Monday, December 9, 2013

Hanasaku Iroha

Hanasaku Iroha (or Hanairo for short) was a 26-episode series from the spring to the fall of 2011. it follows 16-year-old Matsumae Ohana as she moves to her grandmother's hot spring inn and begins working there. Ohana initially expects a dreamy, exciting lifestyle when she moves to the inn, but much like her previous life with her irresponible, flighty mother, it's the hard-knock life for her. Eventually, though, she falls into her niche and becomes a key fixture at the Kissui Inn.
You've brought the wrath of this little girl upon you. No one can save you now.
Hanairo is by far a coming of age tale following Ohana (and, to a lesser extent, her coworkers/friends) finding her place in life and her future goals. Through the course of 3 seasons she figures out what she wants to do with her life, falls in love, and learns that part of growing up is doing things you don't always like. She retains a cheerful optimisim (most of the time) that is so powerful it's sometimes annoying (ha ha). This serves her well as she faces down plenty of struggles that others would cave into at the drop of a hat. she's spunky, she's fierce, and she makes up weird phrases that eventually work their way into everyone's parlance.
Though she sometimes annoys them, Ohana really brings the staff of Kissui Inn together as a family.
The show has an overall nostalgic feeling to it, and not by accident. Even the ending theme mentions a "sepia tone", which the visuals are coated in as if they took a basting brush to it. Kissui Inn itself is a Taisho Era hot spring inn, and the entire area looks as if it's stuck in the Showa Era. Along with the colours and the settings, the result is something heartwarming and cozy. As such, it has a semi-slow pacing overall, but the individual episodes can move very quickly, so provided you're not the type looking for over-the-top action (a la Gundam or Dragonball Z), it's unlikely you'll get bored.
That's not to say that it's TOTALLY slow.
The soundtrack, like the visuals, is warm, slow, and nostalgic. It serves its purpose as background music, but has a distinctive flair that endears itself to its viewer the same way the background music of Ben-to and Ikoku Meiro no Croisee did. The series has 2 openings, 2 endings, and many, MANY insert songs, so there is a rather broad mix. at times, though, it can be a tad strange, such as the second opening theme reminding me of a Simon and Garfunkle song.
Gorgeous visuals are Gorgeous.
Given its distinctive setting, plot, and atmosphere, this series might not be good for everyone, but for those 15+ who are looking for a fluffy coming-of-age tale that's not too sappy and not too crazy, this might be the one. The drama feels real, the action gets intense, and someone's gonna get slapped. actually, a lot of people do. it's just the manager's thing.
It's REALLY her thing. This is her son, by the way.

My one major complaint with this series is the ending. It wraps up basically nothing and leaves an unsatisfied, yearning feeling in the pit of my stomach. Considering the manga was made AFTER the anime (a rare decision), reading anything likely won't help to satisfy my need for a resolution as well, and given its age and the fact that a movie has already been made, it's highly unlikely there will be a sequel. I loved the series, but to end it on that note is like a slap in the face. and not one from Madam Manager either. that would have at least been enjoyable.

The ending leaves me more bitter than this steamed vegetable plate.
Hanairo is available from Underwater Subs, Fleppensteyn (Flep), CoalGirls, Penguin Fever, Horriblesubs, NanaOne (German), and Liuyun Subs (Chinese). The series is licensed in North America by NIS America.
I say 15+ because stuff like this happens. And this is actually light compared to other moments.

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