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Hanasaku Iroha Collection 2 Premium Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
Hanasaku Iroha
Hanasaku Iroha

While life goes on at Kssuiso, there are bad omens on the wind for the inn.

What They Say:
Ohana’s job at Kissuiso continues. Just when she grows accustomed to her daily tasks as a hot spring inn attendant, Kissuiso’s financial stability is called into question. An opportunity to have a movie filmed at Kissuiso causes a big to-do, but will that be enough to revitalize interest in the inn and keep everyone’s dreams alive?

Contains episodes 14-26, plus a 36-page hardcover art book which provides a deeper viewing experience with in-depth staff interviews, character design insights, and rough sketches.

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 with all of them laying on the grass with big smiles that just looks great and nicely colorful. 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 full color shots from the show and promotional material as well as a few interesting interviews, including the ABCs of being a key animator. Character design material populates it as well and there’s some good text based pieces in here to make a post-viewing read very interesting and entertaining..

Inside the box we also get to clear thin cases that hold the DVD and Blu-ray discs inside. The two covers are very similar as they both take place at the bonbori festival where each volume has a different configuration of the cast with no duplicates, making for some really nice pieces. The first volume is more immediate family in a way while the second is the rest of the Kissuiso family. 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)
Hanasaku Iroha managed to win me over a bit more with its first half of the series than I expected, since it didn’t go for mostly traditional slice of life material and handled the overreaching story material well since it didn’t try to beat you over the head with it. Introducing us to Ohana and her unusual situation and problematic family worked well and putting her in a position where she really didn’t have strong family connections while living and working at the inn and going to school kept her a bit of an outsider. What we got to see was the way she became a part of the Kissuiso family itself and that, in the end, may matter more than her blood relation family – even if there is some overlap. With her grandmother and uncle working there and having plans for the place, you never really felt like she truly connected with either of them, though there were at least some softening moments between her and her grandmother.

With the second half of the series, things move along in some decent and interesting ways as it progresses. We do get some of the simple material that one would expect as it moves through the lives of the characters, including a good bit of fun at the beach where there’s some very forward moments of getting one or two characters undressed and showing off themselves in a way that may make some people feel uncomfortable. But there’s also a lot of slow progress moments in the characters general lives as they work at the inn and deal with the day to day problems that crop up. Thankfully, we really don’t get a lot in the way of serious issues with customers or any lengthy and problematic recurring types that just annoy and take you out of the series. The staff and the customers are both kept pretty realistic.

While there are a number of character subplots and growth moments that occur across this half of the series, there are three main story ideas that take place which help define everyone better. THe first one involves the inn being scouted for a movie from a fairly well known director that’s being made. They want to use the inn and a lot of local talent in order to film it, and that means most of those that work at the inn will get some time in the film. That has some really good filming moments, and we do see some of the results later on, but it’s just watching the dynamic that’s fun to see unfold. Of course, there has to be some drama along the way and since the Young Master and his girlfriend were very into it, she at least being a bit more cautious in a way, when it turns out that the film isn’t getting made, there’s a lot of calls to it being a scam, though that isn’t elaborated on too much. But with the inn having invested money in it, that causes a lot of problems, both financially and with how other inns and businesses in the area now view them.

That leads into a different kind of interesting story about the Young Master and Takako deciding to make their relationship formal and take it to the next level, which means getting married. That causes all sorts of questions about what to do, where to go and how to afford it since it costs so much, but it’s not a surprise that they end up finding a way to do it at Kissuiso and everyone pitches in, largely as a learning experience since they get to do different skills and tasks than they usually do. It’s a good, fun event, but it just reinforces the way that it’s hard to see the connection between the two. While we do get scenes with just them by themselves, it’s not one that has had a lot of warmth or affection to it, and when viewed by others, it’s very distant in a lot of ways. But it does come together well as it goes on here and is fun to watch with the way the staff get into it, and that the couple follows through and views this as a proper start to a new life.

Most series go into the overblown drama as they get towards the end and there is a bit of a taste of that here, but since it involves an array of characters across many ages, it manages to work better. The main thrust is that Madame Manager has decided that after the bonbori festival, she’ll be closing down the inn. Because of the issues and the realization that she’s sacrificed so much for the dream of her and her long dead husband, it’s made her realize that she sacrificed more than she should have and she’s ready to let everyone go free and lead their lives. That naturally has her son trying to get her to realize he wants it, but she’s long felt guilty for forcing him into it after Ohana’s mother ran off. There’s a lot of back and forth and little understanding of motives behind it, but it as it unfolds and the details become more known, it certainly makes more sense.

Not that I agree with it since it’s pretty much business suicide in the real world, but it does show the way that everyone copes and deals with a difficult situation. The inn has definitely become a family and a place of importance, but we also see that while Enishi does his best to run the inn in the short time left, he makes a lot of changes to try and salvage things but that causes strife within the Kissuiso family itself. While that unfolds, we see how Ohana is dealing in spending time with just her grandmother as she says goodbye to parts of her life and Ohana starts to grapple with it. Not completely understanding but agreeing that things do change and that she may not be mature enough to understand the nature of her grandmothers views. While it’s not a completely depressing end to the series, it’s more melancholy than one might expect, but it plays more to realism in some ways as we see everyone going on with their lives, and in its own way, it’s more enjoyable than the easy to do tie a bow around it happy ending most series would do.

In Summary:
Hanasaku Iroha is a very charming series that I think really does work better in marathon form than in weekly broadcast form. Seeing the larger threads of the series and the progress that Ohana makes, the bonds of the Kisuiso family and how she slowly ends up becoming a part of it, but not winning everyone over, works very well. She is the sort of lead character for it, but is more of a catalyst and it feels like an ensemble series more than just a story about her. There’s a lot of charm and character to the show, and a lot of that is to the inn itself as it’s one of the few in anime form that I think I’d actually want to stay at since it’s not populated by annoying characters. Though the series didn’t make a believer out of me nor did it draw me in hugely, it has a lot of charms and is wonderfully presented here, both in the physical packaging and the on-disc presentation itself. Definitely an easy recommendation for fans of the genre and a more tentative one for those that tend to not go down this path often.

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: July 2nd, 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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