Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow sticks largely to well-worn anime tropes. The series begins with Ohana leaving her home and moving in with her grandmother, who runs an inn near a hot springs. The move is a big change, though it turns out it is probably for the best. Ohana’s mother isn't that interested in being a mom and decides to run off with her debt-ridden boyfriend. Ohana is hopeful for a more idyllic life with her grandmother, but she soon finds life at the inn isn’t much better. Ohana’s grandmother treats her like an employee, informing her that she must work at the inn to help pay for her room and board.
Outside the premise of Ohana restarting her life in a new place far from the familiarity of home, Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow instead focuses on a set of quirky characters and their run-ins with Ohana or other characters. There are a few long story arcs taking place, though there is so little development from episode-to-episode, I sometimes forgot just what was happening. I’m used to playing the long game with some series and waiting things out, but I had a hard time doing so with Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow. I think much of my dislike for the series, and lack of patience for the leisurely pace of plot developments, is I don’t think the series is for me. With most NIS releases, even the more offbeat ones, I can usually find one or two relatable characters. While some of the situations between characters (including a few romances) are interesting, the characters are not. Even the worst of the bunch are still likeable, but I found them dull. I just think a lot more could have been done with the characters, rather than playing it safe.
Though I wasn’t a fan of the series as a whole, I have to admit it is one of the more beautiful ones I’ve watched. Even from the first few minutes of the first episode, it is abundantly clear a lot of work went into the series. Colors are vivid and packed with tiny details. This is a series to watch on Blu-ray, even if you have to borrow a Blu-ray player (and HDTV) from someone.
I also really enjoyed the art book. I am a sucker for production art and loved looking at the included character sketches for some of the series main characters. I also enjoyed reading the artist’s notes about each of the settings used in the show. It’s always fun to get a sense of what an artist (or artists) were thinking about when it comes to artistic choices. There are a few neat details, such as artists altering the look of flowers in the background based on the seasons or passage of time.
Character and scenery artworks are accompanied by staff interviews with the show’s Art Director and Character Designer. Both offer even more insight into the show and, in some cases, anime in general. The two also offer advice about their craft in two "ABCs of…" sections. One focuses on art in general, while the other details the character creation process.
Were I more into anime, I think I would have enjoyed Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow a little more. It’s not a terrible series; it is just one that seems geared towards people who aren’t me. Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow is a sweet, thoughtful series that will appeal to viewers in the market for a leisurely-paced series with likeable characters and shorter story arcs.