Kotaro Lives Alone Review

AKA: コタローは1人暮らし, Kotarō wa Hitori Gurashi

Genre: Comedy, Seinen, Slice of Life

Studio: Liden Films

Episodes: 10

Seasons: 1

Available On: Netflix

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS POSTED BELOW. READ AT YOUR OWN CAUTION*

**TW: Mentions abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, neglect**

If you follow me on social media you know I’ve been talking about this all weekend! I was excited when I heard this was getting turned into an anime. As soon as I got off work I went straight home to binge-watch this. I’m going to tell you right now, I have no complaints about this show except it being so short. I’m praying we get a second season because it was so good!

I even managed to get my sister into it after talking about it nonstop and singing its praises. She finally caved in and watched an episode with me and the rest they say is history. This show may seem cute and harmless, and at some points it is, but there are so many underlying messages that need to be talked about.

Kotaro Lives Alone is about a young 4-year-old boy named Kotaro Sato who we learn in the first episode actually lives by himself. Even though he’s young, you can see he is mature and responsible, since he’s buying gifts for his neighbors which is an actual custom in Japan.

Now in the span of like 5 minutes, he’s demonstrated he’s more together than I am. My sister was asking the same question everyone was also undoubtedly asking when they first started watching; why is this little boy living alone and why is nobody else that freaked out about it?

It seems as if his parents are unavailable to raise him and for that reason, his next-door neighbor, Karino Shin, decides to be that somewhat fill-in parent for him. He doesn’t know it but he gets closer and more attached to him after every interaction. Throughout the series, we meet the other inhabitants in the small apartment complex. We also get to see Kotaro interact with other individuals (the boy’s contact list is longer than mine) and we learn more and more about his past.

Linden Films is the studio this week that gets the coveted spotlight of making an amazing series. Upon doing research, I realized they had some of my other favorites under their belt; Poco’s Udon World, Midnight Occult Civil Servants, Woodpecker’s Detective Office, Tokyo Revengers, Salaryman’s Club, and more. For some reason while watching I was definitely getting a One Piece vibe. Kotaro reminded me of a younger version of Luffy (just smarter and with a big head) and Mizuki reminded me of Nami. I really had no qualms about the animation or character design. Kotaro’s eyes did throw me off at first but I didn’t stop just because of that. He was still a little cutie!

Characters

L to R: Takei Sumire, Tamaru Isamu, Karino Shin, Kotaro Sato, Mizuki Akitomo

KLA provided us with some memorable characters. Kotaro was my favorite, he just stole the show for me every time. Even the minor characters made impacts and were written well.

Kotaro Sato is the main character, a 4-year-old boy who resides alone due to his mother and father not being able to care for him. We later find out that his mother is actually deceased and his father just doesn’t know where he lives. Through small flashbacks of his small life, we see that he was neglected as well as suffering from trauma. His father had a violent tendency which is why he was then sent to an orphanage. Later one, I’m assuming about a year later, he moves out on his own.

My boy Kotaro Sato in all his DRIP

Now, HOW is a child able to afford an apartment on their own? This is also answered later on in the show when we see he gets a weekly stipend of money that is actually from his mother’s life insurance. One of the most notable things about him is he speaks much differently than others. His favorite show is Tonosaman, which is a cartoon based in the Edo period. This leads him to copy the accent and way of speech that Tonosaman uses. It’s more old school and very formal and cute.

Having to describe Kotaro is hard because while he does possess that child-like innocence, he also harbors maturity that one shouldn’t see in a child. As previously stated, he’s got a sense of responsibility.

He cooks his own meals, wakes himself up and gets himself ready, enrolls in Kindergarten, knows to go to the bathhouse to get cleaned, likes to get deals at the grocery stores, knows how to look at the ingredients in items to pick which suits him best.

However, he’s very trusting and has a naivety to him. He wants to see the best in people which goes along with that childlike innocence. Even after he gets abused by his parents, he believes it’s his fault for not being strong enough and that he turned his father into a “bad guy”. As a sociology major, this boy definitely needed some type of trauma counseling.

He has a heart of gold, and at the end of the day, he just wants to be able to live with his friends and loved ones. Throughout the series, I was wondering just how much he understood about his situation and he was definitely aware. He may not know technical terms but you can see how traumatized he was.

There was an episode where he is buying packs of tissues with Karino and talks about how “sweet” they taste and lists the ingredients that are good for you. We later find out that since he had been left by himself for many days, he would get hungry and eat tissues to subside the hunger. I mean how am I supposed to watch this show with a dry eye??

I could go on and on about Kotaro but at the end of the day, he’s one of the bestest boys!

Karino Shin acts as Kotaro’s guardian. He’s a manga artist and also lives by himself. Most of the characters describe him as not looking trustworthy but he becomes one of the people Kotaro can trust and lean on the most. After hearing about the disappearances of kids, he becomes worried. The rest of their interactions are just them bonding and him becoming more protective of him. While he is definitely not the most put-together he continually shocks everyone with his thoughtfulness and empathy.

He’s also usually one of the first people to catch on to Kotaro’s feelings or if a situation feels off. Initially, he gets close to Kotaro by escorting him to the bathhouse every night. Then, the pair gradually hang out together more often. I love him so much for looking after Kotaro. Parenting is never easy and looking after a child that just met a few days ago isn’t an easy task either. The show did a good job of being realistic about it. They showed that even if you have no experience, sometimes just caring and showing support is a great start. Plus him being a protective step-in papa was cute!

Mizuki was another favorite of mine. I don’t know if everyone else sees it but she gave me Nami vibes with her design. The second character we were introduced to, she’d already become cordial with Kotaro. She was very motherly towards him and affectionate. At first, doesn’t think that Kotaro is living alone but she quickly accepts the idea and does her best to help him. We learn that she works as a hostess and also has a strained relationship with her boyfriend. She makes a good amount of money but her boyfriend usually asks her for some.

Later we also discover that he had been abusive towards her, physically striking her when she refused to give him money. Kotaro finds out and begrudgingly tells her to quit her job and leave so he can’t find her. If anything, he really seemed to bond quickly with her as well as he did with Karino. She was similar to him in that she would notice his change of emotions quicker than others.

Of course, we need that comedic relief and that would be provided by Mr. Isamu. Has the typical yakuza boss look but is actually a sweetheart and paternal mess for Kotaro. He loves him some Kotaro! Although Kotaro does not really like the PDA, it doesn’t stop Tamaru. In the beginning, he hates Karino since he becomes close with Kotaro in a matter of a day, but whenever there is a problem he usually goes to him for help. Now a character is not without some good background story!

Over the course of him spending time with Kotaro, we learn that he actually is divorced with a young son around the same age as Kotaro named Yuta. Due to the parents not getting along, he doesn’t get to see his son very often and he also acknowledges that he’s not the best dad. That would explain his fixation on Kotaro. He is trying to make up for that lost time, but hopefully, we can see him bonding with Yuta more too.

Last but definitely not least, we have a new character that made her debut halfway in. Sumire Takei moved into Mizuki’s place after she left. There’s not a lot of backstory on her except that she is uncomfortable around kids due to her traumatic upbringing. Honestly, she kind of just got mixed into the mess due to her wanting to be seen as “motherly” which is almost expected of all women in Japan. Even though being with kids literally makes her break out in a sweat, she pretends to get along with them and admires Kotaro.

Her presence was refreshing because we don’t really get a lot of representation of women who are not interested in having children or like kids. It’s almost as if it’s a taboo topic but I liked the addition. I have friends myself that are not interested in children in the least but they do know how to act with them and try to appease them. Sumire also has her moments where she bonds with Kotaro, which just goes to show you the boy’s charisma is infectious.

Pros

  • Lots of unique characters that add to the story
  • Each episode contains some kind of “life lesson”
  • Sheds light on child abuse & domestic violence
  • Heartwarming, feel good show

Cons

  • Only 10 episodes (even if there are multiple episodes in the 27 minutes, I thirst for more)
  • May not be a fan of the character designs (I’m looking at you, Kotaro’s eyes)

Conclusion

This was the easiest show to rate because I enjoyed every second of it! One of the things they do is provide depth into every action, so Kotaro doesn’t just “do things” there’s usually an explanation that we get later on.

🍙🍙🍙🍙🍙

Like I said previously, my only grief about the series is that it is so short, so let’s hope there is a second season coming. I may also jump into the manga like I’m really invested in this story now. Will Kotaro reunite with his father? How long will that insurance money last? Is Mizuki ever going to see Kotaro again? Can we get all of them just to live together in their mansion built by Ryota and Tasuku? I NEED ANSWERS!

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My name is Tequila. My favorite color is blue, my favorite number is 5 and my favorite food is lasagna. I love anime and manga. I also enjoy a good game or two and I love talking about them with anyone who will listen. Do what you will with that information and enjoy my musings.

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