Hanayamata – 12 (Fin)

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In a word, Hanayamata’s finale rocked. The Hanairo Festival was strongly built up throughout the show, and when it came time to finally deliver, it didn’t disappoint. We finally see the end product of Naru meeting Hana, deciding to expand her world, and ends up shining just like the fairy tale heroines she adored as a kid.

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It’s not Naru who realizes she’s shining, but her friends, when Machi messes up in their pre-festival practice and Naru has a series of embarrassing but heartfelt monologues. It’s okay if they’re not the best Yosakoi there, as long as everyone gives it their all and has fun. After all, Hana will be dancing with them within their hearts.

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…And, as it turns out, in person, as well! That’s right, Hana isn’t out of Japan long; when the others stop by to give their completed CD to her Dad, the opportunity finally arises for Hana to tell her parents what she really wants. I can understand why she didn’t say anything—she didn’t want to inconvenience her folks whom she loves so dearly.

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It’s great then than Naru, by delivering that CD, unwittingly sets things into motion that eventually leads to Hana’s return, right in the middle of the rest of the club’s performance. I could nitpick about the likelihood of Hana being able to run that much and then dance in perfect harmony with the others right after a transpacific flight—but I don’t really care how that happened, I’m just glad it did.

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I loved the tension that built as the time to take the stage grew nearer, and my heart sunk when I saw how much traffic Hana and her dad were sitting in. But when it became clear Hana’s intention was to suit up and join them on the stage, that heightened the tension even more. And kudos to Hana’s valiant police escort!

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Their performance, which includes and expands upon both the OP theme and dancing animation therein. With the fireworks “blooming” behind them, the initially skeptical (and somewhat pitying) crowd gradually buys in as they realize these girls are giving it their all and kicking ass up there. Hana’s inclusion couldn’t have been better timed, and the elation and pride felt by the club members as the dance marks an emotional high point for the show.

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What’s also great is that the crowd watching them consists of everyone’s loved ones, most of whom had little to no knowledge of their daughters’ “activities.” That includes Naru’s parents (her dad cries with joy at the sight of her), Tami’s dad (who cracks a grin), Hana’s Dad (shooting Mom pictures with his phone of Hana as happy as they’ve ever seen her), and, surprisingly, Yaya’s former band mates, there to support her. The day goes so well, even Sari and Sea Monk end up hiting it off.

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With their first major performance a great success and Hana deciding to be selfish and stay in Japan with her friends, Machi immediately starts planning for their next gig: their school’s cultural festival. The club and the friendships that have been forged in these twelve episodes seems destined not only to endure for some time, but inspire more to join them. I took a chance on a show about five girls dancing, and I don’t regret it!

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Hanayamata – 11

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In the end, the dream of the five-girl yosakoi club with Hana N. Fontainestand at it’s core performing at Hanairo wasn’t undone by poor planning, or infighting, or stage fright, but a simple but devastating case of horrendous timing on the part of Hana’s mom, who has come to take Hana with her back to the states so they can be a family again. Mind you, that’s another dream of Hana’s, one she’d had before she even met Naru and the others, and strong enough that it wins out.

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For the record, I can’t fault Hana for her choice, but I can fault her mom; it simply isn’t fair to abandon your kid due to work, then change your mind just when she’s already found a new form of happiness with her friends in the yosakoi club. Her mom assumes the only thing in the world that matter to Hana is being together with her mom and dad. It’s a classic case of a parent who simply isn’t there a lot assuming time has stood still in her absence, when that’s far from the case.

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That doesn’t mean Hana is totally absolved of all blame for her predicament, since she never breathes a word about her friends, the club, or how important the festival means to her to her folks. She simply goes along with the plans that are made for her without speaking up until it’s far too late, when she shows up at Naru’s window regretting not saying anything. Perhaps she was worried she’d come off as ungrateful of her mom returning, and that that might even lead to her mom leaving again.

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Both are understandable emotions for a child who yearns for her family to be whole again. Even if she’s hardly been there; even if she chose her job before her family once before, her mom is still her mom. I just wish she’d said something, anything; she may have been able to delay things at least so that she could participate in the festival, and it’s disappointing that she didn’t even try.

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But hey, that’s life, and in the end, she sticks with her choice and is indeed out of there. After leaving a tear-jerking letter for her friends, Yaya (ever the tsundere) leads them on a desperate rush to Narita to see her off, and they’re just able to give her a proper farewell.

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Thus, even with everything almost to the point as we’ve seen it each week in the OP (they wrote and recorded the lyrics), Hanayamata will be missing their integral “Ha”, the one who brought everyone else together, on the eve of their biggest triumph.

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Hanayamata – 10

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Hanayamata wastes no time this week installing Machi as the fifth and final member of the yosakoi club, but she’s not here on a whim: she thought their performance at the department store was woeful, and she’s going to whip them into shape, come hell or high water. But first, with just three weeks left until Hanairo, they must now adjust their choreography and music for five.

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Tami, she of ample means, suggests a training camp at a traditional hot spring inn where her family always has a room reserved, and Machi insists they’ll practice the entire time they’re there. That’s wishful thinking, as the other four members end up pulling all-nighters in order to get their work done, which leaves them somewhat lacking in energy, a problem compounded when they must practice outside in the heat.

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Machi’s bossy, tell-it-as-it-is nature also clashes with Yaya, particularly when she finds out they blew registration deadline for Hanairo, which, I must admit, is pretty bad: if you’re going to work so hard towards such a big event, at least make sure you’ll be in it! Festival or no, Machi is determined to catch up with the others, and practices a lot alone.

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When Sari spots her sister doing this, she lets the others know; moved by Machi’s devotion, they join her in practicing, which then attracts and delights all of the other inn guests. It’s a fun, triumphant moment for the club, as the fates allowed them to perform in front of an interested crowd after all, despite blowing the Hanairo deadline. Machi even cracks a smile.

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Even that turns out to be a false alarm, as we suspected from the start, but for a different reason. We though Sari had already registered and remained quiet after Machi’s discovery in order to motivate the others. Turns out she’s not quite that underhanded. Instead, she contacts the yosakoi store-owner Oofuna Masaru (whom she knows likes her) and asks him if there’s anything he can do.

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He can, and thanks to another group dropping out, Team Hanayamata is officially back in, and new badge design comes to Naru, incorporating five flowers that represent the girls. Everything is looking good, but with Hana’s mother suddenly arriving at Japan, it looks like it’ll be Hana’s turn to have a character episode, much like Naru, Yaya, Machi, and Tami have had before.

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