Hanamaru Youchien

March 4, 2011

Aww… How cute. I guess that is what most people would say after watching Hanamaru Youchien (Hanamaru Kindergarten). What is this show about? The daily antics of the kindergarten teachers and pupils. Especially a little pupil who is in love with her teacher that she wants to marry him! Woah! Sounds like forbidden love, eh?

You would be forgiven if you conjure thoughts of fanservice, ecchi and horniness but this series is rather mild. After the horny and dirty minded loli in Kodomo No Jikan and the naughty trio in Mitsudomoe, one would have already thought that another series revolving kindergarten children wouldn’t be an innocent affair after all. Hanamaru Youchien isn’t close to that and it is rather funny and fun to watch even for the whole family. So it’s good news you don’t have to lock up yourself and watch this alone away from those unwanted people you never want to find out what you’re really watching.

Episode 1
We see newly graduate young adult Tsuchida getting to work late on his first day. Not a way to make a good impression. On his way, he meets a little kindergarten girl, Anzu, waiting for her mom who has forgotten something. Yeah, leave a child all alone on the streets, will ya? Tsuchida tries to talk to her but Anzu thinks he is hitting on him! Like in those drama shows! So that’s where her love for him blossomed. Like he’ll ever believe it. So he leaves once her mom, Sakura, is seen coming. Sakura takes Anzu to her first day at Hanamaru Kindergarten as Anzu quickly makes friends with Hiiragi (weird eyes she have) and Koume (shy girl). At the start of the entrance ceremony, Anzu spots Tsuchida (he’s working here as a kindergarten teacher) and is happy to see his loved one. Rumours soon spread among the teachers and kids that Tsuchida tried to hit on her. Yeah, they may be thinking what this kindergarten is coming to. What have children become of these days. Later the wind sends Koume’s ribbon stuck high upon a tree so Anzu climbs up to retrieve it. She got it but as expected, she slips. Luckily Tsuchida was there to catch her and provide them with a futon for soft landing. This settles it. Anzu is more in love with him now. Geez. Don’t want to be viewed as a lolicon, eh? Tsuchida also learns that Sakura is Anzu’s mom. She was his senpai during high school. Why does she look young? You see, she fell in love with her art teacher and got pregnant then, dropped out of school, never graduated and followed her husband to America. Tsuchida gets to know the other teaching staff like Nanako Yamamoto (possible love interest), Kusano (athletic one) and Kawashiro (slightly geeky). Back home, Anzu’s family is a nice and cosy one. When daddy gives Sakura a goodnight kiss, Anzu refuses to get one from daddy and would like to get one from her loved one. Next day in school, Anzu is really all over that game maniac Tsuchida so much so Sakura gives the thumbs up to support them till they’re married. Oh boy.

Episode 2
Tsuchida is feeling the pressure and tension of taking care of his pupils that includes Anzu and her friends. Must be fate to put them together, eh? Because he can’t attend to everyone’s whims and fancies, he must’ve overlooked the fact that he gave Anzu and co permission to explore the school grounds by themselves. They find a giant slide, supposedly a trademark of the kindergarten but were too afraid to go slide down. Tsuchida gets a little reprimanding for letting the kids out of his sight. But the headmistress is excited in knowing what kind of class Tsuchida will have since oddly the pupils take after the personality of their teacher. Kusano requests Tsuchida to play with her class so his own class soon joins in. Then everyone rides the slide as Tsuchida slides down with Anzu. In the end, Anzu happily tells her mom that the most wonderful thing happened: Tsuchida addressed her without an honorific. I guess it wasn’t the slide then. Kenji from another class tries to show his knowledge by boasting details that no kids their age would probably know (darn. I think he’ll put me to shame). However Hiiragi counters all his ‘facts’ with her more. This leads to Tsuchida to think that Hiiragi is a walking encyclopaedia. Man, she would put me even more to shame. Well, her father is an astronomer so I guess she spends her time reading books. Now I really feel ashamed. Kenji isn’t going to throw in a towel yet and challenges her to prove the existence of rumours of a ghost at a nearby park. But the teachers put their foot down on them doing something dangerous. But Kenji doesn’t listen and goes to the park alone that night to prove it, eventually running scared. Tsuchida and Hiiragi get a call from Kenji’s mom that he hasn’t returned yet so they go look for him and find him at the park. The ghost rumour is discovered to be piles of rubbish. This place is special to Hiiragi and her dad as they come here to watch the stars. Next day, Kenji decides to become Hiiragi’s student and calls her his master! Much to her dismay.

Episode 3
Noticing Tsuchida’s crush on dense Yamamoto, Hiiragi notices the love triangle as she and Koume decide to help Anzu out to win over Tsuchida. This includes trying to make him lunch. How can Sakura let Anzu do the cooking herself? The power of love she says? Tsuchida isn’t that dumb to taste so when Anzu tasted it herself, let’s just say it’s a miracle she didn’t die. Tsuchida learns of this love triangle thingy and advises her that adults have to be mindful and can’t just tell others upfront that one likes the other. However he notes children fall in love in their own way so happy Anzu hugs him. But soon Tsuchida goes to play with the other kids (especially the boys who share the same interest with his video games) so Anzu wonders if he really is an adult. The next part sees Yamamoto going about in her daily life, interacting with the people at Hanamaru Kindergarten and her thoughts of those she meets ranging from Koume to Hiiragi (she likes wearing weird outfits, doesn’t she?) and deeply-madly-truly-in-love-with-Tsuchida Anzu. Tsuchida tries to ask Yamamoto out to the amusement park but he panics when the boys caught him for confessing. His slip up is made worse when Yamamoto misinterprets and wants him to take Anzu out instead. When Anzu learns of Tsuchida’s confession, she confronts Yamamoto and asserts she likes Tsuchida. She replies she likes Tsuchida too and all of the rest alike. Before Anzu knows it, she gets caught up in reconciling. Depressed Tsuchida goes out with drinking with Kusano and Kawashiro and learns that Yamamoto is very dense when it comes to matters of love. So much so she could enter the Guinness Book of Records if you must say. Not only that, everyone else in school knows of Tsuchida’s love triangle. We see Yamamoto quite popular among the other people in the streets (including delinquents?). But you know, she’s just thinking they’re just being friendly. Even when her dad calls for being worried about this Tsuchida guy who may have hidden intentions, she said he’s just a helpful guy and then men doesn’t seem interested in her! Call the Guinness Book of Records, please.

Episode 4
Anzu’s fairytale romance with Tsuchida has been shot down because he thinks it is unrealistic. Like telling the truth about Santa Claus, eh? Anzu decides to play going on a date with Tsuchida in kindergarten in. With the help of Hiiragi and Koume, they get to have a nice tropical drink (milk actually) at a ‘cafe’, ‘drive’ around and ‘watch the stars’ at the park. Of course each plan to get closer seems to backfire and when it’s time for that much anticipated kiss, playtime is over. Heartbreak… Later on a day whereby Tsuchida takes a day’s leave to attend a relative’s wedding, Yamamoto takes charge of Tsuchida’s class. However rather than being hostile, Anzu becomes helpful and assists Yamamoto in task and even volunteered to do some because Tsuchida said to give their full cooperation. Well, in a way she’s listening to his words, right? When Tsuchida returns, he finds that both of them are quite friendly with each other so much so they won’t let him in on their conversation because it’s a girl’s secret!

Episode 5
That doesn’t mean Anzu has given up on Tsuchida. When he turns down another date request, Anzu suspects he is seeing another woman so she along with Hiiragi and Koume play detective to spy on him. Detective Conan anyone? However they get distracted by little stuff and almost lose track of him. Unknown to the trio, Sakura is also tailing them to keep an eye. Seems like Tsuchida is doing pretty normal stuff. Having a drink at the cafe (looking at the cute waitresses?) and reading adult magazines. However Tsuchida gets into trouble when a pair of yakuza confronts him. Sakura has to step in to save the hapless guy but it is revealed that Kumichou (yakuza boss) was just trying to reprimand him for not throwing his rubbish properly. Yakuza doing community service and committed to the environment? After Sakura makes her excuse to get away, the trio confront Tsuchida loitering alone at the park. He learns of their concern as they head back together to get some taiyaki. In kindergarten, after Yuu Kobayakawa helps up Koume who tripped, she starts to fall for him. Hiiragi and Anzu try to help her out as they observe Yuu and gather data on him (oh, Hiiragi…). I love Hiiragi’s strayed explanation why Koume should confess to him now because Yuu may soon be moving away, get abducted by aliens or the coming of Second Impact (Evangelion parody!) or even the Ishbal War (Fullmetal Alchemist parody!) Oh, Hiiragi, you crack me up. They also tried having her write a letter and setting up a proper place and time so she could talk to him. However due to Anzu’s odd advice, Koume spewed “I want you to hold me!” (at least that’s what Anzu learned from her mom!). She manages to thank him as they both go out to play together.

Episode 6
Hanamaru kindergarten plays in the pool. Too bad Anzu’s loli body is no match for Yamamoto’s busty figure. It’s understandable that Tsuchida is often distracted to the other side rather than keeping his eyes on Anzu. I don’t know about that horrible synchronized swimming the trio did but it flop big time. Tsuchida saves Anzu so she thinks he’ll come to her if she’s in danger. Tsuchida gets a distressing call from Anzu and she’s really in danger! She’s surrounded by… Sharks?! Oh, it’s Hiiragi wearing fins. Tsuchida isn’t amused and reprimands Anzu for doing something like that. Then an accident that almost unties Yamamoto’s top. Anzu not happy with that smirk on his face. Back home, Yamamoto’s sister, Mayumi’s hopes of seeing her sister moving ahead in her love life hits another brick wall because Yamamoto mentions Tsuchida’s praise was on her bikini rather than herself. Is the Guinness Book of Records here yet? Anzu must be pretty alert whenever some pretty woman comes looking for Tsuchida. Turns out to be his sister Satsuki. Seems she is reprimanding her brother for being irresponsible like forgetting to leave the key in the mail for her. She wonders if he is suitable to be a kindergarten teacher so Yamamoto invites her to stay and observe. Anzu looks forward to get acquainted with her future sister-in-law. As Satsuki plays with the class she sees the unfavourable side of Tsuchida like falling asleep while reading storybooks and talking to the boys about video games. Not good impression. But she also sees his kind, caring and considerate side. Satsuki then made lunch for him and probably summoned up lots of courage to tell her true feelings she could cook for him every day if he comes home but since he wasn’t listening (the food must be that good, eh?) so she blows her top. Satsuki goes to Tsuchida’s apartment and finds the place a filth and starts cleaning up. Feels like your mother, eh?

Episode 7
For the summer vacation, Sakura and Anzu head back to their hometown and have Tsuchida, Yamamoto, Hiiragi and Koume tag along. On the train, they joke about the girls being Tsuchida’s love/harem. Haha. That may be truer than you think. They visit Tsuchida’s parents and looks like Satsuki is also there. I’m sure mom is pretty disappointed that she won’t get to see any grandchildren yet. Anzu reveals herself as Tsuchida’s future bride among other embarrassing activities they did together. The gang learns that Tsuchida once had a crush on Sakura during high school (she set him up on a date but obviously he didn’t go) but she had her eyes on her art teacher. Later Satsuki wants to surprise Tsuchida with her cooking but it seems he guessed everyone else except her, causing her to become upset. That night Satsuki couldn’t sleep and after accompanying Anzu to the toilet, they talk about Tsuchida. Next evening, everyone visits the shrine for the festival. We all know what they pray for, right? Anzu must be so excited that she shouted out aloud about her wish. Because Tsuchida is trying to organize the kids to hold hands so as not to get lost, Satsuki becomes a little upset and runs off. Flashback reveals how she got lost at the festival and was crying alone but Tsuchida came and found her. Because of that, Tsuchida seems to know where to find Satsuki as they reconcile and watch the fireworks with everyone.

Episode 8
Back from the holidays, the class is assigned to write what they did over summer. However a boy named Aoi didn’t get to go anywhere and instead told how his parents work as fishmongers. He wanted to help out but his dad didn’t let him because he’s too young. One day Anzu, Hiiragi and Koume pass by Aoi’s parent’s shop and manage to convince them to help out. It is quite effective. I mean, who wouldn’t want to resist buying fish from a bunch of cute kids. Besides, nobody ever thought of child slavery, right? So when Aoi sees his pals helping out, he too wishes to help out. Though his dad is reluctant, eventually he gives in seeing how much fun he is having and how happy he is. In the next part, Tsuchida’s kindness to help a little girl, Hinagiku, will lead him to yet another trouble. Her sandals broke so he helps her home. Turns out she is the daughter of that Kumichou! Oh sh*t! You can’t refuse his hospitality! However the yakuza listen to Hinagiku and apologize for trying to scare their guest. You can guess that Hinagiku takes a liking for Tsuchida so much so she transfers herself to Hanamaru Kindergarten the next day and makes a marriage proposal to him! What will Anzu say about this? First she’s got Yamamoto as rival, now this. Tsuchida follows his pupils’ ideas to make Hinagiku dislike him such as reading adult magazines but she’s not budging. So when Hinagiku learns of Yamamoto, she confronts her about Tsuchida. She realizes Yamamoto is on a different level and couldn’t beat her (though that teacher is still dense). She decides to withdraw her marriage proposal but Anzu tells her that she shouldn’t give up because if she does, it’s over. Because of that, Hinagiku decides to stay for the time being and do what it takes to be his right woman. She’ll also postpone the marriage proposal and wait till she is older. As pointed out by Hiiragi, for helping out Hinagiku, Anzu’s love rival is back. Darn. Didn’t think about that, eh?

Episode 9
An editor named Hanamaru is in a slump to finish his Panda Cat manuscript. Mayumi is his assistant and tries to get the office to extend the deadline. As Hanamaru is taking a break at the park, Anzu, Hiiragi and Koume spot him and notice he has a crush on Mayumi (the reason for his slump) and try to give him advice on how to confess to her. Taking advice from kids? Then they cheer him up with a Panda Cat dance before leaving. Mayumi sees Yamamoto shopping with Tsuchida and notices that guy’s feelings for her but of course her sister is still oblivious. Likewise Mayumi cancels a dinner Yamamoto set for her and Hanamaru to go help the latter. Hanamaru gets inspiration and manages to finish the manuscript. Back home, both sisters talk about the other’s guys. Mayumi knows Tsuchida wasn’t just hungry when he wanted to have dinner with Yamamoto and Yamamoto knows the movie invitation Hanamaru made to Mayumi was because he likes her. The sisters are so alike. Realizing the other’s secret crush but oblivious to their own. Good example of the pot calling the kettle black. In class, the kids are to write their future ambitions. Guess what Anzu’s is. Koume wanted to be lots of things but I guess she can’t handle multi-tasking or choose which one. Hiiragi again has to be very amusing because her ambitions seem to include being an astronaut to a Jedi on her way defeating Darth Vader! May the force be with you! Later the teachers discuss why they become so and each has their own reasons. Later Kusano invites Tsuchida to sleepover at her place and he finds her fetish for macho men! She’s viewing videos of one flexing his muscles repeatedly! To hell with the plot!

Episode 10
Koume’s brother comes to visit her. Both siblings are very close and he is worried since the kindergarten is organizing a sports day she would end up last in the race and cry. The gang have Koume train and practise under Kusano and come sports day, after all the other events, the foot race begins with Koume taking the lead but trips halfway as the rest zooms past her. Holding her tears back, she picks herself up. As the crowd starts cheering her, she begins to lose confidence. Her brother then goes up to the finish line and calls for her. Koume gets the determination to run pass the line and into her brother’s arms. Back home, he gives her a medal for putting great effort. I like that part whereby some specky kid thought too much attention was given to Koume’s training, etc. So he’s going to show the fruits of his secret training. In the end, he still ended up last after all. Try harder next year. The next part has the teachers get together for dinner. After that, Tsuchida joins Yamamoto, Kusano and Kawashiro at the karaoke (are they singing Shaman King songs?!). I guess everyone got a little bit drunk so Kusano and Kawashiro encourage Tsuchida to confess in which he did. Before Yamamoto could say anything, everyone was so happy that Tsuchida confessed and celebrated that the scene nearly turned into a musical (Yamamoto too joined in). But he got depressed the next day because he passed out without hearing her answer. Anzu and Hinagiku are shocked to learn about Tsuchida’s confession but since he was never given an answer, they still have hope. Upon Kusano’s advice to ask Yamamoto directly, when he finally summons his courage to do so, once again he is disappointed she thought he was referring to a favourite manga line. Because of that, the next morning as Anzu and Sakura are going out, they see Tsuchida sleeping in the garbage pile, losing all hope and motivation. He even thinks of quitting his job! Leave it up to frustrated Sakura to give him a good wake up call.

Episode 11
Tsuchida remains depressed yelling in the rain caused him to be sick. Since he is staying home, Anzu takes the trouble to come over to look after him. However she ends up causing trouble and has to be looked after instead. And Hinagiku got pretty shocked to learn that Anzu slept over at Tsuchida’s place. Next time choose your words better and not make it sound ambiguous, okay? Tsuchida brings tired Anzu back to her home as he learns Sakura is quite busy helping her husband with his upcoming art exhibition. He has him help her out writing manga scripts. She learns of his depression of his confession to Yamamoto and wants him to cheer up since this will affect his pupils. Next day he is resolved to go confess and even bought a bouquet of flowers. But he gets cold feet outside her apartment. He bumps into Mayumi and she knows what’s going on. Mayumi goes to meet Hanamaru at the cafe and tells of her sister’s density. Hanamaru too wished Mayumi would notice it (her density) because he too has bouquet of flowers for her. Tsuchida goes to see Yamamoto at kindergarten and finds her writing letters of her pupils’ report to their respective parents. He asks her from a third person perspective if a man likes her and wants to ask her out. She replies though she is happy, she doesn’t think it’ll work out as she won’t have enough time and energy to juggle between her pupils and the relationship. Tsuchida then goes off as he thinks for a guy who has nothing, he is out of Yamamoto’s league. He goes back to see Anzu has cooked for him. Don’t worry, it has improved a lot. Then she wants him to tell an interesting story in which he makes up a story of a Clumsy Prince falling in love with Dense Princess and being attacked by a fake giant Panda Cat. Don’t the prince and princess remind you of a certain someone?

Episode 12
As Anzu’s house will hold a Christmas party, Anzu falls asleep while praying to Santa. I guess in dreams, dreams are granted as she becomes a (sexy) grownup. She gets distracted along the way and couldn’t recognize grownup Hiiragi and Koume who put her on the bus. Then Tsuchida comes in and both couldn’t recognize each other, though she has a feeling of seeing him somewhere before. They get off together and dance in the snow. She realizes who he is as they kiss. Back in reality, everyone arrives for the party while Anzu is still in her dreamland. Later the gang visits Anzu’s dad’s art exhibition. They see a painting of Anzu and Sakura. Sakura reveals that the painting was drawn from the inspiration Tsuchida. When Sakura was down in her love for her art teacher, Tsuchida gave her words of encouragement: “The power of love” and had Sakura pursue him till where they are now. So it is those same words that Sakura told to Anzu to pursue Tsuchida. In other words, like a boomerang or reaping what he sows, eh? After they leave, Tsuchida wants to spend time with Yamamoto but seeing he has to take care of Anzu, he gets discouraged and leaves. Anzu isn’t happy because he is giving up and wants him to confess. Though Tsuchida gives excuses of the implication since Anzu likes him, Anzu says it will be over if he does because she wants him to be happy. He gets his confidence back and rushes back to Yamamoto. He maybe a loser, but he is what he is. Probably his build-up speech took too long so once again Yamamoto misinterprets he is talking about work. Oh God. No true happy ending. Try again next time. Next day in school, Tsuchida and Yamamoto put up the play of Clumsy Prince and Dense Princess and all the kids are quite excited about it.

The Age Of Innocence
So it isn’t anything much and you thought Tsuchida would finally get an answer after all this time but I guess it’s best that they remain the way as they are and take things one step at a time. There isn’t any much revelation or development in the show and in some cases you can watch certain episodes as standalones if you know a little of the background and characters. The comedy and the few parodies are entertaining itself. So if you want to see this show, see it for the cuteness and the easy and relaxing plot that doesn’t have anyone trying to crack their heads. Unless you’re the kind of person who prefers mindless macho action, I guess watching this show is enough to make anyone go “Aww… How cute”. I know I did that a few times but there are certain points it became a little annoying.

One thing I need to mention that is obvious in the series is the frank and honesty of the kids. No matter how absurd or silly they may think or say, you can see that they are not shy or afraid to voice out their opinions of what they think. When we become adults, we have to be so mindful and careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings so much so we can’t be honest with ourselves anymore. It’s nice and cute to see Anzu unfaltering love for Tsuchida but whether she’ll change when she grows up or still remain by his side is another different story. Though it is funny to see her getting a little alert when some girl comes into contact with Tsuchida or he looks at other girls, nevertheless she is helpful and cares for others. She doesn’t hesitate to help others even if it they are her rival because I think she will hate to see others depressed more than anything else. Even if it does contradict the rational and rules of love in society, she does want to see others happy.

Hiiragi is another amusing girl. I like her explanations on stuff and sometimes they really go exaggerated. Maybe she reads too much. I know that some of the characters are given their due screen time (because the entire series doesn’t just focus on Tsuchida and Anzu) but I just wished she had more because I’d really laugh whenever she starts explaining. Tsuchida needs to work harder from now on but I can see he’s doing a fine job. Except in the love area of course. He’s popular with the kids but the only girl he has his eyes on doesn’t seem to notice it. I really can’t believe Yamamoto being so dense that I think if anybody would just go up to her and spell each and every word that he likes her, she’ll still not get it. Same case to Mayumi. It must run in the family, eh? There I can’t say anything much about the other characters because they don’t really change much. You can pretty guess what kind of personality they have after a short while. I thought Satsuki may have brother complex but I guess it wasn’t that extreme. I still find it odd that Kumichou and his yakuza gang are a good bunch of people. They just look unruly, that’s all. Gokusen, anyone? Maybe with Hinagiku, she’ll keep the gang in line.

The drawing and art of the characters can be considered cute and seeing the little ones interact may make you go “Aww… So cute” and all warm inside. Hey, I think I’ve said that before. The odd part is that the kids are so small that they are shorter than the adult’s knee and especially Anzu who climbs and crawls all over Tsuchida like as though she’s some sort of agile monkey. But you know, that’s all part of being cute and adorable. Hmm… In a way the character designs to resemble a little like Potemayo… Another unique thing about this series is that there are different ending songs for each episode. From slow pace to pop beats, the seiyuus of the series sings them, some doing it more than once and some doing a duet. The ending credits animation itself is interesting and the art differs in each one. They can range from simple crayon drawings to the standard style. Even the theme differs. There is one like a futuristic space battle of good-versus-evil, a horror clip and an old French drama! The opening is fixed and sounds lively and cutesy. Entitled Aozora Triangle by the seiyuu of Anzu, Hiiragi and Koume.

Watching this show somehow brings me back memories when I was attending kindergarten. Oh wait. I can’t remember much. If such a case do happen in real life, I can imagine all the negative implications surrounding it. Perhaps society isn’t ready to accept something like this yet. But even so, would it really be morally right? We all know that there are many kinds of love and kids do say the darnest things. At that age, children are still at an early stage of learning and exploring. Well, it’s just a good thing that Anzu considers Tsuchida to be her future husband. At least, it’s better than being called a lolicon, right?