Naru Sekiya is an average 14-year-old girl with average intelligence, average athleticism, and average talents. She once had hopes that starting high school would change all that. Unfortunately, the reality could not be further from the truth and she remains a wallflower. Why can't real life be like fairy tales where a handsome prince lifts a poor girl from obscurity and transforms her into a dazzling princess?
Her average student life changes when she meets a blonde girl dancing on top of a gate to a shrine. Naru assumes the girl is a fairy, but it turns out she's just a regular girl, too. But it also just so happens that she's a transfer student named Hana from America who fell in love with yosakoi, a type of dance, and came to Japan with the intention to start her own club! Excited that she's classmates with the girl she met the night before, Hana tries to recruit Naru to become the first member of the brand new yosakoi club. Too bad the thought of dancing in front of everyone terrifies her! Can Hana convince Naru to join the club? Will Naru fall in love with yosakoi? Find out in Hanayamata!
Your first impression of this show is probably spot-on. Yes, it’s a show about cute girls doing cute things. Yes, it’s flowery, adorable, and sweet to the point it makes you cringe. And yes, it’s a typical story about the friendship between five girls in a club setting. On the surface, Hanayamata doesn’t do much to deviate from being the stereotypical anime featuring everyday lives of girls in a school club. Since the anime realm is saturated with these types of anime, you will more or less get what you expected with Hanayamata, especially in terms of the overall plot progression and the character developments.
Hanayamata is obviously not a show you will love because of all its stereotypical aspects. It’s a show you will love because of how it takes those stereotypical aspects and manages to make them enjoyable. It’s a show that takes the predictable character developments and makes them heartfelt. It’s a show that takes the typical shoujo personas and makes them lovable. And it’s a show that demonstrates a genuine effort to deliver high quality animation and drop-dead gorgeous aesthetics each and every episode. Hanayamata excels at what it does and sets a gleaming example of how the typical story of cute girls in a club setting should be done.
Hanayamata tells the story of five middle school girls who end up joining the Yosakoi club, a club dedicated to performing a modern style of traditional Japanese dance. The story focuses mainly on Naru Sekiya, who is a shy, passive girl that considers herself as “average” in every aspect. Her wish going into middle school is to break out of her shell to become someone dazzling like a heroine found in fairy tales, but that wish is easier said than done, as Naru struggles to do anything out of her comfort zone. However, after the fateful moment she meets the "fairylike" girl named Hana Fontainestand, Naru's life slowly starts to change. After deciding to join the Yosakoi club with Hana, Naru sets out to gather members for the club one at a time, all the while unknowingly developing into someone she's always wished to be. The story follows the five girls that eventually join the Yosakoi club, as they try to understand one another and work together to eventually dance as a team at a local Yosakoi festival.
When I first read up on Hanayamata, I didn’t feel it as anything out of the ordinary from a typical club setting anime. So what exactly does Hanayamata do differently that sets it apart from the rest? Three words: Well-executed character developments. The anime really takes its time to explore the characters’ backstories and makes sure not to rush their developments. As a result, the characters’ backstories and their developments don’t feel forced or “shoehorned” in just for the sake of adding depth. This aspect allows viewers to better immerse themselves into the show since most of it is dedicated to the coming-of-age story of each character. It is generally uncommon for an anime to dedicate so much of itself to the characters, but Hanayamata purposefully focuses less on its main plot in order to focus more on walking the viewers through the gradual process of maturation and self-discovery as experienced by the protagonists as the show goes on.
Therefore, since the character development is the main focus of the show, the main plot undoubtedly loses some of its spotlight. Does this mean that the main plot is negligible? Not in the least. If the plot hadn’t been gradually moving forward in the background, then there wouldn’t have been such an emotionally satisfying resolution. Once Hanayamata painstakingly develops all of its characters, the main plot takes over and leads the characters towards the resolution they’ve been working for throughout the show: to dance together at the Yosakoi festival. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen such a satisfying resolution for a show, and that sentiment is owed to the effort that the show puts into bridging an emotional connection between the characters and the viewers, all the while keeping the focus of the main plot strong.
To top it off, Hanayamata displays a captivating art style and boasts some of the finest quality in animation. The bright color schemes and the vibrant art style really scream out “youthful” and “beautiful,” both adjectives of which are fitting of a story about middle school girls enjoying their youth. The flowery overtones go well with the theme that each of the girls represents some sort of flower, and overall the art style helps to amplify the bright energy given off by the show. Some of the backdrops and sceneries are just downright gorgeous to look at and demonstrate the amount of effort that’s been put into this show in terms of aesthetics. In terms of animation, the quality can most directly be seen whenever the girls are dancing. Although there aren’t a whole lot of scenes in which they dance, the scenes in which they do are smoothly and naturally done. Considering that animating the choreography without resorting to 3D animation takes a significant amount of money and time, I applaud the show for its dedication to deliver such high quality animation.
The music of Hanayamata isn't anything noteworthy, but I did want to point out its opening song, “Hana Ha Odoreya Irohaniho,” which is uniquely sung by the voice actresses of the show. As you get more and more familiar with the show and the characters, you will start to hear the characters’ voices within the opening, thus giving the song a feeling of intimacy nonexistent in most opening songs. It is often the small things that count, and details like this really made me love the show even more.
To end, I did a double take on this show when I realized that the writer for this show, Yoshida Reiko, wrote for shows such as Aria, Girls und Panzer, and K-On! among other famous works. Combine her with the director, Atsuko Ishizuka, who directed shows such as Chihayafuru, Nana, No Game No Life, and Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, and you have a dynamic duo that knows what it’s doing when it comes to anime like Hanayamata. Although Hanayamata is filled to the brim with stereotypes of the typical anime featuring “cute girls doing cute things,” the duo still manages to evoke a sense of brilliance out of the staleness commonly found in this genre. Hanayamata as a show is nothing too out of the ordinary, but the amount of effort that is put into this show is astounding and the execution of the story and the character developments is one of the finest I’ve seen in awhile. Whether or not you’re a fan of “cute girls doing cute things,” definitely give Hanayamata a try.
There are various rules when one talks about a series related to “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things”. (CGDCT) First, the show must consists of a main female characters cast for at least the core characters. And throughout that series, there are hardly or if any male characters at all. Second, the girls must be doing something cute. This could be anything considered cute whether it’s having a tea party, playing at the beach, singing a song, or planning for a vacation. In the case of Hanayamata, the cute girls performs yosakoi, an unique form of dancing stylized in Japan. And finally, these activities are usually
random in no precise order. In other words, there usually isn’t a complex or ongoing plot with the girls that connects the story together. However, this doesn’t always apply as a major theme can convey the overall premise of a CGDCT series. Cute might seem an overrated word but Hanayamata brings that out so much more.
Based off the manga of the same name, Hanayamata (or sometimes known as HaNaYaMaTa) is also a portmanteau blending the main character’s names together. Honestly though, the series is about unity as the girls grows close with bonding. That unity is inspired to craft what CGDCT typify for: dancing. Because let’s face it, dancing is an activity and cute girls makes it look like a brilliant piece of art. Art requires development, skill, and perfection to make it become something worth praise though. Thankfully, this show characterizes that at a level that is inspiring.
Meet Naru Sekiya, a young girl with a lack of self-confidence. From her initial introduction, one could easily speculate that she has insecurities about her talents as a person. Throughout the show, she tries to build and climb out of her shell. What Hanaymata does well is show exactly how she develops with her own character. When compared to her best friend Yaya, there’s a big gap to fill with their characteristics. Yaya is the popular girl with talent in music with the intelligence that puts Naru to shame. However, Naru and Yaya gets along quite well that personifies a unique friendship between the duo. Speaking of unique, Hana is perhaps the epitome of this show. Transferring from America, Hana is a girl that I would describe as eccentric. There is no doubt she has skills especially when it comes to yosakoi. It’s just that she takes it to a level that isn’t just hyperactive but also dangerous on occasions with her dancing spotlights of choice.
As with most school settings, there’s also a student council. Two prominent characters from the council also plays intriguing roles. Tami Nishimikado and Machi Tokiwa enters the story that may evoke the viewer’s curiosity. This is fueled by their back stories that is not only realistic but also characterizes their persona as who they became today. But past events aside, the series focuses on what’s happening the present and that’s the yosakoi club.
Essentially, the first episode has an illuminating start. Captured in a spellbound moment, Naru sees a young girl dancing under the blooming skies. The lavishly dancing style almost looks like a fairy tale by Naru’s impressions. In essence, it correlates with the main concept of the show – dancing. The background also shows spring which symbolizes a spiritual sense of growth. There’s also a motif relating to the characters’ choice of flowers. As flowers, they grow and bloom during the Spring. This concept applies to almost all the characters but the most prominently for Naru. She wants a place in life and her destined meeting with Hana is like taking the first steps towards that journey. It’s also implied that Hana grows as a person as she makes friends based on her experiences there. Although not entirely categorized as personal growth, the friends she makes brings out a different side from her. Collectively, the journey focuses on all the girls. We see the best and worst of themselves as they try to put their talents into a unity and show the world what they can do.
Although lacking a complex story, a main focus revolves around Hana’s attempts to form the yakoishi club. The series presents this in an almost experimental format with our characters getting hands-on experience with the context. Even the teacher of the show has a little gag with this. Not directly related to dancing but she is a woman that is a fresh graduate, eager to explore life and her profession at fullest. But for what’s worth, the subplot is merely simple with predictable plot devices. It’s not just predicable though but lacks depth with the way the characters tries to achieve. Sure, we want them to succeed despite the obstacles they face but at the same time, not all of them puts their effort 100% into it. This is what it’s like anyways in the beginning and hard to take serious to heart. Don’t me wrong though. Hanayamata isn’t attempting to craft some CGDCT series out of some basic premise here. Rather, it dives into and characterizes the cast, or in this case the cute girls. In retrospect, the show has the ability to get viewers to appreciate the characters for who they are, what they want, and what they do.
Madhouse is a big name figure. Although they aren’t too well known for producing series with the CGDCT concept, I’d say that they nailed the spot here with artwork. It’s the strength of the performance that highlights the characters extravagantly on the artistic front. Every main character has a feminine appearance supplemented by a flower bundled on their head. It symbolizes not only growth but beauty. This is further enhanced by their school uniforms and yukata that fits with traditional Japanese themes. Additionally, every characters stands out in some way whether it’s Yaya’s mature figure, Machi’s glasses, or Hana’s pettiness. However, what makes the show stands out the most artistically is the backgrounds. The naturalness of the background gives an impression of elegance while the dancing movements evokes sense of freedom. Every movement is captured with cleverly positioned camera angles to bring out the best of the yakoishi style. On a comedic note, the show also likes to make the characters’ eyes go ‘O_O’ during certain circumstances. It highlights the silliness of the show while bringing lighthearted laughter. And no, there isn’t asinine fan service. You will instead be serviced by a typhoon of cuteness.
Soundtrack also has its own way that speaks for itself. The simple lyrics and traditional-like Japanese tones of the soundtrack clearly gets its message across. Fiercely engrossed with the style of the show, soundtrack is coordinated with delicacy to make the dancing moves come to life. The impression it gives off will almost feel dreamlike with the girls doing what they love to do. Otherwise, character voice mannerism can be spawn some mixed feelings. In particular, Hana’s voice often can get irritating with her persistence with others. Naru’s soft voice also hardly stands out; a sharp contrast to her friend Yaya. But speaking of Yaya, she also exhibits a tsundere-like mannerism during certain situations. To make up for this though, the songs in the show are performed by the voice actresses themselves. Talent is the first word that comes to mind when you put those headphones on.
Epitomized with CGDCT context, Hanayamata hinges onto easy ideas but presents them in a way that will allure the audience with memorable moments. It focuses on the girls and how they came together while characterizing them each to make them appreciable. This focus extends to characters both individually and collectively with some even on a persona level. It’s nothing personal though as the show also has business when it comes to performance. The business indeed picks up when the girl steps on the stage and shows the world the fruits of their hard work. You don’t need to embrace the art of yosakoi to enjoy this show though. But watching this show may take you back and evoke that memorable quote of "How about you dance along with me?"
Dancing is usually seen as something different to many people. For some, it is an art form for the human body. And yet for others it is an expression of the soul. When it comes down to it, dancing is what the dancer makes of it. In Hanayamata, Hana, Naru, Yaya, Machi, and Tami come to learn that yosakoi, to them, is a bond of everlasting friendship and love.
Hanayamata starts by introducing Naru, a young girl looking to become more "dazzling." One night, she witnesses a young girl, Hana, dancing beautifully in the moonlight. After becoming friends, Hana
makes it her mission to recruit Naru and a few others into her yosakoi club so they can all have fun together.
When going into this show, it's important to understand that this is a "cute girls doing cute things" type of anime. There is no grandiose plot, intricate characters, or incredible world-building. Instead, much of what goes on is the girls interacting with one another in adorable ways. Whether this be visiting a sauna to practice and relax or them going to a festival to see other teams compete, everything they do is for fun.
This being said, the show does try to inject some drama into the story. Every character has their own arc that follows the same pattern: character gets some back-story, drama unfolds, a solution is found, and then the girl joins the club. This becomes the apparent method of doing things by the second girl, but for the show's purpose, it worked fine. Having a somewhat large main cast and only a particular number of episodes to work with, I felt that the drama wasn't necessarily forced each time. They had proper explanations for the girls apprehensiveness or overall issues they were dealing with, and they were more or less taken care of at a steady pace. It never makes you feel overly emotional, but it never feels melodramatic.
Part of the problem with the show is its handling of yosakoi. It's one of the main portions of the show, but I personally felt as if there wasn't enough behind the subject to get me invested in it. I didn't much care for what yosakoi brought or even what it entailed because I felt that the show didn't really articulate well enough how powerful it can be. Maybe this is a problem with yosakoi itself not being complex or deep, but I think there should have been more focus on it besides just the girls practicing.
Hanayamata is quite gorgeous. Directed by Atsuko Ishizuka, her style of extremely vibrant colors, beautiful backdrops, and excessive use of purple makes Hanayamata a feast for the eyes. The nighttime portions are captivating in the moonlight and its great use of sunset lighting during many scenes (combined with the aforementioned purple) makes them look stunning.
The animation quality is also very high. The girls general movements are fluid but the animation shines best when the girls are dancing. The show also does its best to include different locations that the girls visit, allowing for other animation opportunities such as with rustling trees, a busy hotel, or the school grounds.
The character designs are nothing amazing like the art style and animation, but I particularly liked Hana's design mostly due to her unique look when compared to the rest of the cast. Being "American" and having blonde hair made her design pretty nice.
As a final note, the character's eyes actually have pretty interesting shapes. They're not really oval but more like diamonds. Just something I thought I should point out!
Hanayamata's characters each have their own personality traits, but for the most part, they are each quite adorable in their own respects.
Machi is the school girl, valuing hard-work and dedication over play. She and Tami have both a friend relationship as well as a working one, with Tami always looking to break down Machi's shell just a little bit. I liked her the least among the girls simply because she wasn't as cute as the rest.
Tami represents the doting mother; she is mature for her age and looks out for the other girls' well-being. She especially takes care of Naru since they have known one another for quite a while. I liked her character a lot because, despite her maturity, she loved to tease the others a lot.
Yaya is your classic "tsundere." She is best friends with Naru and even has what appears to be some type of "yuri" feelings towards her. I actually like this trope in anime, so I found her to always be a blast on-screen. Plus, she loved to pick on Hana which never ceased to make me smile.
Above all, the best two characters from the show are Naru and Hana. They define the cuteness that is prevalent throughout all of the series. Their reactions, blushing, smiling, and overall happiness gives you the biggest grin possible. It is extremely hard not to like them because of how freaking adorable they are. This is not an understatement; everything they do screams "moe."
On top of each characters traits, as said before, they do get their own bit of back-story and drama that helps to let them develop. But once the drama subsides, it is mostly forgotten and replaced with their usual cuteness. The characters are not going to be remembered, but they all fit the "cute girls doing cute things" bill to a tee.
The OP for Hanayamata is fantastic for two reasons. One, it is very catchy, upbeat, and wonderfully composed. Second, and as discussed elsewhere, it is an actual plot device. Unlike every other OP, it isn't just there to be listened to at the beginning of each episode (as it should), but rather it is incorporated into the girls' actual yosakoi. For this reason, the show gets big points for doing something pretty unique.
The ED is good, and follows the same feeling of happiness that the OP, and for that matter the rest of the show, does. It also pretty catchy in its own way.
The rest of the soundtrack is fine, but there wasn't anything I found to be standout like the OP and ED.
However, shout-outs to Minami Tanaka for her voice acting of Hana and Reina Ueda for her voice acting of Naru. They did a spectacular job in their respective performances. Their voices not only were cute but fit wonderfully with the characters they were playing.
I like cute. I find it fun to watch, smile at, and relax to. And this is something that Hanayamata does quite well. It is filled with cuteness in each episode. You will be hard pressed not to be smiling when you are watching the series. Watching Hana with blank eyes and worrying about her grades makes you laugh. Naru blushing hard over saying something embarrassing will make you smile like a doofus. Tami, Machi, and Yaya acting older yet teasing with one another will fill you with joy. Every episode goes out of its way to just make you happy.
Again, this show is "cute girls doing cute things," and it's awesome. While it isn't a show that I absolutely loved, there is no doubt in my mind that you will walk away from the series having just had a wonderful experience.
Story: Fine, cute girls with okay drama
Animation: Great, beautiful and colorful
Characters: Good, so cute it's almost a sin
Sound: Great, OP is unique, ED is good, VAs are experts
Enjoyment: Good, non-stop smiling the whole way through
Hanayamata is a slice of life, comedy anime based of the manga Manga Time Kirara Forward by Sou Hamayumiba and was created by Madhouse studio. The anime aired from July to September 2014 and lasted 12 episodes long.
Hanayamata’s Plot revolves around 14 years old girl, Naru Sekiya, who has a lack of interests except for fairy tales, until she meets Hana N. Fountainstand, one night and watches her dancing Yosakoi. Together, they create a Yosakoi club at school so they can enter the upcoming Yosakoi, but getting new members is not so easy. The story of Hanayamata may sound like some other anime involving music
and dancing, do not let you think Hanayamata is the nothing new. While the main focus is on Yosakoi, the show doesn't fail in the development of the main characters over the course of the show and how each of the characters support each other with their troubles they find themselves in. While being a sol, the comedy in Hanayamata has been well done as not a lot of jokes get too over used and some of the quirks of each character adding to its enjoyment. Now on to the main characters of Hanayamata:
Naru Sekiya voiced by Reina Ueda(Mikan Akemi from Jitsu wa Watashi wa and Juri Makina from Harmonie) – is a 14 years old girl who lacks interests and confidence to try new things. She dreams to be dazzling like the princesses from the fairy tales she loves reading. That is until one night while walking home, she encounter Hana, who was doing yosakoi and joins in only to run away because she believes she can’t be dazzling as Hana. After being asked and saying no to Hana to create the yosakoi club, she finally agrees to help Hana after telling Naru about her dream of become a professional Yosakoi dancer. While Naru is very clumsy and gets scared preforming in front of people, she is very understanding person and caring of others.
Hana N. Fountainstand voiced by Minami Tanaka (Minami Katayama from Wake Up,Girls! and Game Gear from Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) – is a transfer student from the US who is in Naru’s class. She transfers to Japan after falling in love with Yosakoi while on a trip to Japan a few years ago. While dancing one night, she meets Naru and offers her to dance with her. She decides to make the Yosakoi club at school so she could dance with others. She is bit of a tomboy and is over excited about many things.
Yaya Sasame voiced by Kaya Okuno (Hacka Doll No. 2 from Hacka Doll and Kaya kikuma from Wake Up,Girls!) – is a 14 years old girl and Naru’s best friend. She is part of a band at school and at the start very against doing Yosakoi with Naru and Hana until her dream of being part of a band falls apart and Naru shows her that she has a place in the group, making her join. She is very protective about Naru and becomes jealous when Naru starts to make new friends. While she is very smart and beautiful, she doesn't like people helping her and has very bad handwriting.
Tami Nishimikado voiced by Yuka Ootsubo (Ai from Ai Mai Mii and Kanako Mimura from The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls) – Is the vice-president of the student council and childhood friend of Naru, with Naru calling her big sister. She tries to please her father by trying to be a proper Japanese woman. After she realize that trying to please her father wasn’t making her happy and stopping from doing the things she really want to do, she becomes overcome by worries until Naru helps her other come them and joins the Yosakoi club.
Machi Tokiwa voiced by Manami Numakura (Hibiki Ganaha from The iDOLM@STER and Yurika Toudou from Aikatsu!) – Is the President of the student council and close friend of Tami. She not interest in Yosakoi at first but after sorting a personal problem, she joins the club. She is strict about a lot of things, apart from sweet things and Tami’s requests.
Hanayamata uses a beautiful blend of bright colors to bring to show to life to the viewer and to show the beauty of the Yosakoi to them. Each character has been unique look to them to help the viewer recognize and to flesh out their personalities. The Animation of the characters is amazing as it really shine when the girls are dancing. The voice acting is very impressive as every character feels alive and the voice actresses of the main characters also sing the opening song and the final episode ending song.
Hanayamata is an anime that has really surprised me , it has one of the most beautiful art styles I have ever seen In anime the story has been brilliant well written and the dancing is one of the most interesting I ever seen. Hanayamata has a number of messages it give to the viewer, from we should do the things we love doing in our lives to having someone who we can care for, laugh and cry with is nice. Finally, each character really brings Hanayamata to life for me as each have their faults but they help each other to overcome them.
Hanayamata is one of those hidden gems of 2014, over looked by bigger named shows, a real treat to watch. From the art to the characters, Hanayamata impresses the viewer with it take on the Sol idea. If you wanted to watch a good story, then if you haven’t already, you should give Hanayamata a go and you find a really anime.