The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Hanamaru Kindergarten

Title: Hanamaru Kindergarten aka Hanamaru Youchien
Genre: Comedy
Company: Gainax
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 10 Jan 2010 – 28 Mar 2010

Synopsis: Tsuchida is fresh out of college. He’s kind but meek and into otakuish hobbies. So naturally, his first real life job is being a kindergarten teacher at Hanamaru Kindergarten. His hands are full with a trio of rambunctious youths in his class: energetic Anzu, genius Hiiragi, and shy Koume. But he strives everyday to overcome daily challenges and catch the fancy of his fellow teacher and resident beauty Yamamoto.

The Highlights
EDs: New, fresh, and unique every episode.
Hiiragi: The world’s sweetest cosplay.
Humor: Brain not required.

A combined effort between the director of the iconic and standard-setting shounen epic Fullmetal Alchemist, and the creators of the hot-blooded cosmic robot adventure Gurren Lagann and the dark supernatural action thriller Shikabane Hime, comes the next mega-hit from the fanboy favorite studio Gainax. Or so I imagine went the pitch for Hanamaru Kindergarten to prospective TV execs (find the trailer showed at AX 2009 to get what I mean). Quite the departure from its complex and brooding pedigree, Hanamaru Kindergarten is light, low-key, and innocent fare, maybe even fluffier and less demanding than one would expect even from a pastel-colored cartoon about a kindergarten class.

This anime presents itself as an earnestly simplistic, candy-colored perspective about kids’ play time. They attend the aforementioned Hanamaru Kindergarten (‘hanamaru’ is a spiraled flower mark, a cute symbol for ‘good job’ similar to a gold star), a school that looks as if it sprouted from the imagination of a child. The building resembles brightly-colored fruit; the playground is full of toys, swings, and jungle gyms; and the school has a pool and even a tall slide that literally goes from the second floor to the first! This special kindergarten is basically the school of every little kid’s dreams, full of fun, fanciful playthings sure to make us old and jaded scoff a little (and maybe just a mite jealous).

Not much actual learning goes on, but that’s OK because this is anime, and all the tykes are preposterously precocious. Starting with Hiiragi, who helps her dad with his astrophysics research, to Hinagiku, the yakuza princess and miniature Yamato Nadeshiko, these five-year-olds think, behave, and are treated like miniature adults. Even the show’s lead scamp, Anzu, attaches herself to Tsuchida (20-something) at their first meeting and pursues an “adult” relationship with him. Thankfully, the show never takes itself seriously, and plays off the “love triangle” between Tsuchida, Anzu, and the dense (but wonderfully, erm, well-endowed) Yamamoto-sensei for laughs instead of diving into any potentially sketchy material. The kids act mature, the adults are dumb, and cute non-threatening comedy is Hanamaru’s sole purpose.

If what so far I’ve described sounds like an unexciting, simple-minded series, that’s because it is. I found the charms of Hanamaru distressingly shallow, a letdown for the Gainax fanboy in me that longed for the tongue-in-cheek parody or inventive enthusiasm that is the studio’s trademark. The only truly creative moments came at the end of each episode in the closing credits. Each ED featured new music and animation, showcasing scenes not in the episodes like a fairytale picture book, a cosmic space battle, and even a French noir film, often drawn in differing yet appropriate art styles. Still, too often the EDs were the most enthralling 90 seconds of an episode, where I’d just point to and say to myself, “I want to watch that show”.

Hanamaru Kindergarten is harmless and weightless amusement. Your mileage will depend on how much its saccharine humor and cute antics appeal to you. Admittedly, I enjoyed some recurring elements (like Hiiragi’s adorable play costumes), but most likely this show will only be a diversion; something to fill the time between watching the shows you really want to see.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: kadian1364

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