Stuff You'll Never See Here: Baby And Me

Welcome to a new column that will explore the secret shows -- the shows that are or potentially could be adored by millions of American otaku, but for whatever reason no American release house will touch with a ten-foot pole (barring some act of God). Most of this stuff is shoujo anime (meaning it was originally intended for girls), but as many male Fushigi Yuugi fans know, that doesn't mean much. (Heck, one of the most influential Americans in the shoujo movement is a guy -- Matt Thorn!)

In almost every case, these shows have been (partially) fan-subtitled by the various fan supporters. If what we say here piques your interest, go to one of the places we point you, pick up a copy, and take a look. If you like what you see, you can write some nice e-mails to the companies... or if you're filthy stinkin' rich, license it yourself! (Please note that they won't all be such enthusiastic reccomendations like this one.)

Baby And Me (Aka-chan To Boku)

There are some shows that are unbelievably tragic in premise, and no amount of light-hearted story telling can do anything about it. In most cases, those in charge try not to lighten up the situation at all, and instead wring as much angst out of the audience as possible. Sometimes this works, like we saw in the classic "Grave of the Fireflies", but far more often the result is very transparent. ("Rail of the Star," anyone? Nope, didn't think so.)

This one is different. Keeping with the shoujo anime tradition of taking the most tragic of situations and filling it with little bits of heart-warming humor, Baby and Me takes the simple premise of a young boy at the tender age of ten, who tragically loses his mother in an accident. With his father at work all day, Takuya (voiced by veteran young-boy's-voice actor Kappei Yamaguchi) is left with the duty of filling her shoes as a mother figure for his baby brother Minoru (voiced by an unbelievably realistic Chika Sakamoto). As you can imagine, this means giving up just about every joyful aspect of being a child. No more after-school sports, no more playing with friends... Just shopping, cleaning, and babysitting, in addition to the normal chores of school and homework. As if mourning his mother wasn't enough, he now has the frustration of losing his childhood to deal with, all without learning to resent little Minoru, who is entirely dependant on him.

Takuya, of course, is instantly likable as the tragic hero, making all sorts of sacrifices to keep his young family together. Everyone who knows his situation and knows him feels the same (although some don't seem to realize just how hard it is -- his friends are always pressuring him to play with them), but there are rewards. At only ten years old, Takuya gets to experiance the joys of parenthood; the vicarious ecstacy of seeing the little one that he has put so much hard work and love into become more and more grown up.

Of course, the real daddy isn't missing in action, but work keeps him away most of the time. While he is around, he does try to take as much pressure of the boy as possible. He considers hiring a nanny, but Takuya won't hear of it. He cooks whenever possible, but Takuya is usually more concerned about his being tired after working all day.

Baby and Me doesn't stoop to any of the normal Shoujo anime stereotypes. There are no main characters being killed off, no yearning schoolgirls being warped to various other worlds, and no cherry blossom petals to be seen. There's no bishonen, no childhood-friend-turned-love-interest, and not one female in the main cast. Heck, the theme song isn't even reprised in a tear-jerking music box or symphonic version! What it does have, however, is good old fashioned story telling. This is how it is: real, likable characters strugling to overcome the emotional obsticles in the hardest of circumstances. The result is nothing short of beautiful.

It's easy to paint the show as a pure drama, but it really isn't. Doe-eyed Minoru is hillarious to watch, and acts so realistic that you know the show would have to be animated just to get the kid to do exactly what is needed. (The commercial break eye-catch features him gleefully running and crashing into the camera.) For added humor, Takuya's best friend's grotesque little sister Hiro(ko) develops a thing for the little guy, much to his horror.

If anyone you know is whining about how all anime is either violent gory oversexed smut or prissy girls in skimpy outfits using magic against the forces of evil, this is one to show them, especially if you don't want to devestate any sense of joy they'll have for the entire week by showing them Grave of the Fireflies. Baby and Me is violence-free, innocent, and moving, and most certainly suitable for the entire family. I can't reccomend it enough.

Why it won't be licensed: Well, first of all, it's shoujo anime. Only a handful of shoujo anime have been released here (none of them without some fantasy element), and their record is spotty at best. (The only reason Fushigi Yuugi is doing as well as it is is because of the massive following the fansub garnished ahead of time.) Strike one. Second of all, it doesn't easily fall into one of the preconceived audiences for anime in the United States. Anime has never really tapped the family market before... (Kids, yes, but not family.) Strike two. Lastly, it's wholesome. Wholesome? In a smaller market where the two biggest successes are rather mindless fare like Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z? In a country where Ghost in the Shell is noticed not for its ideas, but for the fact that it has animated nudity? Strike three. (The Japan-ized English-filled opening theme doesn't help much... the refrain is, "Be Bad Boy, THE BE BAD BOY!" -_-;;)

Best hopes for a commercial release: AnimEigo (as always, willing to stick their neck out if enough fans want it), AnimeWorks (the only company to really take shoujo anime seriously), Central Park Media (the only company to attempt the family market before).

How to get it:

The following fansub group(s) have subtitled the amount of the show noted, but do not currently offer distribution of the title unless noted on the list of distributors below.

  • Pakman Productions (Episodes 1-4)

  • Team ABCB (Episodes 1-2) The following distributor(s) stock copies of the subtitled versions produced by one of the above groups as of this writing. The anime can be obtained from them by going to their web page and following the instructions noted. (NOT a comprehensive list!)

  • ChiAnime Distribution (Team ABCB, episodes 1-2)

  • Kodocha Anime (Pakman, episodes 1-4)

  • Pakman Productions (Pakman, episodes 1-4, currently closed)
  • Team ABCB (Team ABCB, Episodes 1-2)

    NOTE: Anime News Network cannot vouch for the quality or reliability of any of these services! Please be careful out there... there ARE con artists around! If you've never requested fansubs before, find someone on a newsgroup or bulletin board that has and ask who they reccomend. And fer God's sake, don't buy these tapes from some convention bootlegger or one of those jerks on eBay!

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