Hanasaku Iroha Blossoms for Tomorrow is definitely another series that NIS America seems to love to put out. The set contains 13 episodes and is packaged in a collectable slipcase, including 2 Blu-ray discs and 2 DVD discs, as well as a 36 page hardcover art book filled with character information and detailed artwork from the series. It is a slow burn and character driven series that follows emotions and fleeting cries through many zones. 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. In a slice-of-life series dominated by female characters, keeping the visuals cute and endearing is a must, and P.A. Works did not disappoint on this front.
This first volume of the series from NIS America gets us to the half way point, through episode 13, where Ohana not only has to learn the ropes of a job that puts customers before everyone (and everything) else, but find ways to connect with the local staff, re-connect with the boyfriend she left behind, and maybe even patch things up between the deeply estranged generations of her own family. It takes quite some time after Ohana moves to Yusonagi to learn what’s happened with both Koichi and Ohana’s mother back in the city, which was a bit disappointing considering that they were both introduced as essential factors in her personal development. There were hardly any plot holes or major unresolved issues left at the conclusion of the series, but I did spend several of the episodes wondering when some of the more interesting plot points I had been teased with would come back into play.
First episode really seems to have captured my attention. Ohana Matsumae is at first living what seems to be an ordinary life until a set of unexpected events happen to her. I think that all the unexpected things that seem to happen is what grabbed my attention. Ohana is put into a very weird and tough situation but seems determined to make it work. There are quite a few interesting twists that seem to happen and I expect the story line to be quite interesting. . The show does a fantastic job establishing each character and you can really see and feel the characters developing as the series goes on. The second plot point in the anime is the complicated family dynamic of Ohana’s family. Her grandmother is a total matriarch. Through various flashbacks and conversations, we discover how much of a fall out the family has experienced.
The packaging is top notch (as always). Hardcover art book, (full color, 36 pages) which enhances the viewing experience, making it even more enjoyable by providing detailed character info, rough sketches, must-read artist interviews and setting illustrations. A LPCM 2.0 stereo (48kHz/16-bit) track of the original Japanese audio is included. It provides clean dialogue, good stereo separation and a reasonable amount of dynamic range. Combined with the excellent imagery of the superb animation and the strong voice cast, this makes for a more than entertaining program. I don’t want to spoil much but there is some focus given to Minko and the rest of people working in the kitchen. Their complicated relationship with Ohana was also a pretty nice side story in the anime. This anime is amazing and you don’t find a lot of Slice of Life anime with an engaging story, lovely characters and pretty impressive execution of its elements. It’s a modern timeless classic that I urge everyone to try. I highly recommend it.