Begining in April 2011, Hanasaku Iroha appeared to be one of the bigger shows this year. Through the first 15 episodes, the show had many ups and downs, but ended on a strong note. After the obligatory swimsuit arc which provided much-needed development to Yuina, the series started to focus on characters rather than an overall plot. This continues into Volume 6, released this past Wednesday in Japan. BDInfo/Photobucket screencaptures album
Volume 6 contains episodes 16-18 (This Sky, That Sky,Pool on the Hill, and A Mermaid Princess and Shell Bra).
This Sky, That Sky begins our development of Enishi and Takako, who had been regulated to the side throughout the difficulties in episodes 8-9, but get to shine in 16-17. We find out how they met as well as Enishi’s motivations for running the inn. The main story of having a movie being shot at Kissisuou is outlandish, but not too much that it isn’t believable. It’s not too bad as a first part of an arc, but there are much better episodes in this show.
Pool on the Hill was the episode that nearly broke me. While I can’t complain about the animation quality remaining incredible as usual, the episode itself is so underwhelming. Enishi and Takako remain constant as characters except in their relationship. It almost felt as though it wasn’t worth the paper the script was written on. While it served to help further later plots, the series overall felt incredibly weak at this point. I feel as though this arc would have better served to be one episode and allowed more focus on Nako.
Speaking of Nako, her focus episode Mermaid Princess and Shell Bra saved the show for me. While it continued the theme of “develop a character instead of the overall plot,” it was well written and heightened her character without sacrificing any other part of her character. A well-written plot allows you to realize certain aspects of a character when re-watching and the episode made me pay more attention to Nako when re-watching for these reviews. Comedic yet well-done. A fantastic episode that was worth the price of this disc.
Included on the disc are textless openings 3 and 4. Texless opening 3 features the new animation used for episodes 14-25 while 4 changes one scene in episode 18’s opening to focus on Nako instead of Ohana. On episode 18 we have character commentary by Ohana (CV.Kanae Itou) and Nako (CV.Aki Toyosaki). The shifts between character styles is hilarious. Both Itou and Toyosaki get into child voices when talking about Nako’s family. For our staff commentary, we have Supervisor Masashiro Ando, OP/ED Supervisor Yuuko Matsuda, and Copy Editor Takurou Imakawa on episode 16. They had a lot of fun at Jiromaru’s expense.
As always, we have a 64 page Hanairo Notebook that includes episode summaries, character designs for Touru and Ren, and production materials to design various areas in Yunosagi, Kanazawa, Tokyo, and Miyazaki. It’s always fascinating to see specific rooms/places designed and the effort used to make each place realistic.
Overall, this is by far the weakest volume of Hanasaku Iroha in my opinion. While the movie plot is needed in the overall story, the inclusion of it during the run felt very haphazard and clumsy. Nako’s focus episode saved the show (and likely my imports of it). Next month we venture into the school again (what do you mean there’s a school in the town?).