Hanusaku Iroha Blossoms for Tomorrow Volume 1 Premium Bonus Set
Studio: P.A. Works
Publisher: NIS America
Genre: Coming of Age/Slice of Life
Runtime: 308 Minutes (2 Blu-Ray discs, 2 DVDs)
Release Date: 04/16/2013
Collecting the first half of the series, Hanusaku Iroha gives you thirteen episodes split between two Blu-Ray discs and two DVDs for when you don’t have Blu-Ray available. It’s a coming of age, slice of life anime that tries to be a little more realistic in the way that it handles things than most while still adding in that slight bit of over the top that only seems to work in sitcoms and anime. I was very pleasantly surprised at the art style and quality of the voice work and like the usual deluxe packaging that NIS America bundle it all with.
The anime itself revolves primarily around Ohana Matsumae, a 16 year old high school student from Tokyo who is living with her mother, Satsuki, who doesn’t pay much attention to her daughter and is more focused on work and her boyfriend. Her mother ends up eloping with her boyfriend suddenly and arranges to have Ohana sent to live with her grandmother in a country inn called Kissuiso. Her grandmother is very cold to her and basically sets her up as an employee charging her room and board while she works there. It turns out that the grandmother and Satsuki didn’t part on good terms and the estrangement has been passed onto Ohana.
Ohana doesn’t start off on good terms with the girls her age that work there, Minko Tsurugi, an apprentice chef, and Nako Oshimizu, a part time attendant. Minko is especially vengeful and has a mean streak to her while Nako is unbelievably shy but isn’t very helpful to Ohana either. Tomoe, the older head attendant is the almost hyper-active rumor monger who doesn’t necessarily have it in for Ohana, but isn’t making her life any easier by grilling her about her mother’s past trying to get more dirt on the goings on at Kissuiso. Ohana realizes that she has to make the best of this and sets out to make herself better after several failed attempts at pleasing her grandmother and the other staff at Kissuiso. She wrangles Minko and Nako into this pact and the three start an actual but uneasy friendship as school sets in.
There is some focus on the older cast as well, the grandmother of course, the two chefs, the aging groundskeeper they call â€˜Beans’, the head attendant in charge of Ohana and Nako, and Ohana’s uncle, Enishi, who is looking out for Kissuiso and trying to keep it on track as he might inherit it from Ohana’s grandmother someday and wants it to be running its best. Willing to try new things, the clashing between Enishi and his mother adds a bit to the drama as well as his long-term relationship with Takako who’s an advisor to the inn and doesn’t exactly seem to know what she’s doing.
All of the characters have very distinct and complex personalities and you can’t take any of them at face value as they tend to surprise you as the show goes on. The anime does a great job of portraying their development and interactions fairly realistically and with a bit of drama that’s interesting. The main trio are especially fun to watch as their relationship develops and while Ohana is definitely the main focus they also spend time developing all the characters, giving each of them some spotlight as the show goes on which was fun to see. The episode highlighting Tomoe, the head attendant, was a nice change of pace and got you, rather hilariously, into her head as her antics trying to get herself fired end up getting her praise instead.
The show is very charming with a good pace and great voice acting. As we got to see more of Kissuiso and the area I found myself wanting to book a trip there as it looks amazing. Like other NIS America releases it is only in Japanese with English subtitles so for those hoping for a dub version, be forewarned. While I would have liked to have seen all twenty-six episodes in this set, the half-way point is a good stopping mark as the show changes direction a little bit after the thirteenth episode, going so far as to have new opening and closing credits as well. I just wish I didn’t have to wait a few months for the next volume to come out.
Extras on the discs themselves are pretty basic. You’re limited to the trailers for the next episodes, upcoming releases and clean opening and closing credits. The DVDs and Blu-Ray discs both have good quality to them as I split my watching of the show between my laptop and television. The sound quality from both versions is excellent and the visuals from both are of good quality as well. The Blu-Ray will obviously look a little nicer on a big screen tv or any HD screen.
The Premium Set, like the other NIS America Premium set releases, comes in a hard cover slip case with artwork from the show on the exterior. The case holds the two slim DVD cases that hold both the Blu-Ray and DVD discs, each with differing artwork from the show. Along with that you’re given an artbook as well. It all measures about the size of a legal pad and about an inch thick altogether. This set will look nice on a shelf or on a tv stand, or even on a coffee table, but because of its size, you may not be stacking it with your other DVDs or Blu-Ray unless you take the slim cases out, but then what would be the point? Just plan accordingly if you’re low on space for something like this.
The artbook itself is a bit divergent from the last few that I’ve reviewed. There aren’t any episode breakdowns or synopsis this time. Instead they’ve shifted focus a bit to show more character design sheet breakdowns that the animator’s would have had on hand as they were working on the show, a great section in the back showcasing some of the imagery that would make for fantastic wall art not just in an artbook, and then a section for interviews with the designers and people who made the show. There’s also a great section that focuses on one of the bigger characters of the show, Kissuiso as well as some of the other areas the characters frequent. The inn has an amazing design to it and they spend some pages in the book covering the actual building itself without any characters in it. Kissuiso is definitely a character in this show as much as the Impala in Supernatural or the Enterprise in Star Trek and it was really neat to get a more in depth look in the artbook.
Price wise the suggested retail sits at 69.99 which is a bit pricey even for a premium set like this. NIS America seems to always sell their sets cheaper than suggested until they sell out at around 55.99 which is a bit more reasonable. Some of NIS America’s sets come out in a standard edition later but they sometimes split it into DVD and Blu-ray separately, there’s no art book, and the price is usually only about fifteen dollars cheaper, which means the premium set, as much as they are, are a much better deal as you get both formats plus the artbook. Bunny Drop Standard Edition, for example, isn’t split but sits at 51.99 on their site and it was 55.99 for the Premium Set before off their site. And no, Amazon isn’t beating NIS America’s pricing on these.
If you like slice-of-life shows, much like Bunny Drop, where the characters have a few things to learn about each other and the situation they’re in and, well life in general, then I definitely recommend this. The characters are a bit quirky but have a great bit of depth to them, especially considering how young most of them are which you don’t always get in any medium beyond young adult novels. The art and animation is gorgeous and well done, and when it goes for comedy it isn’t always over the top, but when it is they keep it within norms and don’t go all Azumanga Daioh on the viewer. The art book is well done and while some might balk at the pricing it fits with what they’ve put out before and is a better deal than the standard set when that eventually, or if, it comes out.