Aishiteruze Baby

June 16, 2010 dreamkaleidoscope
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TITLE: Aishiteruze Baby
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Yoko Maki
PUBLISHER: Viz
RATING: Teen (13+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 7
SCORE: 9 (Great)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Yoko Maki, Bunny Drop, Baby & Me, romance, drama, comedy

There’s nothing like raising a child to teach someone the meaning of “responsibility”.

In Aishiteruze Baby, Kippei Katakura is a seventeen-year-old playboy who has girls throwing themselves at him no matter where he goes. He certainly doesn’t mind the attention, taking advantage of his good looks and charm to the fullest with little regard for his admirers’ feelings. However, his carefree life of chasing girls and having fun is put to an end with the arrival of his five-year-old cousin, Yuzuyu Sakashita. Abandoned by her recently-widowed mother, Yuzuyu comes to live with the Katakura family until her mother can be found. In order to teach him to be more responsible, Kippei’s older sister decides that Kippei should be the one to look after Yuzuyu.   

This series is simply adorable! In my opinion, there is nothing sexier than a guy who is good with children, and I love how Kippei does his best to be a good “mommy” to Yuzuyu without complaining (too much). It’s actually rather surprising how well he does with her, considering how ineffectual his own parents are. (They aren’t bad parents, per se; they just seem to leave all the major decisions to their bossy older daughter for some reason. It’s an unusual family dynamic.) Though he’s not the perfect parent — he’s often late to pick Yuzuyu up from kindergarten, and he’s not the best at preparing her bento — he always tries to puts Yuzuyu first, even above Kokoro Tokunaga, the one girl who has managed to capture his heart. Kippei’s and Yuzuyu’s relationship is truly heartwarming and almost guaranteed to bring out the warm and fuzzies in even the most disgruntled reader.

But underneath the exterior cuteness, Aishiteruze Baby deals with some fairly heavy and mature themes. The most notable is, of course, child abandonment. Yuzuyu is greatly affected by the disappearance of her mother so soon after her father’s death, and Maki does a fantastic job in realistically portraying a five-year-old’s feelings. Yuzuyu — far from being the precocious brat you might find in other series — actually seems like a child you might meet in real life.

Other topics that are explored in the series include child abuse, bullying, sexual assault (well, since the series is targeted to younger teens, it only goes as far as a forced kiss, but the victim reacts similar to somebody who had been raped), attempted suicide, self-mutilation, infertility, and a pregnancy scare. Some storylines are handled better than others, but they do serve to give the series more depth beyond “hot teenage boy taking care of adorable little girl” (as cute a premise as it might be).

Since the main focus of the series is the relationship between Kippei and Yuzuyu, the romance between Kippei and Kokoro is more of a secondary plot, but still well done. I liked Kokoro quite a bit because she’s different from the boy-crazy, ditzy shoujo heroines you usually see in the genre. She’s cool and mature, yet there’s a quiet vulnerability about her that is rather appealing. Since her mother died when she was about Yuzuyu’s age, the two of them share a bond, and Kokoro helps Kippei out a lot whenever Yuzuyu is missing her mom, knowing exactly what to do or say to make Yuzuyu feel better. I also liked how understanding she is of Kippei’s situation. Not to say that Kokoro doesn’t feel jealous or upset when Kippei focuses too much of his attention on Yuzuyu, because she does at times, but she never demands that he choose her over Yuzuyu, knowing how important Yuzuyu is to him. In fact, it is one of the reasons why she loves him.

Visually, Maki’s artwork is really cute and well-drawn. I particularly like her characters’ facial expressions. It’s easy to read how the characters are feeling, just by looking at their faces. I do think the body proportions when she draws Yuzuyu and her friends are a little off at times, though, like their heads are too big for their bodies. It becomes less noticeable as the series goes on.

Overall, Aishiteruze Baby is a cute series, and I really enjoyed reading it. It has just enough drama to prevent the reader from overdosing on the sweetness of Yuzuyu and Kippei’s relationship, but it will still bring a smile to your face. Highly recommended.

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