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Hanasaku Iroha

Hanasaku Iroha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hanasaku Iroha (aka The ABCs of Blooming a Flower) is an enjoyable 26 episode teen romance with an odd set up.  Although Hanasaku Iroha has slice of life elements to it, it is more of a coming of age story with a lot of focus on character growth.

The Premise:

In the opening episode Ohana [1] has to deal with the anime cliché of a confession of love from a male friend, and more or less botches it completely.  Her own feelings are still confused, and this didn’t help.

This is when the setup gets complicated: Ohana’s mother is skipping town with the boyfriend to avoid his debt collectors, and Ohana isn’t coming along for the ride.  Instead Ohana is being shuffled off to the country her grandmother’s hot spring inn named Kissuiso.

On arrival grandmother turns out to be a tough old biddy [2] always addressed professionally as “Madam Manager”. Madam Manager has little time or tolerance for what is expected to be a spoiled, lazy, city girl, and Ohana is promptly put to work. Initially Ohana is a general worker and cleaner but is quickly upgraded to a waitress [3].

There is an aspect here of Ohana being punished for her mother’s sins that I was uncomfortable with in the early episodes.  As Ohana begins to thrive in the new environment this concern eases off.  This is helped along by the fact that Madam Manager is scrupulously fair to all of her employees [4], and also begins to respect Ohana fairly quickly [5].

The Character Arcs:

The staff of the Kssuiso is probably too small to be fully believable, but this is a necessary tradeoff to ensure that each character is fully developed [6]. Overall I think the scriptwriters got the balance here about right, and Hanasaku Iroha’s greatest strength is in the characterisations.

Most of the Kissuiso staff get Day in the Limelight character arcs that usually result in significant character development. These are generally quite a lot of fun to watch.

As I mentioned earlier character growth is a core part of the charm of Hanasaku Iroha so I’m not going to spoil most of the arcs, especially Minko and Nako. What is especially nice to see is that the lessons learned are retained in later episodes.

Nako’s characterisation in particular is different after her arc, but it is a difference that only those who know her well will see. Those that do see it are favourably impressed.

I’m also not going to go into any great detail about Ohana’s emotional development save to note that the teen romance tropes used to facilitate it were very carefully selected, as were the tropes that weren’t used [7].

Several of the arcs do involve some fairly unsubtle Aesops about the virtues of hard work etc.  However given the target audience, and the base story line, this is hardly surprising.

Other Bits and Pieces

One amusing irony given the setting is the general absence of fan service.  The beach episode and/or hot springs visit was one of the tropes I discussed with Steveg last year that is often an excuse to put female characters in minimal clothing.  Hanasaku Iroha averts the trope to the extent that the examples of fan service that do occur seem gratuitous and jarring.

There is also a fair bit of the “happy high school life” mythology going on here, and it did lead to several entirely predictable elements appearing: the school festival, the field trip, etc.  Despite this not being one of my favourite settings [8], the high school elements were generally well handled and slotted neatly into the character arcs.

I’ll also note that there are two opening and closing credits.  The switch occurs in episode 14 after a key realisation on Ohana’s part in the previous episode.  I won’t say what that realisation is, but will note that the second opening has both a key omission and a clever piece of foreshadowing [9].

Conclusion

Hanasaku Iroha is a fun, lightweight, series.  It has a lot going for it with relatively few flaws, and I recommend it for some enjoyable viewing that won’t require you to think too much.  There is apparently a feature film coming this year, and I’m looking forward to it.



[1] Which means Flower by the way, and Ohana also wears flower themed hair pins throughout the series.

[2] I approve of tough old biddys, see Summer Wars for another excellent example.

[3] This happens so quickly that I suspect that there is a shout out to Ouran High Host Club here.  It is justified by Ohana not complaining, settling down to work, and taking responsibility for her errors.

[4] If occasionally a little harsh.

[5] Although Madam Manager tends to hide this fairly well.

[6] The lack of staff does become a plot point at times.

[7] Yes, I’m being deliberately cryptic here.  This show is within my Spoilers Statute of Limitations so I’m going to focus on impressions rather than plot.

[8] To put it mildly…

[9] Here is a ROT-13 version: Gur svefg bcravat fubjf Bunan va Gbxlb naq Lhabfntv.  Bapr Lhabfntv orpbzrf ure ubzr bs pubvpr, gur frpbaq bcravat bayl fubjf Bunan va Lhabfntv… ohg nyfb sberfunqbjf ure erghea gb Gbxlb jura Xvffhvfb pybfrf