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Hanasaku Iroha Review — B

Ohana’s mother falls deep into debt and runs away from home with her boyfriend. Ohana is sent to the Kissuisso, an inn run by her grandmother, who she has never met. Her presence meets with harsh resistance from the other inn residents. Will Ohana be able to fit in to her new lifestyle?

Hanasaku Iroha can be great when it wants to. It’s had some of the best drama of the year. There are a few excellent dramatic arcs, in particular: the first few episodes, the middle episodes, the one Yuina episode, and the ending.

But the problem is that for the rest of the time, the creators of Hanasaku Iroha don’t try to make it great. The other episodes are episodic and meandering, focusing on a character or two. They’re enjoyable, but don’t pack nearly the same impact the more dramatic episodes do. It becomes yet another show about cute girls doing cute things, when it could have been so much more.

As for the characters, I loved how the show explored Ohana’s family and their relationships across three generations. Her grandmother was a particularly memorable character. Ohana herself, though, was not terribly interesting, although her cheerfulness kept things fresh. Her boyfriend was even less memorable. Minko, one of Ohana’s friends, was particularly annoying: she kept throwing these giant fits over nothing, the show would make a big deal of how she changed and grew up, and then she’d do the exact same thing a few episodes later.

Overall, Hanasaku Iroha is excellent when it focuses on the drama, but merely average for the rest of the time, when it’s all about cute girls doing cute things. Those episodes hold neither the charm nor the humor of, say, K-On.

  • Plot / Script – B - Mixed thoughts. Fabulous for the dramatic episodes, but quite weak in the rest.
  • Characters – B - Excellent characterization with Ohana’s family, but weaker with Ohana herself and some of the side characters.
  • Production – B – Consistent, detailed animation. Nice landscapes in particular.
  • Overall – B

Recommendations - AnoHana, Sora no Woto, K-On

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Hanasaku Iroha 26 — I Want to be Like Grandma

Dawww. What a great finale.

The First Five Minutes

The first five minutes of this episode were simply beautiful. I would have been perfectly happy if the show ended at the point where they showed the episode title. What was it about this intro that made it so engrossing, and the most memorable segment of Hansaku Iroha to date?

The first reason it stands out is because of the festival atmosphere. The chanting in the background and the light of the lanterns bring the viewer into a mystic reverie.

It uses this reverie to lead the viewer on a trip of fleeting whimsy. Ohana’s mother jokes around with her grandmother, asking her to buy a candy apple, and reading other people’s wishes aloud. Minko fights over letting Yuina and Nako read her wish, while Ohana and Ko have an awkward encounter at the yakisoba stand.

This trip of transience culminates in both a realization of change and a restored union with the past. Ohana and Ko become a couple, as Ohana looks back on her own past. Sui finds solace in how much she has come to mean to her granddaughter, while looking coming to terms with her past and present as well. So what I’m trying to say is that the show uses these small, whimsical, and humorous events to showcase the monumental transformations the characters have undergone.

Ohana’s Confession

I loved the confession scene. In your typical confession scene, the girl and boy will confront each other from a long distance, completely alone in their own little world. “I… I… I love you!” one of them shouts. The other returns the confession, they run towards each other and embrace.

Hanasaku Iroha has had a lot of fun playing with this trope. In Tokyo, we had the scene where Ko and Ohana were on opposite sides of the bridge. Prime confession material, here. It even ends the episode on the bridge as a cliffhanger. But nope, no confession.

Then in this episode, Ohana and Ko confront each on the sidewalk. The passerby blur, and Ohana and Ko are all alone. “I… I… I like… like… yakisoba!” Foiled again.

Ko and Ohana head to the yakisoba stand. Ohana has her face down, ashamed at her failure. “I… I have to tell him!” she thinks to herself. Ohana and Ko make small talk as they wait for their yakisoba.

“I like…”

“Yeah, I like the yakisoba at night stands better too” says Ko, finishing her sentence.

“It’s Ko-chan!” Ko blushes and turns to face Ohana. “I like Ko-chan! I love you!”

The passerby continue walking past, indifferent to this earth-shattering development. The yakisoba vendor hands them their order. It’s shaped like a heart. Ko and Ohana turn bright red.

This confession was just so fresh. It took your expectations, threw them out the window, and the scene was all the better for it. It was beyond awkward, as most confessions tend to be, and it was visibly difficult for Ohana.

Further Thoughts

There was a lot more to this episode, but as far as I’m concerned the show should have ended with the grandmother’s musings as she looked into the night sky. That’s not to say the rest of the episode was bad: it was fabulous too. It was just unnecessary. Ohana has made her decision, as has her grandmother. The rest is just details.

With that said, the sequence where the grandmother tours the Kissuiso for the final time, only to find Ohana hasn’t quite left yet, was also breathtaking.

One final thought: Tomoe and Ren look like a couple at the festival.

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Hanasaku Iroha 25 — Balut’s not on the Menu

Hanasaku Iroha is great when it sticks with the drama.

Goofing Around

The fact that the creators can consistently make excellent drama when they try makes me wonder: what were they thinking with the other episodes? I can’t help but feel that this show would have fared better as one-cour rather than two.

I mean, what was the point of half of the episodes? Take the Nako episode as an example. Nothing much happened. That isn’t damning in and of itself, if you’re going to further develop the characters. But that didn’t happen here. We learned that Nako is shy and takes care of her family, which we already knew. She has some inner struggles with trying to change, but decides to stay the same. So we end up exactly where we started.

This might have been a good way to reinforce Nako’s character, but it took up too much time for this. In general, I think that the non-dramatic episodes could have either been much tighter or eliminated entirely without much of a detrimental effect to the show as a whole. This episode’s Nako, who interrupted the argument with a yell, could just have easily been the Nako from twelve episodes ago with no one the wiser.

The creators have demonstrated that they can tell a great story when they try, and this made the meandering around seem all the more wasteful.

Siding with the Boss

On to this episode. Ohana agrees with her grandmother that the inn should continue in the same vein as before, and is consequently shunned by everyone else in the inn (except Beanman).

Color me impressed. I didn’t expect things to go in this direction, but it’s a great way to wrap up many of the loose threads:

  • Ohana’s decision to stay at Kissuiso or return to Tokyo with her mother / Ko
  • The closing / continuation of the Kissuiso
  • Change at the Kissuiso
  • Ohana’s love life, with the Bonbori festival
  • The relationships between the three generations of Ohana’s family, by having them all work as waitresses

We also get a conflict with some very interesting sides: Ohana and her grandmother vs. everyone else. And wow, they are harsh on her. As in, everyone is acting like Minko. They won’t even participate in the festival. Even Tohru joins in on bullying Ohana.

Ohana is at her finest when she’s being bullied though.

Of course, the entire staff overstretches itself, and they aren’t able to keep up. They have to resort to a buffet, and overexert themselves and make themselves miserable to deliver worse service than usual. Then they get in to a huge fight, but fortunately Ohana’s grandmother and mother step in to make the save.

We have all three generations working as waitresses. A nice way to wrap things up on this side of the story. Ohana, her grandmother, and her mother’s relationships have all improved dramatically over the course of the series.

Hanasaku Iroha has always been at its finest when its main cast is in conflict, and this episode was no exception.

Shipping

How many doujinshis will this episode spawn?

Further Thoughts

  • That was some great narration by the novelist in the middle of the fight.
  • Takako is keeping Enishi under control. Not someone you want to mess with.
  • We learned what Beanman and the novelist do all day: help people park.
  • What was up with that music at the end? Choral music with an organ accompaniment is not exactly what I would associate with the Bonbori festival…

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Hanasaku Iroha 24 — The Final Boss

What a meanie!

Ohana and Ko

The scene with Ohana and Ko’s reunion was very nicely done. The first thing we notice is their reactions upon seeing each other: Ko runs across the bridge towards Ohana, and Ohana starts to run away, but freezes. We’re reminded that Ohana’s still feels guilty.

Then there’s the playground scene. Remember the first episode? Ohana and Ko seem to have a thing for playgrounds. This time Ohana has become more self-confident and aggressive. Before Ko can finish saying how he feels, Ohana spins the jungle gym around, pins Ko against the wall and covers his mouth. It looks like she’s going to confess— but no, she invites Ko to the Bonbori festival instead. We can’t end things here after all, there are still two episodes left!

Some of the lines are a bit corny (“the scenery is dull without you”, etc.) but it works.

Minko’s Culinary Ambitions

It turns out Minko and Tohru both wanted to be a chef because of a manga they read. But wait, I thought there was something about her sitting at a restaurant counter watching the chef cook? Apparently not.

They seem to have been trying to make Minko’s culinary ambitions come across as serious business. Making her main source of inspiration a comic book may not be the best way to achieve this. It seems downright childish. Reminds me of when kids I knew wanted to be pro skateboarders.

But then again, perhaps this is the intention. It isn’t entirely clear how devoted Minko is to becoming a chef: our main source of knowledge regarding her ambitions is Minko herself, along with Ohana’s impressions of her. Is being a chef really the most important thing to her? When the inn is closing, she doesn’t cry from learning she won’t be able to cook there. She cries because she’ll be separated from Tohru. Ohana seems to take Minko’s goals so seriously, but she’s still just a high school girl.

The biggest revelation here, though,  is that the novelist actually wrote something. Tohru seemed to have read it when he was younger, too. Just how old is this guy?

Efficient Bathing

Bath scenes are typically fanservice fodder, but this one actually worked. It established how upset everyone was over the inn’s closure, as even Nako is angry. It also made the grandmother feel a bit more human (since she actually bathes) while also remaining unapproachable. Plus, it was funny.

Grandmother and Granddaughter

My favorite part of the episode, though, was Ohana and the manager’s visit to the grave. Ohana yells at her grandmother for her decision to close the inn. But then they actually talk and come to an understanding of sorts (well, they still disagree, but at least understand each other better). Plus, the grandmother actually has a good reason for wanting to close the inn: it has nothing to do with money, but is because she wants to free her children to fulfill their own dreams instead of hers. This is not what I would have predicted, and I love being surprised.

Later, Ohana even sides with her grandmother and listens to her over the rest of the inn staff. Ohana even gets a smile out of the manager, by calling her old, of all things!

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Hanasaku Iroha 23 — Never Give Up!

Now this is more like it! Hanasaku Iroha has been in a slump for a while now, but this episode regained some of its old charm. The thing is, this show really stands out when it focuses on the drama: the best episodes have been the ones focusing on Ohana and her family, and that one Yuina episode. When the show focuses on the every day life of the inn staff, it’s decent but ultimately forgettable.

Fish Out of Water

The strategy this episode employed to fest things up was plucking the characters out of their comfort zones, and dropping them down with people they don’t usually interact with. The main focus was on two unusual pairings: Ohana with Takako, and Ko with Ohana’s mother.

Takako dashes off to Tokyo to get back the money that her husband was stupidly tricked out of by the producer. The manager tells Ohana to go too, and talk to her mother about what she will do now that the inn is closing. The long train ride together makes for some interesting conversation.

It’s clear that Ohana and Takako do not get along all that well. They sit at opposite corners of the train compartment, and Takako begins their conversation by saying “I didn’t expecte to be babysitting a high schooler.” Ohana retaliates by calling Takako an old lady, and things only go downhill from there. But we learn each of their thoughts on becoming the manager, and things come back to Ohana’s relationship with Ko. Takako brings in a more adult perspective and makes light of Ohana’s problems, but Ohana breaks down crying. Putting Takako and Ohana together made for some interesting conversation and development.

The second unusual pairing was Ko and Ohana’s mother. This was extremely awkward, as one would imagine, and Ko looked like he was about to run away most of the time. It didn’t help that Ohana’s mom kept picking on him. But we learned more about both of the characters this way, and now Ko knows a bit more about Ohana’s life at the inn, through the movie of all things. I like how they actually brought that movie back into the story.

Random Thoughts

  • I loved the scene where Enishi went crying to Beanman about Takako leaving, and Beanman told him what it means to “be a man.”
  • Takako and Ohana’s mom are friends and are teaming up? Everyone’s screwed.
  • Takako’s self defense skills… wow.
  • With Ko and Ohana meeting up again, we should be in for a treat next week as well.
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