Original Run: January 11, 2010 - March 29, 2010 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life Based on the Series Created By: Yuuto
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Hanamaru Youchien. Reader discretion is advised.***
Naozumi “Tsuchi” Tsuchida (voiced by Satoshi Hino) dreamed of becoming a kindergarten teacher. Now, that dream is about to become a reality. However, on his first day at his new job, Tsuchi runs into a little girl named Anzu (voiced by Kei Shindo).
Although Tsuchi was only trying to help Anzu, who looked as though she was by herself, Anzu mistook her interaction with Tsuchi to be her destined encounter with her future beloved. Then, to Tsuchi’s shock, Anzu not only ends up in his class but she also turns out to be the daughter of an old friend.
Despite having the career he wanted, Tsuchi realizes there is more to being a kindergarten teacher than he expected. And with a kid like Anzu, Tsuchi needs to always be on his guard.
To be honest with you, it surprised me that I had not written a review for Hanamaru Youchien sooner. For a long time, I had great admiration for this series, having even once ranked it among Anime Hajime’s top anime comedies.
Coming back to it now, I wasn’t surprised by how little this series pulled a laugh out of me. After all, I had expectations, and comedy works better when there are none. Nevertheless, this show was still amazingly fun, and I got from it, the entertainment value I remembered. I do not regret coming back to Hanamaru Youchien, and I still consider it to be genuinely well made in many aspects.
However, what I didn’t count on was ending this re-watch with a sense of uneasiness. Sitting down to write this post, I had to consider something I once thought was positively assured:
Should I recommend Hanamaru Youchien?
“Details are important,” is all I will say on the subject for now. First and foremost, this series can be boiled down to a single, unquestionable fact. It was adorable.
You have to ask yourself what trips your cuteness-reaction valve. You know the one I’m talking about. What is it that makes you instantly smile with uncontrollable giddiness? For Hanamaru Youchien, could it be Anzu’s energetic monkey-like qualities? Could it be Hiiragi (voiced by Ayahi Takagaki) and her bookishness combined with a love of costumes? Perhaps its Koume (voiced by Mako) and her timid, I-want-to-protect-her kindness?
In case you’re wondering, Hiiragi almost always made me lose it.
Something Hanamaru Youchien did well was fostering a sense of wonderment for its youngest characters. To Anzu, Hiiragi, Koume, and their schoolmates, the world was incomprehensibly big, so even the most mundane occurrence for a grown-up was fantastical to them. Everything was black and white, but also isolated. To these kids, there was no concept of cause and effect. Therefore, there could be arguments one second and zero inclination of hard feelings the next.
This entire situation was consequently hilarious because it was contrasted whenever an adult, such as Tsuchi, was clearly in over their head. There was a great scene early on when Tsuchi was trying to keep control of his class, but all his students wanted his attention at the same time. And since most young children assume that adults can do anything and multiple things at once, the growing number of requests and issues kept getting louder and louder, and kudos to the people who have a passion for childcare.
Adding to that, there was a completely separate side to Hanamaru Youchien that dealt with Tsuchi’s disillusionment with working life. At first, he thought being a kindergarten teacher was something he could excel at doing. But after several, what he considered, unprecedented mistakes (which were in actuality the sort of errors that any newbie might make), Tsuchi was lost and no longer had any confidence.
This was, undoubtedly, a turn in the show’s atmosphere, but it did work. This more serious angle was this series’ way of demonstrating that there was more to it than cuteness. Instead, this story had characters with pasts and personalities.
Now, don’t get me wrong. At its core, Hanamaru Youchien was a lighthearted comedy that never took the time to explore the deeper themes it introduced. Except that was sort of the problem, as well as the source of something I did not see coming.
Some things can be glossed over. Other things cannot. Having now reviewed anime for half a decade (as of this post going live), I can’t be silent when I see this happening.
I don’t have an issue with a comedy employing non-comedic elements. Humor can exist with drama, for the two together can then lead to heart. That said, there does need to be a point. So in the case of Hanamaru Youchien, I ask you, what was the point of having Anzu’s mother be pregnant with Anzu while she was a high school student, and the father was her teacher. Despite being referenced to continuously, this detail added nothing to the show except for souring it.
I had forgotten about this when returning to Hanamaru Youchien, and needless to say, it caught me off guard.
There was so much about this situation that didn’t feel right. To the show’s credit, no joke was made as a result of this circumstance. It was treated more as a thing that was. Still, this series’ attitude towards it felt inappropriate. It was as though Hanamaru Youchien wanted this detail to be necessary, but at the same time, it didn’t want to acknowledge the full range of ramifications that came with it.
In fact, based on this show’s attitude in other areas, I would argue Hanamaru Youchien didn’t have any issue with what it was implying. That, or it didn’t understand the mistake it was making.
One of the opening jokes of this series centered around Tsuchi having to deal with parents’ reservations of having a male kindergarten teacher. Or more accurately, a male kindergarten teacher with no experience and who just graduated from university. And it wasn’t only the parents. Tsuchi’s colleagues were always quick to comment on Tsuchi’s awkwardness.
However, those same colleagues thought it was amazing (like, in a good way) that little Anzu was the result of a teacher, who ignored all sense of morality, getting a student pregnant. That is a gross misplacement of priorities, isn’t it?
Yes, I am harping on what was a technically small aspect of this show like it was a big deal. But I’m doing it because it was a big deal.
If a story is going to do something like this, it needs to know that it can’t exist in a vacuum. Whether directly or not, everything else about this show got affected. And to just sweep it under the rug as Hanamaru Youchien did is, frankly, unacceptable. Not to mention unforced since this was a detail that could have been excluded.
I have never read the source material for this series, so I don’t know if the relationship between Anzu’s mother and father was explored in more depth. Regardless if it was or not, since anime is its own medium, certain things could have been changed to fit it better. Instead, much of this was making light of, if not glorifying, a situation that is actually really f@#$ed up.
Therefore, I can’t bring myself to do what I assumed I would do when I put Hanamaru Youchien on the schedule.
I had fun with this show; it was entertaining; it made me laugh. There were so many things about this series that worked.
The characters were cute; the humor landed; the animation was decent. I would say a good ninety percent was well-done. However, you can’t call the descent of a thousand-foot cliff a success if you fall the last hundred feet.
No one is more surprised by this than me. However, I cannot recommend Hanamaru Youchien.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Hanamaru Youchien? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.