Fest it up!
Hi everyone, hisashiburi. My impetus for writing this review is that it's on my top 10 of 2011 list so I have to review it. In other words, it's about damn time lol. Hanasaku Iroha is a truly great SoL. More so than that, this was a great showing for PA Works 10th anniversary, congratulations. Undeniably, the first thing that strikes you when you watch this series are the amazing visuals. Fantastic job, PA Works really put their best foot forward. The stunning visuals alone put Hanasaku in the elite category early on. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. As far as the music... Oh boy. While the songs were catchy after a while, the actual singing quality is very poor. nano.Ripe should never sing anything, ever. Granted, overall I don't view the soundtrack poorly because as I mentioned it was catchy. And I'll certainly take bad singing over a bland soundtrack any day. So the soundtrack was still in the spirit of the series. When we come to the story of Hanasaku Iroha, we run into some big positives and some big negatives as well. Looking at the plot as the coming of age of the female lead Ohana, it's brilliant. However there are some definite flaws in overall story. The most glaring is the totally inexcusable filler that composes the majority of the 2nd half of the series. While an SoL, Hanasaku did have a strong story component, but it was mostly ignored in the 2nd half of the series. However, the series did eventually rebound with a strong final few eps, and a great finish. But another nic would be that there's not as much rom as you would've expected through the 1st half of the series. And that's true on two accounts. The first is that the relationship between Ohana and Ko (which at first had a neat Voices of a Distant Star long distance relationship vibe) wasn't explored in nearly the depth that was expected. However, it was still the strongest story component to the series. The 2nd aspect in which the rom angle was lacking was the relationship between Minko and Tohru. The crush that Minko has on Tohru is evident throughout the series, but they never seem to gain any chemistry. In fact, their relationship is hardly addressed directly. It's mostly just Minko getting pissed at Ohana all the time cause Ohana seems to have a better rapport with Tohru than she does (among other reasons that Minko gets pissed at Ohana lol). Especially with all that filler, it's seems like there was something missing in the story there. However, these issues are not nearly as crippling as you may expect. Now let's move on to the characters which are a huge part of the series. It's a large cast, but unlike many large cast anime it doesn't make the series feel watered down. Each and every member of the cast has their own unique personality which is very impressive. But even with a large quality cast, it's far and away one character that makes Hanasaku special. And that would of course be the spunky and lovable Ohana. You can't say enough about how likeable of a character Ohana is. It's no coincidence that the weak part of this series barely featured her. Ohana is unique, fun, and has a beautiful mosaic of personal growth. However, there is a lack of character development of the many other characters. Ohana's grandmother is developed well, and the Young Master is reasonably developed (though somewhat unnecessarily). However, some disappointment lies in the development of Ohana's two primary co-workers, Minko and Nako. Minko loathes Ohana from day one and she is an enjoyable contrarian. However, the biggest part of her character was her crush on Tohru and as I expressed before that aspect was not sufficiently explored which stunted Minko's overall character development. Nako is your typical shy type, and she's almost a throw-away character for me. She has like an ep or two in which she's the featured character in which benefits her development some, nonetheless clearly she is the 3rd wheel. Though she does have some cute (and random) yuri-esque moments with this girl from the art club, but that angle isn't touched at all. I could go into detail about a number of other characters, but I don't wish to be too exhaustive. So to reiterate, it's a very strong and large cast. Overall, Hanasaku is able to overcome its shortcomings in the 2nd half of the series with a strong finish and creates a truly memorable SoL experience. I give Hanasaku Iroha an 8.5 out of 10.