To those who have read my entries in the past, consider who I am as a reviewer; what I look for, what I expect from a series. What I consider to be good and bad. What kinds of things do you think I would be fond of? Over four years ago, during my first Summer of Anime, I watched a series called Hanasaku Iroha, and it turned into one of my favorites from the Summer. It held a 9/10 on my anime list for so long and has the distinction of one of the only anime to make me (nearly) cry. I was a softer critic then, so it was easy to predict that my score for it would go down after a re-watch, but how much so, exactly?
One major difference with the show that I never anticipated going into it for the second time is that the first half is rather dull. I found myself bored for good portions of the first ten episodes or so, evidenced by my constant distractions from outside sources while watching. It’s a series that sacrifices a lot of initial entertainment to set up intricacies between characters and symbolism with the story’s development later on. Hanasaku Iroha is an anime more accustomed to patient watchers, with those more willing to watch things with instant gratification like KonoSuba, FLCL, or otherwise wishing the initial episodes would move faster.
They say “Good things come to those who wait” for a reason. With the set-up out of the way and the characters and their motivations more in the spotlight, the show becomes all the more insightful and impactful. It even manages to make something as uneventful as working into something to cherish. I’m not talking in the same vein as Working!!, which uses the restaurant more as a setting for humor than anything else, but in a sense that your job and the people who work with you can shape your expectations and goals over time. There’s a lot of little hints and nods to characters opening up, shutting others out, and speaking their minds without speaking at all. It’s nice to see an anime not be so blunt about every little change in emotion or self-respect, much like one would see from a series with characters lamenting about their angst in long, drawn-out monologues.
Unfortunately, Hanasaku Iroha isn’t exactly the most fluid series when dealing with subtlety. While it’s not going to have a character crying out text every episode, it does have its fair share of emotional spiels and obvious reveals. Some of the issue with this is the use of oblivious characters, like our main character, Ohana, and Tohru, an object of another character’s affections. Their inability to see things under the surface leads to these emotional, overdramatic arguments that people their age (16 and 19(?)) should be able to see, making me believe the anime feels as though the viewer can’t see it, either. There’s an episode that follows the home life of a character that isn’t focused on very much on her own named Nako. Near the end of the episode, the writing flat outs tells exactly what she’s feeling from a development that occurred earlier on. I know how she feels, anime. I’m not ten. I can read the atmosphere.
One of the strongest factors of the show both then and now are the characters that make it up. A lot of attention is put forth in examining the psyche of those who are put into the line of fire to help others or themselves. It gives room for development and growth over the course of the series, and it shows tremendously by its end. I nearly cried four years ago due to the inevitable falling point of the story, where every character is directly involved, changing their lives forever. I wouldn’t have felt that sense of longing and loneliness had I not cared for them. It still holds, too, though not to the point where I’m beside myself, crying at the bittersweet finale. I really enjoy how these characters grow from beginning to end, giving weight to their actions and making their quirks all the more charming when called back on. The incorporation of humor and very slight fan service makes the homely feeling of the bond between the large cast of characters all the more flexible and realistic (and sexy?).
There is a bit of favoritism when it comes to the development of characters, as is necessary for a series so heavy in roster. There is an attempt, I could say, to make every character stand out to some extent. Some are noticeable, while others are left to wither in the void of emptiness where no one will remember then. Mr. Ren, the perverted author guy, and to a degree, Tohru and Beanman, don’t really have much going for them and are never focused on for more than an episode’s length or show much exposure to their inner mannerisms. I only include Tohru because he felt more like a tool for a romantic triangle than anything else. Ohana, Madam Manager, Minko, and Enishi are the characters that one will likely enjoy both on an entertainment and genuine level, with Nako, Yuina, and Tomoe looking on from the corner of the room.
Focusing on a family business for a storyline can arise many a different plot. However much matters due to these episodic developments is subjective, though I’d argue that it doesn’t really turn important until the second half of the series. The first half is more showcasing Ohana’s situation and her getting acclimated to it, along with some ongoing romantic struggles with a boy back home (which is almost never engaging). The situations that arise within the first half of the series has this air of laid-back-ness and silliness that does well enough to make the characters react accordingly (or creatively), but appears more fluff than tough. Hanasaku Iroha strikes best when it has time to prepare; that timeframe is about twelve episodes, when things begin to travel into hostile territory. It works well on its own, but also uses the characters’ charms to highlight the situation in an almost glorified way. The drama present between romantic circles doesn’t seem big in hindsight, but it feels a lot bigger due to what they represent to the characters. The same can be said about the decisions that are made with even bigger consequences.
I may have said this before, I don’t recall, but Hanasaku Iroha was one of the most beautiful anime I had seen up to that point in 2012. Its animation, sleekness, style, and emphasis on lighting and brightness makes it almost like a work of art. Well, a masterpiece, anyway. It still holds up tremendously now, though one can definitely tell this was made in 2011 and not in 2016. It has a tremendous amount of effort put into many of the most trivial scenes that it almost feels like I’m watching a film. There are occasions where shortcuts are taken and far-away shots look a little less admirable. There are times when a little too much gloss makes the canvas a little too shiny. Even so, it is still a great looking anime with a a penchant for making the most trivial things all the more glistening. The fan service is muy caliente, too. Really like how characters all look different, though the younger females all look quite similar in the facial department. Think Tomoe’s pretty cute. I’d marry her.
I would still consider Hanasaku Iroha a success and an enjoyable watch even after all these years. It doesn’t have the same emotional firepower that it once had, seeing as my brain requires more from stories now-a-days, nor does it have the same impact on my ambitions to work at a homestyle bed and breakfast. However, there is something I got out of this re-watch that I hadn’t before, and that was the emphasis on putting one’s happiness before others, which serves as a plot point more than once for multiple characters. It’s cliché, but so long as the characters feel like real people, it goes a long way for a calm-toned drama in the long run. Wait for the magnets to click, ’cause once they do, you may feel as though you’ve spent a weekend at Kissuiso without realizing it, and the memories attached are more than warm enough to keep you at ease.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.