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Hanasaku Iroha (花咲くいろは) is a 26-episode anime series that acted as the 10th anniversary series for production house P.A. Works. The coming-of-age teen comedy/drama revolves around 16-year-old girl Ohana, who is abandoned by her somewhat careless mother when she elopes with her boyfriend. When Ohana is sent to her estranged grandmother’s, an old-fashioned hot springs hotel named Kissuiso, she is at first first rubbed the wrong way by her stern grandmother who makes her work as an attendant, depressed that she has had to leave her boyfriend Ko-chan behind in Tokyo, and gets on the wrong side of her fellow workers. Very quickly, however, Ohana determines to make the best of her situation, to change her life around, “to sparkle”, and to make friends of he co-workers.
While the animation of the series is not cutting-edge, it is beautifully done nonetheless, with a lifelike, natural appearance, full of rich detail. The characters are all wonderfully sketched without being overemphasized, while backgrounds, especially outdoors, can sometimes be so richly multilayered they seem quite alive.
One can’t overlook the voice acting here either. This Japanese cast seems superbly put together, from the “loud” spitfire city girl Ohana (Itō Kanae), to the delicate Nakochi (Toyosaki Aki), everyone speaks with realism, believability, and a natural rhythm.
The Volume 2 release from NIS America includes the second 13 episodes of the series. Ohana (Itō Kanae) has now been at the inn for six months and has really begun to become a strong attendant. Her interaction with the rest of Kissuiso crew, especially Minko, has evolved and Ko-chan is far from her thoughts. But things are about to change, particularly when Minko’s feelings for her mentor, junior chef Tōru, and both girls realize that Tōru has feelings for Ohana.
The second half of this series continues to impress in so many ways with its laid back, coming of age charm and multiple storylines for its many different characters. Though its slow pace may detract some, I urge everyone to stick with it, because the charm of this series is in the interactions between the different characters and the evolving level of friendships.
There’s no change in volume 2 for the video quality of Hanasaku Iroha and it continues to satisfy on Blu-ray Disc. The video, provided in a fine 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 encodement from NIS America is rich in detail with clean color fills, no apparent aliasing or motion artifacts, and only the slightest hint of softness from time to time. Colors are often richly saturated and contrast is quite strong.
The audio track remains the same as well, and while we do not get a 5.1 mix, the LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) Japanese soundtrack is crystal clear, full, and has a natural dynamic range. The full stereo field is well utilized as well and atmospheric sounds come across nicely.
On-disc supplements are typically minimal, but the hardcover book included is a strong bit of collectible swag.
- Clean Opening
- Clean Endings
- Japanese Trailers (1.78:1; 1080p/4; 00:06:48)
- Hardcover art book (full color, 36 pages) which provides a deeper viewing experience with in-depth staff interviews, character design insights, and rough sketches.
The Definitive Word
Hanasaku Iroha is a wonderfully charming series that offers an easy blend of comedy and drama in a coming of age story that just about anyone can relate to. Combined with the excellent imagery of the superb animation and the strong voice cast, this makes for a more than entertaining program. The second half of the series, provided here in this Volume 2 release from NIS America, does not fail to provide a satisfying conclusion to what was a well done series from start to finish.
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