I've never been one to worry about my masculinity, which is why I suppose I can freely admit I watched Hanamaru Youchien.
Following the adventures of a group of kindergarteners, this show is more sweet then a Mars bar cocooned in a shell of sugar, with sprinkles, which is why I'm led to believe the main audience would be the female side of the population.
Regardless of this, I'm writing a review anyway.
As is common with the slice of life genre, there isn't any structured form to the show's plot, but it just throws the characters into various everyday situations and lets the humour and sweetness roll.
That said, we are introduced to potential romance from the word go, with our protagonist instantly falling for a fellow teacher, and becoming part of a somewhat awkward love triangle.
It is kind of irritating however that this is never really developed throughout the series, though I could also argue resolving it would only cause the show to lose some of it's charm.
In the end though, the plot plays a fairly mediocre role. There are no dramatic plot twists, or sudden conflicts, so those looking for a deep, complex plot to get their teeth into should perhaps look elsewhere.
Everything is bright and colourful, a style befitting the young stars of the show. Aside from that though this series doesn't really stand out.
The show is crippled by some depressingly generic character designs, our protagonist Tsuchida if nothing more then standard material, and the other adults are almost equally generic.
The children however have a greater air of creativity about them, Anzu's multicoloured hair is fun to look at for its originality, meanwhile Hiiragi is easily associated with her unique, somewhat mysterious, eyes. Unlike the adults, the children do manage to stand out as being different to countless clones from other series.
The mellow, cheerful, soundtrack somehow manages to make something cute to begin with, even sweeter then thought possible, like putting ribbon on a kitten.
For starters the opening theme is a bright, and sunny piece of music that really sets the tone of the whole show. I doubt many could listen to it without feeling happier by the end of it.
As for endings, every show has a unique song, set to it's own animation, which really helps keep us interested in watching the ending. I for one generally skip an anime's ending one I've seen it a few times.
The soundtrack used in the actual episodes is general simple, but cheery, often accompanying the serene mood of the show.
Perhaps one of the the biggest problems I have with this show is the characters. A lot of them fall into cliché archetypes we've all seen a hundred times before.
Tsuchi is not anything beyond out usual awkward protagonist; he likes video games, is really nice, but has trouble with his shyness. I'm sure that sounds familiar.
Add in unbelievably dense Yamamoto, walking encyclopedia Hiiragi, clumsy crybaby Koume and before long we find that a lot of the characters have little to separate them from characters seen many times before.
On the plus side the characters do manage to avoid acting like each other. Whilst they generally aren't anything new, the variations between each of them does allow us to easily find a favourite to grow attached to.
Hanamaru Youchien is when it comes down to it, all about melting your heart. If you squeel with delight every time you see something cute, then I'm sure you'll find this a very enjoyable show. On the other hand if you can't stand simple characters and plots then you had best stay away.
For those willing to overlook some character clichés, and a lack of any real plot, then there is enough cuteness here to make even the coldest of hearts give in.