16-year-old Ohana Matsumae is living a normal, comfortable teenager life in the city, a bit bored because she has nothing to be excited or worry about in life.
That is, until her bohemian mother decides to do a moonlight escape with her indepted fiancé and send her daughter to live with Granny in the sticks. Said grandmother owns a hot springs inn, is having none of her deadbeat daughter’s nonsense and puts Ohana on the spot: work for your food and the roof over your head, or hit the road!
Ohana, who has never seriously worked before, feels like she has hit rock bottom. Her old friends are gone, her new life consists of exhausting, disciplined work and her coworker roommate holds a murderous grudge against her. It seems there’s nothing she can do right.
But instead of giving up, she decides to prove her worth. With the help of her workmates she gets to learn the ropes, works hard to improve herself and finally earns their trust and respect.
There’s certainly an argument to be made about society measuring the worth of an individual not by their value as a human being but the profits of their work, and Japan might be one of the worst offenders with a ridiculously over-emphasized working culture.
But I kinda have a soft spot for this sort of thing (I guess you could call it a coming-of-age subgenre). After all, “Spirited Away” (Sen To Chihiro Kamikakushi) is one of my all-time favourites, and you’ll find that it has basically the same story. I like the idea of taking pride in your work and perfecting your craft, no matter if it’s just the little things. Even if that makes me sound old-fashioned.
About Hanasaku Iroha: Despite its looks, it’s not girly at all. There’s the calm way of storytelling, the authentic and charming characters, all the little details, a soundtrack by nano*Ripe to top it off… Good stuff, go watch it!