The Winter 2018 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
School Babysitters ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
I really wasn't expecting much from this one based on the premise; just a blending of bishonen and cute little kids into some kind of devilish concoction designed to lock in a female audience from two different angles. It may still turn out to be that way, as the opener shows more handsome guys getting involved, and the ludicrous hairdo of the chairwoman also makes the series hard to take too seriously. However, going too shamelessly in that direction would be a let-down from a remarkably potent first episode.
That's because this first episode delivers emotional impact right off the bat. Yes, the “crisis” late in the episode is rather ordinary, but what impressed me was the follow-through on that scenario. The way Ryu cracked as he pulled his phone out to call parents who couldn't ever come back, and the way that the Chairwoman stepped up to console him, actually got to me somewhat, with the moment about the flowers being the finishing stroke. There's nothing all that extraordinary about these scenes; they're just executed amazingly well, so much so that I'm incredulous director Shusei Morishita doesn't have any other anime credits. Is that a new pseudonym, and if not, what has he been doing before now?
The reason I'm not giving this one a higher score is because the little kids don't work for me at all. I totally understand the cute-appeal angle with their roly-poly designs, but how far out of proportion they are to the teen and adult characters (especially in combination with their long-limbed character designs) was a regular distraction for me. And frankly, kids that young don't usually entertain me if I'm not related to them, and this series doesn't overcome that hurdle. Obviously this is more of a personal preference than any actual problem with the series, and I imagine that the content here will probably delight many other viewers. Besides, I can at least sympathize with Ryu and the way the kids jump all over him, as I've had a pack of nieces and nephews do that to me before.
The production by Brains Base keeps the look comparatively simple and light, which is quite fitting for most of the content. Overall, this is another promising first episode even if I won't be watching more of the series.
Come for the fluffy babysitting shenanigans, stay for the devastating portraits of adolescent loss. You really got me with that one, School Babysitters.
School Babysitters opens innocently enough, introduced us to third year middle school student Ryuichi Kashima and his toddler brother Kotaro. With the two brothers' parents having both died in a plane crash, Ryuichi finds both of them taken in by the chairwoman of Morinomiya Academy, where he is tasked with becoming the new head of the babysitters club. Most of this episode is spent introducing the two to this club, where we run through a variety of mild-mannered shenanigans courtesy of the various academy teachers' young children.
The show's last few minutes pick up a bit, when a sudden fever forces Ryuichi to rush his brother to a hospital. There, having just dropped off his young sibling, Ryuichi instinctively raises his phone to call his parents… and then remembers they're gone. The well-observed agony of that moment was easily this episode's highlight, but I somewhat doubt this show on the whole will be digging deep into Ryuichi's pain. The focus seems to more be the goofy kid-centric activities of the babysitters club, and as far as that goes, School Babysitters is pleasant enough.
Maybe I'd be more open to School Babysitters if this season weren't already so flush with top-tier slice of life shows, but between A Place Further Than the Universe, Laid-Back Camp, and Mitsuboshi Colors, the competition is just really tough right now. School Babysitters' cast seem pleasant enough, and there were a number of charming or funny moments throughout this episode, but it ultimately just feels a little insubstantial. That said, part of my issue with this one may be that a show about straight-up toddlers just isn't that appealing to me, thus its one defining hook is a bit of a natural miss. If that seems more compelling to you, School Babysitters already has a likable cast, and its plentiful character animation very successfully evokes the adorable awkwardness of kids who can't quite control their own bodies. School Babysitters is a perfectly fine show, but this is a tough time for a “just” perfectly fine slice of life.
It's a great season for old ladies with crazy-big hair, with the Chairwoman of School Babysitters joining citrus' Mineko. Unlike Mineko, however, the Chairwoman is clearly hiding a heart of gold under her hair – after she loses her adult son and his wife in the same plane crash that kills Ryuichi and Kotaro's parents, she offers to take the boys in. Of course, she's got a surface reason for this beyond mere altruism: the school she runs has a daycare center for teachers' children, and she needs someone to help out there after school. Since Ryuichi has been taking care of Kotaro since he was born, the ninth grader is just perfect for what she wants.
Even though the episode is anything but her story, it's interesting to look at her character, because while the boys are the heart-string tuggers, she stands to be the one to go through the most drastic changes as the series goes on. That it's the boys who will teach her is self-evident, as is the fact that they'll slowly learn to trust again after the experiences they've been through. Despite the fact that their parents only recently died, they were largely absent from their sons' lives, leaving now-toddler Kotaro in Ryuichi's hands from infancy. That does not, however, seem to mean that they were fully negligent – when Kotaro comes down with a fever at the end of the episode, Ryuichi forgets for a moment that their parents are dead and goes to call his dad. In the imagined conversation, his parents drop everything to come home, implying that that was what they did when they were needed in an emergency. It's realizing that he doesn't have even that final recourse anymore that finally pushes Ryuichi to accept their deaths.
It's little hints like this scattered throughout the episode that help to give School Babysitters its warm heart. Neither boy is willing to ask for help unless it is absolutely necessary – Kotaro sits back and quietly stresses himself into a fever rather than tell the other kids that he wants to play with his brother while Ryuichi allows the adult school-time supervisor to leave rather than asking him to stay and show him the ropes. Both of them feel like they have to do things alone because that's the way it's always been. The only time we do see Ryuichi ask for help is when he notices Kotaro's fever; then he chases down the student who came to pick up his own brother to ask where there's a hospital. Again, though, it's telling that he goes to the student rather than seeking out his new adult guardian – grown-ups are not to be trusted on a regular basis.
School Babysitters right now is a winning combination of cute (the kids are both adorably precocious and believably toddlers) and interesting with a dollop of angst to top it off. It feels like it's pulling these off without trying to hard, which is not always easy to do, and if the pastels get to be a little much and the toddler designs are kind of creepy if you look at them too long, that doesn't stop this from being a good episode and a promising start.
If you thought this season was already frontloaded with ridiculously cute shows, School Babysitters has arrived to show you what real cuteness is. For anyone looking for an overdose of feels, this first episode has it all: A kindhearted orphan taking care of his younger sibling, who also ends up in charge of a school club dedicated entirely to caring for small children. Did I also mention that all of the main players in this Babysitter's Club so far are cute high-school boys and young men? Yes, School Babysitters knows its target demographic and hits hard on all fronts, so the cute-factor of the children and the main characters is honestly unsurprising, given how calculated it all is. That calculation doesn't make for a lack of pathos though, which is what really helps this premiere to succeed.
Its the honesty of the script and the characters that sells me the most on this show. Despite the potential for blatant emotional manipulation, School Babysitter's first episode keeps things feeling grounded (or as grounded as they can be, given the fairly outlandish nature of the premise). Ryuchi and his brother have been thrust into an entirely new life, bereft of any family to call their own, and initially I was frustrated with how quickly the show was playing off the whole “dead parents” angle. This turned out to be an intentional choice of characterization though, as the fever little Kotaro suffers late in the episode mirrors Ryuchi's own tendency to bottle up his emotions. Ryuchi's long-awaited collapse in to tears ends up feeling earned as a result, and it also helps give dimension to the cartoonishly drawn and previously one-dimensional Chairwoman. This episode proves that every character we meet is a real person, dealing with real emotions, and that solidifies and supports a story that could otherwise have come across as trite.
This isn't to say that everything is tears and grief, though; School Babysitter's also makes sure to stock this episode chock full of cute kids running around and causing a ruckus. Having done plenty of time working in daycares myself, I can say that School Babysitters absolutely nails the chaos and charm of trying to look after a bunch of toddlers who are all literally fighting each other for their share of attention. All of the kids we meet in this episode, Kotaru included, are authentically written and performed, and there is indeed a lot of fun to be had in just watching Ryuchi and the daycare's only staff member, Usaida, interact with them. As more and more students invariable join the ranks of the Babysitter's Club, I can see this show getting a lot of mileage out of just indulging in its slice-of-life instincts and letting everyone just hang out and be adorable surrogate siblings to all of these little tykes.
Sugary slice-of-life stories have turned out in droves this season, and School Babysitters does a lot to stand out from the pack. It doesn't have the artistic flourishes of a show such as A Place Further Than the Universe, but what it lacks in technical prowess it more than makes for in heart. If something sweet and genuine is what you're looking for, be sure to give this one a shot.
It's hard to capture the charm of toddlers, especially when they aren't yours. From about one and a half to four, kids are like tiny, irrational whirlwinds. They can empty out your tupperware drawer, throw your phone in the toilet, and wail at the top of their lungs because you cut their sandwich in half and “broke it.” Toddlers are basically IKEA furniture without any instructions and it takes a multi-year process of elimination to figure out how to put them together correctly.
Anime, and other media honestly, rarely captures this experience accurately. Kids are usually aged up so they are more logical and rational for the sake of plot purposes. If they are written more accurately, they're rarely endearing. School Babysitters finds a balance for the most part, although it's still guilty of applying adult reasoning on little kids when drama calls for it. I'd put little brother Kotaro at roughly two or three, far too young to read a room and hold out expressing his own needs to not be a bother. I'm going to skip over the nonsense of breaking out in a fever due to a stressful environment change, if anything he would have been even fussier as a result.
That one instance aside, the kids are cute. The character designs capture that awkward toddler body type where their guts stick out practically beyond their feet. Each kid's personality is quickly defined, ranging from rough and tumble to very sensitive.
Ryuichi is also very likable, although I think his capable, easy-going personality is a bit of a waste here. It's hard to imagine a high school kid not being a complete wreck given his circumstances. The guy is both orphaned, adopted by a complete stranger, and forced into running a daycare with a bunch of other toddlers in a very short time period. The episode's overall message about leaning on others is a good one, but it's still hard to believe someone would take so much in stride up until that point.
I'll keep watching this one for its saccharine cuteness and maybe a little bit of schadenfreude. Seeing someone else wrestle a two-year-old while mine covers everything in my house with yogurt is reassuring, at least.
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