IMG_0927.PNGNaru Sekiya is just your normal, average, everyday girl. She looks okay, she’s average in school and doesn’t really stand out from the crowd. She admires strong heroines and often daydreams about fairytales. One moonlit night she comes across a dancing fairy. Upon closer inspection, this fairy turns out to be a blonde transfer student from America named Hana who instantly befriends Naru and introduces her to the world of yosakoi dance.

Originally a manga written by Sou Hamayumiba, HaNaYaMaTa is essentially a slice of life anime that takes the viewer through the development of a middle school yosakoi club and their determination to establish themselves and showcase their talents. There is also a hint of magic within this series. It’s not anything overtly supernatural but the way in which Naru encounters Hana certainly has a fantastical feel to it. I imagine it’s set up like this to reflect a ‘normal’ girl like Naru having a fairytale like experience of her own that will transform her into something that she’s always dreamed of becoming.

From the beginning, I could tell that Naru already had one discernible talent: stating the obvious.

Hana has recently transferred to Naru’s school and is bubbly, enthusiastic and hyper-energetic. She drives the plot forward with her honest eagerness to connect with other students and share her passion of yosakoi dance. From the beginning she is also the main ‘cute’ factor in this series as well as being behind some of the comedy. Her excitable spontaneity is a direct contrast to Naru’s almost crippling shyness.

IMG_0697.PNGThe idea behind the whole yosakoi concept is to eventually bring the small group of girls together so that they all become friends. Its a plot device that encourages Naru to pursue something she’s generally interested in and build her self-confidence to show that she does, in fact, have talent and that she’s not as ‘normal’ as she thinks she is. This also works for the other group members as they begin to consider joining  the yosakoi club – Yaya’s band breaking up, Tami’s concern that the hobby is not ‘traditional’ enough for her father and Machi’s initial hostility towards her older sister.

The all-girl cast certainly raises this anime on the moe scale, but it walks a good balance throughout the series and never ventures into overkill. True, there are some random sentimental outbursts where a character suddenly blurts out all their feelings, but these girls are 14 and, again, it never really feels like overkill, or an easy way out to quickly express all of a characters emotions in one go. What it does do is make the characters more compelling. This technique is used throughout the anime, but not so much that it ventures into the ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’ category of meta-commentary.

IMG_0699.PNGPacing-wise HaNaYaMaTa is pretty consistent and self-aware. In its progression so far I have seen plenty of development and a steady turning to a conclusion as we approach the later episodes. Most notably, we have seen Naru grow and change into a more confident and self-assured young girl. I have also noticed that the artwork has become better, particularly now that the yosakoi group has gathered their gorgeous costumes and pretty props. When we see them really dancing yosakoi (which, personally, I would like to be seeing more of) everything is very pretty and my eyes just want to drink all the colour in.

IMG_0694.PNGSo, to sum up, HaNaYaMaTa is a well-balanced slice of life anime. Whilst there’s nothing that I can really fault it on, the trouble is that there is nothing that really stood out for me, either. It’s very mild and pretty to look at, and doesn’t tax your brain to watch. It’s a nice anime that you can put on in the background and still enjoy.