I have been very impressed with a number of anime series I have seen lately (Kanon, Love Hina, Chobits, K-On!, Strike Witches, Angel Beats, Clannad and especially Ah! My Goddess!), but Shuffle! rates up there with the best of them! It is lovable, heart-warming, cute, sad at times, funny (with mostly embarrassing humour involving underwear!) and just leaves you wanting more. It has some fanservice (panty shots etc.,) but not too much.
The story follows 17 year old student Rin Tsuchimi, who lives with friend Kaede Fuyou and her father (who is almost always away on business) since the death 8 years earlier of both his parents and her mother in the same car crash. They are like brother and sister, and Kaede loves looking after Rin, whom she is secretly in love with. They are both in the same class at high school, along with friends Lisianthus, aka Sia, Nerine (also known as Rina), Asa Shigure (who is known by her tendency to slap Rin hard on the back in greeting, much to his chagrin), Mayumi Thyme, who is noted for her flat chest, although she is very pretty; she is very self-conscious about this, and not unknown for beating to a pulp any male who comments on the fact! Also part of the story are pretty youngster Primula (known as Rimu, or Rimu-chan), who turns up looking for her 'big sis' Nerine, and Eustoma and Forbesii, the fathers of Sia and Nerine, who both regularly embarrass the daylights out of their respective daughters, Sia particularly tending to get violent and hit her dad over the head with a chair when that happens! Last of the girls is Kareha, who has a tendency to sigh and go gooey-eyed whenever she sees anything she thinks is 'cute'! The only other male character in the proceedings is Rin's friend Itsuki Midoriba, who is an idiot, and tries to get the girls to go out with him using the most preposterous methods, which always fail. Only once in the entire series does he have anything wise or worthwhile to say. Last of all is their home-room teacher Nadeshiko Benibara, who is single, very attractive, and totally fed up with most men's attempts to pick her up (in one episode she confides in one of the girls, saying to her 'Where are all the good guys? They are mostly already taken, and I get left with the idiots!).
The actual storyline comes down to the fact that most of the girls (who are all gorgeous, and mostly kind and intelligent) are in love with Rin, who is a kind, caring guy, and known for going out of his way to help anyone, often to his own hurt. Each of them wants to 'land' him, and he dates each of them over time. The backgrounds (some of which are extremely sad and heartbreaking) of each are covered in flashback, and the resulting events vary from cute, funny and awkward to very painful. I won't say any more in case I spoil things, but suffice it to say I was totally riveted from beginning to end; I'm just sorry it finished! You totally get to feel like you know and love these guys; I felt a real wrench when it was over, but it is a lovely story, and the feelings it stirred in me stayed with me for ages. You must see this!