The final episode has finally arrived…

Summary:

It’s almost time for the Hanairo Festival, and the girls are still feeling sad over Hana’s absence.  But, they nonetheless strive to do their best for Hana’s sake.  A few days before the festival, Naru and co. visit Hana’s father so that they can deliver a CD containing the song that they all danced to.

Naru has grown so much.

After weeks of work and worry, the festival finally arrives.  It’s on this day that Naru finally has the courage to tell her dad that she’s in the Yosakoi club, and (to her surprise) he fully supports her.  The girls all convene at the festival and get ready for their turn on the stage.  Naru gets a sudden surprising call, and it’s from none other than Hana herself!

Pre-performance shenanigans. This shot was so cute.

Hana finally had the courage to tell her mother about her participation in the Yosakoi club, and thus she’s managed to fly back to Japan to participate in the festival.  However, she and her father are now stuck in traffic, so Hana gets off the phone in order to run to the stage.  Thanks to some help from a policeman, the store manager, and Sally-sensei, Hana manages to jump on stage in the middle of the dance, creating a spectacular performance.  The girls finish their dance to a loud round of applause.

Everyone gets a chance to shine tonight.

As the girls watch the fireworks together after their performance, Hana reveals that she plans to stay in Japan, so that they can continue to dance together in future festivals.  Thus ends Naru (and Hana’s) long trip to the Hanairo festival, but there will surely be more stories to come.

Big finish!

My Opinion:

Although I was half-predicting Hana to come back to Japan somehow (and I was right), I still thought this was a very satisfying end to the series.

The pacing in this episode was very well done, with a major focus on Naru, and amazingly a tying up of most loose ends.  Naru is shown to be a much stronger person, Yaya gets a visit from her bandmates, Machi and her sister seem to have truly made-up, Tama’s father finally seems to be proud of his daughter again, and Hana decides to stay in Japan.  Even Sally and Mr. Store Manager are hinted to get together.  It’s a happy ending for everyone, but instead of feeling sappy it feels like they all earned it.

The animation in this episode was simply beautiful.  Yes, the entire episode, from start to finish.  But special mention goes to the girls’ actual dance.  Although we don’t exactly get to see all of it in its entirety, as the camera cuts away to the girls’ parents and loved ones throughout the girls’ routine; I still think this was a better option.  Everything is put together in a very nice montage—that, along with Hana’s pretty amazing entrance just makes the episode for me.

Overall, I couldn’t think of a better way to end this series.  Yes, the ending does seem rather abrupt, what with ending right after the girls’ performance.  But is there really anything else that needs to be said?  I thing the ending card really says it all.

Out of five:

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Final Thoughts:

Hanayamata ended up being kind of a mixed bag for me.  The beginning was great, but toward the middle the series definitely started getting too melodramatic for my tastes.  Fortunately, the last two episodes were top-notch again.

Where this series shines is in its character development.  Naru, Hana, and Yaya got great character arcs in this series.  Tama and Machi, not so much.  But even so everyone manages to get some depth to them; even Sally-sensei.  For a 12 episode series that’s pretty good.  They’re all pretty fleshed out characters too, including Sally who was the most surprising.  The focus tends to jump between all five girls, but ultimately the main star of this series is Naru.  Naru is arguably the character that ended up growing the most.  Just compare her episode 1 self to her episode 12 self and you can see how much stronger she is.  And none of it at all feels forced or out of character.

This series’ animation and music were also very good.  There were only a few instances where I noticed the animation dip, but for the most part it’s kept constant.  Music-wise, the OP theme “Dancing in the Scent of Flowers” gets played A LOT throughout the entire series.  Fortunately, it’s only for snippets at a time, and goes from being simply a piano solo to a fully sung song with added instrumentals so it doesn’t get dull hearing it again and again.

Hanayamata is a series that doesn’t have much plot beyond “a group of girls end up becoming close friends and dancing Yosakoi”, but to be honest this was a lot more entertaining that I predicted it to be.  Although I wasn’t fond of all the melodrama, and some parts definitely could have been written better, it was still one of the better “four or five girls join a club” anime I’ve seen in a while.

Out of five for the series as a whole:

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