Blu-ray Review: HaNaYaMaTa – The Complete Series
25/08/2016 Leave a comment
Manga Entertainment UK continues to provide a variety of different anime genres to the UK public and their next release is non-other-than HaNaYaMaTa; but can this colourful and charming anime win over the masses? Who knows; but it certainly won over my stone-cold-heart and so it should be able to win over yours!
Created in Kochi in 1954, Yosakoi incorporates modern music and classic Japanese dance into a unique fusion performed in teams. However, while Yosakoi has become a growing phenomenon with huge festivals held across Japan, it’s never been more than a blip on high school student Naru Sekia’s cultural radar. Not that much has ever really grabbed Naru’s attention. She’s average in grades, average in sports and in art… really, the only thing that has ever caught her fancy is reading fairy tales. Until the day she encounters her own personal “fairy”: Hana, an American exchange student who is determined to start a Yosakoi dancing club at their school.
Entranced by Hana’s beauty and skill, Naru and her friends find themselves caught up in the whirlwind world of Yosakoi. It won’t be easy and just getting the club sponsored will be a trial, but between the movement, the melodies, and the friendship, Naru may have finally found a fairy tale of her own in Hanayamata!
Adapted from Sō Hamayumiba’s slice-of-life manga series Hanayamata, otherwise typed as HaNaYaMaTa, comes the anime of the same name and despite knowing nothing of the franchise, other than it’s relatively catchy opening song known as Hana wa Odoreya Iroha ni Ho which coincidentally is performed by the Japanese voice actors, I was eager to learn more and discover what this colourful and uniquely anime title has to offer…. and I wasn’t disappointed. Hanayamata is a series best worth experiencing for yourself as anything else will just ruin your enjoyment.
Hanayamata is a story which sees a group of middle-school- students form a Yosakoi Club and attempt to perform at local events at the behest of American transfer student Hana N. Fountainstand; however while this is ultimately the goal it is a objective which first unfolds by following the ‘average’ middle-school-girl Naru Sekiya. Naru enjoys reading classic fairy tales and has always considered herself to be an average girl that’s often lookrf-after by others; however upon encountering what she labels as a ‘fairy’ – which actually is the American transfer student Hana – Naru embarks on a journey of self-discovery to become a stronger, more independent person by allowing herself to become friends with Hana and join her precious dream of forming a Yosakoi Club.
For Naru it is a bold and difficult move, as she has often stayed out of the ‘Dazzling light’ that she herself has dreamed about, but by becoming friends with Hana and joining the Yosakoi Club she starts to walk the path of self-independence. This commitment, along with her new friendship with Hana, soon infuriates close-childhood-friend Yaya and in a rather swift motion the storyline shifts from Naru’s journey of self-independace to Yaya’s jealously and alas a new comical tale is born under the pretence of forming a club. If anything Hanayamata isn’t about the Yosakoi music or the club; it is about the independent storylines which sees the group become formed– each of which offer a realistic memorable tale that will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face; it is emotional satisfaction.
Naru may have been the protagonist that started the story going, with Hana’s arrival prompting the formation of a Yosakoi group and a meaning behind this series, but as the episodes go by the storyline shifts slightly. It starts with Naru and her search to be ‘dazzling’ and ‘indepedent’ but by the third episode the perspective has shifted to Yaya and her overprotective nature towards Naru. Later episodes meanwhile focus on the relationships between family members with both Tami and Machi trying to come to terms with their own desires as well as their close family members. Ultimately these storylines all tie-in within each and by the closing stages of the series we find ourselves with a rather unexpected and emotional storyline that involves Hana, her parents and the reason as to why she transferred to Japan.
As you can tell I am being as ‘restrictive’ as possible about discussing what happens within the series and that’s simply down to it being Hanayamata’s best feature. The animation, of which has been produced by MADHOUSE, and the audio used during performances might be fantastic – which it is – but ultimately it is the stories that revolves around each character which brings the best out of this series.
Of course Hanayamata isn’t the first ‘music-orientated’ anime show, as both K-ON! and Love Live! have proved to be worthy anime adaptations; however what neither of these shows have is the deep character development that Hanayamata offers and by the end of the series you’ll have a firm grasp of each individuals personality, dreams and ideals; a feat which I never once thought about in either K-ON! or Love Live!
Animatsu’s tradition of using disc masters created by Sentai Filmworks has seemingly been carried over to MangaUK authored releases as while the disc opening may have the MangaUK logo – of which has no sound – the disc layout, presentation and content is exactly the same as the US counterpart.
In total viewers will find textless opening and closing animations bundled alongside a selection of trailers; all of which have yet to receive a UK release. The trailers themselves are for Glasslip, LocoDol, La Corda D’oro Blue Sky and Hayate The Combat Butler – each of which featuring the opening theme song placed with random clips from the series/film it is based upon. It’s a shame that a more ‘wider variety’ of content couldn’t be acquired for the western release of the series but for now at least we will have to make do with the content we receive.
Media: BD 50 x1, BD 25 x1
Region: A & B
Running Time: 3:52:38 (Disc 1), 1:17:31 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Hanayamata is a twelve episode anime series that sees a group of middle-school-girls form a Yosakoi Club at the behest of the hyperactive American transfer student Hana N. Fountainstand and the difficulties that lie ahead. Unlike K-ON! and Love Live! Hanayamata doesn’t dive straight into concert performances and live events; instead it focuses on the unique personalities of each character, the difficulties they are trying to overcome and more importantly the formation of the actual club. I guess this prospect, alongside the unique variation of Yosakoi, made Hanayamata stand out from other music orientated shows and while the series does take itself seriously there is plenty of banter and comical fun to be had; especially when it comes to Hana’s hyperactive personality.
It’s not just discovering and understanding each characters personality; as Hanayamata also highlights the research, training and preparation needed to actually take part in an event – something which most other anime series tend to overlook. Sure enough Hanayamata is a slice-of-life anime series mixed in with some comedy but at its core it’s a realistic series that sees one girls wish of forming a Yosakoi group and with friends become a reality through hardwork and determination. It’s great to watch and it just gets better until that penultimate ending which, for me at least, didn’t want to see due to how good the series was.
While I have nothing but praise for the animation, its music and its presentation, especially on this Blu-ray release of the series, I do have my concerns surrounding the included English Dub; which of course has been produced by Sentai Filmworks. The English Dub features some notable voice actors, including Monica Rial (Yaya Sasme) and Luci Christian (Hana) but their voice acting doesn’t accurately fit my ‘personal’ impressions of the characters on-screen and it doesn’t offer the immersion that the Japanese audio provides.
The ‘immersive’ aspect is one of Hanayamata’s biggest positives, especially when blending song and dance with regular vocal talent, and unfortunately that doesn’t happen with the English Dub; furthermore the voice actors for the Japanese version sing the opening song and the main performance; which yet again doesn’t happen in the English Dub due to obvious reason. Of course the English Dub isn’t terrible, far from it; it is just the Japanese audio provides a better overall viewing experience. By defeault the audio is set to English so those wanting to watch the show in Japanese (with English Subtitles) will have to choose this option from the main menu or pop-up menu; alas it can not be chosen from the audio/subtitle options on the remote. It’s a bit of annoyance but it has become common practice within Sentai Filmwork authored release. It’s also worth noting that on occasion a ‘glitch’ can occur while trying to change audio options from the main menu; for instance when trying to change the audio format to Japanese I had to select English or vice versa. Oddly enough this ‘glitch’ occurred randomly after watching an episode already and was mostly limited to Panasonic Blu-ray players.
Those planning to watch it in Japanese will be treated to English Subtitles and unlike other releases every aspect of the show is translated; so viewers will find English Subtitles for the dialogue, English translations for on-screen screen and song translations appearing when needed. In most cases subtitles for dialogue are presented in yellow while song translations and background discussions appear as white text. Translated dialogue on the other hand is usually provided as white text but on occasion will appear in other colours depending on the screen at hand; but in some instances its purprle. Whatever the situation is the subtitles are easily readable and can easily be distinguished from one another so you’ll never miss-read or miss-understand whats happening.
Hanayamata is a slice-of-life series that actually takes itself seriously and provides a realistic heartfelt story that has been beautifully animated and wonderfully presented. Sure enough the UK Blu-ray (and DVD) release are pretty bare bones; but on the whole it’s a release worth owning as part of your collection – especially if you enjoyed K-ON! and Love Live!
HaNaYaMaTa – The Complete Series will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 29th August 2016 within the UK.