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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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

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GJ Club is BOTH Silly and Relaxing? “Gooood Job-buu!”

A spoiler-free review of the 12-episode winter 2013 anime “GJ-bu” or “GJ Club,” produced by Doga Kobo, based on the light novel series by Shin Araki.

 – View in browser, not app, for best experience –

Assume for the moment that this is an anime about a poor boy engaging in harmless games at the expense of a group of totally-pure high school girls. When demons from the underworld aren’t wreaking havoc amongst high-school kids or when bras and boxers aren’t being violently stripped from these fine teens, you have, in this situation, a school-life harem. These cookie-cutter shows are the dreams of many anime fans. I mean, could you imagine a world where after school you hung out in a homey club room with your best friends to discuss the trivial gimmicks of school life, or perhaps spend the entire afternoon eating cake, drinking tea, and playing games?

Last time I played this game was in elementary school. Stubbed my toe pretty bad, too.

Well, that’s what we do in the “Good Job-bu” club, or the GJ Club for short. Its mission is known to none – that is, if it has one – and it inhabits a decently-sized room in a former building of the school. But today is different for this seemingly pointless gang of ladies: Shinomiya Kyouya is kidnapped forced to become a new member – and he’s a boy.

Paging Dr. Kyoro . . . Yeah, you know what’s up.

Each episode of GJ Club begins and ends in the club. Sooooo what is done in the club room stays in the club room. But there’s nothing sinister about it! There is no record of home life or how they act during class. Also, despite it being a harem, it’s neither romantic nor erotic in any sense, never going past that boundary of “what just happened?”

And that is exactly what makes GJ Club the ideal slice-of-life school anime.

They play wacky games, eat tons of meat snacks, read manga; the whole package. As for story . . . . Unless the moral was to enjoy time with friends before high school life is over then there is none. AND THAT’S OKAY. Funny and consistent with its environment, the anime is merely a lighthearted reenactment of our favorite anime tropes. Enjoyable because of the dumb stuff they do and their reactions to it all, but very average in story, characters, and even animation.

This anime doesn’t do anything to challenge the stereotypes. We’ve got the short tsundere club leader, Mao; the overly intelligent yet lacking-common-sense cool rich girl, Shion; the pink-haired airhead, Megumi; the girl who thinks she’s an animal, Kirara (yes, she is a foreigner); and the bratty little one that no one likes (Tamaki). There is also a plentiful batch of token little sisters for those who enjoy hearing “ONII-SAN” five-hundred goddamn times. Watching Megu struggle and obsess over her weight was unintentionally hilarious, though. Same with Kirara’s uncanny strength.

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Best shit in the entire series

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Modesty. The women folk love it.

I suppose the lead boy is a little more interesting, if only he actually developed throughout the series! Nicknamed “Kyoro,” he remains the only male in the club, not that his status as such matters. You see, he is constantly ridiculed as cute or feminine, regardless of that just being his innate politeness when it comes to dealing with women. The fact that he prefers shoujo manga over the more popular mecha and “boku” as his title rather than “ore” doesn’t help his case. To add insult to injury, however, he admits his talent of being able to deal with those of the feminine persuasion, which partially stems from the routinely brushing of his little sister’s hair. And how do the other girls react?

“Baka! Just brush it and get it over with – it’s not like I asked or anything!”

“Shinomiya-kun, would you be as courteous as to demonstrate on me? I am . . . curious.”

“YAY! Your brushing is so cute!” ~<3

*after taming a wild beast*Purrr purr, this is nice.”

“Hey, WATCH IT! It’s MY turn next!”

Me: *eternally bangs head on desk until it bleeds*

Commence: POWERFUL HAIR BRUSHING

The sparkling studio Doga Kobo did the animation for GJ Club, and though it’s nothing spectacular, it should be noted for its consistency and colorful, bright atmosphere – Specifically in the clubroom and the perky hair colors. The eyes take the signature “bubbly anime eye” to the extreme and I always found them weird to stare into. With this anime, however, atmosphere is more important, and I can rest in peace knowing the ideal clubroom was captured in brilliant light and warm tone. Leaving that room on the last episode was the hardest part.

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Hot as balls. It happens.

I honestly can’t recall the soundtrack for this anime, but it is not bad without a doubt. I shouldn’t stress something that didn’t stand out. So I won’t. The opening, “Mousou★Koukan Nikki” by Otome Shinto, is my favorite song from the series. Those first ten seconds of sass and choreography of the characters walking towards the clubroom was just awesome! It’s such a happy song!!

If I were to squeeze out a negative, it is that despite how quirky and fun they seem, characters like this will never exist in real life because they are so heavily rooted in these anime clichés. If you do manage to find a group of friends like this (and actually don’t find them annoying), then that’s great. But maybe that’s why this show appeals to me so much: GJ Club provides the after school family I always wanted, but probably will never have. It’s very sad to hear and take in, but hey, it is, after all, just an anime.

GJ Club is a slow anime – I dare say unexciting half the time – but that works in its favor. It draws out unusual comedy, never taking things to far, and milks those scenarios for all they are worth. If you just got finished with the new crazy shounen anime kids are raging about today, or the most depressing romance you’ve seen to date, and are wanting something to give you breath, do consider GJ Club. It’s silly, colorful, and very relaxing.

“There are two types of people in this world. Those who fan, and those who are fanned.” – Mao Amatsuka

+ Ideal slice-of-life school comedy with consistent direction and environment

+ Very relaxing anime to watch after something heavy; nice palate cleanser

– Does nothing to challenge the popular anime tropes

There we go! Had you even heard of this anime before I brought it up? Yes? “Good job-bu!!!” No? Well now you have a pleasant way to spend your afternoon. The entire series is available on Crunchyroll for FREE, yet sadly has not yet been licensed and released in the U.S. GJ Club can be found in the “Coffee” section of the cafe, but don’t let that discourage you from hitting it up. Did you enjoy the review? Let’s talk about it down below (feel free to hit like button to let me know)! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host