Spoilers avoided. I finished my blind watch of Kotaro Lives Alone (you can read about the first impressions from that here in case you would like to) and now I want to do a more detailed piece separately on its core theme since it is extremely close to me but that will be spoilers galore so here is a quick final review. I’ve only seen the anime (which is only one season right now) though I plan to read the manga now, so this will be limited to the former.
Kotaro Lives Alone is a slice of life story with a child as a protagonist but it’s Seinen and therefore meant for adults. I feel it serves two purposes largely, the first being to provide a view into what abuse and neglect may look like in a child and second being almost a cathartic medium for any adult who was once an abused child to acknowledge the wrong done to them and maybe try to move on. I have experience with children from abusive backgrounds so when I talk about that below I’m doing it basis that.
What Doesn’t Work
It starts off strong with the first episode really catching your curiosity but somewhere in the middle the story tends to get a bit repetitive, somewhat slow, and loose in execution at-times though the season has a fairly impactful last episode
While the dynamic of Kotaro and Shin is developed fairly well, the secondary characters are often wasted and I would have been ok with fewer of those with more time spent with each
Considering the theme it deals with, it tends to get a bit too fairies and wonderland at-times which takes away its credibility but it does manage to salvage it by tying back to the core theme eventually. But personally, I would have preferred more seriousness considering this isn’t targeted at children.
The Win of Kotaro Lives Alone (what works well)
For me, what trumps everything that Kotaro Lives Alone gets wrong is a very astute and poignant understanding of the psyche, traits, and experiences of an abused or neglected child. I don’t know if the mangaka based this on personal experience but you cannot create a story like this unless you have seen this up-close whether in your own life or the life of someone close to you. It hits you again and again and how. Abuse doesn’t leave one impact and the effects can manifest in many different ways long after it’s no longer happening. Kotaro Lives Alone goes into so many of these impacts with a lot of respect and understanding of them that I’m ok ignoring the rest.
The story packages this understanding into bite-sized morsels which evolve from fairly innocuous everyday things and then morph into an insight into some aspect of the impact of childhood trauma which even someone who fortunately did not have to go through it can most likely understand. I always tend to place a bit of hope in such media (I like being optimistic ok?) to create a wider awareness in people about signs of abuse to watch out for in children since the series is actually often quite accurate in the gist of the message and seems to put in earnest effort into building that understanding. Watch it for the beautiful relationship which develops between the two protagonists Kotaro and Shin and Kotaro’s other little friendships. Overall, if you enjoy sensitive and emotional stories and would not get triggered by references to childhood abuse, I’d recommend this one.
*No Spoilers* Kotaro Lives Alone is…um…confusing but weirdly promising. Ok, so this was not a planned watch. I got home from work and was just browsing Netflix while having my usual evening tea. It’s been prompting me with this show for a while so I just clicked on it. The first episode was rather…peculiar so now I have to both write about it and also watch the rest (10 episodes in Season 1 so manageable). I’m calling this a blind watch because I know zilch about this show and since it’s so weird I kind of want to watch it all without reading anything about it. If you’re reading this and I’ve dragged myself into some super controversial pile of goo please be a pal and let me know.
This one is just a few observations from the first episode. Will probably not do an episode by episode thing from here on and will club 3-4 of them together but depends on how the show turns out really. I’ve learned better by now than to commit to the length of my engagement with anything up-front since the article Goodnight Julia was supposed to be both the beginning and end of my return to anime writing so…four months and forty plus pieces later (of which like 30 are just Bebop) I’m gonna zip it.
The Premise of Kotaro Lives Alone
Honestly, you don’t get any context. It just starts and moves fast. Commendably though the pace wasn’t bothersome and I didn’t get the sense of missing out on anything. It starts with Kotaro standing alone with his luggage in front of a building which has apartments available. Next, he is in a supermarket buying boxes of tissues and quoting life philosophy to the store attendant. On the way out, he also buys a toy sword and goes home mumbling about enemies.
We are next introduced to our other hero, a struggling Mangaka Shin Karino who is apparently Kotaro’s neighbour. We know this because Kotaro shows up at his door to gift him a tissue box. We also find out Kotaro does not consider himself a child since he informs Shin that there are no small children staying with him and he is living alone.
Kotaro’s Adorably Bizarre Personality
He actually gives me war veteran vibes rather than child and he seems to view himself that way too, claiming he is a feudal lord. He speaks in a deadpan, very formal manner, carries a post-traumatic air, says things which are wise way beyond his years, and seems determined to prove to everyone he can do this on his own. He is also exactly four years old. At one point, he informs he no longer has his parents though does not elaborate and at another he tells Shin no one has washed his hair for him in a long time.
During this episode, we are also shown he is no stranger to grief or managing it in others as he gauges another neighbour has been crying when Shin remains clueless. He is also constantly ready for battle resulting in a rather funny conversation where Shin is talking to him about bathtubs and he first assumes Shin is asking him to build one of his own and then mistakes the word “bathhouse” for “battlehouse,” resigning himself to war immediately and indicating he has fought to stay alive before too (whether actually or he just thinks so is yet to be seen).
What makes me want to watch Kotaro Lives Alone
Kotaro reminds me of Kino from Kino no Tabi. In fact, right now the whole show seems to have a similar vibe with this quiet, collected, very young protagonist who has clearly seen a lot before and is damaged by it but still retains humanity under a stoic facade
The equation of Kotaro and Shin. Shin seems like a lost cause but he also seems unable to keep himself from surreptitiously watching out and taking care of Kotaro. They even get mistaken for father and son, which neither is too happy about. Kotaro remarks Shin is inferior to him, calling him servant but it feels like something which has the potential for great poignance and growth since Kotaro seems in need of care and Shin seems unable to stop himself from giving it.
It’s made me curious to know more. Who is Kotaro? How did he become this way? The whole idea of a four year old acting like he does is way outlandish so I want to know how the show will justify it.
It’s moving pretty fast and seems to be intelligently written with the undertones telling the story as much as the overt which is very much my cup of tea. Hoping it stays the course.