Tanpopo Yamazaki is not your average Meio High School Freshman, as evidenced by her grand entry into her school... by flying over a guard rail on her bike the day before she starts class. This brazen act of individuality is witnessed by a young man planting a dandelion with a spade. He is concerned for the dandelion, or "Tanpopo"... yes, the heroine's name means dandelion... because her actions have harmed it, and life at the school is difficult enough for the plants that the young man considers to be his friends. The two part ways for the day before Tanpopo learns of the young man's name.
The first day at school Tanpopo meets the young man in her class, but he is extremely cold to her. She finds out from a fellow student that his name Koki Kugyo and that he is an heir to a large fortune. When she persists to remind him that they have met the truth of her allowance into the academy is revealed...horror of horrors, she actually tested into the academy instead of having her parents pave the way with their exorbitant fortunes. This immediately causes a reaction from the bourgeoisie , who find her quite plebian, and refuse to have anything to do with her. The start calling her "Weed" to her face and making all sorts of nasty comments, but no amount of torment from them is as bad as the out and out ignoring she is getting from Koki, who had been so pleasant to her on their first chance meeting. At a class assembly the first day Tanpopo calls him out, pledging her allegiance that she and he will be friends with one another and she will not rest until she has achieved that end.
This causes some problems with her reputation, as you can imagine, but Tanpopo manages to navigate things in such a way that she and he are on the planting committee. This entails strange actions, because none of the plants at the academy are actually real, for allergy preventions. But, she and he become a team, and everyone is surprised when Tsukiko Saionji, a pretty, popular, and (more importantly to the elite members of Meio) rich young woman volunteers to join their committee. Tanpopo's first duty as a planting committee member is to go against tradition surreptitiously and replant all of the plastic flowers with real flowers... which causes some problems for everyone, the members of the planting committee included.
So, at the core, what is this charming series about? It's about values, strength, and resolve to do what is right despite all the adversity. It's about a bubbly young iconoclast just being herself in a situation where everyone else has developed a façade to survive. It's about changing other people's perceptions and helping them grow when they realize that everything they have ever been taught to believe doesn't necessarily translate as being the "right or wrong" way. Is this a diversion from Watase's usual fair? Oddly enough no it is not. Typically her stories are much more harsh, but the core elements are still there. Friendship, overcoming obstacles, love and pain, growth, finding oneself... those are all key to enjoying a Watase story, and they are all here. This story may be lighter than typical Watase work, but it definitely stand among (and I would even argue out) in the pantheon of her work. Fans of her usual work will not be disappointed in this fun series.