Friday, 13 May 2011

愛してるぜ ベイベ★★ / Aishiteruze Baby ★★

Katakura Kippei is an ordinary teenaged boy – simple, good-hearted, popular with the girls and carefree. One day, however, he comes home to find that his aunt has disappeared, leaving behind her five-year-old daughter, and he's the only one who can look after her. So begins Kippei’s abrupt introduction to motherhood.

The series is unashamedly reliant on the charm of little Yuzuyu, an adorable little child who is nevertheless still believable – selfish, reliant and prone to the occasional tantrum, but with a strong sense of right and wrong and a touching cheerfulness and generosity.

But cuteness alone is not enough. Fortunately, Kippei is an engaging, thoroughly likeable character who always strives to make others happy. He is adored by most of the girls in his school, including one scary stalker (naturally, the only one who isn’t utterly beautiful), but because he is so simple and so kind-hearted, this doesn’t make him arrogant or vain. His struggles to understand a five-year-old girl, and the strange jealousy between her and his new girlfriend, make him entertaining, engaging but also admirable – Kippei genuinely is a good person, and always treats others with sympathy and generosity.

Aishiteruze Baby is very good, but falls a little short of being a classic. I can cope with the poor animation standards, because the story is conveyed just fine. The trouble comes when the anime veers off into more adult territory: an abusive parent, a child clinging to the things that remind her of her mama, a mother hiding from her own daughter…and while suicidal teenager Miki is actually very well-portrayed in such a short time, her story suffers the same problem as the others I just mentioned: the old anime cliché of everything stemming from one or two significant events earlier in a character’s life (that can be seen in flashbacks), solvable by a main character talking…very… earnestly…until…they…change…their…ways. Rushed side-stories like these brought nothing to the anime, and made everything that little bit more trite. This, and some very slow episodes towards the end mean Aishiteruze Baby is only good, not great. Nevertheless, with some excellent characters, wonderful humour and a good heart, it’s worth seeing.

(originally written 24.8.05)

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