The animated Japanese series on Netflix ‘Kotaro Lives Alone’ starts off weird. It takes a while for viewers to understand just where the story is going. “Who is this little boy? Or is her a dwarf? Or perhaps a man stuck in a boy’s body?” are some questions viewers may ask themselves.
Turns out, Kotaro is just a 4-year-old boy living by himself, in a building filled with one-room-kitchen flats. So DO NOT DEPLOY LOGIC (like asking yourself why someone from the social-services hasn’t put him in a home). Nope, don’t ask questions, and just go with the flow. The protagonist Kotaro makes you wish more kids were as thoughtful, mature and helpful. A skewed expectation to have… children should be allowed to be annoying, silly and cranky; adult anxieties will break them soon enough.
As the series progresses, the bizarre but delightful story explains why the little boy loses his innocence at such a tender age. Three very different neighbors – aloof manga artist Karino, kind club-hostess Miki, shady gangster-type Tamaru – become attached to Kotaro and try to look after him in their own ways. How the 4-year-old deals with his friendly neighbors, kindergarten, friendships and life as a boy on his own forms the crux of the story.
The animation is simple, colorful and has typical manga elements. Once I got the drift, ‘Kotaro Lives Alone’ became my comfort show, the 10 episodes we leisurely seen over meal-breaks. It’s the kind of series that doesn’t demand to much of the viewer, filled with both hilarious, heart-warming and sad events. The makers explore a lot of themes surrounding growing up as a lone child with no parents, including childhood trauma and grief.
The kind of bond Kotaro builds with his adult neighbors is the most touching thing about the show. All three neighbors are the kind of people who wouldn’t traditionally be considered responsible caring individuals. Kindness can be found in the unlikeliest of corners, seems to be the message. Karino has the best character trajectory in the anime, growing from a listless directionless artist to motivated man.
If the hard-to-believe adventures of a child-man sounds like something you would be up for, stream the series on Netflix. It’s a 8/10 from me.
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