In my review of Hanasaku Iroha Volume 1, I voiced my surprise at how deeply I had become invested in the ongoing efforts of the series’ central characters to merely keep Kissuiso, the hot springs inn at which they work, operational. After all, why should I care about their “day jobs”? Yet, as I explained then, the intense, emotional devotion of the characters to their work draws us wholly and inevitably into their world. And with Volume 2, what we had before only instinctively known is at last voiced by the characters themselves when they come together to save Kissuiso, the place that represents their collective dream for a happy and productive future. Of course, in doing so the characters must also come into conflict with one another, just as those of any extended family unavoidably do. But we know these conflicts to be born of love, making the resolution of these conflicts that much more satisfying.
In the episodes of this P.A. Works anime collected in NIS America’s Premium Edition release of Hanasaku Iroha Volume 2, the tension mounts as Kissuiso and its staff encounter one tragedy after another, resulting in Madam Manager’s decision to close the inn. This finds our protagonist, Ohana, in danger of being separated from those she has come to rely on and the job to which she has devoted herself. This in turn forces her to confront her feelings toward her mother as well as Koichi, for whom she harbors unacknowledged affections– affections unacknowledged by Ohana herself, that is.
Ultimately, all the series’ characters must confront their true emotions toward Kissuiso, not to menion each other, if they are to overcome the crisis. This results in a stunningly natural conclusion that’ll leave you feeling wholly invigorated in no small part due to Hanasaku’s overwhelmingly positive, feel-good nature. This it owes to the writers and animators’ abilities to capture the optimism and free-spiritedness of youth, and the honesty with which they explore the characters’ desperate attempts to come to terms with the fact that their futures are not yet written and that nothing they envision for themselves in the years to come can be easily attained. In this, Hanasaku Iroha is a beautiful series that not only offers comedy, drama, and romance, but important life lessons about coping with the chaos of our daily lives.
NIS’s Premium Edition set collects the final thirteen episodes of Hanasaku Iroha on both Blu-ray and DVD. It comes packaged in NIS’s usual 8”x11”x1” (WxHxD) hardboard case, but with beautiful artwork on the front and back featuring tableaus of the three central Kissuiso girls. The case houses the two Blu-rays and two DVDs in two, double-disc slimline cases, and it of course also contains a collectible hardcover artbook. The artbook features eight pages of artwork presented as snapshots in a scrapbook; eleven pages of interviews with character designer Kanami Sekiguchi, key animator Yuriko Ishii, director Masahiro Ando and producer Kenji Horikawa; as well as fifteen pages of animation layout corrections going all the way back to episode one, provided by Sekiguchi and Ishii.