Hanasaku Iroha ~ Blossoms for Tomorrow DVD/Blu-ray Set 1 Premium Edition
NIS America, Inc. // Unrated // $69.99 // April 14, 2013
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted May 6, 2013
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Graphical Version
Hana Saku Iroha - Vol 1 Premium Edition - Blu-ray Review

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Hana Saku Iroha (Blossoms for Tomorrow) is a brief-lived 26 episode long series which was produced and aired during the latter part of 2011 in Japan. The show has been available as a streaming title on Crunchyroll before, and is now one of the latest titles to be released from acclaimed anime distributor NIS America in a premium line of anime collections. This is a production by P.A. Works and it's directed from Masahiro Ando (Sword of the Stranger), utilizing episode scripts written by Mari Okada. It also resulted in two manga versions, a theatrical film, and has gathered something of a following.

The series revolves around the lives of a group of teenaged girls who work in a country-estate which is run by an elderly grandmother in charge of the estate and its status as an inn to many customers. The central characters are Ohana Matsumae, a 16 year old girl who is sent to live with her grandmother, who is the one running the inn. Minko Tsurugi, a 17 year old kitchen worker, and Nako Oshimizu, a 17 year old attendant, are other employees of the inn which a befuddled Ohana comes to know and deal with on a day-to-day basis. The rest of the "cast" comprises of other inn-employees with less prominent roles, and a wider-degree of people inhabiting the inn as customers.

The series is essentially a "slice-of-life" genre show which is meant to showcase a number of moments in the lives of these characters as they go about working at the inn and the strange events that occur around it while also becoming friends and starting relationships. It's not a particularly plot-driven show, and it is more the kind of thing that expects to excel based on writing, character development, and the general aura of the production.


The unfortunate thing is that the show is really not one which manages to be as "magical" or charming as it seems to want to be. Rather, the series is actually a rather terrible production; something of a misfire with a lot to dislike. The show has a rather lethargic pace where not a whole lot happens sometimes, and when stuff does happen on the show it can take a perverse, unwelcomed diversion which is not something that helps the show.

The series just isn't all too compelling or enjoyable. Several of the "guests" staying in the inn are completely unenjoyably written and are detrimental to the story and characters. This includes a character named Enishi, who makes the show disturbing and ill-conceived on virtually every level, adding a disturbing element to the show.

The series tries to be a beautiful slice-of-life drama but it really doesn't muster enough gusto to keep things compelling or enchanting. Instead, the opposite effect seems to result and audience members hoping to discover something more heartfelt or compelling (like Kimi ni Todoke and Bunny Drop; other recent successes from distributor NIS America) are likely to walk away and with a sense of real disappointment.

The one thing this show really has going for it is the stellar Art direction by Kazuki Higashiji, and the character designs that accompany the art, as done by Mel Kishida. The art is truly an impressive and beautiful thing to behold. The animation quality is simply superb. This was a series worked on by plenty of talented animators: too bad the actual show does not meet the grand production design. In a way, I almost felt as if this was akin to a "slice-of-life" work produced by someone like Michael Bay. Unfortunately, Hana Saku Iroha seems to be vast production styling's more than it ever approaches being something with good substance.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

Hana Saku Iroha looks remarkable on Blu-ray from a technical standpoint. The 1.78:1 aspect ratio preserves the original television broadcast and the animation is smooth, crisp, and well defined with an immersive presentation that excels dramatically. The colors are vibrant and satisfactory and it helps the animation and art design stand out as something effective about Hana Saku Iroha, which is presented in 1080p High Definition.

Audio:

The 2.0 Uncompressed PCM stereo tracks are presented in the original Japanese language and non-removable English subtitles are provided. The subtitles are well-done: easy to read and to understand, with a good translation free of grammatically errors and other issues that luckily aren't present. The audio track is crisp and has good dialogue definition and some effective soundstage elements of added clarity and depth as one would expect with lossless audio.


Additional Screenshots:

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution





Extras:

The main extra of the set is that NIS America has once again housed a series with a premium artbox and artbook. The artbook includes interviews, character information, and sketches. It's another successful premium edition packaging-wise.

A clean opening/ending and a collection of Japanese trailers are also included on this release.

"The soup looks like it might taste good, but it seems as though the ingredients aren't quite right..."

Final Thoughts:

Hana Saku Iroha is not an enjoyable show. In fact, I consider it one of the more insulting and poorly constructed so-called "slice-of-life" series that I have seen. The animation is a great example of how artwork doesn't make an anime. It's all style and with no meaningful or relevantly done substance. The humor and characters are often disturbing and ill-fitted; dramatically increasing to my distaste for the show.

This is a rare misfire of a release for NIS America. The presentations of the packaging and production elements inherent in the video and audio are more than satisfactory, but this is certainly not a show I would recommend to others.

Skip It.



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