Scoreboard:

Scoreboard

A
Story
88%
Characters
94%
Art
94%
Animation
95%
Sound
89%
Overall
92%
ProsCons
An out of the ordinary cgdct series with beautiful visuals and engaging characters as usual, but very good drama and plot development.Some may regard it as spilling over into melodrama.

Review:

Continuing on with reviews of some of what I consider to be the best series of 2014 I could not refrain from discussing the series I not only most looked forward to before the Summer season began but which I also most looked forward to week after week throughout the entire season proper – HaNaYaMaTa, which turns out to be an acronym for the first characters of each of the five main characters in the story: Hana, Naru, Yaya, Machi and Tami. This series delivered for me and almost every front possible.

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This was a series that grabbed my attention from the first announcement I heard. The summary was from mangaupdates and simply read: “Normal appearance, normal intelligence, normal in arts and sports … just normal. This is the entirely normal 14-year-old, Naru Sekiya. While she admires “Heroines” she continues to live a normal life until one moonlit night she meets a fairy-like young girl. This foreign girl then guides her into the extraordinary world of the yosakoi dance.” So then I looked up what yosakoi was and on reading this was very interested. I even did a search on youtube and came across this example from 2010 and was delighted. Watching the PVs sealed the deal.

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The first thing that stands out about this series is the incredible art and animation. It is the combo of studio Madhouse and the director of the superb adaptation of No Game No Life who are at work again here, and almost as if with the same color palette and style. It is a style I think is absolutely beautiful and dreamlike, and while I disliked the source material of No Game, No Life I loved Hanayamata – and perhaps no surprise, as it was yet another successful series from the Kirara manga variants, a fairly reliable source for stories I enjoy. It also should be said that the background music and soundtrack are quite good as well and do a splendid job at “harmonizing” with the visuals in my opinion.

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After watching the first ep I thought this series was essentially to be a “coming of age” story for the main character (Naru). The catalyst for it person wise was to be Hana and the activity that would be the main “tool” to accomplish this would be yosakoi dance. However, after several episodes in I was quite happy to learn that while the above impression was true there was quite a bit more to it – Hana and yosakoi was indeed to be the catalyst, but it was only an initial catalyst that would spread to other people as well and would even shockwave back onto Hana herself. In other words, all the main characters involved partook to some degree in the element of one “coming of age”, and this happened to every single character in a way that was for me both very realistic and effective at the same time. After Naru herself was infected she began to infect others and even “take the lead” in helping others mature bit by bit, but while still struggling with her own weaknesses.

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Another thing that very quickly became apparent was that this was not simply going to be a peaceful, idyllic sketch of cute girls doing cute things and everyone being happy. shiny and fluffy all the time. There is a lot of person to person drama in this – some would even say to the degree of melodrama. All the characters (just like every person alive on this planet, of course) have shortcomings, and one of the things the arrival of Hana serves to do is stir up the quiet day to day life most everyone had settled into (and perhaps resigned themselves to). Every single character has their share of problems, and they are dragged out into the light to the pain of their owners and firmly insist that they will not go away unless they are resolved. And to the credit of the series it shows the process of how they are resolved in a very satisfying way.

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There were aspects of the series that were not perfect, though. Aside from introducing the world of yosakoi to the anime viewers in a way that is both beautiful and engaging, I found myself wishing they had shown more detailed and lengthy depictions of the yosakoi performances in the same way the stupendous OP showed it. I understand that this would have involved a lot of money, and that the budget for the series was already quite high, but having been given a glimpse of what could be done I could not help myself wanting more. Also, the elements of melodrama seemed to be the main weakness for those who tried the series out, and while they did not bother me they might not work for everyone. For me, however, the melodrama did not serve as a problem, as I thought it was well done.

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All in all, this series was a success in most every way. I do not think it is for everyone, of course, but then again it would be hard to say there was any individual series that is for everyone!  Fortunately the series as a whole seemed to do “only okay” in terms of BD sales, perhaps breaking even or making a little bit of profit, and many point (perhaps quite correctly) to the elements of drama and conflict in this cgdct series that lowered the sales in contrast with other recent Kirara manga anime adaptations like, say, the extremely enjoyable series Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka or Kiniro Mosaic – both of which sold quite well and are on their way to receiving second seasons. This series gets intense and even a bit serious in ways most who are looking for a relaxing series did not anticipate and had come to expect, perhaps. For some this was a turn off, but for me it helped it to stand out even more and made it one of the series I enjoyed the most from the year 2014.

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About

Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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