Shoujo – Comedy, drama, romance
7 Volumes (complete)
Kippei is the biggest ladies’ man at his school. No strings, no commitments; just fun. One day, his family takes in his five-year-old cousin after her mother disappears, and Kippei is put in charge of her. Can this playboy handle taking care of a little girl?
I remember when Aishiteruze Baby was one of the most requested shoujo series. Was it worth the wait, and is it still worth your money?
Let’s get something out of the way first: there’s no Bunny Drop-type ending here. You may relax now.
In Aishiteruze Baby, Kippei is forced to be the primary caretaker of his little cousin Yuzuyu. He has to make her meals, take her to school, be her playmate…basically do everything short of paying the bills. Kippei has spent his days fooling around with girls, so this lifestyle is quite a change for him. He also starts developing a serious interest in his classmate Kokoro. These two plotlines may be pretty standard, but this is also when Aishiteruze Baby is at its best. Kippei learns how to be responsible and about how girls often hide their feelings in order to be strong. Yuzuyu and Kokoro may not seem alike, but they both are lonelier than they let on. It’s why they are both drawn to the outgoing Kippei.
Unfortunately, Aishiteruze Baby also likes to bring in other characters. Lots of people are introduced for a chapter or two and then disappear. In addition, Kippei has to act as the inspirational hero for abusive moms and knife-wielding girls. Why couldn’t the manga just focus on the difficulties for a playboy to have responsibilities and maybe find love along the way? I want Kippei to be the one who learns about life rather than lecturing others.
If more characters were needed, the Katakura family is quite large: there’s the parents, grandparents, older sister Reiko, and younger brother Satsuki. Yet the dad and grandparents really have no role in the manga, and Mom and Satsuki are there to offer marginal support. Reiko is the only one who is given a prominent role. She’s the one who forces Kippei to be in charge of Yuzuyu and seems the most worried (in an angry way) about her brother’s lackadaisical attitude. Even when Satsuki is put in charge of Yuzuyu temporarily, most of his chapter is spent on a model classmate worrying about Satsuki’s preferred type of girls. Yes, the quiet and somewhat eccentric Satsuki does get closer to his cousin, but most of the chapter isn’t even from his point-of-view! It just basically becomes a regular school life shoujo! What happened to the baby-sitting angle? What about the family struggling to financially support another child they weren’t expecting? Or how about Yuzuyu spends some time with Kippei’s grandparents? (Were they her grandparents as well? I don’t know.)
While I didn’t care for all the short-term characters, I did like how the manga balances both comedy and drama. While having a main character being a kindergartner usually means the target readers are young (well, younger than the audience for many other Ribon series), Yuzuyu’s daily fun school life never hogs the spotlight. Yuzuyu herself struggles between missing her mom and staying with Kippei. Kippei himself is quite a playboy who does more than just flirt with girls. More significantly, the manga covers topics like suicide and infertility. So while it may seem like I’m talking (writing?) out of both sides of my mouth, I like how mature aspects are brought into the series. I just don’t always like how new characters often bring up the serious subjects. With a mother abandoning her young child and a quiet but strict classmate, there are already plenty of avenues to use.
I have noticed a lot of people dislike the ending because it feels rushed. I do think the epilogue portions could have been a few pages longer. However, considering the ending is pretty much determined from the start, I don’t think the manga really needed to elaborate on what happened to everyone. The finale is touching without dragging the drama out. The only one who really could have used an epilogue was Reiko.
Kippei is the kind of lead who is often the other guy in a shoujo love triangle. He’s overly friendly and doesn’t take relationships seriously. In a rare twist, his womanizing tendencies are not because of some childhood trauma. He just plain is a playboy. Over the course of the series, he doesn’t become a different person or anything; he just matures. Male protagonists are a rarity in shoujo manga, so this is a nice change from girls longing for their first love. Yuzuyu is cute without being annoyingly so. Outside of her habit of speaking in the first-person, she really doesn’t speak much like a young girl. She has her stubborn moments, but Yuzuyu is a not a brat. Kokoro, meanwhile, is a more subdued version of a traditional tsundere love interest. She’ll punch Kippei if he is too forward, but she keeps most of her feelings bottled up. Kokoro is a little hard to understand in the beginning since she isn’t the type to rely on others. Older sister Reiko is, in many ways, the driving force of the manga. She is the one who forces Kippei to look after Yuzuyu and is angered by her brother’s flippant attitudes toward girls. She may seem like a bossy older sister, but she’s also the one to take action. Then there’s other characters like the mature Satsuki, Yuzuyu’s stuck-up friend Marika, and Kokoro’s best friends, but they don’t get much development. The teacher’s exasperation with Kippei is pretty funny though.
The art is pretty typical for a Ribon series. Characters have large eyes and tend to have big smiles. If you’ve read anything by artists like Haruta Nana and Yoshizumi Wataru, you’ll notice some similarities. Regardless of the style, the art is clean and well-polished. The characters look and feel modern with their piercings and outfits. No explicit sex or violence is shown, but they are brought up at times. The story progresses at a solid pace, so there isn’t a lot of large full- or two-page spreads. The covers are well-done with their collages, and they stand out among the crowd. The covers really look unique and make you want to buy the manga. This is not made to be the most beautiful series in Ribon, but Maki’s art is crisp and enjoyable.
Almost no honorifics are used. “Sensei” by itself is used as well as one boy’s “Sho-chan” nickname. Otherwise, they’re omitted. Personal names are generally used despite the Japanese version using family names. Most notably, Kippei calls Kokoro by her surname initially but by “Kokoro” in the English version. This makes him seem more like a playboy, but if everyone uses personal names, then it’s not so flirtatious after all. His nicknames (“Kokoro-chin”) are also dropped. The English adaptation does keep Yuzuyu’s habit of referring to herself in the first person. It also has characters use “Big Brother” and “Sis” in place of “Onii-chan” and “Nee-chan”.
Aishiteruze Baby is a harder sell now that a lot more manga titles are available in English. It’s good, but I don’t think it rises to the level of good good that demands your money. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t blown away by the series. However, it is a better choice if you want a Bunny Drop-like experience without the Bunny Drop ending. Borrow the series, or you can find it cheap in the used book marketplace.
Aishiteruze Baby was made into an anime, but it has not been released in the U.S. Fun fact: the seiyuu for Kokoro was the second actress to play Sailor Moon in the musicals.