HaNaYaMaTa is an anime series that features a 14-year-old girl named Naru Sekiya as the main character. She likes fairy tales and is worried about her lack of other interests. Her worries are compounded by the fact that her friend, Yaya, is so talented. One day, Naru encounters a blond-haired girl named Hana, who is dancing yosakoi. Hana transfers into Naru and Yaya’s class, and she keeps pestering Naru to dance yosakoi until she finally relents. After some effort, Hana is finally able to establish a Yosakoi Club at school that includes Hana, Naru, and two friends of Naru’s (Tami and Yaya, though Yaya says she’s a member in name only).
Now that the Yosakoi Club is official, they’ve got to start planning and making various decisions, such as deciding on a logo, what music to dance to, their costumes, and their choreography. They decide on a logo after a couple of attempts to come up with one, and Tami takes it upon herself to work on the music. But Hana surprises everyone by saying she wants to get permission for the club to perform at the Tochu Department Store’s 20th Anniversary Festival. I found myself wondering if this was such a good idea. Sure, it may be a month off, but at this point, the group really didn’t seem to be ready for a public performance. While I understood that Hana wanted them to have some practice performing before a crowd before the Hanairo Fesitval, they just didn’t seem ready to me at this point. If they’d at least had some choreography worked on at that point or had some work done in the other areas of planning, I wouldn’t have questioned it quite so much.
When they ask their advisor to let them participate, she says no at first because there’s more involved with participating in an event than there is simply watching something. Also, they have exams coming up. After Naru begs a little, Sally says they can do it on two conditions: they have to finish their dance and show it to her, and they each need an average of 80 on their exams. As we see later, Sally thought that more than one of them would fail to reach that 80 average, so that would dash their hopes of participating. But when Hana is the only one who fails to reach that average, Sally’s not sure how to proceed. I understand that Sally is just a sub for a teacher on maternity leave and really didn’t want to be saddled with the Yosakoi Club in the first place, but I’m not convinced that her little stunt with the exam grades was the best way to go about trying to shoot them down. Obviously, the story had to be done the way it was in order for what happens later in the episode to work, but this probably wasn’t the best way to handle it if this situation came up in real life.
I have to say something about the girls’ exams scores, since they were shown on screen. Specifically, Hana’s scores caught my attention. I could understand that she only got 48% in Japanese, since it’s not her native language… but a 61% in English? For a girl who claims to come from New Jersey and has been portrayed as being American, her English grade was pathetic. If she has that much trouble with her native language, it’s no wonder she failed Japanese!
Even though Sally doesn’t change her mind, Hana still shows the others some choreography she sketched into a notebook during exams. Hana also decides that she needs to work her hardest, and begs Sally to help her with her Japanese. One day, she accidentally hands Sally both her Japanese notebook and her notebook with the choreography in it. When Sally sees the other notebook, she becomes a bit more contemplative. However, what ultimately changes her mind is seeing Hana and the others doing part of their dance in the classroom after some girls see Yaya with a naruko and start asking questions. After watching the impromptu performance, Sally gives the girls her blessing for the event at the department store. What was interesting to see in this scene was the fact that while Yaya said she would only use the naruko and not actually dance, she actually seemed to be enjoying herself.
Yaya also had her own story in this episode with her band and their audition that’s been referenced in previous episodes. The audition finally took place in this episode, and the band learns right at the end that they didn’t qualify. The members of the band are obviously disappointed and frustrated, and this could have the potential to create a change in Yaya’s character. Will the band decide to stay together after this disappointment? If they don’t, this could free up Yaya to start putting more of herself into the Yosakoi Club instead of simply being a member in name only. There’s several directions that this development could take Yaya’s character in, and the possibilities associated with each direction could potentially take the story in an interesting and/or very different direction. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens, I guess.
During this episode, there was a running gag about Naru’s father not understanding what’s going on with her, since she hasn’t said anything about learning yosakoi. He’s under the assumption that she has a boyfriend, due to her staying out later than usual, texting on her phone more, and seeming to be happy all the time. I was afraid the father’s misunderstanding would end up being a running gag throughout the whole episode and would wear out its welcome, but I was happy and grateful to see that it only showed up in two scenes early on in the episode.
When I was watching the opening this week, it struck me that Machi, the student council president, shows up in some of the footage of the girls dancing yosakoi, yet she hasn’t become a member of the club and she hasn’t been approached to join. Between the footage and the fact that the show’s title, HaNaYaMaTa, includes the first two letters of the fives girls’ names, it seems like she should be joining the club. If MyAnimeList is right and there’s only 12 episodes, then this episode marks the halfway point. Will Machi end up joining the group, since there seem to be several hints that she should be? If so, how much longer until she does?
I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. Even though this is a show that features cute girls who do some cute things, it hasn’t fallen into the trap that many shows with cute girls doing cute things fall into: focusing so much on the cuteness that little to nothing happens in each episode. HaNaYaMaTa has a plot that keeps the story moving, and the portrayal of the characters endears them to the audience since they’re actually characters and not simply character types. I appreciate HaNaYaMaTa for proving to me that a show with cute girls can actually have substance to it and be enjoyable to watch week after week.
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