Hanayamata – 01

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The two final shows on my Summer watchlist—Jinsei, and this—bring my total up to six, and no, I won’t be reviewing all six. Since I picked up a couple of recommendations that turned out to be the better shows I’ve watched so far this season (Barakamon and Nozaki-kun), these two stragglers have to prove they’re worth bumping an existing show or two off my list. Hanayamata may have pulled it off.

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The first outing focuses heavily on Sekiya Naru, who is average in every conceivable way; human garbage; a waste of oxygen…Or so she’d have us believe, in an inner (and sometimes outer) monologue that is exceedingly self-devaluing. Being friends with the gorgeous, confident, multi-talented rock star Sasame Yaya does nothing to help her opinion of herself. Everywhere Naru looks, people are choosing what to do with themselves, and they’re all on her case about reading fairy tales.

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One night, after delivering a package to another one of her richer, prettier friends, Naru happens to bump into a tiny, nimble, elegant fairy-like creature perched upon a shrine gate. In a fit of fancy, Naru chases after her, hoping she’s the one to show her another world. And she’s not wrong, she’s just being a bit too literal. The little girl appears in her class, a transfer student from America (Princeton, NJ, to be exact) named Hana N. Fontainestand.

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That’s a silly name, but true to her American roots, Hana comes on very strong, chasing Naru all over the school asking her to join the yosakoi dance club she just founded. Hana is mortified just by the attention Hana’s pursuit of her is attracting, so dancing around in public is totally out of the question. She’s not dazzling! She’s as undazzling as a lump of charcoal! As much as she wants to change, she’s scared of losing the comfortable routine she’s settled into.

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Of course, a person as unremarkable and awful and empty as Naru says she is was always eventually going to be worn down and join. For one thing, she feels bad about everyone else at school utterly ignoring Hana and giving her weird looks. To Naru’s surprise, Hana doesn’t give a shit what other people think. She’s loved yosakoi ever since she first visited Japan, saw it, and dreamt of being a part of it. Now that she lives here, she’s giving that dream it her all.

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Hana makes Naru remember her own neglected dreams, and she respects the hell out of Hana’s passion and devotion. Hana also looks really awesome while she’s dancing, so there’s that. And so, she signs on as a tentative “helper” for the club, still not committing to actually dressing up and dancing. Of course, now that she’s in Hana’s clutches there’s no going back, and she won’t be the only one to join, as the OP indicates.

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This episode was very pretty and its characters exceedingly cute. Neither Naru or Hana are too irritating, going right up to the line at times but never crossing it. The focus on yosakoi screams CULTURE and appeals to us in the same way as Chihayafuru’s devotion to karuta another offbeat cultural phenomenon that has evolved with the times. Yosakoi looks to be the vehicle for Naru’s metamorphosis from banal caterpillar to dazzling butterfly.

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Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.