Two months ago, 10-year-old Takuya’s mother was tragically killed, leaving the boy, his baby brother Minoru, and his father behind. With his father working to support the family, raising Minoru becomes Takuya’s responsibility, even though the boy is just a child himself. And with having to clean, do laundry, pick up Minoru from daycare and to try constantly to stop his sibling from crying, Takuya constantly changes between loving his relative and resenting him. Still, he’ll try his best to be a caring big brother to Minoru, as his mother would have wanted it that way.
Baby & Me is not really a famous manga or beloved worldwide. Honestly I'm not sure if it's remembered or even known to this day outside of Japan. I've known and have a nostalgic attachment to Baby & Me ever since I was a little kid when the anime was broadcasted on my local kids channel and dubbed in my native language and I've watched the series many times. Now being an adult and curious about the manga's interpretation, I've finally finished reading it and here are my thoughts: I'll also be offering a small review on the anime while I'm here. The main premise of the manga is the day to day life of the10 year old boy, Takuya Enoki, taking care of his 2 year old baby brother, Minoru, with the help of their father, Harumi, after the tragic death of the wife and mother, Yukano. Takuya is definitely not getting the Disney treatment (or some other animes) here because the absence of a mother is definitely relevent, not written out of the story and her death definitely took a toll on the Enokis. After the tragedy, Takuya has taken on the role of mothering his bab brother, not watch him once in a while like a normal big brother but be a substitute mother for Minoru. Why I strongly find his struggle heart breaking and admirable is because of how much burden that comes with this overwhelming responsibility. Any parent can tell you that looking after babies is no picnic, factoring in feeding them, cleaning them, playing with them, teaching them, disciplining and generally devoting all your time and energy to them. For any adult looking after a baby is tiresome and draining imagine a kid taking on that kind of responsibility. A lot of shows and movies (especially western ones) with one or both of the parents being dead have little to no impact on the kids and they still lead happy normal indifferent lives but Takuya doesn't have that luxury. He sacrifices his own childhood and free time as his life now revolves around Minoro's upbringing while balancing his school work and half the house work (their dad works 6 days a week and does housework as well if he can like cooking) all the while still trying to recover from losing his mother who hasn't been gone for a year at the beginning of the manga. The premise of the manga may sound depressing but as you progress through the chapters learning more about the main characters and their many friends, going through their fun and struggles you want help but fondly smile and develop a love the manga's theme of family love, especially Takuya and Minoro's strong loving brotherly love with its ups and downs. Aside from the message of family, once in a while there's also messages relating to growing up and the discoveries we make as we get older which even I get something out of them. The casts in the manga are pretty sweet, likable, funny and memorable. The very young kids are cute but very bratty. Since this manga was published in the 90s, one could tell that the manga was probably cashing in on the 90s trend of bratty kids being cute and funny like Full House (though I find this manga's children being more likable and interesting than Full House in my opinion). Minoru is the most spoiled brat of them all and a giant crybaby to boot. Your reaction to him is to either laugh or grind your teeth at him because you know at some point in your life you've dealt with this kind of kid before. There's Takuya who you can like and emphasise with but at the same time he's still has his childish outbursts (especially when Minoru pushes him to his limits) and his cute and innocent demeanour which especially shows when he's facing with mature subjects. The manga is overall a pretty good read for the childcare genre and I admire that that it interprets a realistic take on childcare when the mother is gone and how loved ones mourn for her. Though I have some mixed feelings about the final chapters. I won't spoil it for anyone but it enters "The shock value" or "isn't that going too far here?" Territory. I'm between dumbfounded and liking the twist, but what the hell? While the manga was 108 chapters, the anime was only 35 episodes long and it definitely cut out a lot of content. Not only the anime used just a third of the manga's chapters some of the episodes were created different from their respected chapters. There were a lot of recurring and supporting characters in the manga who played large key roles along with the Enokis, some characters have chapters primarily focused on them, While the anime either cuts them out, reduce them to background characters or reduce their relevance to just one or two episodes meaning you will only see character growth coming from Takuya and Minoru and even their growths have been heavily reduced in the anime. One of the cuts in the anime that I hated the most was Harumi and Yukano's backstories and the kind of relationship they had before their marriage. I'm sorry about the wordy review. I'm really glad I found a fan translation of Baby&Me and learn more about the lives they led and the friends they've made. I definitely recommend the manga over the anime (honestly the things they've cut out is a crime)
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