Posted on 25 September 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Hana-Saku Iroha




Hana-Saku Iroha…. is an interesting one. Probably the best way to start a review about it is to warn that it can be quite misleading when you start watching it. This series has two wonderfully written opening episodes that have a ton of well written drama, only followed by episodes of random slice of life hi-jinks.

This is a criticism, it takes time to get used to, but also: once this show finds its pace, it delivers a unique slice of life series. The thing is however, that it doesn’t care whether or not it annoys its viewers. This can be great for realism, but this series always tries to take this a bit beyond the comfort zone by inserting random stupidity at times. Throughout the series there will be plenty of teenaged romance angst, random yelling, characters who turn a mosquito into an elephant. Oh, and a depraved writers of smutty romance novels.

And on the other hand we have this series’ brilliant ability to write drama. Seriously, the characters in this series can get annoying, but their development is absolutely wonderful. When it wants to, it can create strong conflicts, character-development focused scenarios and heart-warming dialogue without getting cheesy. Especially in the second half the cast (and with that I mean nearly the entire cast, not just the main characters) develops into engaging characters, with everyone making some sort of impact.

What also helps is that PA Works really put in effort to make this series a feast for the eyes. The art and animation is crisp and fluid, the background art is gorgeous. This was really intended as their celebration for their 10th year anniversary, and they really succeeded here. Hana-Saku Iroha celebrates working and taking responsibility. And through its characters, it really turned that into a wonderful message.

Storytelling: 8/10 – There are scenes that come off as stupid and annoying, especially in the first half. When this series gets serious though, it really delivers excellent drama.
Characters: 9/10 – They will get on your nerves, but their chemistry is excellent, they’re really well used, and their development is top notch.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Clean and crisp. A feast for the eyes.
Setting: 8/10 – Good themes, although it does tend to ignore the borders of realism at times.

Suggestions:
True Tears
Konnichiwa Anne
Les Miserables – Shoujo Cosette

Posted on with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



What a wonderful ending. The creators did a wonderful job at adding in some final character development, while the epilogue at the end that showed where everyone ended up at was exactly what I was hoping for. This was really heart-warming, and out of the slice of life endings this season (Usagi Drop, Croisee), this was my favourite.

The stars of this episode were Sui and Ohana. Ohana’s wish-tag, where she claimed to want to be like her grandmother was wonderful. Sui meanwhile, saying goodbye to her memories of the Kissuiso and wanting to pick up being a waitress again. those two things made this ending really worth it. My only criticism: the Kou storyline was cut off. Anime, let’s face it: running into two characters as they are about to romantically confess is a dead horse. Stop beating it!

In the end, I think that the biggest problem with this series is its first two episodes. And don’t get me wrong, they were two wonderful and amazing episodes, but they also caused me to sit with an annoyed face at the subsequent eight episodes. The big reason for that is Ano Hana: the first two episodes gave off too much of an impression that this show would be similar. Anohana was meant to be a romantic tear jerker. Something which it did really well, however during its airtime, Hana-Saku Iroha just couldn’t get out of its shadow. Only now, in the summer season it really was able to show ts worth, and stand out on its own.

I mean, the first half of this series did have its share of charming episodes, but the second half is superior because of how the cast grew. The cast growing together was done wonderfully and gave this series a wonderful closure, even though there were enough points that were rather annoying. PA Works, I applaud you.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 19 September 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



What can I say? This was a wonderful episode and an excellent climax to this series. The creators stuffed a ton of character development into just this one episode.

This is going to be a bit strange, but I’m going to compare this ending with Tiger & Bunny’s for a bit. The big reason for that is because during that final arc, the side-characters all felt a bit lumped together. This episode of Hana-Saku Iroha however, avoided that: every single character had his or her own presence. Just about every character had his or her moment in this episode. It was a complete chaos in the Kissuiso, and the creators actually gave everyone something worthwhile to do. And best of all is that through this chaos, there were a ton of characters who were forced to act differently from their usual self.

This is a show that celebrates working, and it definitely hose a very interesting climax here: how to avoid getting caught up in it? After so many episodes in which the characters worked incredibly hard, I was afraid that they wouldn’t address this issue, but this episode really completes the circle and balances things out. This episode really added a lot to this series, and this is the kind of ending that I really like to see: the one that takes the series, keeps its core qualities and pushes them even further.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 11 September 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



… have I just been trolled by this series?

I mean, I was really looking forward to the characters all going their own way and moving on. And here this episode comes and hints that the Kissuiso actually isn’t going to be shut down. The only one who is still on my side is grandma.

This episode was incredibly unpredictable and created drama in the exact opposite of what I expected. That drama though… again was really good, like what we’ve come to expect from this series. We suddenly got to see a totally different side of Ohana’s grandmother, and her performance in particular was stunning throughout the entire episode.

I have no idea what the creators have planned for next week, though. The thing is that a cheesy life goes on ending just doesn’t seem to fit here after all that build-up. Will it work well as an anti-climax? If the creators can pull that off though, then I admire their guts. Either way though, they have something planned here…
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 September 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



Bravo, Hana-Saku Iroha! Well done! Awesome episode! This is what I’ve been waiting for!

Seriously, this is the thing that sets Hana-Saku Iroha apart from the other slice of life dramas: when it wants to deliver drama, it really delivers it well, with terrific acting and imaginative set-ups. This episode brought all sorts of events from the series together, and the great thing is that the creators really put in effort to give this episode an as interesting premise as possible while still never tugging at the viewer’s suspense of disbelief. Sure, there are some coincidences, but their timing is used wonderfully, so who cares?

I mean, the creators could have just settled for showing how everyone would move on after the closure of the Kissuiso. Then however, they didn’t just bring in the director again, they actually also showed the test footage he made during his arc, and the creators show it to Kou of all people. There was a ton of character development because of that, and Ohana and Kou only met at the end of this episode.

To think that, in three weeks there finally won’t be any Mari Okada series airing. Ever since 2008, there have only been two seasons in which she DIDN’T write something: Summer 2008, Spring 2009. Apart from that she hasn’t just been churning out one series after the other, but she wrote many of my favourites with only rare moments of weaknesses (really, only Fractale really went wrong, along with perhaps that Kodomo no Jikan OVA; Vampire Knight apparently was a very good adaptation of an unfortunately cheesy manga, and perhaps Kuroshitsuji I was a bit too long for its own sake). My favourite has to be the work she did on adapting the Armed Librarians, with a close second the amazing original script that she wrote for Ano Hana.

As for Hana-Saku Iroha, I remember comparing it to True Tears, noting how it completely lacked its subtlety. After 23 episodes, this still remains the case, but True Tears was the kind of series that really turned its subtlety and ambiguity into its main selling point: you could never tell what the characters were really thinking. Hana-Saku Iroha meanwhile is a lot more blatant, but it has a big knack for creating interesting situations and genuine drama. Overall, if I had to compare the two then I think I’d still prefer True Tears, but that’s mostly because it really had amazing acting, whereas the characters of Hana-Saku Iroha do tend to try a bit too hard at times. I still consider this to be an excellent series though: it took its hiccups, and didn’t just make up for them, but actually used them and made them a core part of the series.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 29 August 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



Um… people; I just realized something: 1.

That’s the number of currently airing series where both parents of the main characters are still alive. Usagi Drop is the freaking ONLY one who has confirmed that! With Hana Saku Iroha we could thus far still dream that Ohana’s father was some horrible bastard who left his girlfriend as soon as he got her pregnant. What happened to the days of Noein, where parents could simply get… divorced or something? The best thing we can hope for at this point is for Sket Dance’s Yusuke’s father to be a raging workaholic who is never at home or something.

Having said that though: I loved this episode, for a lot of different reasons. First of all: the creators did not wait until the last episode to resolve the Tohru subplot. Tohru now knows about Minko’s crush on him, he won’t be misinterpreting hints from her anymore, and with Ohana totally uninterested in him, it will be a matter of time before his crush on her fades.It’s nice to see all of this happen gradually, but more importantly: the creators had other plans for the climax. Plans that indeed involve dissolving the Kissuiso, allowing everyone to go their own way. It’s the best way for everyone to really shine, and to pack in a ton of character development for everyone. I applaud the creators for going that route!

The characterization for the wedding also was wonderful, making this a really heart-warming episode. Enishi and Takako really came together as a couple here, and the subtle details, like them holding hands were nicely animated as well. Ooh, and Ohana’s mother has finally returned! Next episode she seems to be making an even bigger appearance, which is going to make that finale even more awesome.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 21 August 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



I’m sorry for doubting the ending of this series. I should have known: writing good drama is what this series is best at, and this episode wasted no time: we’ve finally gotten to the finale of this series and so every moment of it should count.

So yeah, last week I said that this show has the tendency to completely ignore certain subplots, only to randomly make them appear later on. And guess what? It pulled that again. We don’t see Enishi and Takako for a few episodes, and WHAM: they’re suddenly getting married. I did not see that coming.

What I did see coming was that finally the love triangle would start moving again. The way in which it happened though… I have to praise the creators for it when Tohru just said so many things he shouldn’t have said. Minko was finally pushing herself to get closer to him, and then he starts to praise Ohana for all the things she’s done, right in front of her.

The wedding planning by the way also was great. There was some great tension between Enishi and Takako about the costs of the wedding after Ohana’s grandmother forced them to hold a ceremony. They’re a bit of a strange couple, but that makes it all the more worthwhile (after all, how often do we get to see actual marriages in anime?). It wasn’t romantic, but it did feel very genuine.

The biggest WTF was the cliff-hanger though. You’re forcing us to wait a full week after THAT?!
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 16 August 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



As expected, this episode was not as good as the Nako-episode, but it did avoid the cliched way to solve everything, and Minko definitely received some development. Festival arcs remain a dime a dozen, and while this episode wasn’t amongst the better ones out there, the characterization still managed to shine.

Instead of the cheesy “let’s all make up and be friends now”-speech, Minko actually gradually made up with her classmates. She was really calm in this episode at the points where it mattered, unlike the previous episode where for some reason she refused to explain exactly why the omelet rice would be impossible. It’s much more fun to watch her character this way. But yeah, her problem is that things with Tohru still aren’t going anywhere, or at least: things aren’t changing. This episode did tell us that Tohru knows Minko’s cooking really well; that was a very nice touch. Oh, and Ohana was a really great side-0character here, who made sure to throw in a light note once in a while, while at the same time Nako and her friend also were surprisingly good.

I just get the feeling that this series is deliberately ignoring certain things in order to save them for later. We got this at first with Nako’s shyness: that to disappeared for like, thirteen episodes before it returned. In the meantime we also haven’t heard of Kou in ages either. My best guess about what the ending will be about is indeed the love polygon. This does sound a lot less interesting than Ohana’s issues with her mother, so let’s see how the creators are planning to make this one interesting. What I really hope will happen is that the focus on the final climax will rely more on the themes of “working” than the romance. That one has been built up much more consistently in any case.

Oh, and while I’m bitching a lot about this series, but I do consider it to be very good. It’s definitely something else and it always manages to find ways to annoy me and flesh characters out in ways I did not see coming. It’s really well detailed, but because of that I just keep finding things that get to me.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 7 August 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



This show has the tendency to develop its characters really, really well, while being really annoying in the process. the previous episode was a great example of that, and this episode continues that trend with Minko. This episode was enjoyable, interesting, and again got quite a bit on my nerves.

Beyond the attention at Minko, I also have to praise this episode for not just looking at her, but rather the entire cast. This episode was quite well balanced in order to give a lot of characters their share of screentime and to flesh them out a bit. It’s especially the small details in this episode that rocked. This episode also finally gave some character to some of the classmates of the lead girls, and despite being yet another school festival episode, I enjoyed the small individual scenes.

Minko’s development isn’t looking out to be as good as what Nako got in the previous episode, though. Her crush on Tohru had always been a bit superficial, and the entire drama around her revolved around it, where she wanted to make good food in their class restaurant to impress him and started yelling at one of her classmates for doing exactly the same. At this point anything can of course still happen, but Nako development last episode was very good, especially on hindsight.

In any case though, the entire cast is growing together at this point, and I hope that the next episode will do the same. For example, Nako helping out her classmate in the art club was surprisingly genuine.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 1 August 2011 with categories: Hana-Saku Iroha



An interesting, albeit very annoying episode.

So, I asked for a Nako episode, and I got one. This episode dealt with her shyness, and unfortunately in order to do that it had to have her act like a bit of an idiot The entire episode was about her trying to change herself, with the result that she did a ton of things that she wouldn’t do. It definitely wasn’t bad… but she did get rather on my nerves. The only real criticism I have right now is the random guys who popped up in this episode (they were really annoying in the bad ways…) and that Nako probably is the first who begged her employer not to give her a raise…

This definitely was an episode for the long term of this series: what the next episodes need to do is show how she changed. She really didn’t appear much during the past months, so the shyness also suddenly returned from having been gone for like, what? 10 episodes?

Interestingly though, this episode also secretly fleshed out the rest of the cast when the four girls went shopping and we got to see some unexpected sides of them that we had not seen before. Ohana’s grandmother’s part in this episode was also very strong: the main theme of this series is working, and the end of this episode really delivered on that again.

This probably won’t happen, but what I’d like to see the most out of this series at this point, is a significant time-skip: show these characters as they’ve grown up. What has become of them? How did their character development during the past few episodes change them?
Rating: * (Good)

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  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:38 PM)
    And also remember how Darker Than Black had a big jump between the main series and Gemini of the Meteor. They later made a 4 episode OVA that covered the gap, and although you knew the outcome it was still entertaining; or at least more than the Gemini one. There’s merit to non-linear chronology and storytelling, but it is usually very hard to pull. The audience is intrigued by secrets that can later be uncovered, although in anime the pay-off is not always substantial.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:32 PM)
    I don’t know, the audience usually only needs very limited information to figure out dynamics and histories between the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:27 PM)
    A 13 episode series would work for the second title unlimited. But Alternative is a pretty long visual novel. You need at least two cours to give it justice. Making extra an OVA could work but you do need it for alternative. But it’s not an optional part of the trilogy. It needs to be read first, so that event later have a greater impact. Personally I am not even sure Muv Luv can even work in another medium.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:12 PM)
    That might compress things, but I think a good screen-writer can fit pretty much any VN in 12-14 episodes (covering just the main route).
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:07 PM)
    @Aidan: then the best solution would’ve been to make a two cour season covering the 2nd and the 3rd book. Have the cours air two anime seasons apart, and in the middle have an offshoot short OVA that covers the 1st book, but has a more harem comedy feel to it. Think Full Metal Panic and Fumuffu.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 01:34 PM)
    @bam, Muv Luv has the problem that most of its brillence lies in the third title. But in order for the third title to have the same effect you need to read the first two. Successful or not, I doubt theres animation studio willing to go all in and adapt the full trilogy. There’s also the issue of the first title being a really mediocre harem.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 12:48 PM)
    just a glimpse at the tip of the iceberg of reasons why y’all need a PS4 for the upcoming year:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3Hz8eXWHNY
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 08:09 AM)
    Why they didn’t adapt the original Muv Luv novel or Alternative is a mystery to me. Wasn’t the VN really successful? Whats with these offshoot shows instead of doing the real deal? They are avoiding it for some reason.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 08:06 AM)
    @Aidan: I have a suspicion that they got it from that 80’s song Total Eclipse of the Heart. Japanese authors are strangely enamored with the corny pop songs from that era.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 05:46 AM)
    And even then, those two muv-luv alternative episodes, schwartzmarken is still better than those.

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