(Originally written Feb 21 2015)
Disclaimer: I wrote this piece for Lemur, which is why it’s full of spoilers and differently structured from my usual posts.
Hanayamata was formulaic to the very end. The gathering of club members was very classic, for all 5 of them. The threat of the club being disbanded, very common. Hana leaving and then coming back reminded me of Love Live. And considering that was the worst part of Love Live S1, it’s not necessarily a good thing. I had several issues with this show. I disliked the character designs from the beginning, mostly the eyes(don’t they kinda look like grief seeds?). The sexual jokes annoyed me, as did the excessive blushing. And while the crying in this show was mostly for good reasons, I don’t think the voice actresses did a good job in that respect. As a matter of fact, I disliked most of their voices in general. Naru and hana were too squeaky, while the rest felt like they’d been typecasted without second thought(i.e. Yaya sounded like every other tsundere in history, etc.). Also, I was slightly disappointed by the common archetypes used for the main characters.
That said, it wasn’t all bad. The finale may have reminded me of Love Live S1, but it also reminded me of the finale of K-On S1, and that’s a very, very good thing. When the execution is good, the small concerns don’t matter as much. While I didn’t like the character designs, the detail on them allowed for some nice variety in expressions. And variety was provided by the character archetypes as well. Though cliché, I have to laud the writers for their ability to wring as much character development as possible out of these fairly simple templates. I had issues with the voices, but the music was excellent. During the hot springs episode, it was nice to hear some gentle piano music for a change, instead of the usual key-destroying stuff. Speaking of the hot springs episode, the visual quality was also great when it mattered, all the way from the colours on the costumes to the, frankly, best-looking starry sky I’ve seen in a while.
But that wasn’t even the best part of the show. No, the best part was the skill with which it pulled off the scenes that actually mattered. Hana’s introduction was magical. Tami’s breakdown was an honestly surprising moment(in a good way), considering that the “rich girl defying her father” thing is not that uncommon of a plot point in anime. Yaya’s moment of despair was a nail-biting back-and-forth exchange of emotion that I could really get into, as was Machi’s and Sally’s bout of drama. This was actually my favourite part of the entire show. Family is a very complex thing, and the show didn’t sugarcoat it(though the resolution was maybe a tad too fast). There was no right or wrong feeling or motivation in that exchange. Last, but not least, Naru’s character development was so natural that it was almost completely fluid. Until the final episode, the show emphasised it so rarely that I actually didn’t even notice it(I’m guessing this was by design), which made the scene before the festival, that showed just how much she’d grown, that much more impressive. Hana unfortunately didn’t get that much character development until the final episode(where she finally gathers enough courage to make a difficult choice), and when she did, it felt a bit rushed.
I could go on, but I think my point comes across. I would, however, like to say that the show also nailed some scenes that “didn’t really matter”, like the running gag about Naru’s dad misunderstanding his daughter’s after school activities. Unlike usual running gags, this one actually had a resolution, and that resolution tied into Naru’s character development as well. In addition, the point where you could see Naru’s dad’s ears blushing when he had his back turned, that was good use of the excessive blushing that I complained about earlier. That was a good running gag. And this was a good show.