by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 5 of
School Babysitters ?
Who says boys can't be witches? Kirin clearly thinks that's as stupid an argument as I did (because they can, they're just called warlocks), and it's just one more reason why she becomes determined to prove that she can become a witch herself. Since she's three(ish), this obviously means that she's got to fly on a broom, thus kicking off a not-entirely-internal debate for Ryu in the second half of this week's episode. He's really not sure what his position should be – does he agree with Hayato and tell kids that neither witches nor superheroes are real? Does he play along with Kirin? Or does he take Usaida's approach and just let her figure things out for herself?
Obviously that last one is doomed to failure, because if there's one thing every child determined to fly has tried, it's jumping from a high place. (I, of course, in no way jumped off the woodshed with an umbrella as a small child. You must be thinking of someone else.) All of the methods seem flawed, especially Inomata's idea to simply teach the toddler about Medieval witch trials. The whole scene is a wonderful example of how everyone has thoughts about how to handle children based on their own experience, but in the end kids don't come with instruction manuals, and you've just got to let things take their course—or perhaps seek out the person with the most experience. Clearly that's the chairwoman, and as far as I'm concerned she wins the episode by not crushing Kirin's dreams, talking down to her, or even giving her a firm yes or no answer. She simply gives Kirin hope while preventing further high-jumping disasters. Not only is this masterfully done, but it once again demonstrates that she's nowhere near as crotchety as she'd like people to think, and she really does care.
Respecting children's feelings has been an ongoing theme of the series, and this episode deals with it not just in Kirin's story, but also in the first half when a high school student who is under a mistaken impression about Midori's mom declares that he wants to marry her. Ryu, who knows full well that she's not a widow, begins thinking about what would happen if Inui's feelings were reciprocated. His general thought is that it simply isn't fair to Midori, and it's selfish of adults to just gloss over kids' emotions where their love lives are concerned. He's specifically talking about parents who are cheating on their spouses, but listening to him you get the impression that this is really about something else.
Instead he seems to be transferring his own emotions about his parents onto Midori's (totally made-up) situation. His parents, even when they were alive, were frequently absent, caring more about their own pursuits than their sons' well-being. Not only did they effectively abandon him, they then had a second child that they couldn't be bothered to care for, increasing the burden on their elder child. While it's possible that there are extenuating circumstances we're not aware of, from their kids' point of view, it really does look like they were in the process of slowly abandoning their children before doing so more permanently via death. It isn't necessarily logical, but it is a valid emotional response, and Ryu is justified in his concern for Midori. It's also why he makes such a compassionate babysitter; he knows what it means to be let down by grown-ups, and he doesn't want Kotaro or any of the other kids to feel that same pain.
That ability to mix darker subject matter into a show that features kids smearing Inui with obscene amounts of snot has been one of School Babysitters' enduring strengths. Although the first half of the episode has its awkwardness with Inui's crush and misunderstanding, it still manages to balance things out with comedy and more meaningful elements that help to smooth over the pieces that don't work so well. For every sad shot we get of poor little Kotaro just standing there patiently holding his copy of Cinderella, there's something sillier like the twins both being the yellow ranger or Midori making a break for it, unwiped baby butt in the open air. Even though it looks like the not-a-pedophile jokes are going to make a return next week, there's a consistent charm to this series that makes me think we'll find out that he really isn't a creeper after all – hopefully that's not just the equivalent of jumping off a balcony with a cape on, assuming it'll make you fly.
School Babysitters is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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