Troubles Blooming: Hanasaku Iroha volume 4

With a great introductory episode Hanasaku Iroha looked to be a big contender for show of the year when it first aired in April of this year. As more episodes aired, the focus shifted to another Okada-written show, but the end of the first half was incredibly strong, dramatic, and entertaining. Two of those three episodes are featured on this fourth volume of Hanasaku Iroha. BDInfo/Photobucket album

This volume contains episodes 10-12: Slight Fever, Bark at the Night, and “See ya.”.

Slight Fever is a necessary episode for the cast. Prior to this episode, we had seen Ohana take over problems that arisen in Kissuisou and overwhelm her co-workers. Having her become sick reminds us, as viewers, that the inn functioned before she arrived there and that the staff can handle the day-to-day tasks. Unfortunately, Ohana gets the wrong impression and believes she’s no longer needed. It’s a good episode to show the developing relationships between Ohana and the rest of the inn, especially Nako, Minko, and Tohru.

Bark at the Night really saved my imports of this show. Tieing together the story from the previous volume about a reviewer visiting the town, we see that the reviews are not that great for the area (unlike their counterparts IRL). Ohana decides to confront the reviewer and discovers it was her mother. The reunion between mother and daughter greatly aids the show as Satsuki begins to show the audience that while she’s not always there for Ohana, she does care about her. The end of the episode with Ohana running in the rain and being found by Minko and Tohru is one of the most significant scenes in my memory. This was a great set-up episode.

Finally, “See ya.” finishes our return trip to Tokyo by having Ohana and Kou’s goodbyes be over a phone instead of face-to-face. Ohana begins to think about Kou’s feelings and decides not to take him back to the inn. But, while Kou doesn’t travel back with the three, Satsuki does. While it’s a decent episode, “See ya.” suffers from being squeezed between two fantastic episodes and is seen negatively due to that. To me, it enhances my desire for the next volume to arrive so I can re-watch 13 again.

Included on the disc are the six (5 regular and one short) promotional videos that were released since last August for the series. (1, 2, 3, 4 (short), and 5) It’s a nice reminder of how much I was looking forward to this series. Also included is character/staff audio commentary on episode 10 by Minko (CV.Chiaki Omigawa) and Tomoe (CV. Mamiko Noto) and another commentary by original character designer Mel Kishida and producers Kenji Horikawa and Takayuki Nagatani. The character commentary is absolutely hilarious (per usual) with Noto showing off her range of voices. My favorite line starts early with Minko asking “Tomoe-san, why are you calling me a tsundere?” The staff commentary talks about the general designs of the characters and their outfits.

As with all LE BDs for Hanasaku Iroha this volume comes with a 64 page color booklet. After the outlines, we have character designs for Satsuki and Sui (appropriate given their roles in this set), a brief explanation of the 6 PVs included on the BD, and a long long feature about the layout of Kissuisou. It’s absolutely breathtaking just how much detail they placed in the building. I had to laugh when I realized they were using Minko’s outline as a human reference to the size of everything. I’ve included a few glimpses, but there is much much more in the booklet.

And since we filled our artbox last time, the Hanairo production committee was kind enough to give us another artbox to hold this and the next two volumes. As Ohana was on the front of the last box, Minko gets top billing on this one (and even in a dere expression too!). Given that the next cover features Minko and Yuina, I’m going to assume these are the “Minko sets.” Here are some pictures and comparisons to the first set.

While these pictures say a thousand words, the one thing they won’t say is just how much more beautiful this box is in person. Mel did an amazing job on this piece of art and it’s truly a wonder to look at. It’s something you should see in person.

And so another volume of Hanasaku Iroha comes to an end. These days are truly one of the highlights of every month. The next volume’s review will likely be late due to RL circumstances. I apologize ahead of time, but this takes priority over any anime.

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