I'm almost twenty-four now, and I've recently found that my paternal instincts are becoming more and more prevalent. It was therefore with something of an open mind that I approached Aishiteruze Baby, a shoujo anime which chronicles the life of high school student Katakura Kippei and Yuzuyu, the adorable 5-year old girl who is thrust into his care by circumstance. Kippei is portrayed as something of a flirty, playboy-style character. As I began watching, therefore, I expected the main focus to be on his coming to terms with responsibility and learning to love the dependent sprog rather than hate her for eating into his free time and getting in the way of his relationships. Eventually, he would learn lessons about himself, the likes of which can only be taught by a starry-eyed five-year-old. I was wrong, however. Very wrong. Far from being a flawed human being, it turns out that Kippei is actually pretty close to perfect. As well as being handsome, tough and cool, he's also gentle and an almost-ideal parent from day one.
Having turned down this opportunity for character development, Aishiteruze Baby has to find something else to fill its 26 episodes. This is perhaps why the show takes the surprising step of exploring some fairly serious issues, amongst which are abandonment, stalking, child abuse, suicide and loneliness. It all sounds quite dark, but the series maintains its light-heartedness and humour throughout. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of confronting these issues in any meaningful way. Rather than scrutinising them with a child's innocence, the show handles them with kid gloves, thus failing once again to make the most of its interesting premise. The problems are quickly blown over and there is nary a situation, it seems, which cannot be defused and patched up by a superficial intervention and trite word of wisdom from the obstinately perfect Kippei. Suicidal thoughts and deep-rooted psychological issues clear up as quickly and easily as the common cold.
That isn't to say that Aishiteruze Baby contains nothing worthwhile. It is sweet throughout and touching on occasion. However - aside from the endearing naïveté of Yuzuyu and a remarkably slow-paced romance between Kippei and the show's love interest, Kokoro - there isn't a whole lot of substance here and the series has a tendency to drag as a result. Anyone expecting to find much more than the admittedly enjoyable fluff is likely to be disappointed.
The animation is really nothing special. It doesn't attempt to be, and perhaps it doesn't need to be. It's quite difficult, however, to shake off the feeling that this is something of a low-budget job. The character designs aren't particularly exciting or memorable and certain elements, rainfall for example, harm any realistic edge that the series may have wanted to maintain. It's hard to add to the mood of a scene when the viewer's mind is focused on how fake the weather looks. Furthermore, as is to be expected, the show brims with archetypal shoujo devices, which detract from certain scenes more than they add to it.
Although I didn't enjoy the OP and ED tracks at all, the soundtrack as a whole is strong. As well as the typical use of piano pieces to create romantic mood, the soundtrack boldly - and very successfully - introduces other elements; electric guitars, percussion and the likes. This serves to add a climactic second layer of dynamism to the background music which really helps bring out vivid emotions in the longer romantic scenes.
The voices are also decent on the whole, and Yuzuyu's is particularly good. Rather than sounding like a grown woman trying to put on as high-pitched a voice as possible, Yuzuyu actually sounds like a five-year-old girl. This is essential in terms of suspension of disbelief and allows the character to display the necessary range of feelings and emotions.
As far as characters go, Aishiteruze Baby offers something of a mixed bag. While Kippei is a fantastic human being, he is not a fantastic character as - aside from a slight stupidity which generates a few comic moments - he is more or less free of weaknesses, making it a real challenge to empathise with him. Kokoro is somewhat more interesting, offering reticence and pride but not falling into the trap of being a textbook tsundere. A feat all too rarely achieved by female anime characters.
Yuzuyu, however, is undoubtedly the star of the show. Her character is immensely well written, and she behaves like the infant she is. Her bewilderment at being abandoned and tendency to blame herself for the difficulties suffered by those around her are movingly childlike, and make her far cuter than any over-the-top kawaii stereotype could ever hope to be. The fact that all the children in the series are written to act exactly like children is a masterstroke in characterisation, and perhaps enough to redeem the fact that almost all secondary characters are crushingly two-dimensional.
I found this series difficult to love, but perhaps even more difficult to hate. In spite of missing opportunities to turn itself into a memorable and must-watch series, Aishiteruze Baby offers a constant flow of lightweight, feelgood drama, which is bound to appeal to the shoujo demographic, and may find some fans outside of this as well. However, its failure to truly explore the darkness which it toys with and its hesitance to offer profound conflicts between the main characters is sure to put other viewers off. All in all, so long as you expect nothing more than a fluffy and occasionally touching series, I feel I can recommend this show.
Whenever Kippei is at school, he has one thing on his mind: girls. From skipping class to cheesy lines, he'll do anything it takes to reel the ladies in, though he never seems to find the right person. But the bachelor lifestyle is soon to change when young Yuzuyu enters the picture. This five-year-old cutie has been abandoned by her mother, and is to be taken care of by none other than Kippei! Unfortunately for the both of them, Kippei has no experience raising a child, so the learning curve will be quite steep...
When it comes to anime, I tend to be a fan of comedy, shoujo, romance or anything else that will put a smile on my face. However, I'll review pretty much anything. Whether you like or dislike my reviews, I'm always glad to receive feedback, and I'm always happy to get into intelligent discussions.