Monday, October 13, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 11-12: The Grand Finale

It's time to cover the grand finale of Hanayamata, looking at themes found not just in those episodes, but also in the entire show overall. In the meantime, though, we can certainly enjoy how this show plays out its final episodes. The final dance might not be quite as nicely-animated as one might want (I'll blame that on people not giving the show enough of a budget), but story-wise, everything comes together in these last two episodes in such a nice way, including during the dance itself, that this finale is still a very strong one.

This is quite possibly the single best split-second in anime ever.
This final post will, of course, contain moderate spoilers.



Hating Your Parents, Revisited

I talked about the idea of "hating" your parents (and other family members) in my last post on the show, and it comes up again in episode 11 as Hana's mother returns to Japan and asks her and her father to go back to the U.S. and live together as a family again. Unfortunately, this would keep Hana from participating in the Hanairo Festival, as she would have to leave on short notice. On her part, Hana does want to live with her mother again, so this is not the usual case of parents trying to impose their desires on their children; Hana is genuinely torn between two different desires of her own. It isn't until after she has gone back to the States, does she start to regret her decision and want to go back to dancing with her friends. Thankfully, her parents learn about her interest in yosakoi, and her mother encourages her to go back and do what she wants to do.

It's easy to "hate" your family when they are oppressive enough that you would be glad to get away from them. It is a lot harder when you love them and part of you wants to stay with them. For new Christians, this can be an especially hard thing to deal with if their parents do not approve of their newfound faith. Even for those with Christian parents, sometimes those parents want their children to serve the Lord in a specific way, such as becoming a pastor or missionary, and are blindsided when their children, having started to make their faith their own, decide they want to go into a different field. Well-meaning Christian parents can all too often, under the guise of trying to be the "wise" parent advising the spiritually immature, hold their children back from following God's will in their lives.

As such, I think the lesson here can be directed more toward parents of Christians (including potential future parents). If our children want to do something as a step of faith, more often than not, we need to be supportive of them. Of course, if they are doing something clearly unbiblical, that needs to be addressed. But if our concerns are over issues like safety or logistics, rather than instantly disapprove of things, we should talk those issues through with them and see if they can be resolved before stopping them. And if the issue is simply over being personally inconvenienced... well, as Hana's mother said, if parents will not listen to their children's selfishness, who will? And how much more so if their "selfishness" is not really selfishness, but an attempt to grow as a person?

Who I Want To Be

While the final dance is definitely a great climax to the series, from a perspective of character development, the climax comes right before the dance, when the other club members tell Naru how much she has grown and how she is now the dazzling girl she had always wanted to be. It goes to show what the whole experience has meant for her. She sums it all up for herself by saying: if she does something for herself rather than for someone else, she can become closer to the person she wants to be.

But doesn't that sound like it is just selfishness? For Christians, shouldn't we be doing things for God's sake, so that we can become who God wants us to be? I think what Naru is talking about, though, is something much more important than that: the importance of taking your own responsibility for your choices. If we do something only for someone else's sake, we never internalize any of that experience, and thus we will never grow. It gets even worse if we do things only for God's sake: that's how we can become Pharisees. Only if we personally decide that we want to be like God, and then do things for God according to that personal decision, can God start working the growth process in us.

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Here are some final themes found throughout the show.

An Outsider Perspective

In looking at this show from the perspective of a parallel to a beginner Christian's faith walk, it is worth looking at Hana's role in starting the Yosakoi Club. In reading a blurb about this show on Anime B&B, something I hadn't really thought about before now comes to mind: how significant it was for the club to be started by someone outside of the Japanese culture. It's easy to ignore parts of our own culture if we've grown up in it and have become desensitized to any sense of cultural pride, which is why Hana's passion for a foreign culture was very important in getting the other girls interested in something like yosakoi.

A similar thing can happen for those who have grown up in Christian environments. In growing up, such people can become desensitized to their own faith, which can potentially hinder them when it is time for them to make their faith their own. In such cases, it can help for someone who comes to the faith from the "outside" to provide a fresh perspective and help such people realize how much of a joy it is to serve the Lord.

(For more on entering the faith from the "outside" versus growing up in the faith, check out this post on childhood friend characters and "growing up" with God.)

A Ministry of Reconciliation

While a lot of their time in the Yosakoi club has been spent on practicing and dancing yosakoi, a good part of these girls' story involves bringing reconciliation to strained relationships. There's the long process of having Yaya and Naru reconcile with each other, as well as helping things between Machi and Sally-sensei, and to a lesser extent, Tami and her father, and even arguably Hana and her parents, when the others brought the music CD to her parents to show what she had been interested in all this time. A lot of these broken relationships came about because of some kind of misunderstanding or miscommunication; one could argue that simply communicating better would resolve these problems without the drama they contributed to the show, but honestly, we human beings are pretty bad at communicating, and these sorts of misunderstandings could very well happen in our lives as well.

That is why when a group of people get together to do something, like dance yosakoi or serve God, the ability to help others resolve these misunderstandings and repair broken relationships can be a great result of these gatherings. Especially for Christians, participating in a ministry of reconciliation can be a good thing, because bringing separated people back together is a great picture of what God wants to do with us: bridge the gap between us and Him and start a relationship with us.

So while the dancing was the main subject of this show, the continued focus on reconciling relationships involving the girls was a great additional aspect in its own way.

Finding Significance

It can be said that two of the biggest drives in our lives are the desires to find two things: security and significance. Naru's decision to join the Yosakoi Club most definitely comes from her desire to find significance in her life. (Notably, she had to overcome her desire for security before joining.) And while cynics could argue whether or not she has actually found that significance, from the limited perspective of this story, I would definitely say that she has found that significance in her life, which is represented in how she is now the dazzling girl she had always wanted to be.

Looking back to the parallel of the Christian walk, one thing's for sure: if you join the Christian faith looking for significance in God, you will not be disappointed. In fact, God intended for us to find our ultimate significance only in Him, which is arguably why he gave us that drive in the first place. That doesn't mean we can't do other things that can be considered significant, but that those things should come as an extension of finding true significance in God and in fulfilling His purpose.

In the end, while doing yosakoi might not be, in and of itself, a good way of finding significance in our own lives, I see a show like Hanayamata as a beautiful picture of someone wanting to look for that significance, and then taking a step of faith, joining with others, and overcoming difficulties to ultimately find what they were looking for. That this show can reflect to a notable--albeit imperfect--extent how a new Christian's initial walk of faith can look like adds even more beauty to that picture. Make no mistake; Hanayamata will be a show I will remember as one of my favorites: not just from this season or even this year, but from my entire anime-watching life.

And yet, it is only one part of an even greater picture. There are still two more shows left for me to cover to fill in two more parts of this greater picture, one of which I will be writing another wrap-up post soon, and another which is still airing and which I will post more on soon as well.

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