In my review of Hanasaku Iroha Part One, I saw the show as perfectly suited for its inn setting, offering a relaxing and thoughtful escape from the hustle and bustle of more bombastic anime. More than this, though, it seemed ready to invite us back into its world whenever we needed it. In the show’s second part, we do just that, rediscovering everything that makes the world and characters of Kissuiso so endearing, while witnessing its core message bloom into something powerfully resonant.
Staying true to form, the visual style and music of Hanasaku Iroha Part Two continue to set the show’s relaxing tones. The soft pastille palette gives everything such a gentle appearance, and the subtle switch between melancholy and bouncy backing tracks help to guide us through the constant, and occasionally sudden, flow between tense drama and uplifting comedy.
That all said, this second half succeeds in raising the bar in both departments. Fantastic sweeping views of Ishikawa at night, full of light and colour, give way to vibrant festivals, full of depth and bright hues. In another scene, clever use of artificial blurring helps to simulate a character’s tears for the viewer. Some of these visual elements might only last a few seconds, but the amount thought, care and time that is spent on them cannot be exaggerated. This is a show crafted with huge amounts of care and attention, and it shows across each of its twenty-six episodes, right down to the level of detail with which Ishikawa has been recreated for this story.
The opening and closing tracks, as with Part One, stand out particularly well and each helps to echo much of Hanasaku Iroha’s central theme of adolescence. nano.RIPE’s fast-paced rock track, Omokage Warp, captures the frantic energy and pace of teenagers trying to keep up in an adult’s world. Meanwhile, the closing song, Hanasaku Iroha by Clammbon, is very much the swansong of the show, expressing how much of life is hazy and directionless, and part of being an adult is simply having a bit of faith that things will be ok in the end. At the end of the day, as with Part One’s intro and outro, they’re not just great songs but also really poignant bookends to each episode.
Behind all of Part Two’s themes, though, are plenty of fun and entertaining sub-plots. As I hoped for in my earlier review, we get to see a lot more focus on the supporting cast, which is great, and we take the time to explore each character’s personal and family struggles through dedicated episodes. Just as importantly we get to see each character, old and young, wrestle with their own doubts about their future. This reinforces a subtle, but important, part of the show’s central message; we don’t just blossom once in our lives. Rather, we constantly blossom, again and again, in the face of constant challenges and headwinds, all as inevitable as the seasons themselves.
Interestingly, Hanasaku Iroha also doesn’t offer the sort definitive conclusion I was expecting. It sets our characters on new journeys of their own while leaving the world of Kissuiso just in view, able to be revisited when they (and we) are ready to come back. Personally, I think this is a particularly clever way to end the show; it gently reminds us that personal growth doesn’t mean an awful lot without the connections - the roots - binding us to the people or places we care about.
For the show overall, though, 'place' has been a particularly important concept; city and country, relaxing escape and busy workplace, lodging and home - the show is full of these contrasts and Kissuiso has been at the centre of all of them. However, as Hanasaku Iroha interplays on each, one constant remains the same - the characters. We finish the show with practically the same cast that we started it with, each very different from when we met them, but all connected by the inn that brought them together. As we see them embark on their own adventures, bound to return one day, I can’t help but think, ‘You can take the people out of Kissuiso, but you clearly can’t take Kissuiso out of the people’.
Hanasaku Iroha is a show I will certainly think about for some time. With sweet and energetic characters, a poignant story, and such attention to the stunning visuals, it’s a series I wholeheartedly recommend. Much of me hopes that the movie, Home Sweet Home, will also make its way to the UK but, if it doesn’t, then I’m more than satisfied. The twenty-six episodes we have courtesy of MVM are a complete story, and one with a lot of different plots to relate to. As with all great shows, and great destinations, it’s not a question of ‘if’ I return to Kissuiso - it’s a question of ‘when’.