The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: Hanayamata
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Madhouse
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 7 Jul 2014 – 22 Sep 2014

Synopsis: Naru is a quiet girl with no real passion in life who dreams of being “dazzling”. One evening she meets Hana, a quirky English girl who wants to dance Yosakoi, a traditional style featuring bright costumes and clappers called naruko. After some pestering, she recruits Naru into her new club and together they set about finding more members and learning to dance together. In dancing with her friends, Naru finally feels like she has a purpose.

The Highlights
Hana: Only irritating for the first few episodes.
Characters: Likable and unique; They work well together.
Yosakoi Dance: Beautiful and inspiring.
Message: Something we all need to hear sometimes.

Hanayamata is a series that makes you smile. Essentially a story of friendship set against the beauty of traditional dance, this anime is a great example of slice of life done well.

Initially I worried that Hana would become annoying in her endless pursuit of Naru, but she quickly settles down once the dance group gets started. Though the founder of the group, Hana never truly becomes the group leader. Instead, the endeavour becomes a collaborative effort between all the girls. Each character brings her own ideas and skills to the team, whether through musical ability or choreography, but also brings a force that’s uniquely them. This is the leadership, passion, kindness and sheer determination that brings the girls together. Here lies the heart of the series. These characters truly depend on each other and learn from one another. They form a complete set; the loss of any member would leave a gaping hole. With the help and support of her friends, each group member starts to discover that special element that she brings to the team and gradually builds confidence. That budding confidence is everything.

Building on the theme of unity, the series makes excellent use of the opening song to bring the story together. The tune is upbeat and catchy, but not overused. It, like the dance the girls create, is a labour of love and a true team effort. The dance scenes at festivals are also fun to watch; the bright colours and coordinated movements enhance the feeling of excitement and cohesion that the girls feel through their dancing. Having never heard of Yosakoi before, I was glad for the opportunity to learn about it. The last essential elements of this series are the group’s teacher sponsor and the Yosakoi shop owner, who provide some timely humour to balance the seriousness of the girls’ efforts.

Other than the element of Yosakoi, however, the series doesn’t really offer anything new. The plot is predictable throughout and the issues the girls face are those we have seen so many times before. The show immediately brings to mind the similar Taisho Baseball Girls. Also weighing the series down is its tendency towards the over-dramatic. Almost every episode seems to have a major crisis which distracts from the fun. Each problem feels lesser when it is just the next in a series. A few key problems might have carried more weight.

The excellent execution mostly makes up for these challenges though. Key comedy elements keep the tone light and add to the cheerful atmosphere. This show depicts personal growth in a way many can relate to. It shows us that having fun with good friends brings out our best and that each person, in their own way, can be dazzling.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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