33 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Hanasaku Iroha – A review of sorts

So hey, let’s talk Hanasaku Iroha.

Hanasaku Iroha is a 26 episode s’life drama about a bunch of teenage girls with incredibly poor listening abilities working in an inn as waitresses while trying to overcome their crippling urge to yell at everything that they don’t immediately understand. Well, OK. This is a touch unfair. It’s only Ohana and Minko who do this, Minko doing the yelling of the angry variety while Ohana covers the obscenely unaware side of the yelling spectrum, but most of the show is focused on these two. The thing with Hanasaku Iroha is that, asides from the drama side of things, it’s hard to find any faults. The humour is surprisingly clever and never doubts your intelligence by pointing out the jokes for you. The animation is incredibly pretty. The characters are well rounded individuals who almost never fall into stereotype. It’s just it’s most interested in being a drama and that is precisely the area it fails at.

For now though, I feel like talking about the positive, specifically the one area I will throw myself to the floor in gratitude for: The humour. HanaIro isn’t primarily a comedy, so don’t go expecting to be struggling for breath through fits of giggles, but what jokes it does have, it never feels the need to have someone point them out for you. It recognises that you, the viewer, are an intelligent person (a rather dangerous assumption to make on behalf of the general population, it has to be said, but treat someone like they’re a doofus and they’ll start acting like one, self-fulfilling prophecies and all that) and recognise the humour behind Ohana constantly running away from the Heron when it blocks her path. We do not require a second character asking her why she ran away. We can see the Heron with it’s freaky little beady eyes and shockingly large wingspan and fully understand why Ohana has decided to take the alternate path to prevent confronting the beast.

Hanasaku Iroha assume you’re intelligent enough to notice this sort of stuff in other areas too, such as symbolism. Using our friend the Heron again, there is a scene in the final episode where Ohana is confronted by the Beast again but, instead of running away like she normally does, she marches on by it. It’s a symbol that she has finally gained up the courage to focus on her problems and not run around them like she usually does. Simple, but it does this without feeling the need to monologue why this scene is important. Also fanservice. It’s nice to have a series where I can ogle attractive female anime characters without insulting my intelligence by hovering the camera over their underwear in case we were too busy scratching our arses to notice (apart from this one lingering shot of a wet t-shirt in episode 3, but that episode was generally retarded so we can forget about that).

I also liked how there were little stories revolving around the minor characters in the show. Any personal conflicts that I enjoyed watching with characters tended to be any of the characters that weren’t teenage girls because they were the conflicts that were treated with a sense of humour about them (and didn’t yell all the fucking time). Some of them are incredibly simple, such as the head chef’s Ren and his desire to become more confident. Once they had established that he gets nervous very easily, it was a reoccurring joke that he would try to man up, such as buying Yakuza jackets with a proud look on his face. Or the Beanman, the old codger who appeared in the background every now and then, who seemingly was the only person who knew how the inn worked. Personally, I’m convinced that he could make the inn sprout legs and move to a more tourist friendly area, like Howls Moving Castle, piloting the building from inside the boiler room.

I can’t go talking about the characters without mentioning Ohana’s mum. MILF to end all MILF’s. Absolute star of the show, particularly impressive when she only appeared for episodes 1, 12-14 and 24-26. It was only when she was around that the drama started to actually click because she had a sense of bloody humour about her own insecurities and flaws. Best scenes of the anime were Ohana’s mum drinks alcohol with Ohana’s granny and Ohana. Or how about Ohana’s mum pretends she’s going to watch porn with Ko, Ohana’s bland boyfriend. Underneath the story about Ohana’s growth and the growth of the other teenage girls, there’s a story about her making up with her family and becoming a (slightly) more responsible parent. There’s never anyone going “LOOK GUIZ, SHE’S A BETTER PARENT NAOW” because we can spot that for ourselves.

I should also give some lipservice to the animation. For all their other faults, P.A. Works always have incredibly good animation and artwork. It’s more of the shiny variety than the free-flowing movement of the works from Bones or KyoAni, but don’t mistake this for an inability to animate movement. I found myself wondering this after a few episodes, whether I was simply being suckered in to thinking the animation was good simply because of scenery porn and attractive shiny female character designs. But no, the actual animated movement is gorgeous too. Hair moves when the characters shake their heads about. Clothes crease and fold when they move their hands. It sounds like a weird thing to focus on, but often having shiny pretty character designs hides the fact the characters are completely static, so bravo to HanaIro for that.

But the drama. Christ above, the bloody drama. I know teenage girls are stupid and refuse to listen to each other and get into the most irritating fights, so I guess I should congratulate them on accurately depicting typical teenage girls, but it does not make fascinating viewing. Minko deserves a mention here. She also deserves a kick in the stomach and a boot to the face and various other forms of pain. Every single damn time there’s something to talk about, she gets angry and yells at everyone. I thought maybe her anger with Ohana and crush on Tohru would be a short lived thing, but it ran throughout the entire show, getting more screentime than any other plot point. Ohana isn’t much better, being so braindead that she barges into every situation thinking talking really loudly and being energetic will get her through. You might be forgiven for thinking Nako is better because she’s so quiet, but don’t let that fool you. She solves any problems she encounters by quiet yelling, spouting off single phrases without listening to what other characters are saying. None of them bloody listen to each other or what anyone else is saying, making any dramatic confrontation lead nowhere because there’s no logical process in the dialogue.

Plus there’s the fact that what they’re arguing about isn’t in the slightest bit interesting. Now this may be a personal thing, since I struggle to get into melodramatic anime involving minor human problems, but did you really ever care about the future of the Kissiuso Inn? Like, really? I didn’t, yet they spent hours arguing over the future of the bloody place. This really dragged down in the final bunch of episodes, because that became the main talking point. I liked the characters internal conflicts with their own faults, but there seemed to be a disconnect between their own internal faults and what the issues on the outside were. This drama is pretty much my only fault with the show, but it unfortunately happens to be the central focus, so it really dragged down my enjoyment as a whole. Again though, this could be just me. If you’re the kind of easily emotionally manipulated loser who thinks Ano Hana is one of the best shows of the year, then maybe you too will like the drama in HanaIro.

I didn’t like the core of Hanasaku Iroha. The drama that was like a giant gaudy painting of a fat poodle in the showroom that was meant to be the living room’s centrepiece.  But I liked all the décor surrounding it. I liked the picturesque potted plants of the attractive animation and character designs. I liked the stylish coffee table of the clever humour. I liked the comfy leather sofa of Ohana’s mum…err, don’t think too hard about that final metaphor. Anyway, I liked enough of the various aspects of Hanasaku Iroha to get me passed the dull drama and enjoy the show as a whole.

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  1. Posted September 27, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Ohana’s mom practically made the show for me. If she hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have enjoyed things nearly as much. And Ren with his confidence problems.

    Still, I’m inclined to agree with most everything here. The humor (usually) hit the right notes, the animation was gorgeous, and the drama was usually unnecessary/overwrought, considering it covered the same ground again and again in what I doubt was a necessary waste of time. An overall good show with excellent peripheral qualities, but mediocre drama.

  2. Posted September 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I pretty much agree with everything you said about the show as a whole, even the bit about Ano Hana.

    You never really mentioned Ko at all. Is that because you forgot or because he has no real defining qualities that make him worth talking about.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 28, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      I did a passing mention of Ko, albeit calling him “Ohana’s bland boyfriend”

  3. Posted September 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Can’t really find anything I disagree with. I enjoy the drama with the adults, and the show can be sweet and charming when it wants to be (a lot of that, for me, owing to its weird sense of humor), but I didn’t care about the teenage girl drama at all. Minko especially is just irritating, which is part of the point, but she’s SO irritating for so long that I actively hated for her instead of sympathizing.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    You pretty much hit everything that I liked and disliked about the show, although I’m a little mixed on the comedy. Yes, it can be funny and doesn’t insult your intelligence, but the stork blocking Ohana’s way was just weird, amongst some of the other comedic moments.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 28, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      I loved that weirdness to the humour though. Ohana and Nako hearing they’re going to be in a movie so they start jumping up and down on brooms? Brilliant! Yuina commenting on the state of affairs at Kissuiso while sitting on a vibrating chair? Fantastic!

  5. Ticket
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I have to say Scamp, this post is one of your better ones. Im hard pressed to remember any other (exept maybe for your fanboying over Arakawa) one that was more fun to read.

    Im one of the four people in the world that actually did care about the fate of Kissuiso. Maybe that’s beacouse the whole freakin anime is revolved around that place and I prefer shows that do that over road shows.I grew attached to it and was hoping to see a satysfying and positive resolution. I cared in the same sence that I cared for Bunny Drop to end on a good note.

    The romance is in my opinion the only dreadfull part of the show:

    MinkoxTohru- crap.
    OhanaxKo- to little, to late.
    OhanaxTohru- lame.

    I gave it a 10/10 becouse it’s one of my frst shows that I watched in a week by week format instead of marathoning it. And every single bloody week it menaged to be not only the best, but most memorable episode I saw that day.

    Its not a perfect show, but I couldnt ask for a better viewing experiance.

    Also, Ano Hana is “only” good. I couldnt believe people saying that its “the new Clannad”.

    And-as always- I feel like I have to apologize for my poor grammar. Just being foreign and all.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      People actually say Ano Hana is the new CLANNAD? Really? They’re barely alike. You’d be closer with comparing it to Rumbling Hearts.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 28, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      It’s always nice to hear people liked those Arakawa posts, because they took a heck of a long time to write and got rather few hits, especially next to the amount of hits my Durarara posts were getting at the same time

      • Posted September 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Scamp’s the weird one guys.

  6. Marow
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I never really liked the humor honestly, but there were some moments that I loved (like the Heron, which you mentioned).

    For me, Hanairo is a whole load of wasted potential. After episode 3 the quality just lost it and focused on some boring, random sideplots with… hobby armies and stuff. The love problems was poorly done (and what happened with bookstore girl, anyone?). The drama was mostly overly dramatic. In short, I never really cared about it. Not Kissuiso, not the characters.

    But despite all this, Hanairo has its moments of pure love. When the drama actually works. When it’s genuinly funny and when I care about the characters. But it was bogged down because of all the bad stuff. Sorry.

    I actually rewatched the first episode afterwards. They are two completely different shows. While it might sound a bit overused since everyone says so, it’s actually very true. The mood is a lot different and the characters also behave differently. Enishi and Ko has guts!

  7. fathomlessblue
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Spot on with everything, although I can’t bring myself to dislike Nako for, my personal reasons…

    I liked the fact this aimed to be a show for everyone, with teenagers acting like kids for the younger crowd, and some more nuanced, older characters for us jaded crusties (which in anime years is seemingly anyone older than 19). I still kinda think the show would have been better if Ohana remained in Tokyo and dealt with her issues there (she may have kept some brain cells at least!), but that’s just me grumbling.

    The worst elements were definitely having Ohana as the lead (and Minko second), and the bloody melodrama. I don’t know; if I was ten years younger I’d probably have loved it, but whatever appreciation I had for the format died watching Air. Bleugh!

  8. Posted September 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    The one thing I disagree with you on is that you don’t mention Ohana’s grandmother enough. She was the best character! It was really a shame that they focused on the young girls, instead.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 28, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      There’s a lot I wanted to mention but didn’t because lol 1500 words already, but yes. The gran was great, second only to the mum herself

  9. luffyluffy
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine(Let’s call him Kanon) has been watching this, and every episode he’s just been complaining and complaining about it.

    In fact, it seems like everyone thought it was terrible, which means I was right to drop it 10 minutes into the first episode. Fuck yeah.

    • luffyluffy
      Posted September 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      By the way Scamp, have you heard about CERN breaking the light speed barrier?

      • Marow
        Posted September 27, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink


        Best picture yet.

        But some people say stuff like “stuff can travel faster than light, but not [insert something I don’t remember here] than light”. So it might not break the system. Oh well. Cool stuff. We also have that arsenic life form from last year. Cool stuff.

        I wonder what more we will discover during our generation.

      • Scamp
        Posted September 28, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        I’ve heard about it. Chances are they just miscalculated something, but it certainly is interesting. Come to think of it, I never thought of the Steins;Gate comparisons. CERN come up with a way of travelling back through time…

      • luffyluffy
        Posted September 28, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        We’re all doomed. Find a way to escape this world line ASAP

      • Marow
        Posted September 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Haven’t they repeated the experiment at least 500 times and still got the same results? I heard they are asking other scientists to come and look if they did anything wrong.

  10. JayTea
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Well, I have to disagree on one of your points there. I thought that the plot was geared all about the fate of the inn (although I was disappointed that Ohana wasn’t deemed the future successor like I thought it was leading her up to be until the final episode) Other than that one of your best reviews :D I really loved the show and I actually did think it was a defining part of this season :P

  11. gw_kimmy
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    although i do not care for minko AT ALL, without her, you have to admit, the entire female teen cast would just be your typical yuri fodder (plus your dreaded girls being nice to each other.). sadly, minko’s bitchiness was necessary ;/

    ugh, only parts of this show i enjoyed were the first tokyo arc and the scene where ohana’s mom tells ko-chan she’s not going to watch pr0n with him. made me want to watch ‘the graduate’ again. best mrs. robinson of the year.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 28, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Implying it isn’t yuri fodder already

      • gw_kimmy
        Posted September 29, 2011 at 12:29 am | Permalink

        very true. touche.

  12. Repel Lugubrious
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Minko wasn’t annoying. She was just struggeling to deal with her homosexual feelings for Õhana. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  13. mcm38
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I dropped this show for the time being, cause of lack in free time. However I would like to know wether you decided on the anime you’re covering this season, Scamp?

    • mcm38
      Posted September 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Aside from Guilty Crown.

      • Scamp
        Posted September 30, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        Probably Guilty Crown and Last Exile, but we’ll see

  14. Posted September 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    I felt like, for the most part, the anime was very realistic. I mean, obviously life isn’t full of as much drama as HanaIro has, but that’s because it is a drama not a reality show (which, ironically, are actually dramas). I loved the fuck out of this show. I enjoyed the drama too.

  15. Posted September 29, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    If you’re the kind of eas­ily emo­tion­ally manip­u­lated loser who thinks Ano Hana is one of the best shows of the year, then maybe you too will like the drama in HanaIro.

    Ouch! Then again, I didn’t like all of the drama in HanaIro, and I never finished Ano Hana, so I am not offended!

    Still, I disagree with you in that the comedy was the only good part. The comedy was great, and yeah, most of the romantic drama sucked a bit, or quite a bit as the case maybe, but I really liked some other things.
    Like for example how the characters changed, especially Ohana, she went through a lot of changes and I don’t think I have seen many or any characters with that much development in 26 episodes.
    Also, although the drama for Kisui inn was dragged on a bit, I just couldn’t hate them for it after the way they presented the inn in the last episode.
    Speaking of the last episode, I really liked it, it might have been cheesy, but it made me feel all warm inside.
    The relationship between the landlady, the mom, and Ohana was an excellent relationship that was very well developed, I particularly liked how the landlady grew so fond of Ohana by the end.

    Also, if the humor in this show was enough reason to watch it, I would very strongly recommend that you finish Nichijou. Sure, even in the second half, some of the segments weren’t that funny, but there was some really funny humor, like this scene.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 30, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Nooooo, not Nichijou! I watched half of the bloody thing already, I don’t want to sit through anymore of it

  16. Anonymous
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I came, I saw, I was right when I said this was going to be an enjoyable show (for me) way back when it started. Then I came again because MILF.

  17. Posted September 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I’M A LOSER SCAMP! Jokes aside, you should really stop on the drama-hatin. You shouldn’t have even watched Anohana in the first place since we all knew it was gonna be drama to begin with.

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