「ハナノウタ 3」 (Hana no Uta 3)
“Song of Flowers 3”
As finales go, there’s little else safer for Yozakura Quartet than having another throw down between Enjin and Akina. However you slice it, any moment where fox ears has had a major starring role is typically where the story is at its most engaging, so why break away from the winning formula? Almost 2/3s of the episode devotes itself to reiterating this point, and it irks me is that this notion holds true without fail. I don’t want to come off dismissive of the ending first of all, because this was probably one of the best out of Hana no Uta’s crop. That said, I’m not particularly appreciative of the way the focus was basically stole much of the thunder from the dramatic storyline about the Juri/Lila siblings, even if it had already been all-around weak before Enjin stepped into the picture, and it doesn’t quite sit as right with me to see the story falling back on its infallible crutch.
Still, it’s hard to actually throw up any complains when we actually get around to these segments of Enjin brushing up against the Sakura town brigade. Enjin is always erratic in behavior, always unpredictable in action, and it’s extremely fun to watch him pull the good guys, specifically Akina, by the nose. And I’d say again that there’s little else safer for Hana no Uta to end on other than the Enjin/Akina Hiizumi angle. Archetypical shounen matchuppering aside, I suppose they are symbolic of pretty much every major plotline within the ongoing narrative after all, and the crux of a significant amount of drama –the legacy of the Hiizumis, the mystery of the alternate dimension, the fate of Ao’s brother. All of that lies here, and the connections in the plot only grows stronger with the final few twists that Hana no Uta offers up. The Hiizumi’s abilities are revealed to be two-pronged: to tune and to summon, with Enjin’s striking ability being the dark equivalent to Akina’s tuning. Classic duality plays strongly here as we’re carried through another one of Ryochimo’s incredible action sequence of the climactic battle between the users of these two powers.
The narrative grows even more hectic with the entrance of the surprisingly badass vice-principal (the Elders just seem to effortlessly dominate any moment they are given). The estorism power of the elders are similar based on the Hiizumis, and Enjin’s possession of minor tuning abilities leads to the logical conclusion of Akina being able to perform the same feat with striking.
The huge amount of exposition in the episode was to be expected; we’re only partway into the story after all, and it’s obvious this finale was more a pit stop for the story than a fitting climax. I think I’ve made it plenty clear before that I’m not particular fond of these “story goes on” conclusions, but in this case, I’m more inclined to forgive it given that there is going to be more story- the Tsuki no Naku ONAs that pick up almost immediately after the conclusion of Hana no Uta. I’m eager to see the continuation narrative, especially if there’s going to be more development of Akina’s experiences following the glimpse of the alternate dimension forced onto him by Enjin; Akina’s world has been shaken-up quite thoroughly by the end of Hana no Uta, and there’s bound to be interesting results in his adamant perspective on the Hiizumi powers.
The rest of the episode is pretty much your standard midpoint closing fare. The sisters relationship has be salvaged with Lila now helping out as Juri’s assistant, and Hime –ever the attention seeker- gets the last bits of spotlight with a sweet reciprocal moment of Akina holding her hand; yea, I agree we’ve been around this Hime-shtick way too many times this season already, but its also the utter expressiveness of these moments that I’m reminded why this series have been so charming to watch. And it sort of comes full circle with the start of the series, even though there’s nothing particularly resolute about the ending: it closed off with the characters going out to partake in another one of Sakura Town’s festivities, But there is that single funny shot of Enjin indulging in festival goodies on his lonesome. Still, I can’t say I didn’t expect for Yozakura Quartet to go out in any other way; not with a bang or a whimper, but with the book still wide open.
It ain’t poetry, but in the end Yozakura Quartet still delights with its indelible charm. Objective criticism seem to fly in the face of this series when that irresistible something-or-other kept me coming back week after week. Yasuda-sensei’s manga is quite simply one of the oddest pieces of work I’ve come across; as we’ve seen from the key plot arcs of the season, the story splutters somewhat as it tries for the dramatic, and it doesn’t always succeed in building an engaging narrative. Yet I’m continuously charmed by this bizarre narrative that is equal parts silly slice-of-life as well as fantasy action, built upon a curiously laid-back atmosphere and the almost retro-esque irreverence in the narrative’s tone. The quirky characters interactions and dynamics were almost a natural result from these, and was definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of the story; even if the balance in Hana no Uta seems skewed towards the Hime-love, for the most part the chemistry between the major members is well-established, and regardless of the character mix they’re always playing off each other in really fun ways.
And having seen his work twice now, I can scarcely imagine anyone other than Director Ryochimo to bring to life this oddball of a manga. I don’t think its hyperbole to say that he was practically the reason why Hana no UtaHoshi no Umi OVAs before that- are as compellingly executed as they are. Ryochimo brings to the table a kinectic style of cinematography that you’d be hard-pressed to find among his directorial peers. The animation here is quite simply some of the most unique you’d find in the business, with its incredible focus on fluidity and natural movements, while using a lot of peculiar sequences of animation and camerawork to bring these qualities out as much as possible. With the material he’s handed in Yozakura Quartet, the frenetic Ryochimo seems to perfectly capture the very quirky energy in the series with his exaggerated maneuverers and constant expressiveness. The result is always a delight to watch, and I’d especially like to recall the incredible “FUCK YEA” segments of pure action that he consistently delivered throughout the season. It almost seemed like there was never dull moment passing by without Ryochimo adding some bit of flair to it; his signature on this series is unmistakeable, as it was when he worked on Noein and Birdy Decode. I only wish there were more directors of his ilk, as unafraid to let loose as he has.
Sure, Yozakura Quartet might be a bit light in the head from time to time, and sure, there are times the bare-bones narrative is covered with little more than theatrics and presentation, but there’s charm to this series in its the inspiring cinematography, its kooky atmospherics and the extremely likable cast of characters. Hana no Uta is nowhere near greatness (you’d still need a consistently strong narrative for that) it’s a damn good bit of fun, and a great example of how strong execution is able to make up for where a series falls short,
Well, this looks to be my last post in awhile as I go on my indefinite hiatus. Between post grad work and job hunting, real life has gotten so onerous that I can no longer devote the time or energy to blogging reliably, and it looks to stay that way for the next few months. I’ll be taking more of a backstage role here on, but I do intend to cover the Tsuki no Naku ovas at some point. For the readers who’ve stuck with the post, I can’t thank you enough for the support you’ve shown, and I hope you can continue supporting the site with the same enthusiasm you’ve all shown.