One of my favorite parts of a slice of life drama is the fact that it creates a series of likeable characters that you can invest and see a bit of yourself in, thus making the anime something a lot more than a cartoon. A drama, especially a good one, has the ability to move you and make you feel things, whether those things be happiness or sadness. Hana-Saku Iroha hits every possible nail on the head and is a very effective and moving anime. Iroha is so much fun to watch, so moving at times, contains so many characters that you feel like you become friends with, that it transcends the screen and almost feels like a literal vacation to the hot spring resort of Kissuisso.
Ohana Matsumae is sixteen years old and lives in Tokyo with her lazy mother. When her mother runs off with a guy, Ohana is sent to the Kissuisso where she believes she is going to be staying with her grandmother, but soon learns she is actually going to be put to work. While resentful at first, she soon grows to love the people of and the Kissuisso itself. She helps all her friends achieve their goals, winds up in a love triangle, and ultimately learns her place in the world.
While the plot isn’t complex, it is deeply tied to the setting and the characters. The characters are what makes the story so very human and sometimes even personal.
The animation is fantastic. The characters are distinct in their appearance and the Kissuisso itself is marvelous looking. All of the backdrops of the series are beautiful.
The music is once again, very good. The openings and endings are both fantastic and the music during the show is good too. Characters whistle the theme of the show every once in a while and for some reason, that really appealed to me. The voice actors are really good and convey emotion well. Overall, no complaints here.
The characters, as they should be for a slice of life drama, are really, really good. Ohana is an all-around likeable girl, from the first time you meet her, to the last time you see her. Her introspections are sprinkled throughout the series and give her a very human feel--she’s just a girl searching for her place in the world. She’s a little awkward, but really fun to be around and seems to give a smile to everyone at work, and even the viewer occasionally. There is a lot of appeal in her character as she really does change throughout the series and watching her grow gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, especially at the end. She’s one of my favorite female leads in an anime.
Nako is your moe character. She’s not as deep or exciting as Ohana, but I guess she’s okay. Out of the three lead girls, she’s the least exciting and likeable.
Minko is your tsundere character, and as you can probably tell, I have a thing for tsundere characters (which explains my love for her). I really enjoyed her character because she has a bit of a puppy love thing going on for Tohru, one of the chefs at the Kissuisso, and it’s really cute. But the problem is Tohru likes Ohana. And Minko throws out so many hints but never gets to date him and never has the ability to express herself to him without his blowing it off or not realizing she is actually trying to get with him. She’s a bit of a bitch at times, but she feels Ohana is invading her territory and she has a hard time dealing with the new girl as she has a completely different personality. She does develop a bit through the course of the series, and becomes a lot more likeable toward the end than she is at the beginning, but I overall enjoyed her.
The other two really good characters are Tarou, who doesn’t develop at all but is good comedic relief, and Sui Shijima, Madam Manager herself. While at first I really hated her, just as Ohana did, I grew to like her and realize she was a really good person. When her past is revealed, it’s a really touching moment.
All the other characters range from good (Enishi and Tohru) to annoying (Takako). Some of the side characters, such as Ko, the boy who loves Ohana, have quite a bit of screen time but never really shine through. Ko wasn’t all that exciting and never proved to be anything more than a piece of cardboard. He had feelings, but they weren’t focused on and when he did talk or show feeling it was generic. The same can kind of be said of Tohru. I liked him, but found him to be really dense and sometimes I wished Minko would just slap him or something.
Jay Gatsby dreamed of being with Daisy, Lennie and George dreamed of owning a farm, France dreams of waving something other than a white flag, Ohana dreams of being able to live in the world of Kissuisso with her friends forever, and Minko dreams of becoming a chef. This is a series that revolves around the idea of attaining your dreams, no matter what, and it is effectively conveyed through the characters. While the dreams are not as timeless as those of Gatsby or Lennie and George, they are still going to stay with you for quite a while, as are the characters of the series. When the doors of Kissuisso close to you for the last time, it’s certain you will feel a mixture of emotions. Happiness, sadness. You go through all of your favorite memories of the series and realize that Iroha was crazily effective and will stick with you for quite a long time.
Hana-Saku Iroha gets a 9/10.