Although I may sound biased, considering what I use for my main profile picture, I just cannot get enough of Minami-ke. I thought anime in general was boring until I saw this show. So if Minami-ke can convert a non-anime watcher into someone who at least gives a couple of shows a chance (from this...I moved on to K-On!! and Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu) then there must be something to this series.
The premise is plain, but don't let that fool you
On the surface, Minami-ke looks as plain as can be. The show follows the lives of three sisters who live on their own. Where are their parents? Their whereabouts are never quite fully explained (I hear the manga series reveals this information), but that's part of what makes the dynamics between Haruka and her two younger sisters, Kana (black hair) and Chiaki (brown hair) work. Haruka acts as their mother figure, yet at the same time she is still just a high school student herself. Kana studies in middle school, while Chiaki is somewhere in the Japanese equivalent of elementary school. Kana and Chiaki have a rivalry of sorts throughout the whole series, with Chiaki using her intelligence to usually gain the upper hand. In the later seasons, her upper hand slowly fades. However in this series, she makes Kana look quite dumb. That's not to say Kana contributes nothing. Her hyper attitude is arguably the driving force behind the show. Haruka and Chiaki are wonderful characters, nevertheless I imagine if a sugar high character such as Kana was not in MInami-ke, the Haruka and Chiaki characters would suffer somehow.
Kana is the driving force behind the comedy...
The main point of watching Minami-ke is not for any coherent storyline. Let's make that clear. If you come into this show expecting some overreaching tale where someone needs to be saved or where the world might end, do not watch Minami-ke. It's not for you. If you are looking for some clever joke set ups though, Minami-ke delivers. Where Minami-ke really shines comes from the situations each character is in, and the convoluted methods they try to solve their problems with. No one ever tries to solve anything in a normal fashion. In Minami-ke, liking an older girl entails dressing up as a girl! That happens with the interaction between Chiaki's friend/rival Makoto and Haruka. I really don't want to reveal too much. However, I can say there are some male characters in the series which give the episodes an extra spark to add to Kana's sugar high. Besides Makoto, look out for Hosaka in particular, who absolutely steals the show in episode 4. The last segment with Fujioka pining for Kana in episode 1 also stands out. This isn't a relationship show though. The male characters will fail miserably over and over again in their efforts to win the sisters over. But I find that fact one of the most unique parts about Minami-ke.
while Haruka acts as the balancing "mother" figure
I may not be experienced in watching anime, however I find the animation quality in Minami-ke wonderful. This isn't true of the second and third seasons sadly, as a different studio took over. The first season looks flawless from an aesthetic standpoint though. Haruka, Kana, and Chiaki look as cute as can be and full of energy. Do not get me wrong. Minami-ke is far from a "moe blob." The focus here is on comedy, first and foremost. However, I enjoyed the colorful atmosphere. When Minami-ke shifts away from the colorful atmosphere in season 2 (Okawari), problems begin to arise. But that stands as a story for for another day.
I didn't even mention the "series within the series" Ninomiya-kun and Sensei
The opening and closing themes (Keikenchi Joushouchuu, Colorful Days) are some of the catchiest music anyone will hear. The animation for the opening theme will make anyone smile, especially the opening few seconds where Chiaki throws the bear at Kana. I love Minami-ke. I only wish the series would officially come to America, as I would be the first in line to buy it. The only thing that stops me from importing the DVD sets comes from concern over not getting "region free" discs.
I have no idea why a wonderful series like this isn't in the United States officially, when almost every anime out there is streamed on Crunchy Roll these days. If you can find the episodes, Minami-ke is definitely worth the watch.