HaNaYaMaTa. The original Love Live: School Idol Project complete with a group of friends dancing and singing together — just not in the way you expected it to be.
Fourteen-year-old Naru Sekiya is an average girl who is obsessed with fairytales. Surrounded by peers who are musicians and athletes themselves, Naru yearns to become a dazzling star of her own story. Before she knows it, Naru encounters a ‘fairy’ dancing in the moonlight at the local temple at night. On the spur of the moment, Naru finds herself mesmerised by the dance and asks the fairy if she could join her.
Little did she know that this fairy was an American exchange student named Hana N. Fountainstand who loves the art form of yosakoi dancing. Forming her own yosakoi club, Hana asks Naru to join her. After succumbing to Hana’s persistent forwardness, Naru and Hana join forces to find members so the Yosakoi Club can officially become a school club.
One of the greatest things about Japanese animation is its endless list of genres and versatile ideas for their stories. Featuring yosakoi dancing as its main subject, HaNaYaMaTa is one of a kind. What on earth is yosakoi dancing? Believe it or not, you may have seen some form of yosakoi dancing in cultural videos or snapshots of Japan. For a modern world intrigued by idol pop-stars, it is rather admirable for an anime like HaNaYaMaTa to go back to traditional roots and show the appeal of yosakoi dancing to the modern audience.
Step by step, we follow Hana and Naru’s footsteps in creating a yosakoi club. From the recruiting process to organising the dance choreography, being a yosakoi group is no easy task. With many challenges along the way, the girls must find a way to tackle the obstacles. But as long as they are together and work hard towards the same goal, then nothing will get in their way.
HaNaYaMaTa may not be flashy as Love Live but there is just something incredibly raw and genuine about the story that we simply cannot describe in mere words. A feel good anime series with plenty of heart, warmth and tears to offer, HaNaYaMaTa will enchant viewers with its dramas and musical entertainment.
With the girls’ indestructible friendship on display from start to finish, we absolutely cannot adore this show more than we already have. From the super enthusiastic Hana to the tsundere Yaya, each girl have their own personality, flaws, and battles to overcome. Hana and Naru may come from two different worlds but there is great admiration, support, and respect for each other. This strong force of friendship and girl power shared amongst the girls is heartwarmingly enlightening. Each girl has something to prove, and one by one, they come out of their shell thanks to each other’s support. Just like a domino’s effect, everyone in the group and those around them starts to feel the positive vibe that makes HaNaYaMaTa the way it is.
HaNaYaMaTa might be about dramas and self-discoveries but it is good to see that HaNaYaMaTa doesn’t take itself too seriously. Surprisingly, the anime pokes fun of Westerners and their obsession with Japan through Hana’s character. Not only is she an exchange American student, but the way how she obsesses over every aspect of Japan is highly amusing. From the way Westerners see a woman dressed in a kimono to the deliciousness of soba noodles, a show like HaNaYaMaTa will make you laugh and fall in love with Japan and its culture all over again.
Overall: HaNaYaMaTa is the original Love Live series that offers heart, inspiration, and musical entertainment. An incredible feel good anime series that will change your perception of yosakoi dancing forever, we wish there are more original shows like HaNaYaMaTa that showcases the beauty of Japanese culture. A crucial tip for potential viewers: don’t forget the tissue box!