Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Hanasaku Iroha Part 1
Anime Studio: P.A. Works
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Slice of Life / Coming of Age / Romantic Comedy
Released: June 17th, 2019
Extras: Clean OP and ED, Trailers
When Ohana’s mother flees with her boyfriend to avoid paying his debts, Ohana is sent off to live with her grandmother, who owns the hot spring inn, Kissuiso. Upon arriving, Ohana is put to work at the inn. Thrust into a life where the customers always come first, she struggles to find her place at the inn and fit in with her coworkers.
Hanasaku Iroha was a real surprise for me. I try not to research a show too much before viewing, as I don’t want to go in with too many other people’s reviews already in the back of my mind. As such, all I really knew before watching was the basic set up. And I have to say, for such a simple set-up – city girl moves the countryside and stars working at an inn – the anime does a fantastic job with getting everything that they can out of the story.
Ohana is an excellent lead character to drive things forward. The over-enthusiastic side of her nature is played at just the right level to be entertaining without ever grating. That’s a big accomplishment because that sort of character can border on annoying if overdone. Were that all there was to her, the show would be wading towards being a rather generic slice of life show too. Instead, we’re treated a well-rounded character that feels grounded in reality. She’s had a tough upbringing, largely because her Mum is basically terrible for the most part in this release. Rather than be brought down this though, she is trying to rise above it. As a result, when she throws herself into other peoples business, it’s not through an intentional sense of meddling, it’s because she genuinely wants to connect. Throughout these thirteen episodes, she exhibits a lot of growth too, not only in how she deals with her blossoming friendships but in how she views herself and the way she traits her would-be boyfriend Koichi.
The staff at Kissusiou are no slouches in this department either. When we first meet them, they fit set character roles – Minko is aggressive, Nako is shy, Granny Sui is harsh, and so on – but as the episodes progress, we learn that each of them has more going on. Their interpersonal relationships are built in a way that allows little snippets to come out in a natural way, and we get to watch their growth seep in slowly.
In terms of the stories, rather than single episode runs, most of the arcs play out over two or more. I liked this approach as it meant that everything was able to progress at a realistic pace rather than being rushed through. Each scenario we’re presented with makes sense within the setting too, meaning there’s never any feeling of us being taken out of the story due to weird jumps in logic.
Visually, the series stands up well. I was surprised to see that it was from the same studio that produced Canaan as, while I love said series, they’re so tonally different. In a way though, it makes sense, as both shows managed to look solid to me without quite reaching the point of a true masterpiece. The voice cast does a great job too, really bringing the characters to life with some really strong performances. I also love the indie rock feel of the opening and ending themes.
Really, I only have one complaint with this release. There’s a story arc early on where one of the guests at the Inn, an author named Tarou Jiroumaru, does something that should really have gotten him arrested. Rather than call the police though, he ends up working at the Inn. Honestly, the rest of the release felt so grounded, that this was a little bit jarring. If anything, this was the only time that the humour fell completely flat for me too. Thankfully, one misstep isn’t enough to ruin the series.
In all, this is a marvelous little coming of age story. The setting is utilized excellently, the cast is wonderfully authentic, and you grow to love them all very quickly. This is such an easy watch, and I’m really looking forward to when part two is released. 4.5 out of 5.