Three Things in Life that I learned in Hanamaru Kindergarten

hanamaru kindergarten 12 school grounds

Let’s try this concept on, like a hat: The experience of what is real is not contingent to a realistic portrayal of people, events, or even the universe wherein the narrative happens. One can access something real (or something as close to the truth as one can possibly get) from the experience of an absurd presentation.

We don’t have to believe this, but just for a few moments as we go through this exercise let’s acknowledge how works like Calvin and Hobbes, The Simpsons, or works like The Illiad, or Candide (Voltaire) despite or because of their fantastic nature (without being fantasy in the mold of The Lord of the Rings) can bring us to an experience of something real.

Hanamaru Kindergarten let me in on something real, and the show being unbelievable to a high degree made this experience stand out.

hanamaru kindergarten 12 teachers at the art gallery

In life, you will peg people down to one or a few distinguishing characteristics. You will stereotypically stereotype people, regardless of how politically correct you want to be.

The show presents characters with easy to handle physical and behavioral distinctions. The tall athletic teacher who has a bias for P.E. and unnervingly rewatches Conan the Barbarian for the muscles? Check. The kind of runty teacher with glasses that isn’t heading anywhere due to plain average averageness? Check.

These are for characters who actually got some screen time, otherwise you get Database Animal distinctions (as I imagine them, or just tropes): twins with ponytails who can be clumsy too (twin-tails?), plucky daughter of working-class parents who innocently appreciates work without class politics, bully who turned into follower, etc. They’re here.

The real thing is, I’ve updated my resume just a day prior to this writing and I realize that I’ve listed 9 different companies or groups that I’ve worked for/with the last 13 years (there are things I never bothered listing too). In all those places of work I have come across thousands of people, and I’ve forgotten most of them. And those who didn’t become close friends, I’ve pegged down to one or three distinguishing characteristics: guy who mooches cigarettes all the time, the plodding naive and innocent girl(s), the teacher(s) who hates academic-level scholarship but loves the teaching in class part of a university career, the ne’er-do-wells that have been around a long time and are a source of institutional memory… just like Hanamaru Kindergarten I could never remember their names without looking them up. But yes, this is how we treat people too; I don’t endorse it, but rather we could forgive ourselves so we won’t have to be so hard on others.

hanamaru kindergarten 12 anzu nothing is stronger than the power of love

In life you believe in things that sound good, despite the evidence to the contrary.

“Nothing is stronger than the power of love!” Between Sakura, Tsuchi, and Anzu this is an inspiring statement and is very powerful. It’s also patently false. It isn’t love that runs the engine of the universe, or determines the behavior of people on a consistent basis.

What the finale did tell me is how people want to believe in things so much, since these things often promise to them the delivery of something dearly wished for. It is an act of faith, to believe in the face of contrary evidence, or the absence of evidence. I live in a very religious society, and even if I discount the many fanatics, there are people who really go through life just believing in believing.

hanamaru kindergarten 12 anzu tsuchi waltz in the snow

Even a sober person as I consider myself to be, I hold on to some of these things despite how silly they sometimes feel. I can’t fathom being married otherwise, or being a father to my infant daughter. I just think that there will be times when one needs to test one’s beliefs, and then make a powerful choice whether to keep holding on to them – at their own risk, at some point in life.

“If you write it, they will read you. If you engage them, they will converse with you.” LOL

hanamaru kindergarten 12 tsuchi half a man

We spend half of our lives as men, as ‘half of a man’.

In the finale when Tsuchida tried to confess with all his might, he acknowledged that he was but half of a man. Why did he believe this? He felt immature, still stuck in his adolescent pursuits, half-in and out of this adult life. It’s true, I think. I find this part of the confession to be the most powerful thing in the show.

Tsuchida I imagine to be relatable to older adolescents and young adults. He would be the self-insert character in a harem show (which Hanamaru Kindergarten can be made out to be if one gunned for that angle enough). This statement is less an indictment of the viewers but more like a rally point around which us male viewers can reflect on how we’re being.

hanamaru kindergarten 12 adult version hiiragi koume anzu

Maturity is like hygiene. It isn’t like school where one keeps leveling up and then graduates. That’s the misleading part that are present in other GAINAX shows like Diebuster! and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, or any narrative that has an element of ‘coming of age.’ To make a mature decision, even on something  very significant, isn’t a perfect predictor that I will be making mature decisions on most things from that moment on.

I’m 33, and have made mature decisions for the last fifteen years, and am no more incapable of avoiding immature behavior or making immature decisions as I was at 18. I’m being conservative here, as throughout life I’ve been described as such a ‘mature child.’ I still procrastinate, and spend time playing games when I could be doing something productive. I still get lazy and make sub-optimal choices; choices that a MAN would look down on.

hanamaru kindergarten 12 sakura anzu painting

And yet, I do pretty okay. I married the love of my life and am raising a beautiful daughter (no Anzu shit please, I would like her to be more like Hingaku LOL, because Hiiragi is too out there). Maturity is like hygiene. You need to keep at it: brushing your teeth, clipping your finger/toenails, cleaning your ear and all the hard to reach places. Once you’re clean, you dirty yourself again, so you clean yourself up again… like a man.

Okay, you can take off the hat now, and perhaps get back to discussing how unrealistic this show is and how other (flawed) formalist elements (THE WRITING LOL) prevent it from being good. Or, you can engage me further:

What things did you get out of weird, absurd, or unbelievable shows that ended up being very true for you?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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14 Responses to Three Things in Life that I learned in Hanamaru Kindergarten

  1. Rakuen says:

    I’m going to take your second point and run with it for a moment.

    I have always felt that far too many people give up on far too many things far too easily. Much of this is derived from a perceived sense of failure. In some cases it doesn’t even matter how much the margin for failure is. I’ve seen a 1% chance to fail paralyze a person’s actions. Even I find myself doing it on occasion. If people would just go out there and do things, they would get so much more out of life, and probably enjoy it even with the failures.

    The pessimist in me looks at a person that clings to some silly ideal as a bit sad. We have a saying, though, that past performance does not guarantee future results. Often, we apply this to a previously successful enterprise that can fail. The converse is true though. An enterprise that commonly fails has a non-zero chance for success. Thus the optimist, and in fact the overriding part of my mind, appreciates the person who tries, even if they continue to fail. It might be a bit naive of me, but I can live with it.

    • I think I get you, I think it was in the TTGL movie when Simon said that to him, a less than zero chance of success is the same as a hundred percent chance of success. It’s funny, how such an absurd behavior can be so BADASS.

      To me, instead of a framework of faith/belief vs. not bothering to try, I relate more to the framework of playing or games:

      To not play is to comment on the outcomes in the game from the stands/the bleachers. One has no actual influence on the outcome of the game as it’s being played. Zero.

      I’d rather be in the game, playing on the court. Belief, faith, or the lack of them is less relevant than it seems. The best way to play (in the spirit of enjoyment — which I think is the point of the game), is to play FULL OUT.

      This is relevant to me in the hobby of blogging anime. I purposely avoid making a fuss over what writers/creators/studios should have done, what they did wrong, etc. What I say in a blog post has ZERO ability to influence the outcome of the show that has already aired, that has already finished production.

      What I think I have some influence over, is the continued enjoyment of a reader/viewer of a work well after the experience of the subject. Hence, I have a preference of exploring works for interesting things as opposed to passing judgment on them, or people who like them.

  2. Yumeka says:

    Can’t think of anything complex right now but a couple of simple things I got out of Hanamaru Kindergarten is 1) people don’t always work at their job for an obvious reason (Tsuchi’s initial reason for working at the kindergarten, 2) a student marrying their teacher is not as controversial as it used to be (I think), and 3) Japan’s kindergartners are more mature (unless they’re just like that in anime). I don’t think a kindergartner like Hiiragi is possible so that’s where I wonder if the anime made the kids more mature for the sake of the show’s entertainment.

    • I don’t think the ‘lessons’ need to be complex. Also, the things I got from the experience of the show isn’t made out to be things that the show ‘taught me’ or are embedded messages left by the authors within it.

      Rather, these are meanings that I constructed using my life experience meeting the stimuli of the show’s elements.

      From what you shared, I think #1 is the most interesting. Having worked as a human resources professional too (I’ve conducted over a hundred job interviews); people will lie about why they want to work at your company), I have encountered this quite a bit.

  3. kadian1364 says:

    1) Real young kids (unless they’re your own) are unentertaining in the conventional sense, thus we get the unrealistically exaggerated kids of Hanamaru Kindergarten.
    2) Same-gender, close-aged siblings are frighteningly alike.
    3) Man, I can’t even come up with a third one…

    Part of me wants to point out that we’re not really learning new things from this show, but just recognizing kernels of truth we’ve already discovered elsewhere (an argument which can be made of other anime too). Someone needs an already strong basis in reality to ‘access the real’ through the bs.

    But then the other part wants to tell the first part that this show wasn’t design for critical merit and it’s very purpose is to escape from the very reality that we’re, perhaps erroneously, looking for.

    • I think what I said to Yumeka agrees with you:

      >>the things I got from the experience of the show isn’t made out to be things that the show ‘taught me’ or are embedded messages left by the authors within it.

      Rather, these are meanings that I constructed using my life experience meeting the stimuli of the show’s elements.

      You also may consider my discussion with Rakuen at the top of the comments section for my views on critical discussion on a subject work like this.

      To add, I think there is critical merit in discussing this show, even from a formalist framework. There is much to discuss about the craft employed in setting up episodic vignettes with an overriding storyline or ‘main quest,’ as there is in the use of absurdly young characters to point out what adults have a difficult time addressing — similar to how The Emperor’s New Clothes resolves. It’s a matter of how much work we’re willing to put in.

      This is not to say that a critically meritorious work doesn’t require us to turn in an effort to produce critical discussion. I just think this is leading to a not very helpful dichotomy.

      It just so happens I took the path of speculating on finding the real within/from a thoroughly unbelievable presentation. So, onto your discoveries:

      1) Yes! Although to some people children are auto-win (mostly women are like this, from my own possibly limited observations). However, I really am not into them in general unless I’m forced to engage them (after which I’m very capable of entertaining myself and the other kids). My own daughter though, is infinitely interesting to me.

      2) LOL

  4. 2DT says:

    This is a very good entry. I can’t think of any absurd yet meaningful series off the top of my head, but since we’re talking about Hanamaru Kindergarten, here’s one life lesson I’d like to add: If a girl you’re interested in somehow manages to misinterpret every single attempt you make to ask her out, then for god’s sake, hit on the short girl with the glasses. She’s probably a more fun date anyhow.

    No, not really. I just got SO frustrated!

    • Thank you.

      I got very frustrated to. The Yamamotos are Flanderized to the extreme, as with shows like Lucky Star, and K-ON!

      I actually find that Tsuchida’s lack of interest in the other attractive teachers very interesting in the show. He’s really focused on Yamamoto and I think it works out that he was.

      I hope you’re having better luck than he is at your school in Japan :>

  5. I don’t usually comment on stuff I haven’t seen, yet. But I have to say I love the quote, “Maturity is like hygiene. It isn’t like school where one keeps leveling up and then graduates.”

    That’s enough to make me interested in actually giving this show a shot. I love a show that has a good message & can get the point across.

    • To be fair, I don’t think that this lesson is an embedded message but rather a set of meanings that came about when the elements of the show rubbed against my own experiences as a viewer and as an adult. In any case, the show isn’t particularly preachy. It’s very, very lighthearted and irreverent.

  6. Deckard says:

    On the subject of “stock” or template characters. You will probably agree that people or characters (as proxies for people) become distinct – as you’ve mentioned – by virtue of time we spend on exploring or – in the case of characters – observing the people. But consider the following task. Try to describe in a unique, but realistic way 20 people you know very well; however, you are only allowed to spend 4 words on each person. Most likely, quite a few people will get near identical descriptions.

    Thus, when it comes to characters, there is another important thing: the amount of time that authors can spend fleshing out their creations. Take, for example, Ristorante Paradisio. Most of the characters we meet in the first two episodes nicely fit into a stereotype. Yet when the authors take their time to explore these very characters, the stereotypes become ill-fitting. Now combine this with the frequent criticism of Ristorante – lack of story – and the conclusion comes to mind. The characters often appear stereotypical because the authors cannot dedicate enough time to explore them.

    If you will, there is a conflict between storytelling and character exploration – a battle for time. Of the top of my head, I can’t recall an example where the two endeavours coincided to significant degree. To be clear, I can name example were both characters and story received great attention, but I cannot recall an example where the exploration of character advanced the story to a great degree.

    Let me go further and claim that, with a number of exceptions, in the mind of the good writer, each character is unique and has distinctive personality, past, future and present. But due to limitations of time, these aspects are most often left unexplored. To claim that the characters is stereotypical is perhaps unfair towards the authors because the characters can’t help but be stereotypical due to time limitations. Saying that minor characters are stereotypical is like saying water is wet. Water can’t help but be this way. Of course, this argument only applies to cases where the author actually did create proper characters in his or her head.

    • I don’t spend much time commenting on the craft of writing, but I do agree with the constraints that time puts on the presentation that you mention. My focus really is on how we as people, despite a quite a few meaningful interactions with the people we work with over the years still manage to forget and reduce them as people who sound like stock characters. After all, my subject is more about life and the real rather than the formal elements of writing.

      I’m almost certain that I did have meaningful interactions with all the fellow academicians, fellow journalists, fellow producers, and all manner of fellow salarymen I’ve worked with: tough times, victories, problems with each other, the works. And yet, I struggle to remember love, or anything at all about all of them. I’m not that old, nor is my memory that suspect. I think it’s just one of those things that one goes through as an adult.

  7. Canne says:

    “Nothing is stronger than the power of love!”
    like you, I don’t think the anime is actually talking about ‘love’. I don’t even think that Anzu really love Tsuchi in the general sense. It just means that one should not give up hope or stop trying even if the goal is nearly impossible.

    • The irony is that this is as good a portrayal of love as there is in most media! The happiness of the loved one is put first before one’s own. Seriously.

      Now I won’t get carried away with calling Anzu mature in this situation. It’s actually because she is rather innocent about things that she could actually care that much about Tsuchi’s happiness and not care about the risk that he may never see her as his bride.

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