My Easter weekend this year was in its entirety spent stripping waterproof wallpaper from the spare room. For those of you uninitiated with this particular pleasure, it is akin to removing the world's largest and most awkward price sticker from an abjectly disappointing present - in this case, masonry. Needles to say, my mental and physical exhaustion left me demanding nothing less than the most mindless entertainment available. This was one of the reasons I ended up watching Hanamaru Youchien. The other being the fact that anime-planet's own KiraRin continues to take much vindictive pleasure in abusing my generous participation in the forum's TACO club and forcing me to watch shows which she deems to be sufficiently loli-oriented.
Hanamaru Youchien's story revolves around a precocious young girl who makes inappropriate advances on her teacher. Sound familiar? Chances are it will if you've seen Kodomo no Jikan but, where the latter was bold and provocative, Hanamaru is lighthearted and short on substance. Of course, I expected nothing else. From the character designs alone, it's clear that Hanamaru has no higher ambition than to be a cute and comedic moefest. However, it is one which labours under the fantasy that there is nothing more to moe than having a handful of cute characters and expecting the rest to take care of itself. As you may have already inferred from the way I am writing, the rest does not take care of itself and the progeny of overly simple characters and an utter disregard for narrative is stillborn, noteworthy only for the adorable twinkle to its dead eyes. It is hard to judge the story of Hanamaru Youchien, because there is nothing worthy of being called such. The unorthodox love triangle between Anzu, Tsuchida and Yamamoto - which ostensibly comprises the core of the plot - never develops in any meaningful way, and the manner in which it concludes is disappointing and predictable in equal measures. All that remains after this is a series of clichéd misadventures, which rarely threaten to amuse, much less engage. In short, Hanamaru's story comes across as so simplistic and derivative, it could easily have been written in green crayon by one of its protagonists.
With all that said, the show IS thoroughly cute and even the most cold-hearted and embittered balls of hate amongst my readership would have difficulty in stifling a desire to hug any and all nearby objects upon the site of Hiiragi dressed as Panda-cat or Koume shedding a few tears. Such elements - through a necessity to compensate for the threadbareness of plot and humour more than anything else - make up the backbone of the anime. As such, Hanamaru will likely have plenty of appeal for the mindless moe crowd but, even then, there are many shows - such as Gakuen Alice or Card Captor Sakura - which are capable of providing you with your RDA of cuteness and more besides.
Visually, Hanamaru is clean, smooth, and anything else that is to be expected of a 2010 anime. It's never eye-catching in any way, though it does not need to be. The general art style suits the kindergarten setting very well, with bright colours and simple backgrounds being the order of the day. The character designs, however, leave much to be desired. For the most part, the protagonists' appearances are entirely forgettable and almost insultingly generic. Tsuchida, for example, seems to have gathered the most ordinary, unremarkable visual traits of every weak male lead in the history of anime, and rolled them into one 5 foot 9, glasses-wearing, black-haired lump of dullness. Yamamoto fares no better, with her long brown hair and sizable bosom making her the very paragon of visual vanilla.
The toddlers, thankfully, exhibit a little more imagination in their appearance. While they are entirely freakish in terms of proportions, I'd be lying if I said they weren't cute. In fact, they're damned cute, even if it is a cuteness tempered by a constant awareness that neither their necks nor their knees would survive in a standard-gravity environment. Suspension is this disbelief is nevertheless a small price to pay for such expertly chiselled huggability as is exuded by Anzu and co.
A cursory perusal of my previous reviews would be enough to make it clear that I am generally tolerant of bad music, and even enjoy it on occasion. Thus, the fact that I didn't much care for Hanamru's OP should be enough to condemn it in the eyes of all but the most ardent fans of tuneless moe pop. The decision to provide a different ED for each episode of Hanamaru fares no better. None of them are sufficiently well written to be enjoyable on a first listen, and they all roll into one confusing cacophony. Skippable. Slightly better is the musical score, which has a light-hearted ring to it, in-keeping with the anime's general theme. Rarely dramatic, and never over the top, the background music does its job with the minimum of fuss.
The anime's voicing is a mixed bag. Hinagiku's perfectly pitched eloquence is enough to create joygasms in my ears, whereas Anzu's overenthusiasm is simply and inescapably irritating. Nevertheless, when they find their lines reduced to clipped utterances and childlike noises, the seiyuu generally succeed in accentuating the cuteness of whatever is happening on screen.
Hanamaru's characters range from annoying to pleasant, but not one of them has enough depth to drown a gnat. Tsuchida's status as generic dorky male grants him an utter lack of charisma which conspires with Yamamoto's impossible obliviousness to destroy any interest in the main romance. The other teachers in the kindergarten are more lacking in personality still, and every scene featuring them feels like an utter waste of time.
Fortunately, there exists a small saving grace in the fact that the infants are far more interesting with better defined traits, allowing for mildly comedic interactions and the occasional spot of character humour. At times, some of them will come up with thoughts or engage in shenanigans which jarringly belie their age, but this sort of conceit is often necessary to keep a story moving or to set up a joke, so can be forgiven.
Loved it. It was just silly fun. There was no real point, but be cute and funny. I'm just assuming that there is going to be a sequel. It just ends without resolving any of the problems. Mainly, they did what a lot of harem animes love to do.
The animation was good, but nothing amazing. It won't be something I'll remember years later. I did like how they animated Hiiragi. I just thought it was funny, and interesting.
The characters were great. It's what the show really focused on. They were all good, but I just loved Hiiragi. I loved her voice, and her surprising high level of intelligence. Her costumes are some of the cutest things ever. Her panda-neko dance was pure win!
Anime in 200 Words: Hanamaru Youchien
Premise: A five year old girl falls in love with her kindergarten teacher and is thrilled to be so grown up. Tsuchi is interested in a large-breasted coworker, but none of his efforts dissuade Anzu from her pursuit.
Audience: People who love cute things. Likely female people.
Highlights: Hiiragi was the kid who caught my heart. Her Panda-neko dance is one of my absolute favorite anime moments ever.
Lowlights: Repetition of gags. Sure, Yamamoto is naïve and kind of dense, but how many times do you want to watch her prove it? Oh! And what about her sister who explained that in the first place- wouldn’t it be funny if SHE was dense too? Well, she is! Bwa ha!
Romance: I watched the series, and I’m still not precisely certain that I understand the relationships between the adults, or at least, the ones that are related to Anzu. Good for serious moments, bad for comprehension.
Overall: Hanamaru Youchien isn’t the best series ever made, but you could certainly do much worse. If you need something light and simple, let Anzu take you to the coolest kindergarten building ever- you may like what you find!
Hot damn, it's a slice-of-life that isn't about teenagers!
Unfortunately, it still couldn't manage to avoid many of the clichés that plague high-school shows: cheesy drama, the obligatory fanservice episode, and (worst of all) the romance between painfully-awkward-boy and unrealistically-dense-girl. Despite these shortcomings, Hanamaru Kindergarden was a pretty cute show, and really funny when it was focusing on comedy (which, thankfully, was most of the time). The middle three/four episodes were pretty weak (Tsuchi's sister is hella obnoxious), but it managed to bounce back to the humor and imagination displayed in it's earlier episodes, which is something most series cannot do once they start going downhill.
If you want a cute, light slice-of-life that is a bit different from the standard fare, this is a nice choice.
Carefree, funny, and heartfelt, Hanamaru Youchien is more than a slice-of-life comedy about kindergarteners and their lovable antics. It's also about keeping the child in your heart alive. It's about understanding that kids, even the youngest of them, all have little hearts and lots of love in them. The interactions between the teachers, the teachers and students, and the teachers and parents are all very funny, but completely within the realm of believability. The series touches on growing up, falling in love, and persevering through tough times while never getting too serious.
I also especially enjoyed the opening song; it's a perfect fit for the anime. Lighthearted and upbeat, it has a tendency to stick in your head. Each episode closes with a different ending song and accompanying animation, as well, which was a fun way to close out the show each week.
This series has great writing, hilarious visual gags, and a story that will leave you wanting so much more than 12 episodes. Even if you're not into slice-of-life anime, give this one a try. I bet the kids at Hanamaru Youchien steal your heart, too.