Reviewby Carlo Santos, Mar 14th 2012
Listen to Me, Girls, I'm Your Father!
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
Yuuta Segawa has just entered college and is looking forward to an independent, carefree life. However, an unexpected family tragedy suddenly forces Yuuta into taking care of his older sister's three daughters—a middle-schooler, a fifth-grader, and a toddler. Now Yuuta must find a way to raise his nieces on a college student budget, even going so far as to let them move into his tiny apartment. But what will his college buddies and next-door neighbors think when they find out Yuuta is trying to raise three girls on his own? Yuuta has a lot to learn about family life, and he's going to need everyone's help as he takes on the role of uncle, big brother, and father all at once.
It's easy to be misled by the way Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! (shortened to the more convenient Papakiki in Japanese) presents itself. At first glance, it has all the ingredients of a fanservice-laden disaster: an unattached single male, three lovely girls who are not only well below the age of consent but also related to him, and—in the final scene of Episode 1—the eldest daughter getting caught in the act of putting her clothes on. With a setup like that, it's sure to raise a few cynical eyebrows.
Then the next episode happens, and it turns out the series is playing an entirely different game.
Episode 2 ends with a punch in the gut that shows what Papakiki is really about: the delicate bonds of family, and the trials an adolescent boy must face when adulthood is suddenly thrust upon him. The plot twist that pushes the girls into Yuuta's life is overly melodramatic, but that's what makes it so effective—a sudden dose of seriousness in a seemingly lightweight series. The following episodes, at their best, are a slice-of-life drama about an unexpected family unit, with the odd relationship dynamics of a college boy trying to raise three nieces (only one of whom is related by blood). For example, eldest child Sora is close enough in age to see Yuuta as a big brother, and the kind of boy she wants to impress—even though he's technically her uncle and guardian. On a more poignant note is the connection with the youngest, Hina, who is still too little to understand why their family arrangement has suddenly changed. Boisterous middle child Miu seems the most well-adjusted, but surely her personal issues will emerge in future episodes as well.
Despite this surprising depth, the show still panders to fans from time to time, like with Yuuta's habit of walking in on Sora right after she's gotten out of the shower. The first occurrence is understandable as an attention-grabber, but after a while, it becomes a cheap, one-dimensional gag. Individual episodes also start to sink into repetition as the show progresses: Yuuta lives his daily life, the girls goof off at home, and in the last couple of minutes they learn a valuable lesson about the meaning of family. Fortunately, a cliffhanger ending in Episode 7 suggests that the series won't stay on autopilot for too long. There's also some trouble trying to fit Yuuta's college life into the story: his friends are portrayed as a bunch of comical weirdos, but instead come off as awkward and unfunny (especially that one guy who's a child-predator in the making). However, these friendships look more promising after the episode where they actually get to meet the girls—Yuuta's eccentric buddies may not be such a bad bunch after all.
As expected, a series about everyday family life isn't exactly an animation showpiece, and most scenes involve Yuuta and family hanging around at home or running errands about town. Still, this doesn't stop the series from laying on some polish: subtle shadows and highlights, color gradients in the hair, and camera blur as characters move between foreground and background, all of which help to make the visuals look less flat. A rich color palette, which changes noticeably as the mood shifts between lighthearted and serious, also adds variety. However, these surface details can't fix fundamental design flaws, like characters seemingly copied out of every moe/harem/dating-sim franchise: Yuuta the generic everyman, Sora and her Haruhi-esque hair ribbons, Miu's conspicuous blonde twintails, and Hina the giant head pasted on a two-foot-tall body. The amount of detail that goes into drawing these types of characters also means less time spent on other areas—the inside of Yuuta's apartment makes for pretty bland background material, and during less important scenes, the animation slips into a lower framerate with off-model characters.
The strong emotional contrasts in this series are also highlighted by the background music, which at first seems completely inconsequential with light, two-fingered piano melodies. But when the story takes a serious turn, the chords thicken, the string section comes in, and suddenly a simple melody becomes colored with emotion, accentuating a dramatic moment. However, even this gets repetitive after a while, with the exact same tune introducing all the crucial family-bonding scenes. Meanwhile, the bubbly-cute theme songs are almost excessively cheerful: sure, they're catchy enough (especially the electro-infused ending theme), but sound more suited to a straight-up romantic comedy.
In a way, Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! isn't just a lesson about the value of family—it also shows how a predictable first impression might lead down an unpredictable path. The plot twist that transforms Yuuta Segawa from ordinary college boy into an unwitting family man proves that there are still ways to turn the "single guy surrounded by cute young girls" trope on its head. This tale of an unlikely family unit has its heart in the right place, even if it occasionally drifts off into fanservice-land or falls back on predictable plotlines. The bright colors and an extra layer of polish also make it easier to look past some of the visual shortcomings, like generic character designs. Although not the most groundbreaking or ambitious, this is one slice-of-life show worth keeping an eye on.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : C
Music : B-
+ Proves to be more than what it seems at first glance with an unexpected premise and moments of heartwarming family drama.
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