At the start of this series, Kippei is a slightly irritating character to watch. He’s popular, flirts with all the girls, and cops a feel of one of them if the opportunity comes his way. He’s not remotely interested in any kind of meaningful relationship or the feelings of the girls he’s messing around with. All that changes when some responsibility is forced upon him: his five year old cousin Yuzuyu comes to stay, and he is basically told to get on with looking after her.
Yuzuyu has been abandoned by her mother, who has lost her husband and cannot cope. Her motivations are explored fully, later in the series, although you’ll have to read the manga series if you want to find out the resolution to Yuzuyu’s story. Her life with Kippei becomes the status quo that continues right through to the end of the anime series.
The start of this series gave me a lot to get my head around. Kippei’s parents seem to be horribly irresponsible and uncaring by foisting off this poor little girl on a teenage boy, and not a very well-behaved one at that. They might be wise enough to see how it could benefit the both of them, but if so that goes unspoken and they instead come across as dreadful parents. Kippei also has a bossy older sister, who is also bizarrely happy to pass the buck to him. Whether it’s by luck or judgement, it’s an arrangement that works brilliantly. Against the odds, Kippei turns out to be great at looking after Yuzuyu, and she adores him. He’s the one thing in her life that makes her abandonment bearable. Now, when I say Kippei is great at looking after Yuzuyu, I have to qualify that; he’s great by the standards of a teenage boy in that situation: extraordinarily good, in fact. But he endlessly repeats one foolish mistake, that goes uncommented: when something is going wrong, he doesn’t communicate well. That makes sense for a teenager, but there are frequent storylines that could have been resolved easily if Kippei simply talked to Yuzuyu about a situation, instead of leaving her to cry and comforting her (admirably, it has to be said). That leaves some of the drama often feeling contrived.
This is a series that revolves around two relationships: the Kippei/Yuzuyu surrogate fatherhood, and a romance between Kippei and his love interest Kokoro. She is a beautiful, quiet girl who would never have looked at Kippei due to his antics, but she sees how Yuzuyu changes him and falls in love with the new boy Kippei becomes. At times it leans towards male controlling behaviour, which is a common problem with some of the relationships depicted in anime series, but by and large it’s a heart-warming romance, which manages to progress steadily and realistically, with a few bumps in the road. As always, I have to praise any anime that resolves a will-they-won’t-they love story, because they are too often left hanging, but this one is a very strong story arc, helped by the fact that Kokoro’s backstory mirrors Yuzuyu’s to a certain extent. Kokoro is also without a mother, but hers has died, and now her father is moving on with his life. The series examines loneliness, and does that well.
The supporting characters tend to come and go. The most dramatic storyline involves Yuzuyu’s cousin on the opposite side of her family to Kippei. Miki turns up trying to claim Yuzuyu, and her life is so messed up that it leads to near-tragic territory that few anime series are brave enough to explore. There is a lot of focus on how Yuzuyu gets on at nursery school, and an unlikely friendship develops with a stuck-up girl whose behaviour initially verges on bullying. The great thing about this series is that so many people are improved because of the company they keep, and I think that’s very true to life. At times the way characters are introduced for one particular story and then drop out of the narrative can be frustrating, particularly Ayumi, a girl who falls in love with Kippei’s younger brother Satsuki. Both Ayumi and Satsuki are great characters, and I could have happily watched a whole series about them, but they basically get one episode that is all about them, and not much else. This is a series that often feels disjointed, going off on tangents that don’t necessarily build towards where we are really heading.
The title of this series translates to “I love you, baby”, but its subtleties are lost in translation. Regular anime viewers might be puzzled by the word aishiteruze. Like me, you are probably used to hearing anime characters in love confess their feelings with daisuki, or the slightly less formal suki desu. Aishiteru is usually reserved for expressing the deepest possible form of love. Sometimes a couple will say that only on their wedding day and before somebody’s death, and yet ze adds a male forcefulness to the word, and an air of levity. The term therefore manages to express masculine casualness and also very deep feelings all at the same time, which is the perfect summary of Kippei and the series as a whole. It tackles some very dramatic life issues, some of which are tragic or traumatic, but also maintains a humorous approach. It’s a combination that never quite does justice to the drama, and rarely manages to be particularly funny, but with a central trio of characters who are all so watchable that doesn’t really matter in the end. Watch this series to have your heart melted by little Yuzuyu, and see how people can change for the better when they are thrown together with the right people. RP