Hanayamata – 05

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Hana and Naru stage an ambush on Yaya and get her to sign up for the Yosakoi Club, which along with Tami gives them not only the requisite four members to form the club, but also to enter the Hanairo Festival. Yaya only has designs on being a member in name only, but that stance weakens as the episode progresses.

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Hana takes the two new members to the Yosakoi shop for their narukos, then head to Yaya’s family’s restaurant for food. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s a really big deal for Tami, who’s never not gone straight home after school to hang out with friends. She even learns from her dad (suggesting maybe he’s not so bad after all) about another festival they can go see for inspiration.

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The first official Yosakoi Club trip thus arranged, they board a train and head into the city, along with their faculty adviser, Sari (or Sally, depending on the translation). Sari and Yaya give off distinct “what am I doing here” apathetic vibes on the outset. Tami tells Yaya how Naru convinced her it’s better to be with friends doing what she loves than being alone and maintaining a “good girl” facade.

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Yaya starts to get where Tami and the others are coming from and is impressed by Naru’s ability to inspire others. Naru impresses Hana too when the atmosphere of the place leads to an embarrassing but heartfelt monologue about what Yosakoi is all about: moving hearts by moving bodies; stoking happiness and fun by having it themselves.

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Unfortunately, we see precious little actual yosakoi dancing; a lot less than I expected considering all the build-up. That was enough to make this the first ep not worthy of an 8 in our books. Still once the club gets a look at another group their same age—one also started with just four members—that’s when Naru and the others really start to believe that yes, they, can do this.

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Hanayamata – 04

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Hannah has Zankyou no Terror (all nines thru three) and Preston has Akame ga Kill (all eights thru four), but it looks like Hanayamata is my rock—the show that has consistently performed a a high level in the first third of its run. That’s especially surprising considering the group we see dancing in the OP is still barely three-fifths complete as of this week’s episode.

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This week the focus shifts to Nishimikado Tami, somebody who is both Naru’s “big-sis” figure and the perfect princess from her fantasy tales, made flesh. Not surprisingly, Tami doesn’t have quite that high an opinion of herself, as she has always worked tirelessly to earn her rich, busy father’s praise and esteem, but not always gotten it.

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All that work includes delving into fields like tea, flower arranging, and piano, all of which are skills a proper Japanese lady supposedly needs to excel in, but in which she has less personal interest than say, ballet, which she had to quit to make time for the other things. Her friend (and the student council president) Machi is worried Tami is still stuck in “little girl” mode, placing far too much emphasis on pleasing Daddy, while neglecting her own passions and goals.

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Machi doesn’t dabble in any of the extracurriculars Tami does, as she’s putting much of her focus into attaining academic rather than cultural excellence. Then again, Machi doesn’t come from an old, rich, powerful family. Tami was raised to believe the Nishimikado name is something that must be lived up to. But at the end of the day, a life-sized doll in a kimono could accomplish the same task; that of being ignored when her father comes home.

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On the other hand, Naru declares “It has to be you,” meaning a doll won’t cut it. It may, but the complex is strong with Tami, and only the slightest hint of discouragement from her father is enough for her to reject Hana’s invitation to join the yosakoi club. It’s a reflex at this point in her life, but one that is almost immediately challenged by a lasting gloom and stinging in the chest that isn’t relieved until she crosses paths with Naru again.

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Having been given the little push she needed to move forward and try something new by Hana, it falls on Naru to do the pushing here, after recognizing the pain she’s in. Tami, in turn, comes around to the idea that she can’t go on deferring her happiness for daddy’s benefit. When she declares her intention to take up yosakoi, I’m certain her dad won’t be pleased, but that’s not her damn problem.

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Stray Observations:

  • Hana believes it’s the duty of every self-respecting Japanese student to eat their lunch on the school roof. I agree.
  • Tami shows off her ninja skillz as she sneaks up on Naru and Hana not once but twice.
  • She’s also still quite good at ballet, despite being out of practice.
  • Eating out and staying out late: mortal sins to Tamihime.
  • I kinda like the fact that I still have no frikkin’ clue how Machi is going to be brought into the fold.
  • MAL’s score of Hanayamata (7.19 as of this writing) feels really low to me. Not sure what they don’t like about it. (Too moe? What does moe even mean?)

Hanayamata – 03

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As is the case with Ao Haru Ride, we’ve still got a ways to go before the core group is “getting on like a house on fire,” but all the pieces are there after this week. The Ha and the Na are locked in, but to be an official club they need at least two more members. That leaves Ya, Ma, and Ta, all of whom make apperences, but none of whom seem to be in a hurry to join. But they will of course; it’s in the OP. It’s not a matter of if, but how and when.

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First up: Yaya. At the beginning of the episode she considers Hana a dangerous, annoying rival; gobbling up precious time Naru could be spending with her. Her position doesn’t necessarily change by the end of the episode, but after hanging out with Hana for a day (when Hana appears passed out in front of her family’s ramen shop), Yaya finally understands Hana’s appeal. She may be a small, clingy dunce, but she’s so open and positive you can’t help feel happy around her.

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Yaya has to admit there’s something to her, as they have so much fun they accidentally ditch Naru, who Yaya was meant to meat for the movies. Of the three girls left to recruit, Yaya is the closest to coming aboard. Not only is she well on her way to becoming friends with Hana the Ball of Positive Energy, but Hana moves her with the notion that its best to spend what little time we have on this world doing things we like with people we like. Things like yosakoi.

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The other two potentials remain on the periphery. The bespectacled student council president, Tokiwa Machi (Nuakura Manami)’s only interactions with Hana and Naru are scolding them for illegal club marketing, but ironically she becomes the catalyst for them taking this more seriously. Well, that and gathering the courage to get past the suspicious shop manager and learning about an upcoming show.

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The stern, standoffish Machi looks like the toughest nut to crack, but she seems to be acquainted with Nishimikado Tami, a longtime family friend of Naru’s, so maybe Tami will help out with her. Machi also seems like the one least likely to get into yosakoi, but I won’t judge a book from its cover. Members, adviser, costumes, gear, music, routine…there’s a lot to do, but Naru and Hana just have to take it one step at a time.

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Stray Observations:

  • The James Bond-style cold open was pretty damned cute.
  • I now know how to properly strike a naruko…that being said, I’d be handling a flag.
  • I loved Hana’s observations of Japanese culture: the perfect woman; pop songs with random English words; tiny portions of food…
  • Yana dresses Hana in her little brother’s clothes. Hana pulls it off.
  • I liked how Naru milked her outrage at being ditched for all it was worth, and Yana accedes.

 

Hanayamata – 02

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As Hana continues to immerse Naru face-first into the dazzling world of yosakoi, she is also spending an awful lot of time with her, which irks Yaya. We met Yaya last week as the smart, talented beauty whom Naru looks up to and who ultimately is the source of Naru’s desire to better herself. But this week we see a new side of her: the jealous, tsundere side.

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Yaya and Naru go way back, and became friends because they walked the same way home from school. While on those many walks, Yaya would always brag or whine, and Naru would always listen, take her side, and back her up enthusiastically. Naru says again and again that she wants nothing more than for Yaya to approve of her decision to get into yosakoi, but at first, Yaya can’t; because it exposes something in her.

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That is that for all her popularity and skills and looks, she’s miserable if Naru isn’t around to take her side or if Naru isn’t around for her to protect. The two may be very different people, but they’re alike in the only way that matters for them to be friends: they’ve both come to depend on one another. Yaya knew all along that Naru wanted to improve herself, but couldn’t approve at first because she feared losing the special bond they’d both become accustomed to.

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Yaya’s desire to hold on to the comforting status quo mirror’s Naru’s hesitation to join Hana, whom Naru (and we) learn isn’t as strong or fearless as she thought, but still finds the courage to do what she does. It took Yaya’s outburst at Naru for her to realize that a true friend doesn’t pretend her friend doesn’t want to change, simply because it might inconvenience her. Instead, she vows to support her, and they make up.

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I really like what this episode did with Yaya, taking her of the pedestal she was atop last week and painting her friendship with Naru as much more reciprocal. We also see Naru dancing yosakoi for the first time, then in front of her audience (of one; Yaya), showcasing the animators’ deftness with body motions. Her performance is rough, but there are glimmers of greatness, harking back to when she swings the naruko Hana gives her for the first time and it makes a crisp, clear clack…the clack of destiny.

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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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Car Cameos: