Hanasaku Iroha – 2

Clearly the best series of the Spring so far, one of the things I love is that Hanasaku Iroha is a show that’s about something. In fact, it’s about rather a lot of things, being as deep a character drama as it appears to be. But what really strikes me this week is that it’s about bad parenting. Just look at what Ohana’s grandmother did to her mother – which admittedly, we can only speculate at – but just look at them. She turned her daughter into someone who neglects her own daughter and then can only offer the wisdom, “Don’t trust anyone – not even your own flesh and blood.”

There’s no question that bad parenting begets more bad parenting – it’s it’s vicious cycle that can go on for generations until something – or someone – miraculously stops it. And maybe Ohana is that someone. She seems to be making a conscious decision not be a victim – and not to be a prisoner of her own past. That’s a wonderful thing, but it seems as if Ko-chan is unfortunately collateral damage. He’s part of that past, even if none of the bad things are his fault. I don’t think she could ever go back to him now.

One thing we’re being treated to here – in addition to the excellent writing and overall production – is a real stretch performance from Omigawa Chiaki as Minko. She’s a controversial figure among fans – kind of a love/hate thing – and while I definitely fall into the “love” camp, I’d be the first to admit that her career so far has fallen into a fairly narrow range. She was brilliant in Soredemo but that role was definitely in her sweet spot. This is a total departure for her – a much darker and angrier character than we’re used to.

It’s clear that this is a highly professional, mature series. P.A. Works has done some fine work (True Tears, especially) they have screenwriting stalwart Mari Okada and veteran director Masahiro Ando providing a steady hand on the helm. It really shows in the first two episodes, where we’re treated to a story that clearly isn’t in a hurry to sort things out and shows a willingness to leave things clouded and unsettled. That’s the great advantage of having two cours to work with.

Ohana is a complicated lead, but there are all complicated people – they’ve already show multiple sides of themselves. So far the Grandmother and the “novelist” are the villains of the piece, but we’re already seeing the complex nature of the old lady and, judging by the cliffhanger, we’re going to learn a lot more about the writer in the next episode.

What you ultimately think of this series is going to come down to what you expect out of an anime, I guess. It’s a pretty slow-paced, subtle character study – there’s certainly cute girls, but they’re not on display here they way they are in some shows. I think we’re looking at a show about the difficulties of life – just how hard it is to try and find yourself and be the person you want to be – just how hard it is the simply get through the day, sometimes. I don’t know whether the romance aspect of things will come into more prominence later, but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Ko. He’s someone Ohana is going to have to deal with sooner or later, because she clearly has feelings for him. Still, this is clearly not a romance series – it really doesn’t neatly fit into a genre box, in fact. It’s almost like a NoitaminA show in that respect – and my fear is that it will end up as popular as those have been, lately. Let’s hope not.

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