October 02, 2011
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Title: Hanasaku Iroha
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: 7.0/10
Hana-Saku-Iroha

Summary: Matsumae Ohana, a 16 year old girl, moves out of Tokyo and starts working at a hot spring hotel, which is located on a hill surrounded by cherry blossoms. Matsumae has yet to decide her future. The story will also feature other teenage girls who are looking for their dreams and excitements.

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Review: A slice of life that wasn’t all that amazing but definitely better than most. It excelled in a lot of areas like managing to keep me entertained for a good twenty six episodes. As a personal satisfaction I would say that it was pretty high up there. It wasn’t some of the best work I’ve seen because of a few key points.

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The art for Hanasaku Iroha was top quality; as expected from P.A. Works who’s artwork impressed me even though I absolutely hated some of their works (True Tears). I enjoyed just about everything about it. The character models, faces, lighting, shading, coloring, backdrops, the whole nine yards. Despite the anime taking nearly all of its time in the hotel it still seemed fresh and exciting each time. Probably because they actually had minor details changed here and there. The character models for starters are what initially brought me in. They didn’t have any crazy hair styles or colors for distinction. If you look just about everyone’s hair is either black or some shade of brown. So it is pretty obvious that they were sticking to the true slice of life feel. The body movements were fluid and didn’t have those awkward arm movements as some others. I was especially surprised that none of the characters really “stood out” in terms of looks. In many anime they always make one or two of the girls exceptionally good looking. The girls in Hanasaku Iroha were cute but nothing mind blowing. In fact, they point out quite often that Ohana isn’t one of the prettiest girls in the world and most of her charm comes from her personality.

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The story for Hanasaku Iroha is one of the better for a slice of life. It had a lot of great points and with twenty six episodes filled out a lot of character development amongst the main characters. The one I was especially happy with was Nako. A quite, shy girl who didn’t do much other than her work and school. She didn’t have many friends was far from popular. As the series went on she slowly came out of her shell. You could easily see a transformation in personality from the beginning to end. She started to speak her mind a lot more and wasn’t so close off to the world. Nako wasn’t the only character to undergo some changes either. Nearly every character had slight tweaks and alterations once Ohana arrived on the scene. Most of them I was pretty happy with, but some… not so much. One character, Minko, became my most disliked character of the series. When she first appears I found her to be cool in an anti-social sort of way. Just like many other stereotypical characters she was interesting because she was a mystery. You could never really get a good idea of what she was thinking. However, the series started to dive deeper into her psyche and reveal a lot of her thoughts. Once that happened it turned into the most annoying drama ever. Every episode that had her as the main plot point was painful to watch. Her hot headed personality caused problems for pretty much everyone and really took away any sympathy points you might have had with her. However, I understand why she was there. She did play a strong plot device and ultimately a big factor in the end resolve. I still can’t say it was worth watching the extremely annoying teenage girl drama though.  Other than her though most of the characters were very well done. Madam Manager (Ohana’s mother) was a great character because she never really changed, you just learned more about her. It is kind of nice when you learn more about a character and end up liking them more rather than liking them after a complete personality recall. So why have I been focusing so much on the characters instead of the story? Because the story really was just about the characters and how they are going about their lives. The only thing they really had in common was working at Kissui. There was an underlying romance going on between many of the characters as well. It wasn’t the best and there were a lot of parts that had me shying away from romantic interests emerging. I guess the reason I wasn’t so into it was because it was sometimes laid on a bit too thick. The drama and poorly drawn love triangle was far from well done. It had a lot of problems with keeping hold of my interests. However, everything that had to do with the Kissui I was all for. Every little problem they ran into with money, guests, or general everyday life I found exciting to watch. Heck at some point I thought working at an inn might not be that bad. What really pushed me to giving this anime a good rating was the ending. It was probably the absolute best ending they could have possibly done with the series. Comparing it many of the endings this season it was definitely toward the top. I was 100% satisfied with the outcome of the characters, story, and final thoughts. A good standard that many other slice of life anime should meet. And even if this sounds a little corny, or a little cliché,  the series did a great job with portraying a message: discovering your dream will push you to keep going and open your eyes to what life means to you.

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The soundtrack for Hanasaku Iroha can be either good or bad depending on who’s listening. The opening was good and I liked the quick beat. The guitar and drums mixed really well. The singer was good, but I can see her voice being a little annoying to some. I don’t know why but it didn’t sound natural. Regardless the sound was well done. The endings wasn’t bad either, a bit more relaxing than the opening, but nothing special. It sounded sweet but not something I would suggest going out of your way to grab. The background music was pretty good because the melodies were really nice. Many of the songs were performed by Nano Ripe who also did the opening. So if you liked that I’m sure you will like most of the other tracks.

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Final statements: One of the better slice of life anime out there. A preferred watch because of the solid character development and good story telling. The brilliant helped too.

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