Kippei Katakura is a 17-year-old playboy who spends his time chasing girls, careless of their feelings. But when his 5-year-old cousin Yuzuyu comes to live with his family after her mother's sudden disappearance, Kippei is put in charge of taking care of her. As Kippei gets to know Yuzuyu and starts to understand how she feels, he also begins to realize that all girls were like Yuzuyu once...
The story of a young man having a new familial responsibility, foisted upon him, is not a new concept. However Aishiteruze Baby (a Shoujo, Slice of Life, Romance, Drama) is one of the earlier ones that follow this (now) tried and true formula.
Just like in several other shoujo manga, set in a high school; we have Kippei, a student who happens to be a bit of a playboy. Yet instead of being the usual love interest of our mediocre female protagonist, the story forgoes all of that and sticks him in the main driving seat. Sleeping through class and flirting with all the girls who
approach him. This is until, due to some family matters, he is stuck looking after his 5 year old cousin Yuzuyu. From here the story takes shape, as each volume focuses on newly introduced side-characters and a different issue to do with a variety of themes like: obsession, separation, depression and seeking happiness. Providing the reader with a different feel for every volume, but this also means that you'll specifically enjoy reading certain volumes more than others. I am personally not fond of the 1st volume's story.
However what make the whole experience worthwhile, are the characters Kippei & Yuzuru and seeing how their forced relationship develops over time, into something truly genuine. With an irresponsible teen like Kippei discovering what it means to be responsible, as he takes on the parental role in looking after the adorable Yuzuru. Giving the reader a nice warm feeling, with plenty of cute and dramatic moments, of character development for the pair. And seeing how each volume focuses on a certain/set of side-character(s), they also get a fair amount of depth added to their character. Though not all of them seem good enough to become recurring characters.
But what seems "good enough" to the mangaka, is the artwork. As nothing about it screams "gorgeous" or "meticulous". Just "good enough". With its fine characters designs and a decent level of detail put into them, all tacked together in panels and speech bubbles arranged in a serviceable manner. Nothing special, just typical shoujo.
Overall Aishiteruze Baby proved to be a very enjoyable shoujo manga to read. As a guy into my typical shounen battle manga and seinen thrillers, I am glad that this is my first endeavour into shoujo manga. As I found this story to be very heart-warming, full of some fairly universal social issues and the everyday troubles of looking after a kid. The story never really felt dragged out and it flowed at a steady pace. There’s a decent amount of humour, romance and drama and none of these elements seemed overbearing, which can be somewhat of a double-edged sword, as some of the issues do seem rather trivial. Making it a very casual and heartfelt read.
This was, quite possibly, the first manga I ever read from start to finish. When I was finished with it it was easily my favourite manga (at that time it was defaulty my favourite) but still today, after reading just a little bit more manga this is still my favourite.
Story: A womanizing idiot has to take care of his 5 year old cousin. It's a frightening concept at first, but it's done amazingly well. The characters fit in perfectly well and the story proceeds at a very nice pace. There are a few side-stories and a few mini-arcs that are a little
bit annoying, I found myself drifting off a couple times, but the storyarcs always wrapped up quite nicely. I found myself hating the ending the first time I read it, but after a couple weeks I wasn't as angry as I was the first time.
Art: I'm not a huge fan of the artwork. The faces in this just really tended to bug me. They're just so....bland and stretchy and they just really bugged me. However they were also easy to get used to. It was a much different style than what I was comfortable with, but that's always a good thing.
Character: I honestly don't remember the characters really changing all too much. Except for Kokoro. Kippei is usually useless, he's loveable but he's so completely oblivious to everything that the manga really needs something to pull it all together. And that comes completely from Kokoro. She really is the emotional center of this anime. Her relationship with Kippei and Yuzuyu are absolutely beautifully done, and they really are a reason to read this.
As a male reader I do enjoy blood and guts and swearing and anything else violent and rowdy. With that being said, give me a nice romance story with a happy ending and i'll be completely happy. This is a very beautiful manga, it's heartwarming, but not to the point of being overly corny and stupid. It's definitely something worth reading.
Okay, so here I go.
It was not brilliant. It was certainely not a masterpiece, but it was better than, let's say, many of the manga out there.
The story revolves mainly around a flirty playboy, Katakura Kippei, who is one day told be his family to take care of his 5-year old cousin Yuzuyu, whose mother has "disappear" (read this as "run off to God knows where"). Other than this... normal family, some other characters are Sakashita Miki, a cousin of Yuzuyu, Tokunaga Kokoro, a classmate, love interest and later even girlfriend of Kippei, and some of their classmates, of which the most
revelant are Kokoro's two best friends and the new transfer student, Ooga Akari. Not that they steal the spotlight too much, they are pretty much there to create new tensions to the otherwise lacking story. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice read and I did, on some level, enjoy the manga, but that was all. There are so many things that could have been better, better thought, better written.
First, it's the love story between Kippei and Kokoro. It was sweet, something the manga would seem pretty boring without. But, even though it had the potential to be one of those couples where the two lovers suit and complement each other, I got the feeling that it was just thrown in the middle of the story, without managaing to completely fit in. Right from the beginning, it was never really explained why they liked each other. They said they love each other and that they want to be together forever, but it seemed to be more because of the author's wish than for a real reason, like they were together simply because "they should be". Of course, Kokoro said once that she liked Kippei because he's so carefree he seems to have no worries, but I wonder, is that enough? Is it a big enough reason to want to spend the rest of your life with someone? Not to mention that Kippei never said why he loved Kokoro. It could be because she was the cool beauty type, seemingly unaproachable, one of the few girls who didn't fawn all over him, but then again, the same goes for Kokoro's friends. So why did he like Kokoro so much? The best we can do is speculate and hope for the best, as no real reason was given. That being said, the whole relationship seemed kind of superficial, lacking in depth. They said they loved each other, but they didn't really show it. It made me wonder how a relationship like that, where the two parts seemed to have communication issues, could really work out.
Another point in which the plot seems to be lacking is Miki's story. It's said that she had an ordinary, simple life until she saw one of the teachers beating up a boy pretty badly. She told on him, probably to the director of the school, and after that everyting started to fall apart. The teachers and classmates begin to bully her, she begins skipping school as a result, her parents start yelling at her and even hitting her, telling her that she is a shame to their family. And while all this happens, nobody seems to care. Not one of the teachers or classmates tries to help her, and even the boy who was being beaten seems to at least ignore her. This would be a pretty sad and serious situation, but there are no real reasons given as to why everybody acts this way. Why would everyone starts bullying her because she told on an abusing teacher? She seemed to be doing the right thing, so why was there absolutely no one who thought all that was wrong? Are ALL people really that indifferent? If this would have been brought to the police, they could see it as harassement. And why, for God's sake, didn't she tell her parents about all this? It is not made clear wether or not she told them about the beating she saw, but she should have told them about the bullying she was going through. Why didn't she fo it? Because, in her words, "it would make them sad". So she chose to endure it to "protect" her parents, as if they were some fragile, unstable people. This wasn't the case though, and even if it was, she was trying so hard to hold on for the parents she loved, parents who nevertheless didn't seem to notice there was something going on in their daughter's life. Things got so desperate that she tried to kill herself. How can you miss that as parents? Just how wrong can this get?
And after everything was cleared up, the things started to fall back to normal. She was once again happy, and she even said "it's no big deal" about getting therapy. Yeah, because apparently wanting to commit suicide is something every normal teenager wants to do.
And while we're talking about familly issues, let's take a look at Yuzuyu's situation. Her mother got so lonely and miserable after her husband died that she ran away, leaving her daughter in her (the mother's) sister's care. And, after she managed to earn some money and get back on her feet, through the help of some guy she planned on marrying, she of course wanted to take Yuzuyu back, because, hey, she was her mother after all. And she succedeed to do so, because Yuzuyu wanted to go with her. Well, even though I totally understand why a 6-year old would want to be with her own mother, I don't thing it's the right choice to leave this serious matter in the hands of a 6-year old. Even if that's what the little girl wanted, the adults should't have let her go. If this matter had reached Social Service or a judge, I'm not sure the judge would be making the same decission. The mother DID abandon her child after all, and she was pretty unstable to begin with if she ran away like that. Of course you'd be shaken if your husband died, that's no excuse to leave you child behind. Apparantly just because she was sorry for what she had done was enough for her to get away with it and take the child back, from the people who so lovingly and carefully took care of her. Apparently child neglect and abandonment is not serious enough to keep a child away from his/her mother.
Aside from this lack of psychological depth, another dissapointment for me was the ending. After Yuzuyu went back to her mom, the manga fast-forwarded to some time in the future, where Yuzuyu was now a teenager. And that was all. Yuzuyu was writing Kippei a letter in which she told him how she has always loved him and how she never forgot him. Sweet and everything, but it gave me the impression that Yuzuyu didn't visit him again after she left, only there woud be no logical reason to why she wouldn't. He got really attached to her, and she clearly did so as well, so it's safe to say she would have missed him, so she would want to see him again. But if that was the case, then why did she write that letter to him as a teenager? It was probably a way for us to see how much Kippei meant for Yuzuyu (if that wasn't clear by now), but it felt out of place, useless. If you'd see someone you care very much for regularly, why would you write to tell him something that you probably reminded him at each visit about? To me it made no sense. Unless she was talking about a different form of love, a romantic one, but given as she reconnected with Shou-chan again, I doubt that. Not to mention Kippei was probably married to Kokoro by then, which again are only guesses, as the manga never showed what happened to the relationship between Kippei and Kokoro. As far as we know, they could have broken up, or Kokoro died, or whatever else. It's pretty unlikely that something bad happened to them, but I don't think it would have killed the author to say something about the progress of that relationship. Were they still together? Did they marry? Did they have kids? We assume all those happened, but we'll never for sure. That being said, I was pretty dissapointed with the ending, as it let so many things in the air. What about Miki? What about Kippei siblings, Reiko and Satsuki?
All in all, this manga was nice and sweet, not too long, not too short, and that's pretty much all. It's not a manga that's I'll be re-reading very soon. I did like about it that it was told from the guy's POV. That felt fresh and new. And I also liked the female lead, pretty different than those weak, stupid, crybaby, leads we see in a lot of manga. Unfortunately, the manga as a whole didn't manage to reach it's full potential. A lot of thigs remained unfinished, and the serious topics touched by the author could have been much better written, with more care to the psychological aspect. The manga was sweet, I think that's the best way to descibe it, but it also could have been much better, and it's a shame that it wasn't.
Babysitting. Some of us might have done it, whether it’s one of those odd jobs or it’s being stuck with a younger sibling. Especially when you only want to focus on yourself, something prevalent in just about any age group (but especially during adolescence), having someone else to tend to can be one of the most irksome things to deal with. So let me ask you this—what if you were in high school, enjoying a selfish lifestyle that you’re arguably allowed to have (to an extent), only to have a child dumped on you? This is how Aishiteruze Baby starts, introducing us to the prospect
of Kippei having to care for his five year old cousin, Yuzuyu. The manga is already chock full of issues that must be handled not only delicately but tactfully to create a successful story. Aishiteruze Baby takes this weight upon its shoulders.
One thing that is evident about Aishiteruze Baby is that it’s not a typical shoujo, yet despite all of the realistic issues the manga handles, it sometimes treats itself like one. Although it does put a fairly down-to-earth spin on things, the attempt to mix comedy and drama comes across awkward at best, forming a sort of identity crisis. In fact, it almost gives off a nonchalant tone when things are anything but. The true charm of AiBaby lies in the undeniably sweet relationship between the main characters.
The fashion in which this story is told could be described as a double-edged sword. Every volume focuses on another person’s problems and how they overcome them in the end while also juggling the main story. This ensures that the drama never overstays its leave while developing characters on the way, but there’s a juvenile tone to the storytelling. I found the drama to be half-baked at best, even overbearing for my tastes. Yes, the drama is often underdeveloped and resolved far too quickly to be seen as serious and realistic. Although it’s heartwarming on one side, on the other I just don’t care enough about this new character’s issues to enjoy the outcome—to really feel for them. In fact, it even feels melodramatic for that very reason. On the other end of the spectrum, the most developed arcs include the main characters and they are, by far, the most enjoyable. These arcs are like a speck of yellow in a gray room.
Although the plot could be considered sloppy, Aishiteruze Baby fares better when it comes to charm. There is an inexplicably sweet, warm atmosphere that stays consistent throughout the story, providing a much needed breath of fresh air. This feeling is only reinforced by the art style; while it’s not much different from most shoujo styles, it fits the overall tone of the manga well. The paneling is decent at best but the strongest point of the art is the character designs, which reinforce the overall personality of the character nicely and stand out just enough. Yuzuyu’s appearance is enough to invoke a warm feeling. She’s particularly adorable and her varying hairstyles and outfits only add more humanity to this little girl. The growth of Kippei’s personality shows through the art and Kokoro is drawn in an elegant yet practical way. The art flows nicely and doesn’t hinder the story in any way.
One thing to mention is that there was an ambitious attempt to cater to each character. While scattered, the story features everyone’s side of things, making it a bit easier to sympathize or at least understand some characters. It showed that everyone does, in fact, have things they’re trying to overcome. This gives an eye-opener that many manga don’t consider—though caring is another issue. The attempt to do this was overdone, with some characters getting more screen time than they deserved. Other characters get a rushed explanation of their past when it could serve to have them viewed positively and maturely for a change.
With that said, the strongest point is the maturation of the Kippei and the interaction between the mains. The characters come across bland but their actions were anything but. Dialogue and development aside, the chemistry between the characters could stir hearts on its own. The main three characters Kippei, Kokoro, and Yuzuyu have their place and use it well; romantic relationships are surprisingly refreshing, straightforward, and realistic. They don’t suffer from the cliché complications that many manga overuse, leaving me fairly content. Yuzuyu and Kippei’s interactions are sweeter than sugar and the topic of a foster parent is well handled. Although they’re merely caricatures on one end of the spectrum, their communications were enough to weave a secure, heartwarming atmosphere.
Though overall superficial and varying in quality, one thing that can be said about Aishiteruze Baby is that it brings on some simple warm feelings that are uplifting to experience. Perhaps it’s the adorable and delicate portrayal of important relationships or perhaps it’s just the down-to-earth, relaxing vibe. No matter what it is, most of my enjoyment came from these moments and the most annoying times were when this atmosphere was interrupted by subpar melodrama. This manga is not about drama but instead it’s about the things in between; when this philosophy is taken away, it feels unsatisfying.
So what is Aishiteruze Baby? It’s a simple feel good manga that is a bit too ambitious. Its strength remains in the cute hugs, tender slice-of-life happenings, and endearing relationships. If you look beyond the manga’s flaws, a sweet, heart-warming story remains—no more, no less.