Rule of Three Review, Ladies’ Digest: Blue Spring Ride, HaNaYaMaTa – Episodes 2-3

Sometimes you don’t have to do anything new as long as you’re doing it well.

I don’t have a ton to say about either of these shows (although most of what I do have to say is positive), so it made sense to roll them into a digest. Hit the jump to spend some time with our lady-led Monday series.

Ao Haru Ride (“Blue Spring Ride”)

This poor show could not have picked a worse season to air.

AoHa’s biggest weakness is poor timing: It airs a day after Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and is EXACTLY the kind of show that MGN-kun is parodying. Shoujo is a big, diverse genre and has a lot of aspects and elements to it, but AoHa is what people tend to think of when they think the word shoujo: sincere high school stories about love and friendship. By virtue of being a part of that long-standing (and oft-mocked) subgenre, there are times when this series can feel pretty vanilla.

Simply put, you’ve probably seen a show or read a manga a whole lot like AoHa before. It’s a pretty classic coming-of-age slice of life (SoL) shoujo, exploring a lot of the same elements in the same way that you see in those other shows. So if you’re not into that, this show may not be for you.

That said, even if it’s not doing anything particularly new, it’s doing what it does very well. With lovely artwork, dynamic characters, themes of “change” and “new beginnings,” and a central romance that is growing in a pleasant and organic way (with minimal sparkles and melodrama, to boot), there’s a lot to like about AoHa. The tone is rather subdued, which I consider a good thing, and the main characters grow on me a little more with each episode. AoHa doesn’t break the mold, but it’s a well-made mold all the same, a solidly watchable SoL shoujo. I suspect I’ll be here for the full season.

HaNaYaMaTa

Remember that thing I said about how this had the potential to be more than just another “cute girls being cute” show? Well…

…No, it’s pretty much just another “cute girls being cute” show, but like Ao Haru Ride it uses high production values and just the tiniest spark of originality to keep it from getting tossed on the slush pile. The characters tread a very thin line between being funny-cute and being kind of obnoxious (ditto with the American stereotyping, although that sort of humor generally works for me), but for every scene that leaves me cold there’s a scene that makes me smile, and so far the scales tip ever-so-slightly in the show’s favor.

Plus I’m legitimately interested in learning about yosakoi dancing, something I know very little about. The more the show focuses on this element, the more I enjoy it. The scene at the Yosakoi Shop this week was my favorite moment since the Shrine Dance of the premiere, and I hope we see more of “Big Bro” in the coming weeks.

If Hanayamata were airing on the weekend, I could see it getting bumped off my schedule simply because there’s so much else to watch, but the weekdays are pretty quiet, and it’s a pleasant enough diversion during my Monday or Tuesday lunch hour. I suspect it’s going to be perpetually on the bubble, and one clunker could pop it in a hurry, but as long as it maintains its current balance of humor and yosakoi, I’m happy to stick around and see how the new club turns out.

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