School Babysitters
Episode 4

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 4 of
School Babysitters ?

It looks as though the chairwoman does have a warm gooey center underneath her crusty exterior and poofy hair, even if she does keep picking Kotaro up like he's a kitten she's scruffing. (Oddly enough, Kotaro even acts like a scruffed kitten when held that way, making me wonder if the original mangaka has more experience with kittens than toddlers.) As indicated by last week's preview, the second half of this episode features Ryuichi getting sick, leaving him to the surprisingly tender ministrations of his new guardian. It's clear that she really is worried about him – she doesn't just leave her assistant to handle things, but instead goes out of her way to make him rice porridge and tea with lemon and honey, and she even shows an understanding of Kotaro's need to help his brother by letting him squeeze the lemon. It's a really reassuring storyline for both Kotaro and the audience, as it gives the chairwoman more of an emotional investment in the kids, making it clear that she didn't just take them in because she wanted a free babysitter for the school.

The idea that people are more invested in Ryuichi than he believes is the overarching theme of the episode, and it's a much nicer one than last week's pedophile “jokes” to say the least. The first half, which isn't quite as strong as the second, focuses on Ryuichi's start to high school, where he's still the sole member of the Babysitting Club. When Usaida finds out that he's made a recruitment poster, he decides that they should all take a field trip to look at clubs, much to the bafflement of the high school. It's not entirely clear if Usaida is trying to get Ryuichi to expand his social life beyond toddlers or simply isn't thinking about how seeing all of the clubs he feels that he can't join will affect him, because he does eventually wonder if he's being too mean to the poor guy. Ryuichi does begin to feel sorry for himself as well – seeing his classmates interact with other high school students while he's shepherding around a group of little kids hurts, if only because it makes him think about opportunities he's irrevocably lost. Kotaro, of course, notices this long before Usaida does – he's so attuned to his brother's feelings that he can pinpoint what's bothering him while the other kids only get that he's upset. (Basically everyone is more astute than Usaida, now that I think about it.) As he tends to do, Kotaro takes matters into his own tiny hands, soliciting a new club member so his big brother won't be lonely – something that Ryuichi never saw coming.

Of course, he wants new club members. Despite being devoted to Kotaro and feeling beholden to the chairwoman, Ryuichi really does want to have a semi-normal life. That he feels that he can't is almost more tragic than the loss of his parents, especially since he so rarely allows himself to admit it. His life absolutely revolves around his little brother, but there are moments like this week when he realizes what he's missing out on that prove he's just a regular kid. That's what Kotaro seems to pick up on and what Kamitani also may be aware of – he doesn't just join the Babysitter Club because his little brother's there or because Kotaro asked him to, but because he's genuinely a good friend to Ryuichi.

Fortunately, all of this emotion is balanced out with cute kid antics. Their little farting dance through the hallway is spot-on for the age group, and Kotaro's attempts to join in are adorable as he's always just a beat behind. The kids' invasion of the cooking club when they smell cookies is also a good moment, as is the weird theme of stuff being draped over Kotaro's head. At first, he just stands there like a parrot in a covered cage, but then he deals with the situation by doing the world's cutest slime impression. This kind of thing makes up for some of the weirder toddler moments in the show.

While I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the kid who likes toddlers a little too much, School Babysitters makes a nice recovery from its missteps last week. This episode is cute, touching, and comes with cookies. Hopefully next week will bring us even closer to the pilot episode's balance of elements and then maintain it going forward.

Rating: B

School Babysitters is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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