First Impressions: Hanasaku Iroha

A quick story before my review…

When I was riding the bus from Nakatsugawa Station to Magome up in the Kiso Valley in the Japan Alps, it was just me and an old obaa-san.  She had glasses and looked just like the old lady on the train in this episode, so when I saw what happened I couldn’t help but dwell back on that moment.  On such small occurrences are our memories made…
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P.A. Works may have something very interesting for us with a.Hansaku Iroha.  It’s somewhat unconventional right from the premiere – no OP and no preview, for one.  It’s a seemingly fairly standard premise – 16 year-old girl frustrated with life ends up shuttled off to her grandma’s hot spring ryokan (Iroha) when irresponsible Mom flees with her boyfriend from a debt.  Cue the cast of oddballs, and cue Grandma – estranged from her daughter and seemingly lacking in any affection for her grandaughter.

But things do take some interesting turns, and there’s enough of a slant to keep it from being predictable so far.  The scene with the grandmother slapping the two girls – actually slapping our heroine Ohana three times and hard, too – let us know there were no punches being pulled here.  It was a harsh moment.

It’s hard to make any definitive judgments about a series like this after one episode.  Life is clearly going to revolve around the large cast at the inn, so the premiere inevitable can only give brief introductions.  But it looks like an interesting group, and there’s some potential drama in the situation.  Ohana has a kindly suitor left behind in the city, Ko-chan.  There’s a couple of other high school girls working at the inn, both of whom seem like stock characters.  An eccentric Uncle, elderly maintenance man, two cooks.  But there’s a sense that they each have a story and some depth to them.  Add to that the fact the the shows looks good and the character designs are quite winning and there’s a lot to look forward to here.  This is one is definitely on the keeper list for now.

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