Hanamaru Kindergarten Season 1 Episodes 1-4 Review

Somewhere along the way, the anime industry's sense of cute went horribly awry.

Gone are the days of adorable animal mascots and endearing side characters. Cute has been consumed by a virus, a virus consisting of teen and preteen girls who will graft themselves onto any genre that might possibly sell one more special edition DVD, one more figurine, one more body pillow. Little girls with guns. Little girls with magical-spiritual powers. Little girls as military aircraft. Little girls who can alter reality (but without realizing it). A funeral for the Death of Cute was held in Spring 2009, with Yui Hirasawa, Mio Akiyama, Tsumugi Kotobuki and Ritsu Tainaka presiding.

But hope springs eternal, and for those who have survived, a new dawn awaits.

Hanamaru Kindergarten is bringing cute back.

Perhaps the reason Hanamaru Kindergarten does so well is because of what it does not do. It does not appear to be yet another cynical exercise in selling you figurines of every single student in Tsuchida's class-the cast of characters eschews otaku-oriented stereotypes and is built on a simpler, more traditional core: the Brat, the Brain, and the Bashful One, plus our downtrodden yet likable protagonist at the center. It is also not trying to push some kind of controversial envelope by pairing up a toddler with a twentysomething-if anything, Anzu's affection toward Tsuchida is merely her way of expressing an innocent childhood crush, with some misguided pretensions of adulthood. No more, no less. Sorry to disappoint all the alarmist prudes, but there is no raunchy Kodomo no Jikan action going on here-just sweet, silly observational humor.

And speaking of the other thing that this show doesn't do-it doesn't hurl out nonsensical memes at light speed, or force the characters to behave as irritatingly as possible in hopes of a cheap laugh. The show's appeal comes mainly from its perceptive Kids Say the Darnedest Things approach, invoking the nostalgia of our own childhood misconceptions and make-believe, or perhaps the antics of siblings, cousins, and friends when they were that age. Rarely has a kids' eye view of the world been so accurate: the thrill of going down a slide, the competition to be the smartest in class, the desire to act like a grown-up (Anzu's pretend date with Tsuchida in Episode 4 is one of the series' gems so far), even the roughhousing among little boys (yes, Tsuchida has male students as well, instantly making this series more realistic than 90% of all school-based anime). Suffice to say, if there were ever to be an anime of Yotsuba&!, it would probably be a lot like this-and in fact the kindergarten material sparkles with such joy that the grown-up stuff, like Tsuchida's advances toward Yamamoto, fall a little flat by comparison.

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