After so many warnings and reasurrances, Kanazawa finally has snow and the temperatures got below zero (only by a little, but still). And if I ever need any excuse to binge watch stuff, then weather like that is good enough. So at an almost scary pace I watched the entirety of "Hanasaku Iroha" (), a 2011 anime.
When I read some synopses on Wikipedia, I expected something quite average and I expected myself to keep watching it only because it's real life set inspiration is Yuwaku-onsen in Kanazawa. So it was such a nice surprise when I started watching and discovered that story from the synopses was very simplified.
"Hanasaku Iroha" is focused on one period in life of a sixteen year old Ohana Matsumae. When her mother decides to elope with her boyfriend and send her daughter to a grandmother, whom Ohana has never seen before and who runs a Japanese-style inn, ryokan (), Ohana feels that here is her chance to have some excitement in her life that she doesn't get in Tokyo and that maybe finally she'll get some family love that she never got from her mother. Even if she is sorry to leave behind her best friend, Kou, who unexpectedly declares his love just before Ohana's due to leave Tokyo. But upon arriving this plan sort of fails: grandmother, Sui Shijima, insists on being called "okami-san" ("manager" or "landlady"), announces that Ohana can live in the ryokan, but she'll have to work to keep a roof over her head, and to top that up Ohana's roommate doesn't like her from the very beginning and her first words to Ohana were "Die".
Anime concentrates first on the life and work at this Japanese-style inn. Ohana and the viewer simultaneously learn what the work is like and gradually get to know the rest of the staff and sometimes even the guests. And because all of them stand out well enough to be memorable and aren't just to fill the empty spaces in the background, the viewer has more time to enjoy getting to know them and be excited about the daily routine of cleaning rooms and carrying meals. Sure, you can dislike some of the characters, but they are all presented and carried very well and very believably, and when you reach the end of the twenty six episode long series, everyone has changed somewhat, especially Ohana.
The relations between them all are also great. Minko, who told Ohana to "die" at first, doesn't suddenly become her bestie, but allows her to slowly get to know herself better, without losing her temper from the first episode. The third of Ohana's new friends, terribly shy waitress Nako, also doesn't become a confident star overnight, instead slowly getting to know how to behave around louder Ohana and gradually getting more confident in what she herself is doing.
The relationship between Ohana and her family deserves the same praise: Ohana and her mother, Ohana and her grandmother, mother and grandmotherAlthough these stories are more in the background, they still influence the main plot. Mother's decision from when she was younger affects present relations between Ohana and her grandmother, while the blossoming understanding between these two influences Ohana's relations with her mother. The strength of each woman and how each of them is strong in a different way, which sometimes leads to clashes, but eventually aids them on their way, were superbly shown.
Ohana's love dilemmas were the least important of the lot, just in front of one-off events, but they certainly weren't neglected or patronised. They are there, Ohana faces them, but the creators don't dwell on them any more than is needed, which, in my opinion, is great for the plot. So many teen animes have a tendency to make love stories the biggest problems ever, even if the protagonists have to face more serious ones, so it's refreshing to see some healthy approach to these things.
I could praise "Hanasaku Iroha" for a bit longer because it simply deserves it. The only thing I could realistically criticise are the songs, but they're not bad themselves, just not to my taste, that's all. It's not a complicated story, no next "Death Note", but I think in this case this is an advantage. It's another story about a teenager growing up (and yay, the teenager looks and acts like one, not like an adult in disguise), but it's told in a great way, with focus on the right things and with balance kept. And that's probably why I got so addicted to it and watched the whole thing almost at once (only almost because I had other things requiring my attention). At 26 episodes about 20 minutes each a binge watch of this is only a matter of a day, so if anyone likes teen anime, this one's worth your Saturday or Sunday.This is not a blog with reviews, so I'm not sure if I should give this anime a mark, so let me put it this way: if I had to mark it, I'd give "Hanasaku Iroha" a B. It's everything I would've wanted and expected from a good anime for teenaged girls, the plot's interesting and the characters believable and likeable. But even though I won't forget about it, may even watch it again sometime, it's not touching or moving enough to deserve an A. It's a good watch, let's keep it at that!