12 Days of Stuff #2: Hanayamata and Locodol, where cute girls do awesome things

Last summer, I watched these shows. These are those shows that get categorized as moe shows, which just means that a snooty community of anime fans won’t watch it, because of reasons. What is a moe show, anyway? I honestly don’t know.

I grouped these shows together into one post because they have some similarities. Both have a predominantly girl cast, who are still in school, and have extracurricular activities that they are quite passionate in. Because of this, I want to make up my own subgenre for these kinds of shows: hobby anime, because it’s about the characters engaging in something that’s generally not competitive (it would be a sports anime if it was), forming meaningful relationships and maturing in the process. Cute girls doing cute things? More like cute girls doing awesome things. But that’s enough of living in the database (wow wow).

Hanayamata

hanayamata_the_question

The first thing I noticed about Hanayamata, even before the show came out, was that it looked really pretty. It had an aesthetic that was perfect for the kind of show it was–striking, authentic, cute. Some people complained, and I could see that show sometimes became too colorful and sweet for its own good, but it turned out to be one of the better-made shows during the summer season.

Anyway. Hanayamata is about your garden-variety girl, Naru, who meets an American transfer student named Hana, who cajoles the former to start a yosakoi club with her. Yosakoi is a Japanese dance that melds the old and the new, espousing a DIY philosophy–the costumes, choreography, music are all made by the dancers themselves. So Hana is a weeb, except she isn’t a creepy jerk.

The show takes its time to set itself up and gather its club members. Machi, the last member, doesn’t officially join until episode 10 (out of 12 episodes). I actually appreciate this, because the “getting the team together” phase of the story is the whole point of the show. All five main characters are very different and just getting them to the point where they could dance together is no mean feat. It’s a group built by friendship.

This is one of the rare shows that knows how to develop its characters: Naru, the “main” main character, blossoms out of indecisiveness and holds the group together.  She becomes more assertive and open as the show goes on, and by the end she’s come a long way from someone who wished she was the protagonist in her own story (which she makes true on her own). They’re all relatable, as far as cute anime girls go.

So what did I like about the show? It was sweet, sometimes approaching saccharine levels, but it never felt ridiculous. The characters face a lot of challenges along the way and grow up to surmount them. It’s pretty straightforward, and you could sort of guess where the show would go, but the execution left nothing to be desired. It says that having fun on stage makes your audience have fun, too–that you chose to perform, and they chose to watch.

That, and the songs are so damn catchy.

Locodol

combat_uniform_uogokoro_kun

“Ordinary High School Girls Tried Being Locodols”, quoth the full title. If you didn’t show me anything about the show, I would’ve thought “Locodol” was a portmanteau for “Locomotive Doll”, and expected some cool power armor/mecha action. Alas, it’s actually “Local Idol”.

The show is actually decent, if you watched it. That’s the problem, because I know very few people who did see this show, and I don’t blame them! Locodol is about two girls becoming idols sponsored by their local township, which makes it an actual part-time government job. Nagarekawa City is barely a city, and the show’s aesthetic reflects this. It’s very clean, full of sights that could be described as nice, and not scenic. It’s not a town you’d go out of the way to visit, but it’s their town, dammit!

Nanako is an ordinary girl who gets shanghaied into the Locodol job, while Yukari is a naive ojou-sama type who applies because she wants to step out of her boundaries. There are two other main characters who aren’t Locodols (Yui and Mirai), but play as the mascot character Uogokoro-kun (shown above). There are a lot of idol anime already, but mascot actors are rarer, and the job is really interesting–Yui and Mirai were selected for the job because they’re short, and a lot of care is put in making the mascot suit lighter and more maneuverable. Just like in my mecha animes!

It’s mostly a lighthearted comedy, owing to it’s 4koma roots. The thing that makes it pop, though, is that it’s really about working. The characters are high school students, but that’s just setting. The conflict arises from work-related things like planning, schedules, mentoring the new guy at the job, which makes it surprisingly relatable. It balances the self-deprecation (“Nagarekawa is such a boring little town!”) with a lot of sincerity, giving it a idyllic country feel.

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One last thing to add: some people have problems with moe because it’s pervy, especially when it comes to light novel adaptations. I don’t claim these shows are moe, but they get lumped in with the stuff, owing to the mostly cute girl cast and aesthetic, but the good thing is that Hanayamata and Locodol aren’t in the business of sexualizing its characters. There are some scenes in Locodol wherein Nanako and Yukari wear bikinis, but they’re not titillating, and more of embarrassing for Nanako. So if you’re concerned about that sort of thing, then don’t worry about it for these two shows!

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