Spring 2011 Anime First Impressions – Hanasaku Iroha

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: 3.5/5Medium

The Story

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.



5 thoughts on “Spring 2011 Anime First Impressions – Hanasaku Iroha”

  1. Out of topic, but I thought I would mention the Battle of Los Angeles. It turned out much better than I expected, with quite memorable moments.

    If people like alien invasions or the US Marine Corps, that’s a movie they should see.


  2. Hmmm. Interesting thought about the Grandmother and Ohana. I hate that woman, to be honest, but the thing about Ohana’s character made me think about it a bit. Maybe the anime will show how drastically will Ohana change, grow up and actually become more motivated. And all that caused by a HUGE change in her lifestyle. Now that I look at it, the plot makes more sense, though I’m probably mistaken 😀
    But I still hate that grandma =3=


  3. Off topic but I finished Muv Luv Extra/Unlimited.

    For all the bad things people said about it, I found them to be quite good. Contrasts of each other, the former light the latter dark, but connected as two sides of the same coin are or the ying and yang of Taoist philosophy.

    It’s hard to write about the good things in visual novels because whether here, there, or on my blog, I do not wish to spoil it. But even if I did, I do not think my own writing can compare: not as captivating, nor as dramatic, nor as emotional, nor as fun.

    Yet it must be done if word is to spread. To take a slice off of the theme, this is what UL is about.

    The military deals in what I would call life and death drama, where the importance of choosing the right death becomes the capstone to a life well lived. Nobody chooses who they are born to or where and when, nor can they choose to evade death and mortality entirely. They can only choose how to live with what they have and how to die. These dramatic questions on life and death are not asked in your normal drama classes, in case people had yet to notice this in America. But that’s not true of everywhere. Unlimited has great moments where this issue is portrayed, in a number of methods.

    This mixture of sadness(kanashi), joy, serenity (ureshi), and regret is something the Japanese portray quite well. It is very powerful. The intellectual arguments on the topic are mixed with actual emotional connections. Rather than becoming what if scenarios involving other people, it becomes an issue you personally partook in. The VN format is very good for setting enough time aside for the readers to think on these issues, although not everyone does. Many people miss it due to a lack of life wisdom and experience. They cannot see the truest expression of all, for having nothing to compare it to.


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