Hanasaku Iroha: Finding Beauty & Grace in Hard Work, Dignity, and Servitude | OWLS “Bloodlines”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  eighth monthly topic, “Bloodlines,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Hanasaku Iroha review into this discourse about “it runs in the family.”

Family means everything (or does it?). This month, we will be discussing the importance of family relationships in anime and pop culture. Familial relationships include a child and his/her parents, sibling rivalries, adoptions, etc. Some questions about family that we will be contemplating on include how does one’s family shapes his or her identity? How do we define family? How does a broken household influence a person’s view on family?

This show probably deserves a review all on its own, but hey, I’m just gonna go for it here! Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

Image result for hanasaku iroha screenshots


A brief discussion on the 26-episode spring 2011 anime “Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow” and the 2013 film “Home Sweet Home,” produced by P.A. Works, directed by Masahiro Ando (Blast of Tempest), based on the original story by Mari Okada (A Lull in the Sea).

Out On Her Own

Ohana Matsumae: bursting with rebellious energy and only 16 years old, her picture-perfect Tokyo life could’ve been every girl’s dream—if only her mom wasn’t such a mess! Carefree, irresponsible, and always on the go, mother Satsuki Matsumae and her boyfriend hurriedly pack their bags to flee from debt collectors, forcing Ohana to seek refuge out in the countryside at her grandmother’s Kissui inn. It is there at the Kissuiso that Ohana forms the resolve to work hard under her grandmo—I mean, Madame Manager’s—cold and strict guidance as a maid to prove that she is just as strong and independent as her mother, reevaluate her unrequited love life, and “fest up” her otherwise mundane city life.

As Ohana grows deeper connections with the quiet countryside land and the changing seasons, she is faced with the trials of working as a maid, as well as countless interactions with the many customers that come and go at the Kissuiso. Bonds of friendship are born, and inexpressible relationships blossom beautifully.

Image result for hanasaku iroha screenshots ohana working

The Kissuiso Staff

Much of the love and respect I have for this show lies right here with the inn’s staff. That said, it can also be the most frustrating part. The busybody maids remain my favorite: Ohana’s fresh, persevering face even if she’s not exactly helping in the best way just makes you want to shout “SHE DID NOTHING WRONG” (at least she’s always trying, unlike some of the others); Nako, the”quite literally” big sister character never fails to support Ohana in that soft and gentle way that she does; and Tomoe, the playful and typically jealous woman tends to catch gossip and spread rumors throughout the inn, adding in the comedic elements.

Image result

It’s the cooking staff that annoys me the most. No, not Renji, the stoic and buff head chef who minds to himself—my issues lie with an outspoken young man named Tohru and a girl Ohana’s age named Minko who “secretly” has the hots for him. They’re just both so rude to everyone, scolding one another whenever they can and not leaving much room for fun. I guess part of that adds to the staff’s dynamic (and conflict for Ohana), but Minko’s attitude really got on my nerves; far too distracting for what her character honestly represents. I also couldn’t stand her voice.

Image result

Lastly, I couldn’t forget the two loudmouths that pop in throughout the series: Yuina, the daughter of a rival inn’s family and Ohana’s new classmate who honestly only wishes to enjoy her youth while discovering her true passion; and Takako, the glamorous business consultant adviser for Kissuiso who always wants to revitalize the rather old-fashioned inn to suit the times. She often bumps heads with Sui, as her ideas are indeed ludicrous at times, but when it comes down to it, they both only desire what’s best for the inn and its customers.

Image result

I could go on about how genuine the personalities and relationships of each character feel, but half the appeal of Hanasaku Iroha is witnessing how they go about their days, both the ordinary ones for those slice-of-life vibes and the hectic ones to see how this seemingly disjointed team tackles wild problems head on!

Image result for hanasaku iroha screenshots minko and tohru

One of P.A. Works’ Finest Pieces

I’m all about scenery. Whether it’s a schoolyard from heaven (or hell) or an enchanting undersea village, P.A. Works never fails to embody this ideal vision of a “gorgeous world.” The anime’s characters are all beautifully designed and fluidly animated in their own right, Ohana especially, but the colorful Kissuiso takes the cake as a visionary set piece. Perfectly blending antiquity with its polished, hand-carved wooden exterior with the luscious greens from nature, the rustic countryside inn almost feels tangible, one that you can breath fresh air easily in and instantly feel comforted by the relaxing atmosphere. I could probably lose myself in the pages of an art book if I ever got my hands on one (which I will surely try to).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The same glowing things are to be said about the charming piano and string tracks by Shiro Hamaguchi, my favorite being a little sad piece called “Remember that day with a smile like that.” For OPs and EDs, I’m not a huge fan of nano.RIPE’s lead singer’s nasally voice, but its random fifth ending “Saibou Kioku” happened to play at just the right time.

It Runs in the Family

Hanasaku Iroha enters the realm of slice-of-life with a little drama thrown in the mix. While it’s easy to label it as just that—a simply relaxing show—the series poses much more than that. From the beginning, it presents a moving story about family and adulthood, parenting and role-modeling. Like most titles with drama elements, the events of the larger present story are results of a little, once-close-knit group from the past.

Image result

This group now makes up the adults in Ohana’s life: her stern grandma, Sui, her defiant mom, Satsuki, and her scatterbrain uncle (Satsuki’s brother), Enishi. When these parental figures were supposed to guide Ohana as a child, Satsuki often left Ohana to do all of the chores and “take care of herself”—a mantra that she still employs—choosing to put her efforts into her work as a pro writer instead of parenthood. Satsuki gave up her entitlement as the inn’s next manager, and as a result Sui stayed behind at the inn, Enishi working for her, and that was that.

Ohana spent her whole life cleaning up after her own mother.

Image result for hanasaku iroha ohana young

As depressing as that sounds, the story’s realism is probably the best thing that it has going for it. It’s a show that doesn’t want to boast, but simply leave itself out there by remarking, “This actually happens in real life.” By intertwining the lives and efforts of the inn’s staff, using the Kissuiso itself as the anchor, everyone comes to understand the tension between Satsuki and her mother, why Ohana’s personality is so brazen and spirited, why Enishi is so desperate to win his mother’s approval over his big sister, and why their boss Sui acts like such a secluded hag. It all comes down to family in the end, or rather the lack of a strong one to bind them together.

I think we can all relate to this.

Genes have the power to shape a family, but only you can decide what path it takes. As people, we make mistakes—for some of us, a lot of them—and maybe you got that from someone (or you’ll pass it on). But regardless, if we spent as much time thinking about the ones we are supposed to love as we did ourselves, I think we’d all be better off.

Related image

Ohana put herself in her mother’s shoes when she reconnected with the source that threw her mom off to begin with, and her entire world changed for the better as a result. She realized that as different as she liked to think they were, they both made the same mistakes as young girls. Knowing this, she vowed to be like her grandma one day, hopefully ending the cycle of familial neglect.

And this made momma very proud of her little girl.

Image result for hanasaku iroha satsuki

Hard Work Really Does Pay Off

Hanasaku Iroha walks us through the struggles of the worker class for a girl living in a somewhat broken home. As Ohana comes to find beauty and grace in hard work, dignity, and servitude, we can’t help but feel inspired by her bold newfound identity. Most important of all, we’re told an endearing story about being the best that only you can be, and that even in this self-centered world that is so consumed by “give and take,” there exists wonderful places like the Kissuiso, safe havens that offer both a relaxing time to heal old wounds and a staff that only wishes to work hard to serve YOU. And that, well, that’s really special.

Image result

“You may come to a standstill or get irritated because things don’t work out the way you want them to, but what you gain from hard work will never betray you.” – Tohru Miyagishi


So there you have it, the very gentle and sweet Hanasaku Iroha. By the end of it, you just want to smile and cry at the same time. For those wondering, the film takes place before the finale, and acts more like three episodes linked together rather than a standalone film. Still wonderful stuff—so wonderful that I present it with the certified “Caffe Mocha” rating, one for the menu and it’s all on me (actually it’s on Crunchyroll for FREE)! You HAVE to let me know what you thought about my review over this quaint little gem if you’ve seen it, as it’s a quiet show that doesn’t get much buzz anymore. I found this to be the perfect show for this month’s OWLS theme since “Ohana” does mean “family” in Hawaiian, after all!

This concludes my August 4th entry in the OWLS “Bloodlines” blog tour. Since I was first again this month, I’ll give you the weekend before handing it off to my buddy Matt (Matt-in-the-Hat) with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (I REMEMBER THIS FILM!) on Monday, August 7th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Related image

Evangelion’s Misato Provides a Home for the Lonely | OWLS “Sanctuary”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  third monthly topic, “Sanctuary,” I decided to pull in all of the Evangelion sources that I could, original series and Rebuild alike, in order highlight that no matter where you may be in the apocalyptic future of Tokyo-3, captain Misato Katsuragi’s apartment will always remain a safe haven from the wrath of the heavens.

A sanctuary is a place of safety and stability. In anime, there are several different places and environments that characters call “home.” For this topic, we will
be discussing locations and settings in anime.

Eva is a franchise that you might already know means the WORLD to me, so allowing myself to revisit its iconic universe is a real treat. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

Image result


A brief discussion on Misato’s Apartment as it appears in the 26-episode 1995 series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” the critical 1997 film “The End of Evangelion,” and the “Rebuild of Evangelion” film series, produced by Gainax and eventually Khara, all of which were written and directed by Hideaki Anno. 

First, A Welcoming Party

Eva opens up on an alternate present-day Tokyo where “Angels,” ironically named beasts of pure destruction, are in recent rise for some bizarre reason. Shinji Ikari, son of NERV commander Gendo Ikari, is called in to pilot the towering [neon] colored humanoid robot Evangelion Unit-01. NERV, an organization bent on the survival of the human race no matter the cost, may very well be the last battlefront in stopping these beings of terror, but it is ultimately up to Eva pilots like Shinji to determine whether humanity lives to see another day.

Shinji survives the first angel encounter against Sachiel. Barely. But the fact remains that he did actually save everyone, which is why his cold father ensures that Shinji remains on campus in case of another attack. No, the two don’t share the same living space, let alone sleep in the same house. Instead, they mutually agree that rooming together would be the worst possible outcome. Like a mother overprotective of her ducklings (this is funny because she has a pet penguin), the clumsy yet strong captain Misato Katsuragi takes Shinji under her wings and shelters the boy at her own apartment.

Image result for misato's apartment

Misato’s place is graphically located quite a ways away from NERV HQ, which is probably for the best considering that they are always on call, and that they already over-shoulder work everywhere else they go. It’s also crucial to note that we never see any interactions with the other apartment members in the complex, nor are the other lights on. It’s only Misato’s that is lit, like a lonely lighthouse guiding lost ships. After the two go out to pick up some welcome party snacks and view the majestic city sunset, the two share a memorably warm if not simple exchange before entering the household:

Misato: “Your things ought to have been delivered already, Shinji. I just moved here myself, ya know? *glancing back* Hey, come in.”

Shinji: “Uh, I don’t . . . want to intrude.”

Misato: “Shinji, this is your home now.”

Shinji: *hesitant pause, finally steps into the apartment, crossing the sliding door lining along the floor, and stares upward shyly* “I’m–I’m home.”

Misato: *closed eyes, smiling* “Welcome home.”

[the apartment door automatically slides shut, revealing the tag M.KATSURAGI]

Misato: “Ummm, as you can see, the place is just a little bit messy but uh, heh, go ahead and make yourself comfortable.”

This is your home now. Wow. Just by reading this you can already get a feel for both of our characters. Shinji is shy, not wishing to impose upon anyone his own troubles. Misato comes across as casual, relaxed, and friendly. But just as how she makes her cameo in a flashy blue sports car with nothing but a seductive picture to go by, the atmosphere quickly shifts from one of formality to an air of light-heartedness. Evangelion masterfully plays with moods depending on how the characters should be reacting to certain situations, and Misato’s apartment, in fact, could almost represent the peaceful and joyful side of the chaos. Now that we’re all acquainted, it’s time to get to know each other beyond the name tags.

Image result for misato katsuragi screencaps

Make Yourself Comfortable

“Is this how you act in public? In front of your friends!?” You might have gotten this spiel by your parents if you’ve ever for a second acted, heaven forbid, without concern for public opinion or manners. Going back to the question, of COURSE I don’t act like this out there–this is home, and home is the one place where an individual should feel less pressured to “suck in their gut,” so to speak. Home is where I can let my guard down, and the characters in Eva do exactly that at the apartment. These moments make up the lighter side of a series otherwise known to offer psychological trauma and emotional turmoil.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shinji, Misato, and eventually Asuka are free to lounge around with a temporary leave of stress that comes with saving the world. At first it was only a woman and her pet. Soon the dynamic opens up to invite a pseudo son (episode 2), followed by a pseudo daughter (episode 9) and an anything-but father. Even aunty Ritsuko comes along and plays house at one point!

toothpick

Like mentioned earlier, Evangelion is rife with iconography. Some early examples include:

  • Episode 2’s introduction of the song, Misato’s theme
  • Episode 2’s fridge reveal of nothing but ice, snacks, and lots of beer
  • Episode 2’s infamous toothpick scene (adding on with the straw scene in the Rebuild)
  • Episode 2’s recitaiton of “Unfamilar Ceiling” (sheesh, one would think that episode 2 is important for some reason)
  • Episode 9’s synchronization training through DDR and fashion
  • Episode 16’s “I’m bored, so kiss me” by Asuka

Little Shin’s Room ❤

Homes allow people to ponder and create. In the show, we see the characters questioning their own existence, their place in the world, and whether the actions they take are justifiable. The apartment also allows philosophies to be revealed, such as Misato’s “Not everything must be answered with a yes m’am,” or “Wash away your troubles–bathing cleans the mind and soul!”Speaking of bathing . . .

Differing personalities invite conflict, however, for not everything in Misato’s apartment is happy-go-lucky. Time spent alone allows the darkness to sneak back into their heads. We are permitted to see the characters at their worst, such as this disturbing 20-second bath tangent by Asuka, portrayed by the incredible Tiffany Grant. Whereas bath scenes are supposed to be tranquil and stacked with fan service, Eva, being Eva, turns this cliche on its head to emphasize that not all acts at home are frivolous. Sometimes we get into fights, and that’s natural. Easily, the worst-case scenario remains the pinnacle choking scene from The End of Evangelion, which brings an entirely different and off-putting light to the children’s home.

Related image

What’s So Special About An Apartment

Not much, actually, only that it’s not just a house–it’s a home. A sanctuary from work stress and the trivialities of daily life, if you will. Even though these types of apartments are numerous in Japan, Eva still goes the extra mile in presenting the physical space uniquely. For one, the cinematography is sharp. This is reflected by the angles used, enhancing censored scenes like Shinji’s toothpicks or items such as the bras and lingerie that hang from the ceiling. This way the show stays interesting and provides enjoyment for a second time through. Utilizing warm hues of yellow for lighting also provides a sense of ease, unlike the cold LED lights of a hospital or a laboratory.

As much as it’s fun to break down the inter-workings of the minds of our favorite characters, or pick apart the cause and effect plots of our most beloved stories, taking a minute to admire the physical–locational settings–feels like a nice breath of fresh air.

misato.PNG

It feels like we’ve nearly covered it all, but in fact there’s so much more to the development of the apartment itself. How its atmosphere changes over the course of the story almost makes it seem as if it were a living, breathing entity. Home is a place to relax and be comforted by all the things, living or not, you cherish. It should be a place of intimacy, of quietude, a place to be yourself without anyone telling you how to live. I know not everyone has it this way, and I’m sorry, but I hope you have found your own little sanctuary somewhere in this wild world, or that someone like Misato has provided this comfort space for you.

To those who do settle down at the house, aren’t you the most “yourself” in the comfort of your own home or room? I know I am, and I hope that doesn’t change for at least a little while now. We all need our me-time, and there will never, ever, be something wrong with a lil’ peace and quiet. For those in solitude, just remember that even if you’re all alone without anyone to come home to, your own home will be waiting for you, eyes closed and smile wide, just as Misato was to Shinji. 

Welcome home.

step.PNG

Take care of yourself. – Neon Genesis Evangelion episode 26 title


Evangelion in its entirety clearly means a LOT to me. You could almost say that it influenced the shape of my character. If you’re interested in more of my ramblings and personal thoughts, please, feel free to browse the archives for more of that Eva goodness!

This concludes my March 8th entry in the OWLS “Sanctuary” blog tour. Please check out Matt’s (Matt-in-the-Hat) post discussing how, in Sword Art Online, there exists sanctuary within gaming. He apparently used my Fairy Dance musings as some inspiration, which makes me all the more excited to check it out! I’ll now toss the ball to BeckNaja (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero), for she will be jumping into Haikyuu!! this Friday, March 10th. (But let’s be honest, when is she not engaged with the show? lol) Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, take care ~

– Takuto

Sleep tight, Misato . . . such a mess, at least she looks comfortable enough

Having a Me-Day

I woke up at the crack of dawn today to audition for ridiculous All State Orchestra, and let me tell you – it’s been a long day. I’m gonna relax now with a new anime I started on Crunchyroll, Black Bullet, while indulging myself in homemade cupcakes and Keurig brand cafe mocha. Sure it’s not gourmet, sue me, cause I’m having a me-day 😉

– Takuto, your host

2015/01/img_3929.jpg