Kotaro Lives Alone (2022) by Tomoe Makino

There’s this defect in human condition the love that people show us is never to be enough if it isn’t from the one’s we want 

As uncommon as it might sound for Non-Asian people, 4 to 5 years old Kotaro Sato moves alone in a six-flats building. Although he is strangely mature and self-sufficient for his age, his fellow neighbors, the talented and previously awarded, but now suffering a writer’s block, mangaka Mr Karino, his next-door tenant Ms Mizuki ( i’ll let you find out by yourselves what she does for a living) and the ground floor, low rank Yakuza- or again, maybe not!- Mr Tamaru, have no intension to let him be. But is the kindness of strangers enough to calm a toddler’s trauma of parenting neglect down? 

For the time being, Netflix and production company Liden with director Tomoe Makino give us the opportunity to figure this out in a season of ten episodes. As I’ m writing this text, a second season is yet to be announced, but I’ m sure it won’t take long to, since “Kotaro lives alone” is a masterpiece of the sheinen/slice of life genre, not only because of its great looks (the best color pallet combination we have seen in a while), but also because of the way its creators masterfully tuned the right dosage of comedy and drama, allowing “Kotaro” to appear corny only scarcely. 

In case someone isn’t aware of Kotaro’s former appearances in pop culture, firstly, as a manga released in 2015 and then as a well-received 2021 series of ten episodes, there’s pretty much a chance of falling to the trap to make a comparison between “Kotaro” and another popular 4-year-old manga character, the little green-haired girl named “Yotsuba”. This is the point when the father figure of the story Shin Karino can easily be analogized to Yotsuba’s adoptive father – also a stay-at-home dad- Yousuke Koiwai, Ms Mizuki can also be another version of girl next door Asagi, while Tamaru might resemble a different kind of Jumbo, as a light-hearted addition to the main characters. Albeit, this is the point where all similarities stop. While in “YOTSUBATO&!” the protagonist is a care-free, weirdly unaware of how the basics of life work and most of all a child that feels totally safe with the people surrounding her, poor Kotaro Sato presents a series of worrying behavior regarding sleep and diet that motivate even the reluctant and slacker Karino to get to work, not only as an artist, but also as a reliable person.

Apart from that, I strongly believe that this anime set things straight when a few episodes before the ending a teenage boy with his two younger siblings, a clear reference to Hirokazu Koreeda’s 2004 film “Nobody Knows”, a movie of similar content, randomly appear in Kotaro’s way to remind the viewers that in real life, when a child is abandoned by his parents all alone in a flat, there’s no magic income of money, there’s never food on the dinner table, there’s no neighbour to show the slightest of interest when sickness and loneliness hit hard. Despite its core “Kotaro lives alone” isn’t a heavy viewing. The funny moments are more than enough with my favorite being the one when Karino , Mizuki and Tamaru create a safety circle around Kotaro whenever he does his everyday chores, in case his “misunderstood” father attempts to kidnap him. 

Little Kotaro is totally helpless. He left his parents to survive, but he manages to survive only with the thoughts of their toxicity and the childish mind games of the memories of his then life, by transforming them in possible ethics and advice they gave him, which I’m afraid they never did. Kotaro might be a little light for Karino, Mizuki and Tamaru but he doesn’t know. He is loved, but he doesn’t feel it. He prefers to watch anime of poor taste until the early hours and to draw the faces of an imaginary family he misses on balloons, because there’s this defect in the human condition the love that people show us is never to be enough if it isn’t from the one’s we want. 

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