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The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting

How would you rate episode 1 of
The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting ?
Community score: 3.9

What is this?

Yakuza soldier Kirishima Tooru is called "The Demon of Sakuragi" for his no-holds-barred, and very bloody, approach to life. The head of the Sakuragi family is so concerned about Kirishima's lack of restraint when dealing with enemies that, to tame his vicious nature, he orders Kirishima to become the babysitter to his young daughter, Yaeka. Kirishima knew the life of a yakuza was hard, but he didn't know it involved playing jump-rope in the park and PTA meetings.

The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting is based on Tsukiya's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

Aw, beans. The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting was one of the few series I was looking forward to in a meager season, but the premiere has officially left me cold. I Love Me some single dad anime, but the episode was so afraid of its own premise, so unwilling to commit to its premise in any direction, that it was a total snoozathon.

Based on the premise, I expected the show to lean into the incongruity between Kirishima's storied unpredictability and wildness and his task of taking care of a little girl. That's the idea behind gap moe, right? But Kirishima's wildness never comes across. There are a couple brief flashes of him fighting, and the boss says he needs to learn to moderate himself, but 90% of the episode is just him hanging out with Yaeka. He's pretty good with her too, patient and gentle, and his struggle to connect with her has nothing to do with any deficiency on his part. Okay, I guess he's pretty bad at doing her hair, but I'm literally a preschool teacher and I would rather change the smelliest diaper than try to french braid a child's hair. The point is, incongruity works best when shown, not told, and the episode does way more telling than showing.

Or is it meant to be a character drama? Because it's pretty thin on the ground as well. Kirishima discovers it's open house at Yaeko's school, and she's hiding it because her father failed to show up once. Kirishima *gasp* shows up at the last second and warms her and presumably the audience's hearts, just like in every single foster dad anime ever made. They pay lip service to how hard it must have been, but all he did was make an appearance, comment nicely on the picture she was drawing, and have some moms gasp over how handsome he is. There's no trace of awkwardness or discomfort in his body language, no pointed comments about the longer sleeves he's wearing.

It's not exactly bad, just kind of toothless. There's no oomph to it, no punch to the punchlines. Things pick up pretty much every time Kirishima's yakuza buddy Sugihara is onscreen thanks to their good comedic chemistry, but drop back down every time he leaves. The musical score, with its tinnily tinkling piano, actively detracts as well, since it never quite feels right for any scene and is more likely to make things feel cloying.

With the glut of dadime we've been getting lately, I can afford to be picky. I think I'll be passing on The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting to save room for something a little bit more flavorful.

Richard Eisenbeis

I usually love “surrogate father” anime. Barakamon remains to this day one of my all-time favorite anime in general. However, The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting didn't seem to strike a chord in me like I expected it would. It took me a while but I was able to figure out why this is: Yaeka herself. In this first episode, Yaeka is basically a non-entity in her own story. Sure, things happen around her and to her but she exercises very little agency overall outside the final scene. She is more of a plot device for Kirishima to interact with than anything else. Thus, the episode is about him reacting to his new circumstances rather than her to hers. The fact that she rarely talks doesn't exactly work in her favor on a character-building level either.

So with Yaeka largely absent, we are left with Kirishima, who is relatively one-note. The whole comedic premise is that we have this brutal Yakuza killer taking care of an innocent little girl, and ideally learning there is more to life than just kicking ass in the process. We're told he is irresponsible, yet this doesn't seem to be the case. He follows orders to take care of Yaeka without much in the way of objecting. He doesn't complain about his new job—even when she and her father are not around—and doesn't slack off either. He even goes above and beyond by going to her school's Parents' Day. It makes me think that the boss's speech about teaching Kirishima responsibility was all talk, that what he really wanted was the best possible protection for his daughter and nothing else.

The thing is, that because Kirishima seems fine with taking care of Yaeka right from the start, there is no interpersonal conflict at the series' core. They seem fine with each other, with few apparent obstacles to their developing bond. Because of this, I'm not as invested as I would be normally. However, the ending of the episode does hint at an external threat so maybe that will fill this void in later episodes.

All in all, I feel like this episode is a bit of a misstep but not a fatal one. Having Yaeka become more of a character and introducing some interpersonal conflict between her and Kirishima could turn this anime around in even a single episode. All the pieces are there for a highly enjoyable anime, they just have to be played in the right way.

Rebecca Silverman

One of my favorite bizarre genres is “yakuza doing non-yakuza things,” and A Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting very nicely fits right in. It's also terribly heartwarming and adorable – Demon of the Sakuragi Toru Kirishima is in desperate need of some discipline, so the head of the Sakuragi Family assigns him to be seven-year-old Yaeka's bodyguard. I'm honestly not sold that this is the best plan for instilling a sense of discipline or responsibility in someone who does things like “punch guys until their face caves in,” because if anyone's awesome at being annoying at times, it's kids. Maybe the theory is that Toru wouldn't dare harm the boss' precious little girl?

It almost doesn't matter, because Toru takes to babysitting like my dog took to peanut butter: quickly and with impressive enthusiasm. He recognizes that the little girl's not going to open up to him immediately, but also that she's got some trust issues to go with her shyness, and he knows that he can't take any of her reactions at face value. That he respects that as well is where the true delight of the show comes in; he doesn't try to force his way into her heart or life, he instead does his job in a way that lets her know that she can trust him. He's concerned that she might see him as an interloper, but when her aunt tells him that what she really wants is an adult who can be there for her, he's all in. The look on her face when she realizes that someone did come to her school open house after all, when she'd all but convinced herself that it would be too much trouble or that no one would want to bother is the stuff sugar is made of.

I could see this being too slow for some viewers, and the art and animation aren't terrific while the background music fells oddly intrusive. I'm also not sure why the opening theme starts with a swaggering shot of Toru's crotch, which just feels like a really weird choice for such a charming story. But if there's an Anya-or-Itsuka-shaped hole in your life, this should fill that nicely, and as an added bonus, you can also read the manga, which is equally adorable and being released in English by Kaiten Books.

Nicholas Dupree

Hot off the heels of SpyxFamily, it's time for another domestic comedy about a criminal raising a small child. I don't know exactly when that became a subgenre, but as a new flavor to the increasingly prevalent “single guy adopts a little kid” trend, I'll take it. Though this premiere actually winds up being a lot more subdued than you might expect from the title, and I think it's better for it.

For sure, there are some jokes hitting on the inherent contrast of a violent, tattooed Yakuza enforcer being the caretaker to a little girl. But they're far fewer than I figured. Rather, the bulk of this episode is about Kirishima just learning the ropes of dealing with a quiet, sensitive kid, and taking to it surprisingly quickly. That means the more comedic parts of the episode are a little slow and not hugely memorable, but it ends up helping the sentimental side of this episode shine a lot brighter. The show makes its thesis statement very clear with the open house subplot: family isn't about blood ties, but the connections forged by learning about each other and sharing love. So while Kirishima may be a stranger who thinks he's not suited for the job, his willingness to put in the effort and be a source of support for Yaeka means he's plenty qualified regardless of his foibles.

Yaeka is at first glance a quiet, well-behaved kid, but the more time we spend with her, it becomes clear that quietness is a way to mask a sensitive, nervous little girl who doesn't quite know how to approach her rather distant father. She's got just as many feelings and impulses as any seven-year-old, but tries to bottle them up to keep from bothering others – and for fear of pushing them away if she's seen as too much trouble. It really tugs at your heartstrings, and it makes Kirishima's gesture of visiting in her father's stead hit home. I also dig that there seems to be some effort to characterize Papa Yakuza too, as somebody who wants to connect with his daughter but feels it necessary to keep her separate from the dangerous world he works in. Cliché? Perhaps, but it's a solid hook that I'd like to see the show dive more into. And I definitely plan to stick around. The show may not be breaking the mold, but it's a well-executed and sincere bite of sweetness that managed to grip me in a warm little hug.

James Beckett

Well, that was cute! I've been playing catch-up on the Yakuza games over the past couple of years, so I'm all for a story about the unbreakable bond between a tough gangster and his precious little ward. In that sense, The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting accomplishes its goal, though given the subject matter, some folks might be wishing that the story had just a *touch* more grit to it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for massive amounts bloodshed or oodles of hard-edged drama or anything. I just have always had a hard time engaging with slice-of-life comedies that are balanced to a ratio of roughly 70% slice-of-life to 30% comedy. The bit where Kirishima braided his blonde buddy's hair was decently funny, and I liked the scene where he used the old hide-and-seek trick to keep Yaeka from getting involved in an impending brawl, but a lot of this premiere was just a bit too straightforward for me. Characters comment on Kirishima being an odd choice for a character, or how he will eventually make himself a part of Yaeka's family, and the episode goes through the motions of revealing some of Yaeka's personal struggles, which Kirishima inevitable ends up helping to fix.

There aren't a lot of jokes in sequences like Kirishima's open house visit to Yaeka's school, and the characters and their motivations are too thin as of yet to make for any solid drama, so the story came across to me as being merely…functional. Still, the production values are solid, which makes the show fun enough to watch, and folks who vibe with a more low-key approach will surely find a lot to like here. I can't say that I'm personally invested in the further adventures of these characters—the tease at the end of the episode makes me think that the story will pivot to a more melodramatic tone that I don't think I'm really in the mood for—but I can recognize when an anime accomplishes the goals it has set for itself. The Yakuza's Guide to Babysitting is a sweet enough diversion, and worth checking out if you need more low impact entertainment to add to your watchlist.

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