Taking a short break from the action and harem anime, we review volume one of “Hanasaku Iroha ~ Blossoms for Tomorrow ~” a coming-of-age, slice-of-life series from anime and video game publisher NIS America.
“Hanasaku Iroha” follows the story of Ohana Matsumae, a high school girl who is forced to live at Kissuiso, her grandmother’s hot spring inn, after her mother runs off with her boyfriend to avoid paying her debts. It isn’t all relaxing baths and the easy life for Ohana however, her grandmother puts her to work, and at this aging inn, the customer is king, the girls are expected to do everything right and make the customer’s visit perfect.
Ohana struggles to adapt to her new environment as well as her job, and her roommate, the harsh tongued Minko, doesn’t make things any easier. Luckily she has reliable Nako, head attendant Tomoe, Ohana’s uncle Enishi, and the rest of Kissuiso’s staff, who all have her back. Her grandmother, Sui, also helps Ohana learn the ropes, even if she does seems cold. Ohana also has her best friend in Tokyo, Koichi, to call and talk to, even if he does have a crush on her.
With Ohana’s uncle always trying to boost business, especially since a hugely popular inn is located nearby, even hiring his girlfriend, a consultant, to help update the older inn’s look and style, there is always something crazy to test the patience of the staff. The customers aren’t very normal either, including a novelist who drags Ohana into his problems, practically kidnapping her.
Over time, Ohana learns to love the inn, and she sees why her grandmother is so passionate about making each customer’s visit perfect. It isn’t all cooking, cleaning and school though, Ohana also deals with her own romantic dilemma, as does her roommate Minko.
“Hanasaku Iroha” had a really sweet story, it can be a little crazy at times, but for the most part it stays fairly grounded. Ohana is a likable character and her journey to learn to work at the inn is fun to watch, as she makes countless mistakes but always gives her all.
Her interactions with her coworkers are also fun to watch, whether it is joking around with the girls her age or Tomoe flipping out because she is getting older and isn’t married. The relationship between Ohana and Sui is also interesting to watch, Sui seems cold, but at the same time there are moments where she can be really kind and caring.
Visually, “Hanasaku Iroha” is a beautiful looking anime series, the animation is smooth and the picture quality is clear. The Blu-ray version of the series was a little better looking than the DVD version, but both are still nice. As far as the overall look of the animation goes, it really looks like a shojo series, the girls are all really cute and the guys look strong yet kind.
The series comes with the Japanese voice option only, but that isn’t a bad thing. The cast of the series is great and they match up well. The subtitles are also clear and easy to read but the text does move a little quick at times. The translations do have good flow though.
Included as on-disc extras are Japanese trailers, the clean opening and ending, along with trailers for other NIS America releases. As with all of NIS America’s premium edition releases, the four discs come in slim DVD cases, held in a beautifully designed art box which also holds a 36-page full-color art book that includes character info, rough sketches, setting illustrations and interviews with key staff.
“Hanasaku Iroha ~ Blossoms for Tomorrow ~” is a fun, lighthearted series that is ideal for fans of slice-of-life anime series. The characters are cute and likable, and there is just enough relationship drama to draw viewers in, and a little bit of comedy to keep things entertaining, without being too over-the-top. Ohana’s development as a character is also fun to watch, it will be interesting to see how much more she will grow in part two.
4.5 out of 5
Hanasaku Iroha ~ Blossoms for Tomorrow ~
Publisher: NIS America
Runtime: 308 minutes
Number of Episodes: 13
Number of Discs: 2 DVDs and 2 Blu-ray
Languages: Japanese with English subtitles (non-removable on the Blu-ray version)
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date: April 9, 2013
(A review copy of “Hanasaku Iroha ~ Blossoms for Tomorrow ~” was provided by NIS America.)