Almost out of funds from the prize he won for a young mangaka contest, and with nothing much else on the horizon, Karino is nonetheless satisfied with living the life of a shut-in. Little does he know that he’s about to step back out into the world, and by the side of a four-year boy, no less! This boy is the titular Kotaro, who, with a toy sword sheathed at his side, rings Karino’s doorbell one day, introduces himself, and offers a tissue box as a gift. (It is common practice in Japan to offer a small gift—usually a household item—to neighbors when moving into a new home.) But as Karino and the other tenants whom the boy has visited discover, Kotaro isn’t unusual just for his proper language, haughty demeanor, and grown-up habits (which include shopping on his own): he also lives by himself. And what is more, he seems poised to make the best of it, unlike the much older residents who can’t seem to do the same.
And just like that, Netflix dropped ten episodes of this new anime series yesterday. But what to make of it? As Claire and I prepare our season preview (does this count as a spring series?), neither of us were particularly interested in covering Kotaro Lives Alone. For me, it looked like it was reaching—a disingenuous kind of story. And the animation looked terrible.
Well, the animation isn’t great—but it seems to be part of the point. As for being genuine? Time will tell, and even though episode one was a little heavy-handed, the blend of comedy and drama worked very well. Kotaro is hilarious, both when shown on his own trying to act like an adult but still with a child’s mental development and body (reading the morning paper while on the giant toilet was a fun image), and when speaking to adults with the pattern of a cartoon, feudal lord. But the feels are hitting hard already. Why is this child living by himself? What hardship has he seen? And ultimately, what is he going to teach his adult neighbors, who are each struggling with their own problems: a shut-in mangaka, a hostess who drinks her relationship problems away, and a minor yakuza type who is a bad father and husband. Based on a seinen manga, Kotaro Lives Alone is on Netflix for a reason: It’s meant for adults, partly because of it’s use of language and brief nudity, but far more so because it seems to want to speak life into those of us who are struggling under the weight of our cares, reassuring us that if this child can move forward, so can we.
Kotaro Lives Alone is available (ten episodes) for streaming on Netflix.