ANIME REVIEW | Hilarity & Sweetness Go Together In "School Babysitters"
Babies are adorable bundles of joy, no matter how much they cry and poop to their hearts' content. Toddlers, on the other hand, can be a nightmare to deal with. It's this period of time when a human finds its rebellious stage, talking back to grown ups and destroying the most expensive item in your house because you weren't giving them attention. Dealing with just one of these little terrors is a workout all on its own, let alone a bunch of them at once. So it gives me great joy to see 2-3 year-olds be presented in a surprisingly realistic -- let alone hilarious -- light in this winter season's School Babysitters.
Let me start out by stating why I was initially drawn into this specific show. Just a little over an hour before 2018 was rung in, I became an uncle for the very first time. It's both a scary and wondrous thing, as it brings new levels of joy and responsibility into one's life. Even though it'll be my sister and my brother-in-law that is going to be raising this child, I still felt the need to have a level of self-conscious thinking and planning when it comes to those times my niece and I may have together. Being a relative isn't just a title, it's also a call to step up and lend a hand to this kid when she and her parents greatly need it.
Naturally, I find myself looking at the main character of School Babysitters as the model person to be when it comes to the uncle title. The character of Ryuichi Kashima (Kotaro Nishiyama) has a good head on his shoulders. He's very responsible, gets his schoolwork done in time, and places his little brother Kotaro (Nozomi Furuki) first over his own personal well-being. One of the big reasons why Ryuichi is like this is because he and Kotaro lost their parents in an airplane accident, meaning that the two of them are the only family they legitimately have.
After going through this tragedy, a glimmer of hope is shone on the Kashima brothers in the form of the Morinomiya Academy's Chairwoman (Tomoko Miyadera). She offers the two to stay with her and let the oldest Ryuichi attend her school. To pay back for her kindness, Ryuichi must work in the school's daycare, cleverly labeled as a babysitter's club in the hopes of other students wanting to assist with the little tykes. As one can guess, the school is having trouble finding members, with Ryuichi and main caretaker Yoshihito (Tomoaki Maeno) the only two people helping out with the kids. But with two responsible guys caring for six tykes, it shouldn't be that hard, right?
Morinomiya Academy's babysitter club has its share of kids with their own set of personalities. Taka (Yuko Sanpei) is a hyperactive spoiled brat, who often loves swinging a plastic sword and whomping it on the heads & legs of his older counterparts. Twins Takuma (Ayaka Saito) and Kazuma (Atsumi Tanezaki) are the epitome of what it means to be polar opposites, with the former being very outgoing and the latter suffering from shyness. The giraffe-loving Kirin (Konomi Kohara) is the smartest of the bunch, to the point where she often speaks very adult-like despite her lacking their intelligence. And then there's the infant Midori (Kaede Hondo), who is always in the constant care of either Ryuichi and Yoshihito. They of course get along quickly with the younger Kotaro, bringing him in on their activities and toddler shenanigans.
All of this is presented both in a very funny and sometimes real level in School Babysitters. Often the kids can be very rambunctious, but unlike something in the vein of Rugrats and Muppet Babies, there's nothing fantastical about their fun ways. Instead, these kids like to roughhouse with their older caretakers, beating them up with dolls and plastic swords and being very loud when doing so. They also have a tendency to cover things with snot, sing loudly about farts, and create as much of a ruckus as a little kid can possibly could. At first, the series acts like a sort of birth control, in the same way a young couple may watch a toddler rip to shreds a toy aisle in their local pharmacy. But then, when a problem arises within the group, the kids straighten out and actually take some sort of responsibility.
What makes this a very fun show to watch is the way these little kids are interacting with the main students of Morinomiya Academy. How the smart Kirin latches onto the stoic student Maria (Satomi Akesaka) brings forth an unlikely sibling-like relationship between the two of them, making the older classmate come out her shell and be more interactive with her fellow students. The way Yuki (also voiced by Kaede Hondo) swoons over Ryuichi as he cares for the kids showcases a sweet level of puppy love that would make any viewer blush with warmness. There's even some silly interactions between Taka and older brother Hayato (Yuichiro Umehara), especially when the youngest acts up and gets a legit whoopin' as a result.
Often, the spotlight is shone on Ryuichi, and for good reason. Out of everyone in the show, he is the most levelheaded of the students and the like. He's responsible for his classwork, job, and his little bro Kotaro, and he shows said responsibility like a pro. He gets his job done, with rarely a complaint raised from his voice. Even when the Chairwoman and her butler Keigo (Daisuke Ono) lend a hand to aid with his troubles, it's Ryuichi that still does the biggest chunk of work to get where he needs to be. It's not only admirable to see him act this way, but it's what any person in his situation should strive to work towards after facing something so scarring in one's life.
Just about everyone on School Babysitters deserves some sort of praise, especially when it comes to the voice work. Nishiyama is simply excellent as Ryuichi, putting much emphasis into the character's good-natured caring instincts. Maeno has a way of pushing Yoshihito's dolt factors into his responsible aspects as a babysitter, mixing together a good dose of stupidity and concern into his performance. Miyadera's Chairwoman first comes off as cold, but as the show progresses, you both see and hear a lot of heart into her performance as the Kashima brothers' caretaker. While Akesaka goes the usual tsundere route with her role as Maria, she does a good job when it comes time to break through her mold and be more interactive with her peers.
Getting into the mindset of a toddler takes a good load of work to make it convincing, and the people who play the tykes of the babysitter's club pull it off very well. Furuki may not speak as much as the other kids in her role as Kotaro, but the "sage" advice that comes out of the kid's mouth is often adorably golden. Sanpei wonderfully cranks the bratty levels of Taka up to hilarious heights, transforming a normally annoying character into one that delivers plenty of laughs. The team of Saito and Tanezaki bring the sweetness as twins Takuma and Kazuma, diving well into their contrasting personalities whilst keeping to the core of what makes them great siblings. Often stealing the show, Kohara is queen of all things cute in her role as Kirin, with every word coming out of her mouth brimming with rainbow-colored innocence and charm. (Note to self: buy stuffed giraffe for niece!)
Brain's Base (Anonymous Noise, Princess Jellyfish) brings the world of School Babysitters to life with a dazzling amount of color and personality. The cute factors of the toddlers is cranked all the way to eleven with the show's vivid and expressive animation. It's so bright and cheerfully presented that it often gives off a Hello Kitty vibe to the kids and even the students (which doesn't come as a surprise, seeing as Sanrio has collaborated with the show a couple times). Even the stoic face of the Chairwoman has a sort of a warmness in it, even if crabby personality is hiding her secretly big heart.
Ruka Kawada (Kiss Him, Not Me, KINMOZA) delivers a soundtrack that fits very well to the sweetness factor of the series. While it's not strongly noteworthy, it does a fine job fitting in with the action happening on the screen. Voice actor Daisuke Ono takes the helm for the opening theme "Endless Happy World," which has the man who brought Jotaro Kujo to life throwing away that gruff persona and presenting a lighthearted level of hearty goodness and fluffy comfort. The main male cast go under the guise of Hyorotto Danshi for end theme "Oshite Yo," and while it's not exactly a great song, the visuals of the toddlers trying (and failing) to do a choreographed dance alongside the track helps make it all the more memorable.
School Babysitters is the kind of series that never failed to make me smile all the way through. While it may not be the perfect guide to aid with my skills at being an uncle, it does deliver some fun how-to's when it comes to communicating with one's younger counterparts. Often filled with heart and big laughs, School Babysitters shines as brightly as a smile on a newborn's face.
Final Grade (not an average):