Episode 10

Episode 11

Episode 12

「オンセン・ガッシュク/スマイル・イズ・フラワー/ハナヤマタ」 (Onsen Gasshuku/Sumairu Izu Furawaa/Hanayamata)
“Hot Spring Camp/Smile is Flower/Hanayamata”

This was long coming, but now it’s time to finally give the final verdict on this series. Instead of talking about the last three episodes individually, this post will focus on the main themes of the show, both good and bad, particularly taking specific examples from the final arc. It’s been an interesting dance with the series, but here we have to make our stop and judge how that ride has been.

Right off the bat, I’d like to start off with the show’s best storytelling quality: the growth of its characters and the steadiness of that change. Over the course of twelve episodes, we have seen a significant amount of character growth from all five of the main characters, even from our late participant, Machi. Though each character has had their own ‘development arc’ to face their inner struggles, each character has exhibited growth outside of their respective arcs, often growing together than growing in turn.

Take for instance Naru, the best example in this scenario. Although her main development arc takes place in episode one, her personal growth never halts throughout the series. Looking at episode one Naru, we see a largely unconfident girl, trapped between sadness from mediocrity and fear of the spotlight. We see a girl who can’t dance for her life, yet desires to be swept off her feet in fairytale fashion. Move forward to episode twelve, and it’s quite surprising to see just how much Naru has changed. She’s managed to inspire her peers, form friendships and a club that’ll last beyond their schooling, and some sick yosakoi moves that episode one Hana could never imagine doing. Despite how stark the contrast is, the transition was actually very natural. Every episode, we saw Naru slowly improving herself, whether in her dance moves or in her fervor to do more for the club and its fellow members. While the focus was on other characters, Naru continued to work during those in-between scenes, making her growth part of a grander narrative than her own isolated situation. These changes were never big–even mid-way, Naru was still stumbling around clumsily–but rather small steps that made the entire show feel…natural in its progression. Rather than seeing these drastic shifts in character, there instead was this elegant transition that all the characters passed through, to the point where its almost hard to notice any significant change from episode to episode. Yet suddenly, we’re here at episode twelve, with five girls dancing in synchronization to the OP, which has been the rallying call for the dance ever since episode one.

On a related note, with the growth of all our characters came the ultimate theme of the show, which is the concept of “blooming” and displaying one’s best qualities for the world to see. Although this does tie in with character growth, the show explicitly ties in the symbolism of flowers to represent the untapped potential that each character unlocks throughout the show. Each contributed an important piece to forming the final yosakoi dance, however, before doing so, each character had to feel free to ‘bloom’, to free themselves from the self-imposed fears and worries that held back their potential. I won’t list them all here for sake of brevity, but never was there a time that the characters were actively being held back by other characters. The show’s conflict does not come from interpersonal conflicts, but rather self-conflict. Thus, the blooming analogy makes sense–though everyone was there to support one another, the decision to finally come out and show their true colors came from within. Naru recognized this poetic symbolism and capitalized on it, adding a nice touch to each character. It’s not particularly deep symbolism, but it is a nice visual touch to see how the end result has come about.

For all of its heartwarming moments, there was never an episode without some sort of drama rummaging about. Although the issues that the girls faced were definitely legitimate–sister complexes, jealousy, loneliness, fear of judgment, self-affirmation–the melodramatic baggage that came with those issues could be tiring and predictable. For instance, take the instance when the yosakoi club forget to register for the festival and missed the mark. For that event to be used only for Machi’s “I’m a hard worker” message seemed largely unnecessary and cut into what could’ve been a nice wholesome episode where the girls bond without worry. I mean, it was nice to see them stay together despite the apparent cancellation, but the whole thing felt a bit off and tacked on. This definitely wasn’t the only isolated instance, as I mentioned in previous episodes that Yaya’s drama felt a bit too forced for drama’s sake. It seems that the show was trying to strike this balance between cuteness and emotional drama, but really, the show would’ve done a much better job going more towards the ‘healing show’ type of approach, in my opinion. I congratulate the show for attempting to create some emotional depth during the drama, and sometimes it works very well (see Naru’s prince-like attitudes when encouraging Tami), but those moments should’ve been concentrated and spread out more often than spread thin. The time to digest one character’s troubles simply wasn’t there.

In terms of the production side, what’s most disappointing is perhaps the sheer lack of actual yosakoi animation, as well as the amount of recycled yosakoi animation. For a show that advertises itself on focusing on this new dance, it sure doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on that dance, save for a few moments in the show. Heck, if not for the heartwarming ending, I would’ve thought the ending to be lackluster due to the lack of a ‘grand finale’ in animating our five. This is more a problem in comparisons and expectations, since Madhouse had just come out with No Game No Life last season. Compared to that, this show felt like a side project that was meant to fill in the blanks between major productions.

Don’t get me wrong, the animation itself was pretty good. Though there were some non-key animations and drawings that were weird to look at, the general composition of the characters kept itself well-formed throughout the series, without a major dip in production. The comedic exaggerations were done well given the apparent budget, and the color palette used for the show is something I really appreciate looking back. In fact, it is perhaps the colors that gave the show a major facelift in its presentation, which I congratulate the animators on nailing well. However, where the animation was needed most–yosakoi–was often delegated to still images (that weren’t that great either) or short clips that obviously were trying to hide the lack of budget and manpower. It wasn’t something as bad as Magi’s Morgiana dance, but we were expecting more. Perhaps the reasoning behind this was to distribute production evenly throughout the show, but without that cincher that would really make the dances shine, the show becomes a bit more forgettable because of it.

This finally takes us to a conclusion…was Hanayamata good and/or worth it? I’d say…yes, if not for the expectations I had placed on the series beforehand. For those of you who remembered my preview for the series before much information was released, I was completely hyped up for this show. Both Madhouse and Ishizuka Atsuko had come off fresh from No Game No Life to work on this, which could only mean good things. I admire Ishizuka as a director, so I had hoped she would work her magic on this show just as she did for her previous work, with the full backing of Madhouse to support her vision. However, that would not be the case, as the story of Hanayamata is only good, but not great , and definitely not great enough to generate a huge amount of hype like No Game no Life. On its own, Hanayamata is a good show, yet perhaps not a memorable one. In comparison with its fellow Madhouse brothers, it isn’t a show that will be in many people’s minds once a season or two passes by.

In reflection though, perhaps Ishizuka has done more for this series than any other director could’ve done. I do admit that her tendency towards drama may have been a bit off-putting for this series, but in terms of character balancing, pacing, and general direction, the show is pretty solid in that regard. Hopefully she finds herself in some better produced shows, since her talent is wasted on more casual shows like this–her skills are better aimed towards the truly dramatic and action-packed than one about dancing.

In conclusion, Hanayamata ended well and provided what it set out to do. It gave us some yosakoi, but mainly cute girls. It accomplished great strides in character development and pacing, but failed in certain regards to drama and animation. It also turns out that Hana isn’t an alien or magical being after all, but rather just a really strong high schooler who can leap really high. Let it be known for the record that I totally messed up on that prediction. Dear reader, thank you for following this series to the end, it was an interesting experience to cover both LOVE STAGE!!, a BL-type show and its complete polar opposite, Hanayamata, simultaneously. In the end, both of them gave me much to smile for towards the end, mainly for maintaining balance between their characters and consistent development of the main cast.

However, as most of you may know already, this is the last show that I will be covering for until Spring 2015. I must go on a sabbatical away from blogging, simply because I do not have the time commitments to dedicate to blogging as of right now. It was completely unexpected work, but in situations like this, it’s best to cleanly handle the problem. This triple post is evidence of my current inability and I’m seriously sorry for postponing it so late. As of now, I’m unfit to give you guys timely coverage on a weekly basis, since I severely underestimated my workload in college this semester, and as such I have to say goodbye for now, at least for my blogging duties. I’ll still be helping to maintain the podcast and participate in them every now and then, but I will not have any time beyond that to contribute to the site, at least until I have my priorities and job security resolved.

I thank all my readers for supporting me these past two and a half years, both through the good and the seriously bad. I’ve made a lot of mistakes during my blogging career, some more excusable than others, but I really have to thank you guys for always being understanding and most of all forgiving of my situations. Episodic blogging is pretty tough stuff, so it always helped out when you guys publicly voiced your support in emails or in the comment section. Much like how Hana has to fly out to take care of some situations, I have to depart from a position here I love doing in order to focus on other passions in my life (like not failing). However, like Hana, I will hopefully return, with a renewed vigor (and time allocation) for blogging, so that I can keep the conversation of less popular anime on the table.

Again, thank you dear readers, I simply can’t thank you guys enough. I hope to see you guys again soon! ^_^

End Card


  1. What is this ungodly feel I have?

    Cute (moeblobs) girls doing cute things – check
    Tsundere (bitch) seito kaichou who is against the main characters group but ends up joining them after all (Love Live!) – check
    Predictable finale where one of the characters cannot make the festival all of the sudden but ends up showing up after all (Love Live! again!) – check

    And yet… I care for none of them. Because this series, and this finale especially, was one of the SWEETEST things I’ve seen all year! This fuzzy feeling I got when the final episode started, even though I knew how it would end up playing. The moment when Hana started running amidst the crowd while changing to her outfit and then jumped on the stage and seamlessly joined the choreography, all while listening to Hana wa Odoreya Iroha ni Ho. It was a moment of perfection. Naru dancing confidently, Sally-chan sensei going bananas on top of Sea Monk like it was a concert of her favorite rock band. It was everything we pretty much knew it would be, and yet it was so perfect.

    It was a finale where I stood up and clapped in excitement when their yosakoi dance was over, smile all over my face. And I am totally unashamed that some cute anime girls managed to elicit such a response from me. Thank you Madhouse for managing to create all those sweet feelings and emotions with such a good adaption of such a simple series as Hanayamata!

  2. call me a pervert but, when i started this i was expecting some boner! LOLOLOL!

    well, the story is somewhat cliche but it was done in good way. hanayamata has kept me entertained every week.

  3. I enjoyed this show a lot and I have no problems admitting i would buy it on DVD if it were brought over. I gave it an 8/10 on MAL and that was largely for some of the over use of melodrama and lack of good dancing moments you mentioned. Still, I loved this show and I know I will still remember it.

    Truly understandable Zanibas. Real life comes first. Do what you need to.

  4. That ending dance. Made the first 11 melodramatic episodes worth it. HaNaYaMaTa has one of the best OP songs this year and the ending vaguely reminded me of Sakurasou ep 12 and Days of Dash.

  5. Hanayamata was far from a perfect series (budget issues, the occasional melodrama and not enough lighter episodes), but I can’t help but be left with a pretty positive impression afterwards. The character development of the cast and the portrayal of their struggles with the club was just very well done, and it was hard not to cheer for the girls when they finally go to do their dance. It gave me the fuzzies, basically, and it left me smiling at the end. As for as the emotions it wanted to call upon go, it was certainly a success.

    Maybe it’s because I wasn’t that hyped for this show (even though Ishizuka was directing it, and I like her work) but it managed to trump most of my expectations going in. Elements that usually tend to lose me pretty quickly (cute girls doing cute girls, for example) actually managed to work here to tell a tale that for me at least, stands above its peers. It may not be a show that’ll be as well remembered as No Game No Life, but it certainly has the charm. For an ‘inbetween’ show, they could certainly do worse.

    And farewell to you too, Zani (or see you later, I suppose). I know how busy college can get, so I can empathize. Blogging anime while being stressed about assignments only leads to a burnout anyway. And don’t worry about the mistakes you made in your blogging, it gives you dojikko appeal!

  6. I actually like the level and the amount of drama in Hanayamata. Drama and story are what make this series standout from other Kirara based animes.

    Drama(s)in Hanayamata are not too heavy and not too light. While there are many drama, all of them resolved quickly in a heartwarming way. All of drama also contribute to characters development and story progression. None of them are pointless.

    It is too bad that this show doesn’t sale much because many poeple see any kind drama (light or heavy) as the end of the world. (Well, I’m also a person who dislike a show with drama but Hanayama is ok for me.)

    Now, I will wait for Gakkou Gurashi, another anime adaption from Kirara magazine.

  7. The character growth was definitely the main strength of this series. It’s what kept me coming back for what coulda been pretty mundane fair but it was surprisingly entertaining and made you care for the characters.

    I had the opposite effect as the writer, I had very little hope, but it was a way better then I thought.

  8. We wus Robbed! I’ve been waiting for the finale the whole season. How could they not show the full dance at the end??!! (Even K-On! let the girls play a few numbers.) Beautiful stills but just more teasing snippets of the actual dance. The OP and ED are some of the few that I never skipped. Oh, would that this had a bigger budget. T_T I wonder if (hope) that the BD has the full dance as an extra.

    I have to agree with the comments about the show. Sweet, but with a good set of stories and nice comedic touches. Early on you could see how they were going to give each of the girls some issue they had to deal with and they sold most of them well. Each of the girls grew on me as their stories and interactions unfolded. Even Hana’s parkour that was brought up at the first part of the show was used at the very end when she took off to get to the stage making it relevant to the story. It’s too bad that the show didn’t have more episodes. Even another half cour would have allowed them to flesh things out a little more.

    1. I wonder what came first:

      1) Hana practicing Parkour

      2) Hana having amazing leg strength.

      Also, my same thoughts exactly about comparing it to K-ON!. When a show decides to focus on some sort of art, there better damn well be that art in full style sometime during the show! It looks like some of the commenters here were satisfied with that dance though, so it’s once again a matter of expectations and comparisons.

      I doubt the BD will have a full dance as an extra though. Madhouse be rolling on with the new titles, and if anything, they’d focus their efforts on NGNL extras than HNYMT extras. (it’s a terrible acronym, I know.)

    1. Life happens unexpectedly, and triple posts are a result of that. Sorry for not having the energy to write Hanayamata with 4 hours of sleep per night, while also assisting with writing the previews. At least I’m temporarily resigning! No more triple posts for awhile from me :P.

  9. Waiting for Zanibas to post Hanayamata is like waiting for buses, you wait and wait and wait, and three come along at once. 😀

    The title of the last episode really sort of gave away that Hana will return, and return she did. I don’t care if her return was cliched drama, as long as it’s done right, and it certainly felt right that she should be there for the epic finale.

  10. Tbh, this show was far more about the girls, their personal struggles, and the bonds they formed rather than the yosakoi iteself. Therefore, I wasn’t really disappointed when I didn’t get to see a ‘fully animated yosakoi dance’.

    Instead the final episode focused on the ‘meaning’ of them finally being able to go up on the big stage and do beautiful yosakoi together. In that aspect, the episode executed perfectly.

    In my opinion, it was the perfect finale for Hanayamata!

  11. This show was cute as hell, and I’m going to miss it. The ending may have been a little cliche, but it was nice to see them all together. I think what made it stand out among the other cute girls doing cute things type of anime was the character growth, like you pointed out; also, the girls dealing with certain issues like self-esteem, and even Tami’s issues with her father. Unfortunately, sometimes there was too much drama: Machi’s episode, for example. Still a good show.
    …did I mention it was really cute?

    Thanks for blogging the series, Zanibas. Take care, and see you in the Spring!

  12. Ah everything was fine until the end…I was promised a Yosakoi dance…I was fine with how the story went and ended but I still feel robbed…
    Thanks for another job well done on blogging this series!


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