OP: 「Endless happy world」 by (Daisuke Ono)
「その1」 (Sono 1)
It feels right to follow up my Cardcaptor Sakura post with this one on the same day, because Gakuen Babysitters comes from Brain’s Base. Like Madhouse, Brain’s Base is a studio that’s near and dear to my heart (it’s possible that these two studios, along with Bones, have produced more of my favorite series than any other) and has somewhat fallen off the radar due to an outflow of talent to new studios (in this case, Shuka). Both of them have continued to produce good shows in the past couple of years, but they haven’t been at the forefront of the medium for elite series as they once were, and it’s always great to see them release something of real quality.
In the case of Gakuen Babysitters, we have a series which is not only a joy to watch, but one that’s totally reflective of the studio releasing it – I could hardly imagine a show epitomizing the essence of a studio more than this one with Brain’s Base. Both in terms of the pastel, soft-focus art style and the heartfelt warmth, Gakuen Babysitters is Brain’s Base, even if the studio’s big names have moved on (in fact I can find no trace of director Morishita Shuusei having worked in the industry before – though that makes me believe it’s a pseudonym).
If I was to try and describe Tokeino Hari’s manga to someone unfamiliar with it, I might start by urging them to imagine Shounen Maid mixed with Hanamaru Youchien (a vastly underrated series from another of my beloved studios that’s fallen on even harder times). It’s the story of a pair of orphaned brothers, 9th-grader Kashima Ryuuichi (Nishiyama Koutarou) and his toddler brother Kotarou (Furuki Nozomi). Their parents were “free spirits” (as so many animanga parents seem to be) who traveled the world and mostly left the care of their youngest son to their eldest. They died in a plane crash, leaving the boys on their own – until they receive a strange invitation from the elite Morinomiya Academy to come and live under the care of the headmaster Morinomiya Youko (Miyadera Tomoko).
As it turns out, the headmaster’s son and his wife also died in that plane crash, and at the time had been trying to establish a “Babysitters Club” at the school, for the benefit of the teachers with small children (it’s no shock that no students jumped at that opportunity). Her offer is simple – the boys can stay, but Ryuuichi is to spend his time after class looking after the day care, because the world is “all about give and take”. That daycare consists of a group of five children – the bratty Taka, the girly-girl Kirin, twins Takuma (bold) and Kazuma (timid) and infant Midori. And all of them are under the sole care of the sleepy Usaida Yoshihito (Maeno Tomoaki) who seems very pleased at the prospect of a little help. Also dropping by on the first day is Taka’s older brother and Ryuuichi’s future classmate Kamitani Hayato (Umehara Yuuichirou).
If you’re unfamiliar with the manga, I’ll be up-front here and say that this is not going to be a traditional conflict-driven story with good facing off against evil or anything like that. One of the things I love about Gakuen Babysitters is that it doesn’t feel the need to create artificial drama through villainy, while at the same time not glossing over the fact that its characters (like everyone) have flaws, and that bad things do happen to good people. What this cast does have, top to bottom, is defense mechanisms – as we all do, barriers we erect to try and protect and project (something about us that may not be true). But these people are more than just the walls they build – those just make it a little harder to get to who they really are.
Again, this is not a story for the cynic, I don’t think, but it’s so genuine that for me at least it’s highly effective. I was especially moved by the moment that Ryuuichi reflexively went to call his father, only to be hit with the realization that he could never speak to him again – that was an incredibly real and painful moment. If you’re allergic to such open emotion, or to cute little children, or to heartfelt love between siblings, this probably isn’t the show for you. It’s really in this way that Gakuen Babysitters reminds me of Shounen Maid, which as you know is a series I hold in very high regard indeed. I think this show (especially with the adaptation in the capable hands of writer Kakihara Yuuko) has every chance to be one of the most emotionally compelling of 2018.
ED: 「“Oshiete yo 」 (おしえてョ) by (Hyorotto Danshi (ひょろっと男子) (Koutarou Nishiyama & Yuuichirou Umehara)