Don’t Let Go, Hanamaru!
Getting errors when I try to screencap on my laptop, so here’s some fanart I stole off of some website that’s far cooler than Hanamaru itself.
Hanamaru Kindergarten is this close to being a genuinely great anime series. It does so much right, only to fall off the edge to its death. It’s sort of like that opening scene from Cliffhanger, where Stallone is hanging onto that one chick that you’re totally sure will survive, yet Stallone looses his grip and she plummets to a grisly death.
That’s Hanamaru Kindergarten. You got dropped by Rocky, Anzu.
Hanamaru’s ultimate problem, which I’ve finally realized with the latest episode, is that it’s about a KINDERGARTEN. Namely, the series has allowed itself to focus around the kids in the kindergarten when the most interesting stuff taking place is between the adults. That isn’t to say that the kids as a whole suck. Hii’s a cute character, what with her costume fetish and shit, and most of the other kids are fun, but they come off as more of a distraction than anything. The writers throw out some cute crap to get the fanboys interested, since they eat up this “OMG SO KAWAII I LIKE KAWAII OMG MOE!” nonsense, and neglect to focus on the interpersonal drama and shenanigans that are taking place amongst the adults at the school.
As much as I don’t care for Yamamoto, since she still comes off as the “perfect” type even after we see her faults, I’ve been enjoying the interplay between her and Tsuchida. The dude really has a thing for her and she’s completely clueless. Their co-workers see it and know it’s totally obvious, and they goad him much like Godai’s neighbors goaded him over his thing for Kyoko in Maison Ikkoku. This is what I wanted to see: a comparatively mature romantic comedy. The series could still have the kids as comedy relief or something like that, but the focus should have been on the Tsuchida/Yamamoto relationship.
This irks me because Hanamaru has the occasional awesome moment when it comes to their relationship. The bit in the karaoke joint, where Tsuchida drunkenly admits his love and everyone joins in a silly little dance proclaiming he finally confessed, was hilarious (Although they copped out and had Yamamoto think he was quoting a silly romance manga. That sucked.). And the latest episode, where Yamamoto admits she’d love to meet some guy but thinks her work at the kindergarten would get in the way of her being able to be in a relationship was surprisingly touching. I wasn’t expecting the series to have the main female romantic interest basically say “you know, I think I’m happier working rather than spending all of my time trying to fall in love.”
Those moments make me realize that if the writers really wanted to make a good romantic comedy, they could. The fact that they chose to spend more time on Anzu’s antics and the little kids doing kid stuff makes it all the more frustrating. It reminds me of why I hated Railgun. They had all of the potential to make a kick-ass superpowered action series, but the creators chose to have all of these girls who work for a underaged cop organization sit around and look at panties and eat cake and other meaningless shit. Hanamaru and Railgun took interesting premises rife with potential and decided focus, literally, on nothing. It’s all fanservice and “filler” moments and little in the way of substance. When either series finally delved into something interesting, it just made it all the more painful since both series reverted right back to meaninglessness a few minutes later.
Like I’ve said before, this is my main beef with the whole “moe” phenomenon. I have nothing against cuteness and little girls and all that shit. I do have something against series ignoring their full potential and actively choosing to be about the cute factor. “Cute shit” isn’t a plot, it’s a stylistic choice. You choose to have cute characters and cute situations within the context of another narrative structure. When you focus on that stylistic choice over everything else, you’re gonna have a hard time making anything worthwhile. You can style supersede substance, but you really need to go balls-out on the style. Trapeze is a good example of style-over-substance working (at least to some extent). Trapeze had a relatively unique style. Moe as a style is long played-out and doesn’t have the sort of unique factor that lends itself to standing on its own.
Then again, legions of otaku feel otherwise and said style persists.
Then again, said legions of otaku suck.
So yeah, Hanamaru Kindergarten. I don’t hate it the way I hated Railgun. Hanamaru’s annoying bits weren’t nearly as annoying as Railgun’s. There were some genuinely amusing moments when Hanamaru strayed from the path and got all cutsey, and when Hanamaru stuck to what it does best it was pretty damn good. But in the end, you still couldn’t hold on to Stallone’s arm. You didn’t hang onto that cliff.