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Hanasaku Iroha Collection 1 Premium Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Hanasaku Iroha
Hanasaku Iroha
When Ohana ends up moving in with her grandmother who owns a hot spring, it’s not the kind of life she expected.

What They Say:
When Ohana’s mother flees with her boyfriend to avoid paying his debts, Ohana is sent off to live with her grandmother, who owns the hot spring inn Kissuiso. Upon arriving, Ohana is put to work at the inn. Thrust into a life where the customers always come first, she struggles to find her place at the inn and fit in with her fellow coworkers.

Contains episodes 1-13, plus a 36-page hardcover art book which provides a deeper viewing experience with detailed character info, rough sketches, artist interviews and setting illustrations.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is about as you’d expect as we get the original Japanese language only in stereo using the lossless PCM encoding. The show is one that is based firmly in the realm of dialogue so there’s nothing here that really qualifies as action or anything. But there is some good use of music throughout it that helps to build the atmosphere of the moment but it’s not something that uses a lot of directionality but rather a full feeling that works well and provides for some good warmth. When it comes to the dialogue, it does work well with what it needs to do with some minor directionality and depth in a few scenes, but mostly just providing for good clarity and balanced levels. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This collection has thirteen episodes that are spread across two Blu-ray discs with nine on the first and four on the second. The animation by PA Works comes across really well here as the colors are rich, the backgrounds detailed and the animation has a strong and fluid feeling to it. The series is not one that’s a standout in a big way as it is one that just has the characters talking and working, but there’s a richness to it that helps build the atmosphere of the situation well and the transfer captures it really well. The colors come across as solid throughout with no problems involving line noise or cross coloration throughout. There’s a good smoothness and cleanliness to the transfer here that makes it very appealing with all the details and nuance to it.

Packaging:
Hanasaku Iroha comes in a premium edition form from NIS America and that means another heavy large chipboard box and hardcover book. The front of the box has a traditional image of most of the girls together in front of the inn which looks great with all of its color and detail, as well as the smiles. The back cover brings three of them together at school where they’re in their uniforms with different expressions that are good but also provides for some fanservice in general, something that the series itself doesn’t play up much. The box has lots of bright, spring-like colors to it that definitely makes it appealing. The hardcover book inside is fantastic as we get a lot of material about the characters with rough drafts, full designs and more details. There’s an extensive look at the locations of the series as well which are rich and full of great little nuggets through the included text. There’s also some good instructional pieces in here along with a good interview with the art director. One of my favorite sections though is the key art section with all the material that it has that looks great.

Inside the box we also get to clear thin cases that hold the DVD and Blu-ray discs inside. The first volume has a really great piece of artwork that has the three schoolgirls together walking down the lane with lots of cherry blossoms falling around them and plenty of pink. The other volume takes the same trio and places them outside in a field of wildflowers with lots of blue sky with soft clouds that gives it a distinct feeling. Both are really well done, almost like illustrations, with great color and location designs. The back covers are laid out well with some background artwork along the top of key locations and there’s a good selection of shots from the show as well. Episodes are listed by number and title and we get a good clean technical grid along the bottom that brings out all the details in a clean and easy to read fashion. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cove.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works the simple route but a nice one as we get a background image of the inn and it brings in the individual characters one by one before coming to a group shot for all of them. The colors and designs shine well here and it has a relaxing aspect to it that sets the mood well for the series. The left side has the navigation panel which brings in the logo and the minor selections. The release doesn’t allow for changes to the subtitles in the menu as it’s locked, but you can subtitles off on the fly for this release. Submenus load quickly and easily and with little here, navigation is a breeze.

Extras:
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and a few trailers for the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from PA works which spans two seasons, Hansaku Iroha is a twenty-six episode series with the first thirteen episodes in this collection. While it’s an original anime series, they did kick off a manga version the year before in order to build up some fans and expectations for it while the animation production was put into motion. That series is still going and there’s a two volume spinoff as well. The anime series did well enough though as it managed to get a feature film that came out this year. Hanasaku Iroha managed to carve out a good niche for itself as it works a somewhat familiar premise and it manages to do things that keeps it just a bit elevated above the norm since it doesn’t go for the overly comical aspects of things. I didn’t see this series in simulcast form and I can imagine that it does work better in a collection here as the larger themes are a bit clearer and it works better in just going from one episode to the next.

The series revolves around high school student Ohana, a young woman who has a difficult family situation in a lot of ways that has complicated her life over the years. Living in Tokyo with her mother and her mother’s current boyfriend, we find out quickly just what kind of woman her mother is. Because of situations, she’s planning a night flight in order to change her life because of things that have happened, which sounds like it’s not the first time such things have happened. Ohana’s all set to roll and go with this new situation, but as it turns out, her mother isn’t going to bring her along this time. Instead, she’s sending Ohana to the countryside where her own moth owns a hot spring inn. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t fly well for Ohana but she’s pretty resigned to it.

What makes it really awkward though is that when Ohana does arrive at her grandmother’s inn, the family situation is not in a good way. Her grandmother, Shijima, had disowned her daughter Satsuki when she left the family business all those years ago and that hasn’t made things any easier when it comes to Ohana. In fact, when Ohana arrives, she’s essentially treated as a new worker for the inn rather than a granddaughter, which surprises Ohana since she didn’t expect tob e disowned as well. Though it’s pretty obvious that there’s been little to no communication between these two over the years as Shijima has a pretty stern elder approach to things combined with being decent at business. With her owning a Taisho period style inn, she has to deal with the higher end competition in the area and the inn isn’t quite the player it used to be in this area, though it has its fans and isn’t run down or rundown, which is a nice change of paced.

Being put to into this situation, Ohana now finds herself taking on the job of an attendant at the inn and doing a variety of jobs and getting introduced to a number of other staffers. She makes friends with Nako, who has been doing that job for awhile and is glad to have some help, but she runs into a lot of problems with Minko, a young woman working there that has some aspirations to be a part of the cook staff but is struggling with it and so many other things. What makes her situation worse, well, for both of them, is that Ohana tries to make friends with everyone, she gets involved in what they do in different ways and causes a lot of trouble because of her lack of understanding. And from the get go, Minko doesn’t like her and is cold and distant, which just has Ohana trying harder. And that just leads to more and more complications between them both.

The show spends its time getting us acclimated to the situation as you’d expect, seeing how the daily life goes, the quirks of the various staff members and the nature of the inn itself. Thankfully, nobody here is truly quirky in a way that makes them annoying or over the top, and instead we get a show that’s pretty firmly grounded in reality. Ohana’s acceptance into things isn’t difficult overall, though most of the trouble comes from Minko and a good helping from her grandmother who simply has issues with her through her own daughter. But like any show of this nature, you know those barriers will start coming down eventually through more and more interaction, and that’s nicely done here as we see Ohana trying her best, but doing it in a restrained kind of way, yet still causing problems as she goes because of her lack of thinking some things through. It’s predictable of course, but it’s executed well and it left me enjoying Ohana more than I thought I would and wanting to see more of how these relationships will develop, especially since there’s some nice things to be done with the past.

And that’s what really got me more interested as it went along. While we have some decent things done with the grandmother that has Ohana trying even harder, it’s when Ohana goes back to Tokyo to confront her mother over an issue that starts to shine more. The two have a complicated relationship, which we saw from the get go, but there’s a lot of underlying things as well that finally come out. Their relationship isn’t an easy one, though her mother wants it to be, so seeing it dealt with works well. We also get to see Ohana struggle with some unrealized feelings as she left a friend in Tokyo who was interested in her but she didn’t quite get it and is unsure of where their relationship stands, which is an undercurrent of material prior to her return there as she doesn’t know how to deal with him on the phone or through texting. It has some surprisingly good moments and left me enjoying it a good deal since his situation changed while she was away as well, though it’s someone else that confronts her on it.

In Summary:
With the first half of the series in this collection, Hanasaku Iroha does a lot of things right and hits some good notes as it deals with mildly complicated characters. Hewing to a realistic tone for things rather than over the top humor and characters, we get a show that’s well animated with lots of detail and a great setting that lets the people involved deal with changes, from new people arriving, the difficulties of running an inn like this in this day and age and relationship issues that range between friends, families and coworkers. Hanasaku Iroha is a fairly mellow series overall, but not one where nothing happens and it’s just a day by day experience of fluff. There’s some good drama, some good growth and characters that have interesting situations that makes for difficult choices to be made along the way.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings and Endings, Japanese Trailers

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: NIS America
Release Date: April 16th, 2013
MSRP: $69.99
Running Time: 308 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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