- Titles: Kotaro Lives Alone, Kotaro En Solo
- Genre: Slice of life, comedy, drama
- Episodes: 10
- Studio: LIDENFILMS
Kotaro sure is a precocious little boy. He can take care of himself better than most people out there. He knows how to get the best tissues, he is diligent in his hygiene and he certainly knows how to treat a lady…or a gentleman for that matter of fact. That’s probably why everyone loves Kotaro so much. However, Kotaro himself doesn’t believe it’s all that special. Since he lives on his own, he has had to learn to fend for himself, just like anyone else. Besides, he’s not a baby anymore, he’s already 4 years old!
Kotaru Lives Alone got on my radar when it was mentioned in my comments. Unlike a lot of people, I have enjoyed a lot of Netflix original anime and I was happy to add it to my list as soon as I realized it existed. And from there, I deftly avoided spoilers until I could give it a proper binge.
For those of you that have looked into Kotaro Lives Alone a bit, you probably know that the production isn’t the draw here. The character designs are simplistic and not necessarily in line with traditional anime standards of beauty. The animation is fluid but the most action you are going to get is a four-year-old running around a small park. It looks, for lack of a better word, kind of cheap. The art isn’t very detailed, there aren’t any big flourishes, and the camera work is standard. However, that look ends up working with the story and adding a lot of charm. Maybe that’s just me.
In any case, what Kotaro may lack in visuals, it makes up for it in voice acting. I tried both English and Japanese and both of them are really great casts. I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite. All the adult characters do a great job but, in both cases, it’s Kotaro that really shines. And that’s important, without a strong attachment to Kotaro from the audience, the show sort of falls apart. For me, the actors (both the Japanese and English one) were really the missing piece that made Kotaro so irresistible and in turn, the whole show charming.
Story & Characters
Once again, this is a case of Irina being misinformed and getting the wrong idea about things. You see, I thought that Kotaro Lives Alone was going to be a light slice of life comedy with most of the draw being either cute kids being cute or isn’t it funny that a child acts like an adult. Do you know what I mean? These are sort of stock show premises and without something extra, I find that they are often lazy.
I had fairly low expectations for Kotaro Lives Alone but I figured it might be a pleasant enough distraction since people seemed to like it.
I have not cried this much while watching an anime in a long time…
Kotaro Lives Alone is a slice of life that occasionally can be comedic. But it’s also a rather cleared-eyed and occasionally uncomfortable exploration of abuse and the scars it leaves behind. It has a soft heart and is optimistic about it but it’s not naïve or patronizing. I realize that this might be hard to believe if you have only seen the key visuals or the small trailer. But really, that’s what Kotaro Lives Alone is about.
And aside from the ridiculous premise of a 4-year-old living alone, it’s depressingly realistic in many ways.
Kotaro lives alone because his mom has passed away (something he does not know and is waiting for her return) and his father is violent and abusive to the point that he and his mom had a restraining order against him. The mother is painted in a better light, but the small glimpses we get make it obvious that although she might not have been violent, she was probably severely neglectful.
But the thing is Kotaro loves his parents. Kotaro’s greatest wish is to be a family again. And we see the world through his eyes. The happy optimistic part is that Kotaro is surrounded by people in his apartment building, at local shops and at school, who truly care for him. He has the luxury of building an extended found family rather easily and he does so. But the show never lets us forget that for Kotaro, they are still not his real family.
Occasionally the show touches on other characters’ experiences with domestic violence or deep neglect. And sometimes it’s a little sad but it’s full of hope.
And that’s it really. Kotaro goes about his day-to-day life. He makes friends. He learns new things because really, he’s just a little kid. And all the adults around him strive to make his difficult life as pleasant as possible under the circumstances. In practice, only little unimportant things happen. The most exciting arc for me was when his father sent a private detective to find him. But there are entire episodes where Kotaro just makes a friend at school or has trouble sleeping.
But that’s part of the magic of it all. Trauma isn’t all about the big explosive moments. It’s always there, it sneaks up on you on quiet Tuesday afternoons where nothing much is happening and all of a sudden you feel horrible. That’s what Kotaro Lives Alone is trying to capture. The depressingly mundane aspects of deep-rooted trauma. And in contrast, it’s also trying to tell us that things get better. That there is still good despite all the bad.
I didn’t cry so much just because the show was sad. In fact, Kotaro Lives Alone isn’t that sad at all in the presentation. Some moments can be really harsh. There is this one episode where Kotaro keeps pretending to be different people in order to get more free balloons and every time, he says it’s for a member of his family. And at the end of the episode, you see that he had his neighbour draw faces on the balloons, and he is pretending they are the family he doesn’t have. It’s heartbreaking.
But most of the episode err more on the sweet side. They end on a happy or silly note. Despite it all, Kotaro is a child that has managed to maintain a wonder for life. There are things he is happy about. He is constantly throwing parties. And throughout the series, he goes from being entirely alone to being literally surrounded at all times by people who care a lot about him. And that is undeniably touching to see.
As some of you may know, I’m a crybaby and a sucker for touching stuff. Not drama so much but the whole optimistic, things will get better Iyashikei type of stuff. And I was very pleasantly surprised by Kotaro Lives Alone. I would watch another season tomorrow and be thrilled about it.
Just goes to show you, that sometimes you need to give stuff a chance to surprise you. You never know what you might end up liking!
You might like this anime if:
You like children. You know, I think it’s time I admitted that I like little kid characters now. I don’t know when it happened but they are so precious.
My favourite character:
It has to be Kotaro
- Every time Karino plans to lounge around the house all day – same
- Every time the Tonosaman theme song plays – clap
- Every time anyone asks about/mentions Kotaro’s parents – take a small sip
- Every time Kotaro wants to be independent – take a sip
- Every time we see Karino’s editor – take a sip
- Every time Mizuki is at work – don’t bother her
- Every time Kotaro “must away” – seriously consider using that turn of phrase
- Every time Kotaro gets shiny eyes – awwwww
- Every time Kotaro and Karino go to the bathhouse – take a sip
- Every time Takuya is spoiled – take a sip
- Every time Kotaro calls someone a bully – take a sip
- Every time Kotaro attacks Tamaru – take a sip
- Every time Kotaro throws a party – celebrate!
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.