HaNaYaMaTa is an anime I picked up on a whim. Let’s face it, the description on Crunchyroll is not, shall we say, interesting… but what we have here is a high school slice of life anime focused around a group of girls – Naru, Hana, Tami, Yaya, and Machi – who have, for one reason or another, joined a Yosakoi club. For those unaware, Yosakoi is an energetic Japanese costumed dance where troupes create their own choreography, outfits, props, and in some cases music and dance them in front of audiences at various events, including dedicated Yosakoi festivals.
As someone who has always suffered from some pretty extreme shyness, I can really relate to Naru. As strange as it may seem, it’s an incredibly hard feeling knowing that you want to do something but you’re just too afraid of the consequences of doing so – not because you think you’ll be punished, but rather because you fear what others may think… so even from the start of this show it hit home with me. Having a main character that is so relatable and, well, normal grounds the story so well.
From that grounded place, the show proceeds to not only provide us with a coming of age story for these five girls and their advisor Sally, but also to teach one of the most important lessons that I think any child can learn… you see, after watching Hana’s repeated failed attempts to get her dream off the ground, Naru asks her why she keeps doing it when everyone is looking at her strangely. Hana’s reply is simply that she doesn’t mind, that as long as she’s working towards her dreams she’s happy… it’s such a simple sentence, but it is also such an incredible message.
What made this show so incredibly special though was watching these girls not only come together as friends, but also watching them mature. Each of them has their own burdens to overcome, unique to them, but reminiscent of the problems of the others in small ways. Watching as they not only come to terms with themselves but also overcome their own personal roadblocks… let’s just say it has some of the best character development I’ve ever seen. You get to see these girls not only build a club from nothing, but also grow and blossom over the course of this short 12 episode series. It’s fascinating watching their club develop and begin to develop its own routine: costumes, music, choreography – the whole works.
I could talk about these characters forever. Naru’s adorable shyness with occasional moments of poetic brilliance, Hana’s exuberance and almost infectious playfulness, Machi’s determination and drive to be perfect, and even Yaya’s reluctance and tsundere act… they’re all fantastic. The show simply wouldn’t work without all five, and they’re all so well-developed, they all show such growth it’s just incredible. But just as important are the side characters. You get to see some of the girls’ parents – Naru’s dad in particular is awesome – and the Yosakoi shop owner. He resembles a Japanese gangster (Hana even comments on this when they first meet him) but he has a heart of gold, and a bit of a thing for their advisor.
The presentation in this show is amazing. Their use of colour and imagery is great, and will have you smiling at times and in tears at others… and the music…. what can I say about the music? Hana wa Odore ya Irohaniho, the opening theme, has fast become one of my favourite pieces of music. The ending is pretty as well, and the fact that they had the cast perform all of the show’s music does a great job of making the entire thing cohesive. Nothing will break your attachment to this show over its entirety, and that attachment was paramount to my enjoyment of this show.
It’s hard for me to stop here, but I think going any further will be saying too much… but suffice it to say this show has hit me like no other show this year has, and it is taking a place not only among my favourites of this year, but of all time. The character development is so incredible, the music is amazing, the dance itself is fantastic… and just, everything. It is such a well made show, I can’t really find fault with anything except the fact that there isn’t another season coming anytime soon, if ever.