Studio: PA Works
Premiere Date: 4/3
Genre: Coming of Age
Available via Crunchyroll
First Impression: This won’t be an easily earned coming of age.
Ohana is searching for something. While other kids in her high school are trying to find their careers, she wants to find a new path that will lead her to herself. One night that path is created for her when her mother has to leave town with her debt ridden boyfriend. Not willing to take Ohana with her, this leaves her with no choice but to move in with her distant grandmother at her Taisho style hot springs inn.
What she thinks is going to be a dramatic meeting between her and her grandmother turns out to be hard labor as she gets off on the wrong foot with everyone she meets; whether they’re family or her new co-workers.
Good and the Bad
For the last few months, PA Works has been hailing this to be their big 10th anniversary project and watching the first episode I can see why. Just the look of this episode is enough to create an amazing feeling of grandeur that pulls you into the world. Throughout the episode, it’s impossible to not watch this and be completely pulled into the lifelike world that the residents inhabit. The backgrounds are clear and the city views are detailed to the point that you can imagine all of the people as real instead of just characters on a screen even if they don’t say a word.
Beyond the beautiful animation, Hanasaku Iroha sets up what is seemingly going to be an interesting tale of self discovery. The lead heroine, Ohana, is already more than a little jaded with life but doesn’t show it with a grating personality. The first few minutes of the series she spends her time staring out with an annoyed look and speaking poetically of her future. Sadly the audience is watching her do this while completely missing out on the life that she does have due to a demanding mother who wants to live her own life with her boyfriend.
You would think that in this circumstance, the heroine would have a right to be completely whiny and self obsessed. For once though you’d be wrong. Ohana is a heroine who just wants to find out what it means to live life without being tied down. She isn’t obsessed with just wanting to have the latest fashions or other shallow things, she wants to see life beyond the city and find out who she is and what she is made of.
Facing her challenges head on (and there will be plenty), her biggest crime is arriving at the inn expecting her grandmother to be a kindly old lady who will treat her warmly. When she finds that this isn’t her fate, she instead finds herself less than ready to work hard and walk down the new path that life has been given to her.
Matching the entirely not typical animation, the music composed for this episode is a gorgeous mix of arrangements. In the beginning the city scenes are filled with soft European tracks filled with soft guitars and accordions. In the latter part of the episode, the mood changes again to soft tones that evoke the relaxing nature of the inn without giving away the tension behind the scenes. A wonderful time for the series to just completely sync with each other that makes things work so beautifully.
I didn’t know what to expect from the debut episode but I feel like I’m on a hot streak. This was another gem that really made me stop and take notice. The animation and landscapes give a feeling of breathlessness as you watch which only compliments the dramatic story and strong writing. While I remain uncertain for its future, people who are looking for another strong coming of age story should be making time for this release.