It’s a known fact that PA Works is well-known for their original productions. In particular, True Tears, Canaan and especially Angel Beats had garnered a lot of attention. Although their production values are great, the stories get a bit too ambitious mostly because of the length. This eventually caused them to get a bit off track from the original premise as seen with Hanasaku Iroha. (Image Source)
If you ignore the other characters’ arcs in the story, Hanasaku Iroha tells an experience of a sixteen-year-old girl named Ohana Matsumae who was forced to move in with her grandmother after some extraordinary circumstances her mom caused by her boyfriend’s debt. This meant that she had to leave her normal life with Ko behind to work at an inn ran by her strict grandmother named Sui. After working at Kissuisou for some time, her outlook of life changes and she becomes a stronger person while making new friends. This ultimately allows her to acknowledge her love for Ko and reconcile with her mother when the inn closes after the festival. She promises to come back when the time comes to reunite with everyone and reopen it to its full glory.
The story could be summed up like that if the world was ideal. Sadly, it isn’t. The main problem with Hanasaku Iroha is that the plot simply drags on. Sure, some of the character spotlights like Nako’s and Tomoe’s were actually fun and interesting. On the other hand, why do we need to know about Yuina reason of not wanting to run an inn, Jiromaru’s writing issues or that matter, Minko’s commotion about Omurice that plays out like the whole “debt ceiling” issue? It doesn’t really accomplish that much in resolving Ohana’s difficulty of conveying her feelings to her crush and becoming a stronger person. I think length is an issue because no matter how you look at it, most of PA Works’ shows have this problem. For instance, Angel Beats displays this as the story gave a sense that something was missing. Have they trimmed the fat and focus more on the main character and Kissuisou, perhaps this show wouldn’t have such a glaring identity crisis. Despite this, the story tends to get better when it’s focused on Ohana, her mother and grandmother, particularly the latter parts of the first and second half of the show.
As for the characters, this is where things become a mixed bag. It’s because there are some characters that I particularly like and the minority being rather annoying. Clearly, Ohana is the best character of the story not only for her very cheerful personality, but the charm that she brings out. When trouble happens, she knows the right solution to resolve it. Then, you have her mom, Satsuki that acts crazy, but shows herself as a cool mother in the Tokyo arc and towards the end of the show. Lastly, there is her grandmother, Sui who is a strict, but a strong supporting character that cares a lot for her workers and customers in her dream of running an inn. Aside from these, I find some of the characters really annoying, especially Enishi, Takako and Jiromaru. From this, I sense that Mari Okada made them this way since she probably had something against male characters and think that they are pathetic. Either way, the perception of these characters is up to the viewers.
In the end, I still enjoyed Hanasaku Iroha. Although it’s not as good compared to Hourou Musuko or even AnoHana, it’s by no means bad. The characters could have been better, especially the males. Also, the openings and second ending music was mediocre and disappointing with the exception of the ending done by Sphere. Aside from that, the animation was top-notch and it somewhat reminded me of True Tears with the love triangle catfights. Either way, I hope they will address these flaws on their next project they are working on this series. Otherwise, we are in for a wild ride yet again.
Overall Rating: 8.4/10, Good, B