After a rough patch around episode 5-7, Hanasaku Iroha began a very well executed couple of arcs with episodes 8-9 and 11-12. These two arcs, combined with this volume’s episode 13, ended the first cour of the show on a strong point. Unfortunately, this strong ending to the cour was not followed upon with the two corresponding arcs. And so we begin the low point (IMO) of Hanasaku Iroha with BD volume 5! BDInfo/Photobucket Album
As usual, volume 5 comes with three episodes. This time we have episodes 13-15: Shijima Women (Broken Heart MIX), This is My Way of Life, and Sunny With a Chance of Beans.
Shijima Women (Broken Heart MIX) ends the first cour amazingly. Continuing from the end of the prior episode, Satsuki’s return to Kissisuou brings about many emotional reunions between the three generations of Shijima women. Satsuki has different ideas about how the inn should be run, but the strongest part of the episode is the three women bonding over their lost loved ones (or in Ohana’s case, imaginary lost one). An absolutely great episode that clinched my import of this show. I know it made quite a few people think the show was going to end with this episode.
This is My Way of Life offers something new to the show: a focus arc about Yuina. This begins part of my main complaint with the series: they waited a bit too long for focus on the non-Shijima characters. The episode itself has an abrupt start where we go from Satsuki’s departure from the inn and impressions to… a scene on a bus for a high school field trip. As an episode itself, it is a decent first half, but the sudden shift in tone can be glaring. It’s a good reversal of how an inn besides Kissisuou is run.
Finally, Sunny With a Chance of Beans closes out the arc with more growth for Yuina and the three Kissisuou girls. It would have been nice to see Minko show some appreciation for the hard work that Ohana and Nako perform since she was new to the waitressing task, but this was classified as a Yuina arc and so it goes undeveloped. Overall, the arc itself is very solid and would be good, but the lack of development nor reflection in any other episode leaves me to ponder why it’s present. Yuina could have had development in another way, so my only idea is that they simply wanted an excuse to have a swimsuit episode.
Included on this set is the usual set of character/staff commentaries. For character commentary we have Nako (CV.Aki Toyosaki) and Yuina (CV.Haruka Tomatsu) speaking over episode 14. It’s just as hilarious as you think. Yuina gets Nako wanting to go to Tokyo with comments that she’s been there and last volume’s trip by Minko and Tohru. And for the staff commentary, we have Supervisor Nobuhiro Kikiuchi and producers Kenji Horikawa and Takayuki Nagatani talking about episode 13. The only memorable part for me is their comments about location scouting and how much fun they had looking at the various posters around Ishikawa after the show started.
Also included on this volume is a ~20 minute short that was shown at the special 13 episode screening on July 2nd in Tokyo. It’s a lot of short clips with Ohana, Minko, Nako, Yuina, and Tomoe all having fun with silly things found during location scouting and their characters being drawn. I wholeheartedly loved Omigawa’s bored singing. Before it is a brief introduction by nanoRIPE followed by a textless version of the second opening animation. After the skits is a preview of episodes 14-18 (where I assume they had finished prior to this showing) with dubbing by the actresses. Finally, a statement by Clammbon with the second ED finishes this little skit. It would have been wonderful to see this live on July 2nd, but I was already on a vacation.
It wouldn’t be a Hanasaku Iroha release without a Hanairo Notebook and so we have volume 5. Similar to the first volume, this notebook collects the storyboards and original artwork for the third opening and second ending animation. There’s also character designs for Enishi and Takako as well as summaries for the episodes on the disc and the bonus video feature. After how the past three have been amazing, this notebook feels a bit lacking somehow. I’m not a big fan of storyboards or line art, so that also plays a role in my impression.
And so ends another volume of Hanasaku Iroha. The next volume (6) will be released during otaku wallet death week, so I’ll be quite busy writing reviews during that time. Here is a preliminary schedule that I’ll be using during that time, so expect Iroha to have a quick review on the 22nd.