"Where The Heart Is” – Hanasaku Iroha (anime) – 7/10 Notebooks

The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there. ~Ellie Rodriguez

Genre: Slice-of-life/Comedy/Drama/Romance/Seinen

Review Status: Complete (26 Episodes/26 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed for streaming on Crunchyroll.

PA works does a fabulous job. The colors are bright and light with more pastel-oriented colors. The animation is smooth and fluid and looks superb, especially during the opening song, which looks fabulous!

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime. The subs are a little inconsistent on spellings for names.

Summary: Hanasaku Iroha centers around 16-year-old Ohana Matsumae who moves from Tokyo to out in the country to live with her grandmother at an onsen ryokan named Kissuisō. While restarting her life there initially seems daunting, Ohana begins working at the inn, makes friends with the other employees and watches her life take an unexpected twist. (Crunchyroll official description)

Review: Ohana is in a tough spot. Her mom has decided to run off with a man, leaving her with no place to live and nothing to fall back on. While her mom’s thoughtlessness is nothing new, this time it’s above and beyond what she’s had to deal with. She sets out to a distant town, to a grandmother that she never knew about, to stay in the onsen. Little does she know that family ties have been severed, and she’s going to have to earn her keep and fest it up herself!

You get a good feel for the characters right off the bat, which is excellent- this is a show that depends on its characters to move the story forward. Ohana is a bit stubborn but kind, and genuinely wants to do a good job. Her friends seem typical stereotypes, with one a bit of a wilting flower (yay! Breaks out of the mold and has genuine love and talents for stuff!) and the other a tsundere. The rest of the cast are just as lively and interesting, though they exist mostly in the background. Over them looms thesadow of Madame Manager, Ohana’s grandmother, who started Kissuiso with her late husband.

Things start steamrolling from there. Ohana learns what it’s like to really work, making mistakes but discovering that there can be fun to be found helping people enjoy themselves. She makes friends with the granddaughter of a fellow onsen manager. Bits and pieces of family history fall into place about why she’s there and what the tension between Madame Manager and her son Enishin are. A confession of love from her friend Ko weighs on Ohana’s mind, as she tries to figure out whether she likes him back and whether a relationship can happen between them.

Up to episode 12, this had everything going for it. There was a solid cast, some beautiful episodes with learning to do duties, making friends, finding joy in work, and a suspenseful romance brewing in the background. About this episode, it hits a mid-series drag. Plotlines are conveniently forgotten about for some pointless filler, and the episodes just aren’t very interesting. Minchi goes from being slightly frustrating to downright obnoxious and annoying a number of times, and other characters that could have used the development don’t get it.

Thankfully, about episode 21, things pick up again. A romance that had been hinted at between Enishin and the woman he hired to improve Kisuissho’s image comes into full bloom, and the plotlines are picked back up to be resolved. Tension that’s been building between Minchi and Ohana, over a perceived crush that Tohru has on Ohana, comes to a boil. Ohana makes a decision concerning Ko. And Madame Manager comes to a decision concerning the future of the onsen that changes things for everyone.

Unfortunately, the epilogue could have been really good, but falls just on this side of average because of moments that were added simply to make the series more melodramatic. Everyone comes to decide that Ohana is taking Madame Manager’s side when she never clearly did any such thing. After a halfhearted speech by Enishin, everyone suddenly becomes just hunky-dory with letting the Ryokan go. One of the big plotlines, Ohana’s relationship with Ko, ends up being very badly handled all around.

I am pleased with the majority of the anime. It has wonderful moments, between the girls, between the staff, between family members, between the staff and the onsen itself. The characters are overall very likeable and fun to watch, and the things they have to deal with hit close to home (though some might be slightly exaggerated for anime’s sake). I would definitely watch it again sometime.

Overall, this is far from the worst title out there, and definitely has some wonderful moments in it!

Recommended: 16+. There’s no language that I can remember at all, no violence except for a brief tussle that Ohana and Minchi have (no punches are thrown, just a little wrestling- standing up). There is some slight “fanservice” in how the woman who tried to increase the onsens’ popularity makes the girls wear somewhat skimpy dresses in one episode, while in another the girls go shopping for some clothes and one of the girls is a little… bustier than they thought (as someone who has dealt with that in real life, I actually sympathized and found the situation hilarious).

What drives the rating up is that one of the residents, a writer, writes…. Sketchy material. Unfortunately, this ends up with a lesbian scene between the three girls (purely imagined) that doesn’t go beyond innuendo and a scene in the baths where nothing shows but the shoulders, and Ohana helping him figure out how to tie some S&M knots (fully clothed, since she’s the one who gets tied up!). There are also a few scenes in the baths. The water covers everything, and the rest of the time the shots hide everything else- except in one scene where you see a little butt.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Ano Hana (anime)
Emma: A Victorian Romance (anime and manga)
Kobato (anime and manga)
Only Yesterday (anime)
Spirited Away (anime)
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée (anime)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Best Anime of 2011 « Paper Chimes

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