Hanasaku Iroha is an original production that serves as the tenth anniversary project of P.A. Works. It’s also one of new spring animes that I had the most interest in watching; in both a positive and negative sense. To this point P.A. Works has put out several visually outstanding anime – true tears, Canaan, Angel Beats – but I’ve yet to be impressed by the writing, storytelling, and characters from these works. I think it’s just a matter of time before they do get it right and when that happens, it’s going to be scary what P.A. Works can do (in a good way). Has it happened with Hanasaku Iroha or did they miss again?
Rating for episode 1 – 9/12 A-
Anticipation Level: 3.5/5 – Medium
Sixteen year old Ohana Matsumae lives a fairly comfortable life with her flighty, immature mother until one day when the mother decides to skip town with her boyfriend after he runs up a serious debt. Ohana is surprised when her mom doesn’t want to take her along and even more surprised to learn that she will be shipped to a grandma that she’s never seen because grandma and mom are on bad terms. Ohana is excited to go after learning grandma runs a hot springs inn but quickly sours on the idea after she makes a poor first impression through a combination of naivety and a desire to stick her nose into things before thinking.
The Fine Print
The problem that P.A. Works has had to this point was most apparent when I realized that I got through Angel Beats without shedding a single tear. This should have been an impossibility when the story came from the pen of the guy that wrote Air, Kanon, and Clannad. So, I wasn’t excited to see that the director and writer had worked on the previous efforts by P.A. Works doing this; but, having watched the first episode, I’m cautiously optimistic at this point that Hanasaku Iroha might finally be the series that P.A. Works gets right.
I’m not sure how they plan to fill the 26 episode run Hanasaku Iroha is getting but the characters, at least, are already the most interesting and best cast of a P.A. Works anime. Of the introduced characters, the grandma is already my favorite for being just completely awesome as a tough-as-nails authority figure and for being exactly what Ohana needs. That’s not to say that I think Ohana is particularly bad; she has a good heart but her lethargic, aimless outlook on life needs to be fixed and there’s nothing like hard work to accomplish that. As Calvin’s father would say, “It’s character building.” The other characters appear to signal that P.A. Works plans to develop them into well-rounded characters. (Which I’m guessing will take up the lion share of the show since Hanasaku Iroha doesn’t seem to involve fighting terrorists or god.)
There’s no surprises with the technical aspects of Hanasaku Iroha – it has the high quality animation that one has come to expect from P.A. Works. The animation style fits the story and is pretty to look at. The vocal work is great. Kanae Itou as Ohana was a perfect pick since Ohana shares several similarities to another Itou role – Saten from Railgun. Chiaki Omigawa was decidedly un-Chiaki Omigawa-like with the character she voices (I’m a fan of Omigawa but it’s great to see her trying something new). The head-waitress is daftly voiced by Mamiko Noto who will always be Ana Coppola to me. There’s also Aki Toyosaki aka Yui from K-On! and the grandma’s voice is so crisply and precisely perfect. The background music didn’t really leave an impression on me but I’m actually pretty bad at listening for the music when it’s not completely horrible or completely amazing.
All-in-all, I’m very pleased how the first episode turned out; there was actually a lot of ground covered and introductionary points that needed covered and P.A. Works was able to keep it interesting. (As opposed to the first X-Men episode.) I hope they can keep the quality story-telling up and if they can, Hanasaku Iroha might just become one of the top shows of the season.