This is review number one hundred and forty two. It’s another anime from the Spring 2011 lineup. It’s Hanasaku Iroha. It’s a twenty six episode anime about a girl suddenly working in an inn. I spent two hours on this review so I am pretty spent. Just read it. I’m done. Good night.
The anime is about a sixteen year old girl named Ohana Matsumae. She is suddenly sent to her grandmother’s after her mother decided to run with her boyfriend from debt collectors. Her grandmother runs an inn in the scenic town of Yunosagi called the “Kissui Inn”. Her grandmother has decided that she will work in the inn and pay off her living expenses. It’s hard for a girl from Tokyo to suddenly adjust to the working life after an unscheduled visit and she discovers just how much dedication is needed to be working in an inn. She obviously doesn’t belong but Ohana is a persistent girl. She is determined to work in this inn and prove to everyone that she isn’t just a burden to them.
Taking the Pants Off
This anime is easily one of my favorite anime ever. It’s easily in my top five because it was just so unique and it was able to make the Slice of Life genre proud. From the animation to the story, this anime was incredible. It’s one of the anime I’ve been dying to review ever since I started this site. Few shows can ever make you feel as good as Hanasaku Iroha. There’s just something so remarkable in this anime that you rarely find or possible discover in any other anime. It’s one of those shows that even after ten or twenty years, where I either stop halfway stop through my 1000 goal or just give up on it completely, I can still watch with sheer joy and it can still give me an incredible anime experience. It’s a modern timeless classic in my honest opinion. I’d be showering this anime will praise all throughout so you might as well just watch it now if you haven’t before.
The anime is about a girl working in an inn. Most Slice of Life anime is very focused on the school life so it was indeed refreshing to see a new setting in a genre that doesn’t really try to be innovative. The Slice of Life genre excels in the ordinary. A lot of anime tries to be over the top or flashy to the point of being unrealistic. The Slice of Life is more laidback and it is more about normal everyday events and normal everyday conflicts most people can relate with. It’s, admittedly, a hard genre to watch especially if you’re the impatient type. Hanasaku Iroha has taken smart steps though to ensure that you don’t get bored watching the normal everyday lives of the people working in an inn. The story itself, feels a bit familiar and the characters are certainly pretty interesting.
There’s a simple set up to the anime. Most episodes center on a certain event or conflict. They’re the focus of the episode and the conflict often gets resolved towards the end of the anime. Most conflicts take a couple or so episodes to get resolved though. Most Slice of Life anime often has one main conflict that slowly builds a resolution towards the end of the series. This anime uses the context of “a young girl working in an inn” to produce a lot of events or conflicts. Some of the conflicts involve the inn being super busy or the inn facing slow business. As the anime progresses, characters are fleshed out, relationships are strengthened and typical work related conflicts are resolved. The simple individual conflicts and events do make the plot points of the anime more interesting.
The anime works around its premise of Ohana working in Kisssui Inn but there are certain plot points spread across the anime that are slowly developed as the anime progresses. The first plot point is about Ohana. This anime is a coming of age story for Ohana. She’s a young girl slowly becoming an adult and she faces certain hardships as she treads the path. The anime often has scenes where she ponders where she truly belongs or what she wants to do when she grows up. She is a person that wants to do her best so that she can one day be helpful of others.
No coming of age story is complete without a romantic relationship and this was also heavily explored in the anime. Her best friend named Ko has confessed to her before she left Tokyo and instead of getting the boy out of the friend zone, she left without giving a proper response. The anime soon builds a lovely story between the characters with Ohana often feeling unsure of what she truly feels towards her best friend.
The second plot point in the anime is the complicated family dynamic of Ohana’s family. Her grandmother is a total matriarch. Through various flashbacks and conversations, we discover how much of a fall out the family has experienced. Her grandmother dedicates her life to the inn and this often affected her relationship with her children. As the anime progresses, we discover just how much Ohana’s mother resented the grandmother and also how complicated Ohana has with her own mother.
The little melodrama about the estranged relationship of the family is pretty fun to watch. The stubborn personalities of the family members coupled by their strong respect from one another are displayed pretty nicely in the anime. This theme of “family” was nicely presented that seeing how it would turn out is one of the strongest aspects of the anime.
The third plot point is simply about the relationship of the people working in Kissui Inn. There is the friendship Ohana forms with the other young girls in the inn, Nako and Minko. It starts out rocky with Ohana being a complete outsider but as she slowly finds her place in the inn, she forms a close friendship with the girls. There is a lot of focus on this simple relationship as most episodes are about some of the minor characters of the anime. There are also the relationships of the cooks in the kitchen of Kissui Inn. I don’t want to spoil much but there is some focus given to Minko and the rest of people working in the kitchen. Their complicated relationship with Ohana was also a pretty nice side story in the anime.
Every character in the anime was given a decent introduction and some episodes are dedicated to them so when the relationship deepens, certain interactions in the anime becomes a bit more exciting. Even though this plot point is often just a side dish to the main one of Ohana’s coming of age, there is still enough development to keep viewers intrigue and I find it pretty impressive.
As you can see, there are a lot of things done in the anime that are pretty hard to balance. The fact that the Slice of Life aspect doesn’t get boring while the characters are being fleshed out and the plot points are slowly being strengthened while the anime introduces a standalone conflicts for the elements to revolve in pretty damn intimidating. I’ve seen anime with less complicated structure fumble hard but this anime is precise and the execution is really impressive. I’ve seen countless anime struggles to unleash its potential but the well thought out design of this anime really brought out all of its good stuff. It’s pretty damn rare to see a really well established Slice of Life with refreshing content and this really makes Hanasaku Iroha a rarity.
The characters are one of the strongest elements of the anime. They often carry the show and it’s you emotionally invest in them. Each character in the anime has a unique personality to them that makes them stand out. Even minor and side characters have a nice personality to them. The employees of Kissui Inn are an interesting bunch. The main character, Ohana, is the perfect lead for this anime. She has a loud personality that doesn’t come off as annoying. She has a strong will and she takes challenges head on. I love how well rounded she is because there are times where she is very determined and she takes initiative but there are also times where she is completely vulnerable to the point where you want her to cheer up. She also speaks her mind, like a good main character should, and it often make certain scenes really special.
The rest of the cast is also pretty strong. There is the stubborn mother who is more of an office woman than a mother to Ohana. There is the grandmother and inn manager that everyone respected but also hated because of her disapproving nature. There is the hard headed and tsundere friend. There is the shy and always nervous but family oriented friend. There is the strict assistant cook that is oblivious of other people’s feelings and many more. There is no shortage of interesting characters in the anime and there is a nice character interaction among them that is pretty entertaining to watch.
Besides the Slice of Life genre, there is also a bit of Drama and Romance in the anime. These genres are nicely presented as well. The way the plot points are presented is really smooth so when these genres enter, it feels natural. Nothing feels forced and the smart build up makes certain dramatic or romantic scenes a lot more special. I personally was hugging my pillow at some of the sweet moments of the anime because I was heavily invested in the characters and I was waiting for particular scenes to happen that the anime brilliantly executes.
If I have point out a negative aspect of the anime, I guess it’d be the ending. I’ll try not to spoil things but after a good amount of build up where you are connected to the characters, it feels like the anime deserved a better ending. It’s my personal opinion anyways and it doesn’t really affect the overall experience because it was still a pretty powerful ending. This is a pretty impressive anime and there’s not a lot of its kind out there. I mean it when I say that this anime is a serious must watch.
Sight and Sound
Hanasaku Iroha is an original screenplay anime from the studio called PA Works. In a sense, this was their break out anime of sorts. Just like Fate Zero for UFOtable or K from Go Hands, it was an anime that proclaims their presence and demanded people to notice. From top to bottom, you can clearly see a great amount of quality in terms of the visuals and the soundtrack.
I am a huge fan of the character design because there is an impressive amount of work put into it. I love how Ohana look. The nice combination of cuteness and subtle hints of sexiness was impressive. She has a nice petite look to her and the way her hair stands out is pretty impressive. I’ve never seen her hair design before and I love how much detail is put into it. It’s curly at the bottom and then straight at the top with simple bangs plus two hair clips at the side. I also love the nice blush effect at the side of the eyes that makes the character look cuter. The facial features are pretty strong though that the sixteen year old looks a bit more mature.
The rest of the characters are also nicely detailed. I love Minko’s long flowing hair and the way the hair looks at the back is really nice. Her face is also pretty nice with strong eyes and frown but a touch of gentleness when she blushes. She is also sexy with some nice curves to them. If you want curves though, Nako certainly has them. She is the one that completely ooze sexiness in an unintentional way. There is some fan service thrown here and there but nothing explicit. Nako has big boobs and some nice curves to her. There is even some sex appeal on the way her neck look when her hair is up. There huge amount of detail put into making her super sexy yet innocently cute was damn near perfect.
The rest of the characters also have individual looks to them. Some are a bit plain but it compliments their personality. Some of the boys in the anime are a bit plain despite their good looks. The anime didn’t need a bishoujo but it would’ve been nice to see some strong details in the guys as well.
PA Works took a page from KyoAni and captured a real place to create the setting. It was really nicely done and it was matching the standards KyoAni has in detail work of the background. The nice mix of CG in some scenes is pretty amazing and the scenic shots are absolutely beautiful. The anime really captured the laidback vibe of the country side with hand painted trees and unpopulated roads. The nice bright green colors of rice fields and the amazing scenic shots were top notch. It truly made the anime a lot more special. The Tokyo scenes were also nicely done. In contrast to the country side, the urban setting was populated and there are a lot of busy areas. The tall buildings and the cemented streets were portrayed pretty nicely. The way the anime captured the real life setting is really outstanding. It made you wish you were the one staying in Kissui Inn.
The animation is top notch as well. PA Works really made KyoAni blush with this anime. The way the hair moves is pretty flawless. It falls down the body naturally and the individual behavior of the hair to the body was impressive. I love the scenes where Ohana would talk upside down and you can see how nice the hair behaves. Simple unrecognizable yet detailed work like that makes the anime superb. The body language of the characters is nicely detailed as well. There is a great amount of work put into making Nako a nervous fidgety girl in contrast to the confident straight laced movements of Minko. The movements of the hand are realistic and on point. Hand positioning and other subtle details like that are captured by the anime. I noticed it most when the cooks are prepping the ingredients and such. These are details only KyoAni used to capture but PA Works does them nicely as well.
The facial expressions are also impressive. Ohana is the best example because she likes to talk a lot and the way her normal face shifts into a happy face is really fluid. The way the characters blush or talk is nicely detailed as well. There are a lot of scenes where characters are running or fighting and the anime also did a good job on them. It’s clear that the anal attention to detail makes this anime incredibly special.
The soundtrack of the anime is also pretty amazing. The nice background music at some of the scenes really sets the mood of the anime. There are some nice guitar pieces during the laidback moments of the anime and there are some really impressive piano pieces during some drama scenes of the anime. Of course, the insert songs are pretty impressive as well.
Nano.ripe does most of the songs in the anime. This was the first time I heard of this group and they are really impressive. The rhythm of their songs is really nice and the beat is pretty catchy. Most of the insert songs are acoustic songs with a nice guitar to accompany the nice voice of the lead. It captures the Slice of Life aspect of the anime pretty impressively.
The anime has two OP. The first one is “Hana no Iro” by nano.RIPE. I love this song because it has a nice “homy” feel to it. It’s a bit nostalgic yet also has a catchy rhythm to it. The leads voice is also pretty nice. The song has a nice structure to it and I find myself happily listening to the OP whenever I watch the anime. The OP sequence features the characters and their busy life in the inn. There is a lot of running and there is also a nice CG shot of the inn with the camera zooming in the building. The second OP is “Omokage Warp” by nano.RIPE. It’s another impressive song and the guitar riff on the start of the song is pretty impressive. The OP sequence is pretty much the same as the first OP. There are a lot of characters running and t features the busy lives of the characters in the inn. You can spot the great quality in animation on the OP though and I love how the visual aspect of the anime is featured in them.
The anime basically has two ED songs but there are also special ED songs on some episodes. The first ED of the anime is “Hazy” by Sphere. They’re the group featured in Natsuiro Kiseki and they have some pretty impressive vocals. The song is a mellow paced love song with a nice rhythm to it. The singers nicely bring out the charm of the song and I admire that. The ED sequence features the four girls in the anime watching the sunset looking all pretty and stuff. The second ED song is “Hanasaku Iroha” by Clammbon. The singer has a really impressive voice and I love how the song has a lovely mellow beat. It also has a nice piano arrangement that makes the song pretty nice to listen to. The ED sequence is pretty much the same. It features the girls in still poses under falling leaves looking pretty and stuff.
8/10 “If I can give one anime a perfect 10, it’d be this. No doubt, I won’t even ponder about it.”
This anime is amazing and you don’t find a lot of Slice of Life anime with an engaging story, lovely characters and pretty impressive execution of its elements. Like I said before, this is an anime I’d still enjoy after ten or twenty years had passed. It’s a modern timeless classic that I urge everyone to try. I highly recommend it.