Hanasaku Iroha – Series Review

Let me start this by saying originally I had no intention of doing a whole series review, especially not so soon, but after watching this series I just felt compelled to not only review this Anime for the sake of myself or the site, but instead in the hopes that someone reading this will go and watch this fantastic series for themselves and get as much pleasure from watching it as I did. But moving on, I will start the review with a brief synopsis for those wondering what the Anime is actually about.

Hanasaku Iroha centers around Ohana Matsumae, a 16-year-old teenager living in Tokyo, who is left in the care of her estranged grandmother, following her mother’s elopement with her boyfriend. Ohana arrives at her grandmother’s country estate to realize she is the owner of a Taishō period hot spring inn called Kissuisō. She begins working at Kissuisō, at her grandmother’s request, but finds herself at odds with many employees and customers at the inn. Initially feeling discouraged, she decides to use her circumstances as an opportunity to change herself for the better and to make amends with her deteriorating relationship with the Kissuisō’s staff for a more prominent future.”

Now on to my own thoughts. This anime was actually released early in 2011, so why the late review you may ask? I actually started watching the series from the beginning after reading the season’s Anime preview where it caught my attention, and for around 10 weeks I watched it and was really enjoying it, unfortunately though through a lack of time I ended up falling behind to the point where it discouraged me from trying to catch up, so instead I moved on to something different. However, the show definitely left an impression on me and I promised myself that as soon as I had the time I would go back and watch the series from start to finish. Earlier this week, I finally accomplished that goal and I really couldn’t be happier that I did. Little did I know when I began my second attempt at watching that not only would it end up as my favourite Anime of the past year, but also one of my all time favourite Anime as a whole.

I am finding it a little difficult trying to come up with ways in which I can articulate just how I feel about this show and put it in to words, the show was not only brilliant for many reasons, but it also left me feeling very sad when I realised it had come to an end and that there were no more episodes to watch. Difficult as it may be, I will do my best to describe my feelings here. Let’s begin with the characters, always of course a vital thing to get right if you want a truly good series.

A lot of shows seem to suffer the problem of focusing almost exclusively on the main character, with just a little time for the others thrown in between, Hanasaku Iroha suffers no such problem thankfully and is all the better for it. While of course it features a main character in Ohana, Hanasaku has a wonderful cast of characters who are all allowed screen time and to develop their characters, without wanting to spoil anything, the characters end up different at the end of the show than when it first begins, and that includes some of the more, for lack of a better term, minor characters.

Ohana herself is an instantly likeable character which does wonders for the show, while she often remains optimistic and tries to remain positive, she is far from the annoying super cheery airheads you see in some Anime or indeed media as a whole. All too often we get the chance to see the other side of Ohana, a side where she too feels sad and upset and can let the pressure get to her just like any other normal person. Despite being just a young girl, thanks to her mother’s attitude and various screwups (including many failed relationships) she is often left with a lot of of responsibility to make sure everything is ok and works out well. At the start of the series Ohana is sent to her grandmother’s Inn after her own mother runs off with her latest boyfriend regardless of Ohana’s feelings. Ohana is then forced to leave behind Tokyo and even the boy who confesses his love for her just before she has to leave. Despite everything, Ohana tries to remain optimistic and thinks of her moving out in to the countryside to live with her Grandmother an adventure, but the reality is a little different when she gets there and realises that she will be expected to work at the inn – the Kissuiso – and won’t be treated any different to any of the other staff members despite her grandmother being the owner and manager. Not that Ohana expects special treatment, but she is often not even treated as a member of family but instead a complete stranger.

While initially shocked by the harsh treatment from the hands of her own grandmother, she decides to use all of her emotions to improve herself as a person instead of complaining. This is one of the themes I enjoy throughout the show – that regardless of how bad or discouraging some people or situations can be, through hard work and determination you can use these things to make yourself and those around you feel better and in some cases become better people. It never rams this down your throat thankfully and some characters are very different / have a different outlook on the way of the world, and this is what I love the series for. Ohana’s relationship with her mother and grandmother are very well written and portrayed, especially with her grandmother I feel.

I don’t want to sell the other characters short either, but there are quite a few of them and to go in to them all in depth would result in me typing away for weeks on end. A couple of things I will say though is – while I don’t like every character (though that would be pretty much impossible anyway), I was still never disappointed to see them and find out more about them, they never made me want their segments to end and move back to the other characters – why? – because I appreciate that even the ones I didn’t like were mostly portrayed well and that some people could easily end up liking them. The only character I actively dislike is Minko, who throughout the series acts like an ass to almost everyone, particularly Ohana, and rarely if ever has any redeeming qualities. Don’t let her put you off watching the show though, for as bad as she is, there are dozens more characters and reasons why this show is special that makes putting up with her more than worth your while.

Another positive quality about Hanasaku Iroha is that it rarely sticks to one theme or track, you can have some episodes that are purely light hearted and fun, while others take a far more serious tone. In that way it is much the same for the characters themselves, who can and do experience many varying emotions and problems, and yet at the same time because of the quality of the show you end up loving every episode regardless of what type of tone it has. You don’t have to be a fan of slice of life anime to enjoy this, you don’t need to be a big comedy fan to enjoy the humour either. In fact, I am willing to guess that pretty much anyone can and will relate to at least some of the characters and situations in the series, and that is just one more thing I love the show for.

The soundtrack is another postive, the first OP is instantly cheery and catchy and fits the mood well, and the in-show soundtrack is very well done and always used at the right times to provoke the best response.

I am still finding it very hard to say exactly how good this series is, but if you are reading this, regardless of which genre you usually like watching or if you wouldn’t normally watch this kind of series, please at least give Hanasaku Iroha a try. It’s truly wonderful from start to finish and as the series progresses you will find yourself enjoying it more and more. So that’s about it for this review, all I can say (if you hadn’t already guessed) is that I think this series is truly fantastic and one everybody should at least try and watch at some stage. I went in to the show originally expecting a decent show, and left having finished it regarding it as one of my all time favourite Anime. Should you watch it? If you like top quality Anime and stories, then yes. Will you watch it? Hopefully after reading this review, then the answer is again a yes.

*And if you do take my advice and watch the series, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom letting me know what you thought!*

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