by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 1 of
School Babysitters ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
School Babysitters ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
School Babysitters ?
School Babysitters may not strictly be this season's tearjerker, but it certainly does have its moments. The two kids at the center of the story, Ryuichi and Kotaro, have just been recently orphaned when the series opens, and they're still trying to deal with the tragedy. This largely falls on Ryuichi, because he's a third-year in middle school while Kotaro is only about two or three years old. That's not to say that Kotaro isn't just as keenly aware of what he's lost—one of the strengths of these first three episodes is how clear they make it that Kotaro is mourning too, just in a different way. Both boys feel like they need to be the mythical “strong one,” Ryuichi because he's older and more capable, and Kotaro because he sees how hard his big brother is trying. They're both still working things out, and that struggle forms a warm heart to build the rest of the story around.
Obviously that “rest of the story” involves a school babysitting club, because otherwise the title would be pretty silly. In a nice change-up from similar shoujo manga I can think of (this one's source material runs in LaLa), Ryuichi and Kotaro don't live by themselves in an oddly spacious apartment; instead they're adopted by the crotchety chairwoman of a fancy private school who lost her son and daughter-in-law in the same plane crash that killed the kids' parents. The crabby old woman says that she's only taking the boys in because she wants Ryuichi to help out at the school's daycare for working parents (making it a more impressive institution than everywhere I've taught), but there are little hints that there's a more emotional component as well. She may act tough, but she gives the boys chocolates on Valentine's Day, spends money for them to go to the zoo, and overall goes the extra mile to take care of them. She's clearly trying to be a good parent in her way, which will likely be even more evident next week when Ryuichi may be getting sick.
More impressive is the way the two boys show their grief and gratitude. Ryuichi really goes all out to do whatever is asked of him. He spends every free second he has at the daycare, he studies hard, and he tries his darndest to get more kids involved in the Babysitting Club. Kotaro, meanwhile, just tries not to be a bother—in the first episode, he stresses himself sick because he doesn't want to worry anyone, and in episode two he just quietly trots after Ryuichi rather than crying and saying that he's not happy. In fact, Ryuichi almost cries more than Kotaro, and the scene where he realizes that he can't call his parents when Kotaro gets sick is one of the most touching so far. It also makes a nice counterpoint to this week's episode, when the father of twins Takuma and Kazuma (a working actor) shows up and his kids are afraid of him because they so rarely see him. Ryuichi is bothered (and it's worth noting that Kotaro is in every scene of the other toddlers playing with the dad) because he knows what it's like not to have the chance to see your father anymore, but to the twins, it's not nearly as important that they interact with this virtual stranger.
While family is obviously a big theme here, with another 9th-grader/toddler sibling pair in the form Hayato and Taka also getting time to work out their relationship in episode two, it's not the sole focus of the show. There's a fair amount of just cute kid stuff too, which ranges between spot-on and definitely fictional. The scene where Taka runs after someone who looks like his brother from the hat up really rings true, especially if you remember the Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin follows the wrong woman through the zoo and then says of his mom, “From the knees down, she looks like you,” and Kirin's obsession with her stuffed giraffe will be familiar to viewers as well. (There's a great scene where she's teaching baby Midori how to pet it.) On the flip side, I can't imagine any school letting toddlers run around with pointy toy swords, and while it would be awesome, two-year-olds generally can't be scooped up like living footballs and carried under your arm with ease.
That aside, School Babysitters is hitting a lot of the right notes. It manages to have two separate storylines per episode without feeling distracting, it's cute and warmhearted, and it treats almost all of its characters with respect, from the little bitty kids to the awkward honor student who comes off as cold. I'm concerned about Yagi and his nosebleeds from poking chubby baby cheeks, because that's definitely an uncomfortable joke, but after three episodes, I'm definitely looking forward to cozy times with this show all winter.
School Babysitters is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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