotional level, something you could relate to. Mostly my pc screen was graced by the events unfolding at the inn, you also found a bit of school life thrown in the brilliant mix, just enough to further improve the story and characters. The story flows extremely well throughout and never rushes or drags anything out of proportion. I was so happy when I discovered it would be 26 episodes, because anything less and this anime would have fell flat on its face.
God damn it was brilliant, flowing, serene and just plain beautiful. If anyone comes up to me and tells me it was not, well that person should go check if he/she is still mentally sound. The color was vivid, but never overpowering. The characters were designed in a very unique way, but never being too unfamiliar. Mostly you would find yourself staring at beautiful backdrops of mountains, beaches and festivals. Even I thought staring at an inn for 20+ episodes would put me off, well, it never did. Each scene inside the inn was life-like, beautiful and eye catching. Everything in this anime related to animation was crisp and uplifting. Yes, obviously there were faults.... Not really, tell me when you find them.
Another place this anime excelled. The two OP’s played in this anime were brilliant and fit the story absolutely amazingly. Only criticisms are the ED’s, they were a bit ambiguous in my opinion, never felt the urge to sit and listen to them. Voice acting was very well done, Kanae Itou, who in my book is a God, did a brilliant job. She portrayed the role of Ohana brilliantly, which she does well in many other roles such as Amu from Shugo Chara! and Elsie from The World God Only Knows. While watching this anime I did recognize a lack in mood setting music, which could be a problem in some other inferior animes, but nothing to worry about here. It gives you the chance to listen and give the correct amount of attention to the scene playing out before you and assess it without the help of music.
Almost all of them were great, Ohana being the star of the show. Her quirky, energetic, cute, happy-go-lucky attitude towards almost everything was a refreshing and uplifting experience when called upon. Second best would be the very, very, very tsundere-ish Minchi. Rude when and where she wants to be, but does have a soft spot for most of the characters, especially Tohru. Nako was the one character I did dislike, I could never seem to put my finger on it, but she just pissed me off. Now on to Ko, the disappointment of this anime. They never, in my opinion, tried to elaborate on him enough, because if they did he would never have been that boring. Almost everyone got the spotlight for some reason, even dimwitted Nako, but never Ko. If they could have just improved him a little bit his relationship with Ohana would have been even better. All the other character had their time in which they shone; almost everyone did their respective roles very well.
I never give anything a perfect score on reviews, because nothing is flawless, but Hanasaku Iroha was pretty damn close. This is my second favorite anime that has broadcast so far in 2011 (Usagi Drop being number one). It even bumped most of my favorites off my best anime list and is now at my number fifth spot, just below Berserk(4th), Usagi Drop(3rd) and Spice and Wolf 1 and 2.
A must watch.