Finally, we’ve arrived at the final character spotlight for the nine original girls of Love Live! School Idol Project, and I’ve saved the best for last. Hanayo Koizumi is my favorite character and I hope you’ll indulge me as I gush about why Hanayo is the best, and why I feel such a strong, personal connection with her character.
A first year student, Hanayo is very shy and soft-spoken. While she initially lacks the courage to fulfill her dream of becoming a school idol, her best friend Rin encourages her to take the plunge. From then on, she (along with fellow μ's member Nico Yazawa) becomes one of the two pillars of school idol fandom in the series. Though she is normally something of a wallflower, two things can light a fire in her soul that makes her almost seem like a different person. The first is school idols, and the second is food, especially rice.
The Power of Fandom
I love characters who are fans. Chalk it up to being a fan of geek hobbies my entire life, but I can practically feel Hanayo’s excitement in my bones whenever one of her favorite topics comes up. There are many memorable Hanayo moments, but the very first has to be when she first sees Nico’s ultra-rare Legend of the Legendary Idols DVD box set. Her hurried breath, as if she can’t get out the words to describe her excitement fast enough, reminds me of all the geeks I’ve met over the years who were afraid to talk, but if you could manage to get them to discuss their favorite show, story, or activity, they are a fount of enthusiasm and knowledge.
Like them, it’s as if Hanayo forgets for a moment that she lacks confidence, and it makes her all the more endearing. This aspect of Hanayo’s personality is encapsulated in her voice. While grating to some fans, it just reminds me of the passion that burns within her. It’s as if she’s quietly screaming at the top of her lungs all the time, and it’s perhaps best that she is so quiet; she might turn out to be some kind of banshee if she had the lungs of someone like Honoka.
Goddess of Rice
If there is one single running joke that gets associated with Hanayo, it’s her love of white rice. In Love Live! School Idol Festival, one of her best cards is “Rice Goddess Hanayo,” where she’s dressed as Demeter, Greek Goddess of the Harvest. When you have her as your main card, she’ll remind you every few hours about rice, snacks, and good times to eat (which are “always”). In the anime, her rice obsession is hinted strongly at over the course of the series, until it hits a high mark in the infamous diet episode. As much as it pains me to see her suffer, the sheer hubris with which she eats her gigantic size-of-her-head onigiri (see introductory image!) only to realize that she might be eating a bit too much is too satisfying of a punchline for me to not enjoy it.
When the girls of μ's go to New York in the film, I think pretty much all Hanayo fans were anticipating her desperate outburst over the relative lack of Japanese white rice. Then, when she walks out of what is clearly a re-designed Kenka in New York’s East Village—a familiar stomping ground for myself over the years—I could feel an even closer connection to her.
The Spring Flower
Hanayo is the best thing to come out of Love Live! She speaks to everyone whose seemingly dull or quiet personalities belie a love for one’s hobbies that is so strong that it seems to stretch into infinity. Whether it’s school idols or rice, Hanayo makes dreams come alive just by being who she is.