Anime Review: Hanusaku Iroha Blossoms for Tomorrow Volume 2 Premium Edition

v2setHanusaku Iroha Blossoms for Tomorrow Volume 2 Premium Edition
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: 07/02/2013

Collecting the second half of the series, Hanusaku Iroha Blossoms for Tomorrow Volume 2 Premium Edition gives you thirteen episodes split between two Blu-Ray discs and two DVDs for when you don’t have Blu-Ray available. The second half continues the coming of age, slice of life theme while trying to be a little more realistic in the way that it handles things than most and still adding in that slight bit of over the top insanity that only seems to work in sitcoms and anime. The art style and voice acting continued to impress and the packaging for this series from NIS America is very well done. As one of my friends visiting over the weekend put it, gorgeous.

v2_01The anime itself revolves primarily around Ohana Matsumae, a 16 year old high school student originally from Tokyo who was living with her mother, Satsuki, who didn’t pay much attention to her daughter and was more focused on work. Her mother ended up sending Ohana to live with her grandmother in a country inn called Kissuiso. Her grandmother was very cold to her and basically set her up as an employee, charging her room and board while she worked there. It turns out that the grandmother and Satsuki didn’t part on good terms and the estrangement had been passed onto Ohana. Ohana didn’t start off on good terms with the girls her age that worked there, Minko Tsurugi, an apprentice chef, and Nako Oshimizu, a part time attendant. The girls ended up working through most of their problems so they could at least work together by the end of the first half of the series but there was still some lingering issues that would rear up again in the second half.

The second half of the series picks up after Ohana’s mother has left from her visit at Kissuiso and ended up writing a surprisingly good review of the inn.  Ohana and the girls end up going on a school trip to another inn that is having some problems of its own and Ohana can’t not get involved and ends up helping out when things start to fall apart at the inn they’re visiting, hoping to gain some insight into how to best help out Kissuiso.  Things aren’t great money-wise after returning and the inn is struggling with a lack of customers, but Ohana’s grandmother is refusing to cut any corners or staff.  It’s at this point Sui Shijima, Ohana’s grandmother, decides that after her son’s wedding and the upcoming festival all the inns are involved with, Kissuiso will be shut down.

v2_03Satsuki’s review ends up hitting magazines shortly after the announcement and reservations at the inn explode with a huge amount of business pouring in.  Ohana begins to reconcile her feelings for a boy she knows in Tokyo while Minko is trying to deal with her own feelings for one of the other chefs.  Nako is realizing she likes her home life taking care of the other kids in her household and the three of them come to the realization that while they’re growing up, they don’t want to part with their time or role at the inn.  Sui’s son tries desperately to convince his mother to keep the inn open while Ohana tries to break Sui down as well.  Sui ends up taking Ohana to her husband’s grave to try to get Ohana to understand her reasoning behind things and begrudgingly Ohana agrees that she’ll drop it and support Sui but disagrees with her grandmother’s thoughts on it.

The second half really focuses a lot more on Sui and the three girls far more, although we do get some more slight developments with the older members of the cast as things progress.  While the series is pretty self-contained, we do get hints at what the other characters end up doing after the series is over and a sense that most of them have found themselves or what they want to do with their lives, some with better results than others.  The last episode had me tearing up at a number of points and while Sui was very cold at the start, she was the character that broke my heart the most by the time the series ended. 

v2_04Volume 2 continues to be as charming as Volume 1 with the same good pacing and great voice acting.  The visuals continue to be amazing and the backdrop of the inn still makes me want to go and visit the region.  NIS America continues their format of only having the release in Japanese with English subtitles.  I doubt highly we’ll ever see a dubbed version of anything from them, which is okay, but I can see some people really wanting a dubbed version for various reasons.  I was right about the split being a good point as the series did change gears a little bit and focused more on the three girls and their character development, with the adults being even more on the back burner, with only an episode or two devoted to anyone but them. 

The disc extras themselves are very basic as has become the norm with NIS America releases.  You’ll be getting clean opening and ending credits, trailers, and then upcoming releases.  It’s pretty sparse.  The DVDs and Blu-Ray both have great quality to them and look great on a big screen.  The audio in both versions is excellent as well.  Where you’re getting your extras with the Premium Edition though is not necessarily on the discs, but what you get with them.

v2_05The Premium Edition, like the other NIS America Premium Edition releases, comes in a hard cover slip case with artwork from the show, or related to 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. This time around they look like group photos on each slip case, which I thought was a great touch. Along with that you’re given an artbook as well. It all measures about 11×7 inches 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 remember to 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 but very much in line with the first volume release. There aren’t any episode breakdowns or synopses. Instead they’ve shifted focus a bit to show layouts that would have been in progress as they animated as well as the final shot used in the show which is an amazing look behind the scenes, a great section showcasing some of the imagery that would make for fantastic wall art not just in an artbook, and then a long section for interviews with the designers and people who made the show. It’s an interesting way to assemble an artbook, but is more like a neat look behind the scenes with some great information on how the show was made.

v2artbook_sizeNIS America seems to always sell their sets cheaper than suggested until they sell out at around $55.99 which is far more reasonable than the $69.99 suggested price. 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 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 still 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. I knew there would be more to Ohana’s grandmother and this volume didn’t disappoint in that regard.  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 a believable spectrum. The art book is well done and while some might take issue with the pricing it fits with what they’ve put out before and is a better deal than the standard set when that eventually comes out.



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