Anime Review: Hanasaku Iroha - Blossoms For Tomorrow Part 1

By Drew Hurley 13.09.2019

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Hanasaku Iroha - Blossoms For Tomorrow Part 1(UK Rating: 15)

Hanasaku Iroha is about a girl who once lived in Tokyo, being forced to uproot and move to the sticks with her estranged grandmother. Wait, wait! Yes, it's a trite and overused premise, but give this one a chance. There's enough here to make this one worth watching. It's an original work coming from the wonderful PA Works studio, with some impressive individuals on the cast and crew. This Cinderella story sees 16-year-old Matsumae Ohana finding out the reality of moving away to live in her grandmother's impressive traditional inn is much different from what she expected. Coming courtesy of MVM, Hanasaku Iroha Blossoms for Tomorrow Set 1 contains episodes 1-13 and is available from June 17th.
Only a brief glimpse is given to the Tokyo life of Ohana. She's got a male best friend who is clearly secretly carrying a torch for her while she remains oblivious. Her mother is another cliché; one of those single parents who refuses to act maternal, instead acting like the child in the relationship, having her daughter take care of the housework while she hangs out with her idiotic boyfriend. That boyfriend proves to be the end of Ohana's regular life, as he gets into some debt and drags Ohana's mother into it. The two elope in hopes of outrunning their trouble, and who wants a teenage daughter along for that? So Ohana is shipped off to live with her grandmother in a Ryokan out in the country. Ohana takes the whole thing rather well, considering her mother tells her to her face that she doesn't want her along for the ride. Not to mention the follow-up gut-punch of her long-time best friend "Ko-chan" admitting her feelings to her, before also pushing her away...
Yet, she still sees the whole thing as something of an adventure. A chance to reinvent herself, a romantic idea of what her life could be, and it seems quite possible, considering the beautiful and picturesque scene that awaits her. Angel Beats!, Charlotte, Another, Canaan, Shirobako. What do these anime have in common? They are all absolutely beautiful. Another thing? They're all made by PA Works. A relatively young studio. Formed in 2000. They have been putting out quality piece after quality piece, and Hanasaku Iroha is no exception. The opening episode sees Ohana travel to her new home by train and as the sun reflects off the ocean through the window of a train, it's clear this is going to live up to what has come PA Works' other creations.

The romanticism is kicked swiftly to one side when Ohana arrives at the inn and decides to start tearing up the weeds at the entrance. A good first impression as those "weeds" are actually Rochambles being grown by one of the existing attendants of the inn, a young girl named Minchi. Minchi tells her to die before stalking away, and this warm reception continues when Ohana meets her grandmother; an old-school, traditional Japanese lady who had already thought of her daughter as a girl she had long disowned. She says Ohana is "Just someone living here that needs to pay her way in doing chores around the inn." Ohana is immediately put to work. Her uncle was often bullied by her mother, and decides since Ohana closely resembles his sister when she was younger, he'll take out all those long-withheld grudges. So far it's not much of a welcome to Ohana.
The rest of the crew at the inn are somewhat more accommodating. This extended cast is full of completely developed and realized characters, it's funny, as each one is introduced feeling like tired and trite tropes or archetypes. Such as Minko the grumpy Tsundere that wants nothing to do with Ohana at first, but slowly begins to befriend her. Old tropes, yet, being a Mari Okada production, each character quickly becomes more than their basic elements, and most importantly, likeable. Minko has good reason for her attitude, and watching her grow and struggle as she yearns to become a chef is slowly engrossing, especially when it adds a new layer between the girls thanks to Ohana's talent in the kitchen.
The series looks stunning, and not just in the art of the characters and the world - though P.A. Works really went above and beyond for this anniversary production - it's also a really solid production all around, and that's mostly thanks to the impressive staff on hand. In particular it's directed by the legendary Masahiro Ando, a man with an insane amount of experience in the industry, including working as Episode Director for Fullmetal Alchemist, playing the role of Key Animation on Ghost in the Shell and the Director of CANAAN. Then there are the character designs - something essential to catch the attention and remain memorable against the literal millions of other shows out there - these come from Mel Kishida, who was responsible for the character designs in the Arland iterations of the Atelier game series.
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
There's magic in the mundane here, with the Kissuiso Inn being home to characters and stories that capture the heart and attention of the audience. Ultimately, it's just a slice-of-life show about some teenage girls working in a hot spring, yet it is also so much more. A coming of age tale that is vivid and captivating. Hanasaku Iroha is the ideal next watch for slice-of-life fans.

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