Starting with what part of Evangelion I see reflected—Eva is what comes to mind when I think of taking an established type of anime to the next level in every way. Without getting into too much of “what Evangelion is,” since not all of it serves my purposes in this comparison, what matters is that Evangelion:
1. Is an amazing-looking show.
2. Is extremely well-written and directed.
3. Presents common genre tropes better than other shows that feature them.
Now, I’m far from the type of person that demands “perfection” or some standard of “quality” from a show. I don’t believe in the idea that some anime are all-around “better” than others, and I can’t stand to read reviews by people who do, because as soon as I disagree with their assessment, the entire thing falls apart. What I’m interested in is how people react to what’s there and why it does or doesn’t work for them. Some people might not like the character designs or the writing or directing in Eva, and may think it’s not as good as other shows featuring the same tropes. However, for practical purposes, I would consider those people to be outliers.
Hanasaku Iroha is something similar. I think most people would agree that this show is a very high-quality production—good-looking; excellently written and directed—and I have no doubt that a lot of those people who profess to like “high-quality” anime will say that this is one.
Why am I being so specific about this? Because I’m going to compare Hanasaku Iroha to shows that those people might not consider to be of the same “quality.” I’m not here to say if Iroha is better or worse than those shows in some objective manner. For one thing, only 4 episodes are out, so it certainly isn’t going to be my favorite over some shows I’ll be talking about that are, in fact, amongst my favorites list. I’m just pointing out that Hanasaku Iroha is what you might consider a “classy anime,” and while that doesn’t govern my enjoyment of the show, it’s something I appreciate.
HanaIro falls under what is probably my favorite category of anime altogether, the “4-Girls” show (as I’ve taken to calling it). It’s not actually required there be four girls, but it fits both with the common feature of having four female leads and with the commonality amongst those shows of being based on 4-koma manga.
4-Girls shows usually fall into a comedy/moe spectrum, where the likes of Hidamari Sketch and K-On reside (both among my favorite anime). What’s special about a really good 4-Girls show, though, is that they follow the characters through many aspects of life, and will get to dramatic, heartwarming, and introspective elements as well. K-On is, IMO, the best and most well-rounded show of this type.
While 4-Girls show are typically 4-koma adaptions, the influence of those has lead to the 4-Girls setup becoming a part of other story types. I love looking at To Aru Kagaku no Railgun as the idea of integrating 4-Girls style into another genre, in that case action. Unfortunately, I think Railgun flopped hard on its action side, and the only parts of the series that I really enjoyed were the 4-Girls parts (most especially the first seven or so episodes).
Hanasaku Iroha is the next step after Railgun, I think. It’s the Evangelion for this kind of show. And to really make that comparison poignant, I’m going to call K-On the Giant Robo of 4-Girls shows (there might be a better comparison but nothing comes to mind.)
Why the need for that? Because both K-On and Giant Robo, like Evangelion, are really good-looking, really well-written and directed, and really at the top of their respective genres. However, both of them have little appeal to people who don’t like that genre already. Both are shows that are aimed at fans of the genre and push themselves to be the best representation of it in earnest love for the genre itself.
Evangelion and Iroha may love their genres as well, but neither feels the need to swear loyalty to it and appeal directly to fans of it. You could say they’re both more auteur works.
I love this. I love robots, and I love 4-Girls shows (a lot more than robots fwiw), and while Iroha only has 4 eps out, I love Evangelion more than pretty much any other mecha show. Precisely because I’m not so in love with the genre that I want it to be a certain way—I love Eva for being a robot show and also taking it to the next level. So far, I’m loving Iroha for doing the same. It has the appeal that a K-On show has of girls getting along and being cute, but it also takes time to be a superb melodrama and throw in some delicious fanservice that definitely earns such an Eva comparison.
This post came about, by the way, through my joy that Hanasaku Iroha will make it so I don’t have to rewatch Railgun anytime soon. After all, I get to see Itou Kanae playing an *even hotter* character and befriending another Toyosaki Aki character, whom I may not love as much as Uiharu yet, but who looks fucking amazing in a wet t-shirt. I even got a lesbian wet dream, which is the next-best substitute for Kuroko’s slightly annoying lesbian antics.