HaNaYaMaTa is a cute story about building friendships, memories and confidence with the driving center being Yosakoi, a Japanese style freelance dance. We are first introduced to Naru Sekia, a 14 year old student who enjoys reading fairy tail books and is quite reserved and comfortable in her everyday life. She’s a little worried that she will never be good at anything or have a life passion, but a small step will change her life forever. When walking home one night she runs into a foreign blonde haired girl named Hana, who she mistakes for a fairy. Hana asks Naru to dance with her, and although their meeting was short it was Naru’s first baby steps into the world of Yosakoi.
Naru’s best friend is Yaya, the almost complete opposite of Naru in motivation levels and personality. She is overly confident, outgoing and has commitments to a band, works at her parents restaurant, and with good grades to boot it’s hard to know how she fits it all in. When Hana suddenly transfers to their school almost everything is turned upside down. Hana is loud and in your face, boyish, excitable and she wastes no time in trying to start a Yosakoi Club. She pesters Naru relentlessly, and after giving in and offering to help, jealousy rears it’s ugly head in Yaya. Her band separated, and with a blow to her confidence she takes it out on Naru.
After Naru proves she is dedicated to Yosakoi, they make up and Yaya steps into the circle giving them a team of three dancers. Starting a new Club has it’s challenges, and they get help from the Student Council’s vice president Tami, who is also a childhood friend of Naru. Tami eventually joins in on the club after overcoming personal troubles, and eventually her friend Machi joins as well. The drama is ongoing as their relationships evolve into a web that binds them all together, and the teacher designated to be their guardian is Machi’s older sister Sari (or Sally-Sensei). Sari walked out of home leaving Machi behind, and Machi still holds resentment towards her years later. Their relationships are constantly changing, and it seems they keep taking a step back towards their goal, and the last episode is a fantastic finish to the series and brings the girls back together.
This series is very cute, corny and sappy, but it pulls the emotion strings in a way that really makes you care for the characters and get behind their dreams. HaNaYaMaTa provides plenty of blushing moments of friendship love, jealous fights and emotional make-ups as they journey towards their ultimate goal to perform at a Yosakoi festival. Although Yosakoi is the reason all five girls came together, there isn’t a full dance sequence until the very end at their competition, and it’s a really wonderful ending to the series. We also get to see their little theme song evolve from a piano medley, to a more techno version then to the full final version you hear in the opening sequence, all sung by the voice actors themselves. The title HaNaYaMaTa is taken from the first letters of all the girls names, and their dance costumes represent the flower they like most.
HaNaYaMaTa is 12 episodes split between three discs with everything beautifully printed. There aren’t many extras (just textless OP & ED) but you do have the option of Japanese or English Language. I mainly watched this is Japanese as I’m not too fond of English voice actors, but sadly I found the voices to be very unnatural in the Japanese version too. They seemed forced, and overly exaggerated in a couple of the characters which was disappointing, but not really uncommon and I did get used to it after a while. This sweet little slice of life series with a splash of culture is recommended if you enjoyed anime like K-On! and Love Live! School Idol Project.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.