Short Takes looks at newly released products for ongoing titles, a way for us to examine a series in progress outside of a full-length critical piece.

A side-quel of sorts for the Hanasaku Iroha series, Home Sweet Home amounts to a Very Special Episode of that franchise, one stuck smack dab in the middle of the action, meaning that viewing of the original series is more or less mandatory both for the plot and the emotional connections. It's billed as a movie but only clocks in at an hour, making it best for existing fans looking for a little extra something in lieu of a full-blown second season coming our way. But it does keep all the things that made the original series work, mainly its good-hearted tone and its unyielding sense of the good in others.

Set shortly before the Bonbori Festival (right near the end of the series, in other words), the movie provides us with two plotlines, present-time and past-. In the present, Ohana finds herself saddled with Yuina, the way-too-cheerful girl who worked at a rival inn and has now been sent to the Kissuisō for some "training" (as evidently her boss respects the way Ohana's whip-cracking grandmother Sui runs the place). Yuina tries hard but too often leaves behind a mess for others to clean up, and one day Ohana discovers just such a mess left by her in one of the storerooms. Within it, though, she uncovers a set of meticulously written logbooks kept by "Beans", the inn's maintenance man.

https://www.ganriki.org/media/2014/iroha-movie-01.jpg https://www.ganriki.org/media/2014/iroha-movie-02.jpg
© Hanairo Committee
A log of events leads Ohana to see all the more clearly her mother's rebellion and the circumstances of her own birth.

This leads into the past-time track, where Ohana's mother Satsuki is seen as a girl around Ohana's age, chafing under Sui's tough-minded yoke. Satsuki was convinced Sui was only running the place after her father's death as a way of keeping a stiff upper lip. To that end, Satsuki fled for Tokyo and ended up getting involved with a photographer. In time, out of that rebel streak, she found a way to distinguish herself from her own mother — one that involved something greater than just rebelling for its own sake. Through this, Ohana sees how she and her mother have similarities she never considered — they may not be remotely the same kind of person, but they can and do manifest the same kinds of yearnings. All this is offset against another unfolding plot in the present day, where Ohana has to not only help search for a child of one of the inn staff, but the whole staff has to improvise to deal with a power loss (hint: it involves using a lot of candles as "atmosphere").

One of the things I noted in my review of Attack on Titan: Before the Fall was how most side-quels for a franchise are hamstrung by what we know about the goings-on. With a prequel, the surprise has to come from knowing how things unfold, and not to what specific end. With a side story, there's little suspense about the fates of the main characters, since they have to survive in order for the franchise to continue. Home Sweet Home should in theory suffer from both of these issues, since it has both prequel and side-story elements. But the backstory is designed more to shed emotional light on the main story than to create a formal plot, so the two end up enriching each other without compromising anything. When people talk about something "having a heart", this wouldn't be a bad example to put in the dictionary next to that statement.

Note: This product was provided by the creator or publisher as a promotional item for the sake of a review.


About the Author

Serdar Yegulalp (@GanrikiDotOrg) is Editor-in-Chief of Ganriki.org. He has written about anime professionally as the Anime Guide for Anime.About.com, and as a contributor to Advanced Media Network, but has also been exploring the subject on his own since 1998.
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