Title: Aishiteruze Baby
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
Summary: Kippei Katakura is a high school playboy who would flirt with any girl he sees. His life was turn upside down when one day, his 5-year old cousin Yuzuyu shows up at his house after her mother had seemingly abandoned her. And now, Kippei has been handed the task of taking care of Yuzuyu for the time being, and he must learn how to become the “mother” that Yuzuyu needs.
Review: Ccccuuutttteeee ooovvvveerrrllloooaaadddd. Even as a guy who is rather immune to the cute factor of many anime characters (actually find them quite annoying), this one anime made me “aww…” more times than I can count. That little rascal and her rosy cheeks and childhood innocence always got to me. Let’s not forget the not-so-innocent and rather mischievous Kippei. This high school playboy seemed to have also been struck by the changing-for-the-better arrow shot by Yuzuyu. Aishiteruze Baby isn’t an anime that has any intense action, or heart dropping drama. It doesn’t even have that great of comedy, but it does have a message that everyone can take home. This slice of life anime did quite a number on me, showing me how much a child can change someone’s life. The ups and downs of everyday life, and the longing for a mother’s love made Yuzuyu one of the best child characters of any anime series I’ve seen.
The series doesn’t have the best animation considering it wasn’t made too long ago (2004). Fortunately this anime doesn’t really need that great of animation to make it special. The character designs aren’t anything great either. Other than flowery backgrounds when something sweet happens, and dark backgrounds when something depressing happens the anime was rather standard. It didn’t have much variation because most of it took place in three key locations: Kippei’s house, Yuzuyu’s preschool, and the playground. There were a couple PG-13 scenes at Kippei’s school, but nothing all that special. I felt that the series did a lot of copy/paste scenes which got tiresome after a while. I enjoy seeing a first kiss between two characters as much as the next person, but not when they try to make each one seem magical. It kind of loses its effect after the third or fourth time no matter how many flowery effects you add. So as much as I feel the animation doesn’t matter for a slice of life, it would have helped if they added a few variations to express affection. Probably the only thing that I didn’t mind was seeing Yuzuyu’s smiling face episode after episode. Heck, the episodes where she wasn’t smiling were shattering. I found that the art did its job, and it got the point across. However, it seemed to be quite low budget which is unfortunate. After watching twenty-odd episodes and seeing basically the same thing a hundred times over I was over it. The magical moments between Kippei and Kokoro were lost, turning it a “oh just get on with it” moment.
That being said the characters weren’t that great either. Probably the only person I actually liked was Yuzuyu, and that’s just because of her over the top cuteness. A part of me actually was thinking that maybe having a daughter wouldn’t be all that bad if they were just like Yuzuyu (because anime kids are based of real kids! /sarcasm). Everyone else was pretty average or a little annoying. Characters like Kokoro and Satsuki (Kippei’s younger brother) were completely void of personality. I understand that the creators were probably going for the cool, laid-back personality, but it seemed more like they were just emotionless. Thankfully there were a couple scenes were you see Kokoro’s soft side, but Misako was completely lost. He seemed too disconnected from the world that it was hard to pay attention whenever he opened his mouth. The episode that was dedicated to Satsuki was boring and extremely difficult to sit through. Kippei, while admirable for his dedication to Yuzuyu, was another average character. I figured that a shoujo anime would have a better lead male role, but apparently I was wrong. I thought that his playboy antics would serve more of purpose, but that fell short. Other than his connection to Yuzuyu he seemed like a typical high school kid. I suppose that might have been part of his charm, sadly it didn’t strike my interest enough for me to consider him a worth while character. Understanding that this is a slice of life anime and is supposed to portray everyday life with a few twists, I can forgive a couple of the character designs (like Kippei).
The story of Yuzuyu’s mother leaving her alone was rather well done. My biggest fear was how they would end the series. As usual I don’t want to actually spoil the ending, but I will say that they ended it rather well considering the circumstances. Yuzuyu’s mother did an excellent job staying in the shadows while still playing an important role. Although the backstory confused me a bit, or rather made me wonder if leaving Yuzuyu had a legitimate reason, I still felt that I could see her side of the story. Most of the anime was basically taking you on the small adventures Yuzuyu has and what she learns as she grows up. It did a great job showing you how Yuzuyu was changing as she got older and the distance growing between her and her mother. I was surprised exactly how well they managed to show Yuzuyu becoming more independent of her mother while still wishing to see her. The final few episodes really brought it home when you realize that time doesn’t stop just because her mother doesn’t feel fit to take care of Yuzuyu. Despite the months of separation, grief, and discouragement, Yuzuyu still manages to believe in her mother. The bond between a mother and daughter is portrayed very well; remaining relatable to audiences of all ages and gender. I think this is the reason I continued to watch the series. Even though the message is rather cliché and the stories weren’t interesting looking back on it, I still found it entertaining.
The soundtrack wasn’t half bad, but nothing special. I enjoyed the opening and ending because they were a bit like a lullaby. Of course that matches up perfectly considering Yuzuyu is still a little girl. The background music isn’t that great probably because it is so standard. The typical dramatic music when someone is in shock or when Yuzuyu’s mother makes an unexpected entrance, and the happy chimes when Yuzuyu learning something new. I can’t say that the soundtrack was a bad choice because it does fit; it just wasn’t something special, or quite frankly, rememberable.
Final statements: As a slice of life it is pretty good. It gave me a warm feeling on the inside and I was very pleased on how the series ended. It isn’t for everyone because it is quite slow. As story progression goes the series probably did the best they could. Sadly, the lack of interesting characters sort of killed it for me. Combined with mediocre art and sound I give this a low priority watch. Admittedly it has gotten me watching Kure-nai with the similar premise of “boy takes over guardianship of girl” thing.