#1 Adorable little kids
Naozumi Tsuchida is a young man who just landed his first job as a kindergarten teacher. A line of work that many would argue isn’t exactly a good fit for him. Parents are already hesitant to leave their children in the care of a male teacher, and Tsuchida’s lack of self-confidence or charisma don’t help alleviate their doubts at all. However, the toddlers at Hanamaru Kindergarten soon take a liking to “Tsuchi”, so he may not be as hopeless as he looks.
Much of the enjoyment in Hanamaru Kindergarten comes from its cast of adorable little rascals. There is an endless supply of tiny, overexcited goofballs, full of wonder, imagination, and curiosity. Everything about these kids is just so damn cute; from their pint-sized, chubby designs to their strange personalities.
The anime itself is a slice-of-life comedy, whose storylines tend to zoom in on specific students while always keeping the main trio involved. One episode is about a little girl called Aoi who dearly wants to help out at her parents’ shop, so the kids set out to discover why her parents won’t let her. This can even get quite emotional at times, such as one particularly touching episode about Koume is trying to overcome her fear of failure on the school sport’s day.
Another aspect of the story revolves around a dubious conflict over Tsuchida’s affection. “Dubious” because one contender is his 3-year-old student Anzu, whose rival Nanako Yamamoto doesn’t even realize that she’s involved in a romance at all.
Anzu is just a little girl who develops a crush on her teacher, based on a misunderstanding that she blows entirely out of proportion. However, it soon turns out that Anzu is the daughter of Tsuchida’s old senpai, who instantly approves of her daughter’s crush on her old friend. This leads to a lot of comedy as Anzu attempts to guess at what a (married) couple would do and frequently gets envious whenever Tsuchida’s attention isn’t on her.
Meanwhile, Nanako Yamamoto is a fellow teacher at Hanamaru Kindergarten, who has reputation for being too dense for romance. She is gorgeous, smart, kind-hearted, and gentle, but has never had a boyfriend because she just doesn’t realize when people are interested in her. She’s even able to misinterpret outright confessions as casual conversation-making. Whether Tsuchida has any hope of changing this, or if Anzu will even allow this to be happen, remains to be seen.
#3 Bright & colorful
In terms of presentation, Hanamaru Kindergarten scores high marks. Produced by Studio Gainax under Seiji Mizushima (Slayers Next, Fullmetal Alchemist, Shaman King), the animation leaves little to be desired. Compared to Gainax’ action-oriented output around the same time, a light-hearted show about adorable kiddos was evidently no problem at all.
The art direction is also certainly worthy of praise. The warm colors, cute character design, and lovable environments make for a particularly pleasant anime to watch. The Hanamaru Kindergarten itself is a perfect example of this, as the school buildings are designed to look like brightly-colored fruits with slides and other playful touches added to it.
Even when doing fanservice or referencing other Gainax series, it manages to do so in a way that doesn’t take away from the series’ wholesome feeling. Quite an accomplishment, considering the obligatory Neon Genesis Evangelion references that come with any Gainax product.
More anime & manga like this
Azumanga Daioh: Slice-of-life about a group of cute girls, mainly centered around their school.
Bunny Drop: A story about an unprepared man having to suddenly take care of children.
Great Teacher Onizuka: Comedy series about a young, flawed teacher and their strange students.