Hanamaru Youchien is done in 6 weeks? Say it ain’t so!
Short of doing a full-on review (I may want to save that for when the show is over) I would like to highlight some of the things that make Hanamaru Youchien awesome.
This first one is actually kind of depressing. This show hits me where it really hurts: in Tsuchida, the main character. Now these main guys are always meant to be relatable losers, but very few of them hit as close to home as Tsuchida does. I imagine he’s designed to fit this weird subset of people that are just like me. I’ve taught children before, am nearly just out of college, and am eternally girlfriendless. Well those last two are constants across the genre, but the first one really drives it all home. While I haven’t had a young girl fall for me (which is for the better, I should imagine) I do relate to treating boys you’re teaching as your buddies when you share the same interests.
On that same vein, the show balances realism and the lack thereof in its setting quite well. The kids in Hanamaru are wonderful simply because act like real kids. They’re loud, energetic, inquisitive, and get upset for no reason. And even though it falls back on a set of established archetypes for each character, they’re all executed with lots of spirit. In fact, part of the reason why the show is so pleasant is exactly because it falls back on familiar archetypes for not just the main characters, but for everyone in class. Familiarity is comforting to most people, but at the same time things with lots of familiarity can come off as cheap and by-the-numbers. What makes Hanamaru good is how it injects that aforementioned spirit into the formula with inspired writing, voice acting and animation.
A lot of this spirit is carried in the show’s main heroines, though. Anzu is characterized by her never-ending enthusiasm and energy. Koume is shy, timid, and unsure of herself. Hiiragi is more laid back, and enjoys drawing upon her vast knowledge to help both Anzu and Koume when they need it, and also uses these situations an excuse to wear cute outfits. What really helps bring Anzu to life is how much spunk there is each cut of animation featuring her. Every time she shoots out her arms, wiggles her legs, runs around, or climbs up something, there’s an extra bit of spark in it. The vocal talents of Shindou Kei complements Anzu’s physical energy with an unrestrained performance rich in soul. Koume’s movements also go well her timid nature. She runs slower than the others, and often fidgets. While MAKO doesn’t sound 100% convincing all the time (I think the issue lies in forcing her voice higher than it already is) she communicates Koume’s uneasiness quite well. Everything Hiiragi does is calculated, from her actions to her speech. Her movements have distinct purpose, while Takagaki Ayahi reinforces Hii’s cool, calm and collected demeanor. But the cute part is when she tries to keep it all together while being embarrassed.
Beyond the convincing portrayal of the main characters, the show is generally very technically proficient. Apparently Gainax has all of their best talent on this show, and while I’m too lazy confirm that, the show speaks loud enough for itself. Across the six episodes of Hanamaru that have aired thus far, I am finding it difficult to recall a single bit of awkward animation. Everything is smooth, clean, and full. One thing that struck me particularly in episode six was the water animation in the pool. My memory is a little fuzzy, but near as I can remember the water in the pool was always moving. And it wasn’t some cheap CG-effect either–it was completely animated by hand at all times. Attention to little details like that prove that Gainax is really giving it their all. Nevermind the fact that each episode has its own fully animated ending sequence. This show certainly moves better than the rather sloppily animated Shikabane Hime, that’s for sure.
I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of the enthusiasm I have for this show, but I’m coming up on 700 words so I’ll cut things off here. Bottom line is: Watch Hanamaru Youchien! You’ll be glad you did!