by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
School Babysitters ?
The best episodes of School Babysitters can make me laugh, tear up, and say “Yes, toddlers are like that.” This one manages to hit all three of those points within the first half in its required beach outing (though hopefully there won't be a hot springs one), when the whole gang heads to the sea, mothers of the toddlers included. Kotaro is the best part of this segment, as his palpable fear of the ocean wars with his need to be alongside his big brother, although all three of the kids who aren't sure about this whole moving-expanse-of-water thing are pretty great. What really works is the interplay between Kotaro and Ryuichi. Never mind that there are plenty of other adults around for a change; Ryuichi still understands that Kotaro is fragile enough that seeing his brother go off without him would be upsetting.
Kamitani comments that he's always thought Kotaro was the too-clingy sibling, but perhaps it was Ryuichi all along. This seems like a basic misunderstanding on his part to me, albeit one that he couldn't be expected to grasp. The brothers are mutually attached to each other because they're all they have left, and they both know it. When the deaths of their parents are still fairly fresh, they have a deep-seated fear of losing each other. That's not to say that Ryuichi doesn't resent Kotaro at times – he really would rather be swimming than playing parasol for a toddler, and in the second half of the episode he recounts many times he's been mad at his little brother. Likewise, Kotaro realizes that he's a burden on his big brother – think of last week when we saw him pretend that he didn't need a bedtime story to make Ryuichi's life easier. He's just so little that his immediate feelings and needs tend to come first. The moment where he tries to charge into the scary ocean when he's afraid that it's eaten Ryuichi is the best example of how he tries his hardest, and the alacrity with which Ryuichi speeds to shore when he hears Kotaro crying says much the same.
Thus the theme for this week is the bonds between a much-older brother and his toddler sibling. The second half deals with Taka deliberately destroying an autographed baseball that his older brother cherished in a bid for more attention, leading Kamitani to punish him by completely ignoring him. It's a realistically cruel reaction from a teenager, and Kamitani has every right to be upset. What he doesn't understand or perhaps doesn't want to understand is that Taka doesn't fully grasp the gravity of the way he hurt his brother. It's visibly difficult for both brothers to reconcile what happened, and it reminds us of how fast Ryuichi has had to grow up. We also get a good reminder of the fact that the chairwoman is truly an educator, because just like with Kirin's flight stunt, she's able to get through to Taka in a way that no one else can. Perhaps her method seems extreme (although I don't think anyone in the audience actually thought she'd break the sword), but she does know how to drive home the point.
The only thing that I'm really not thrilled with this week is the whole Inomata bathing suit thing. Probably this comes down to my own sensibilities, but having a group of adult women hint to a teenage girl that she isn't being “pretty” enough for an outing truly makes me angry. The fact that Inomata comes back out in a bikini as opposed to her modest one piece smacks of her being made uncomfortable; anyone who sees her school swimsuit as comfortable isn't eager to bare much skin in my experience. It's an uncomfortable moment in a show that has otherwise avoided that particular type of message.
It's a relatively rare stumble for School Babysitters, however. Most of the episode continues to do things right, from Taka's red puffy face after hours of bawling to Ryuichi being uncomfortable admitting to Kamitani that he sometimes resents Kotaro. I'm not sure why they're all dressing up as vegetables next week, but as always, I'm looking forward to finding out.
School Babysitters is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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