Review: Gakuen Babysitters
There are very few casual, episodic anime series out there that can manage to keep my attention for a few episodes, let alone an entire season. Gakuen Babysitters, however, managed to do exactly that.
The series centers around high schooler Kashima Ryuuichi and his toddler younger brother Kotaro, who are taken in by a school chairwoman after the sudden death of their parents. In exchange for taking care of the two of them, the chairwoman requires Ryuuichi to work in the school's daycare whenever he's not in classes.
Following the antics that take place in the small daycare never gets old. In one episode, two of the toddlers fight over whether Power Rangers-style superheroes or witches are real. In another, Ryuuichi forgets his lunch in the daycare room, which leads to Kotaro desperately voyaging through the large school to deliver it to him.
The series is great at pulling out the funniest, most entertaining moments in day-to-day life and sewing them together effortlessly. We all had moments when we were younger where we wanted to call our friend on the phone, but someone else answered and you didn't know what to do. I remember seeing a chick hatch for the first time and being awestruck. It's these small but relatable things that make the show so great on the base level.
Where There's Cute, There's Also Depth
Gakuen Babysitters isn't only about adorable, squishy toddlers doing adorable, squishy things, though. There are moments that will leave you a little emotional. In one episode, you learn that the twins' father is an actor whose popularity has exploded recently, making it so that he's often away from home for work. Because of this, he becomes estranged with his sons, who call him by his name rather than "dad". The episode focuses on Ryu trying to help him get closer to his sons again, but really leaves you thinking about the effects of jobs that make you leave home regularly on family relationships and how toddlers perceive fame when it's someone close to them who's famous.
Another example is the ongoing struggle between the Kamitani brothers to understand exactly how their actions impact each other. The younger brother, Taka, is desperate for his brother's attention and approval, but he never openly admits that. Instead, he gets loud and angry when he wants his brother to pay attention to him. However, the older brother, Hayato, is easily annoyed by Taka's loudness, putting the two in a never-ending loop of approval-fueled mayhem.
There are feels-inducing moments between these two throughout the series, though. When the daycare take a weekend trip to the zoo, Taka is left to be supervised by the other adults as Hayato goes to baseball practice. During the entire visit, Taka continues to insist he isn't wishing his brother was there with them, even though that's clearly a lie.
At the end of the day, he runs after someone who resembles his brother, yelling for him to wait for him, only to discover that the man isn't his brother and he's been separated from the others in his group. He starts to break down, realizing he's now lost and alone, when his brother finds him. Relieved and exhausted, Taka falls asleep on the way home, giving Ryuu the opportunity to tell Hayato how much his younger brother missed him without Taka overhearing or denying it.
This Season's Underdog
If you would have told me that one of my favorite series of the season was going to be a show about the antics of adorable toddlers, I probably would have doubted you. Sure, cute shows are a great break, but they're never really top-of-the-list material. Gakuen Babysitters, however, was a show that I was eagerly waiting for new episodes for week after week. Aside from the development of relationships between characters, there was no ongoing plot, but the show builds a cast that you come to love very quickly and keeps you always ready to see more.
Watching the final episode this Sunday will be sad because the show's ending with no word of a second season. However, as Saikawa says in the final episode preview...