The winter 2018 anime season held a lot of hidden gems. One of them was SCHOOL BABYSITTERS, a 12-episode anime based on the manga by Hari Tokeino. The headmistress of the prestigious Morinomiya Academy, Yoko Morinomiya, adopted the two protagonists, middle schooler Ryuichi Kashima and his young brother, Kotaro. In exchange for her guardianship, Ryuichi is told to work in the school’s daycare.

Ryuichi soon realizes not all children are well-behaved like Kotaro. The children at the daycare are rowdier and harder to manage. However, Ryuichi gets some help from his classmates and the adults around him. Together, everyone experiences the stress and the joys of raising young children.

It sounds adorable, right? While the antics are definitely heartwarming, the carefree nature of the adults is quite troubling. Ryuichi is still a student, but he takes on a lot of responsibilities he shouldn’t have to take as a student. With the adults seemingly allowing this to happen and rewarding Ryuichi’s kindness with gratitude, I ended up wondering if their well-meaning intentions actually took advantage of him. Through analyzing everyone close to Ryuichi, I want to define his compassionate character as the anime’s driving force.

Ryuichi smiles fondly as his brother Kotaro clings to his chest
Kotaro grabs on to his brother Ryuichi’s coat jacket, prompting a smile. | Image: crunchyroll.com

Ryuichi’s Little Brother Bias

Something that a lot of the characters criticize Ryuichi for is his devotion to Kotaro; he has a hard time leaving his brother alone and often worries about his well-being whenever he tries to relax. Kotaro, on the other hand, is always focused on Ryuichi; he patiently waits for his brother’s attention and very rarely calls for him despite any jealousy he feels when he’s not the priority. Ryuichi doesn’t often notice this, but subconsciously seeks Kotaro out to spoil him anyway. For Ryuichi, his family consistently stays his number one focus.

Their parents traveled a lot, as illustrated in episode one, but they died in a plane crash when coming back from one of their trips. There’s a moment near the end of the episode where Ryuichi thinks of calling them to tell them Kotaro is sick. When he impulsively dials, he quickly realizes even if he calls, they’ll never respond. This fact hits him hard and leads to him finally breaking down in tears. The headmistress, Yoko, finds him crying and helps him through it.

VIOLET EVERGARDEN: Anime’s Emotional Masterpiece

Kotaro is the only blood family Ryuichi has left. The same is true for Kotaro. Their devotion to each other is more than an older brother doting on his sibling; however, Ryuichi’s inexperience in babysitting leads to him being overwhelmed. Kotaro even tries to become more independent by isolating himself so Ryuichi won’t worry. Ryuichi deals with the other kids and struggles to make time for Kotaro, so there’s a constant imbalance. SCHOOL BABYSITTERS simply thrusts Ryuichi right into a babysitter’s often high-stress reality.

An Unprofessional Professional? 

Ryuichi isn’t alone in watching the children. He has Yoshihito Usaida, an older man who works in the daycare full-time. Later on, Hayato Kamitani, Ryuichi’s classmate and first friend, joins them. Despite his presence and experience, Yoshihito often slacks off and even naps with infant Midori. This leaves Ryuichi to deal with the rowdier kids.

Five of the babies crowd around Ryuichi while Yoshihito watches.
The kids climb all over Ryuichi as he talks to Yoshihito. | Image: crunchyroll.com

Yoshihito is also easily distracted and this often leads to trouble. When the children go on a trip to the zoo in episode two, he stands with loud-mouthed Taka in front of a gift shop trying to pick out a souvenir for Taka’s brother, Hayato. He’s so distracted by the process that Taka runs off without Yoshihito noticing.

When he finally realizes Taka’s disappearance, he doesn’t run off to find him; he instead has Ryuichi do it, even though it shouldn’t be his responsibility. He unfairly makes Ryuichi become involved and while Ryuichi willingly takes on the task, Yoshihito should maturely deal with it on his own.

Surprisingly Compassionate Leader

Yoshihito isn’t bad at caretaking, though. In episode 11, the headmistress’s butler, Keigo, takes over watching the children while Yoshihito is sick and Ryuichi is in class. He struggles to put a diaper on infant Midori and he calls Yoshihito to tell him this. However, his phone shuts off after he says the word, “emergency”, causing Yoshihito to rush out of his house; he goes to the school, despite his fever, to make sure everyone is okay. 

After he arrives, he realizes the problem has already resolved and deflates. The other kids tell him that they want him to go home so he can hurry and get well, making him more emotional than he admits. While one can argue it’s because of his cold, it’s obvious that he loves the children very much.

This brings me to my main point: none of the characters in SCHOOL BABYSITTERS are intentionally using Ryuichi. However, they are prone to taking advantage of Ryuichi’s kindness when it benefits them and it’s not just Yoshihito who does this.

Moms Just Wanna Have Fun

In SCHOOL BABYSITTERS’ iconic beach sequence in episode nine, we get to see a lot of the kid’s moms in action. We see them featured in episode two as well, but I think they shine the most here. They help student council president Maria find a more appropriate swimsuit, buy the children juice, and watch over them while they nap so Ryuichi can finally have time to play. Midori’s mother, Yukari, even holds Kotaro and comforts him when he starts crying.

But if we go back to earlier in the episode, as the mothers take Maria to find a more appropriate swimsuit, the boys are abandoned. Whenever they go on group outings this tends to be the end result. Even when they aren’t assigned to work, Hayato, Yoshihito, and Ryuichi are often saddled with the children. SCHOOL BABYSITTERS shows parents encouraging the workers (specifically Ryuichi) to pick up their slack. The fathers are actually worse when it comes to this.

Ryuichi holds Kotaro while the other boys stand with Usaida, watching as the mothers hurry away.
A bewildered Ryuichi waits with Yoshihito and the children for their mothers to return. | Image: crunchyroll.com

Dads With Insecurity

In an earlier episode, a stranger comes on the school grounds and grabs hold of Takuma, one of the twins Ryuichi cares for. After the initial panic, Takuma identifies the stranger as “Kosuke”; Kosuke Mamizuka is the twins’ father and a famous actor. Though he often portrays himself confidently on camera, he’s actually a worrywart and a huge crybaby. Kosuke wants to spend more time with his children, as they don’t call him “Papa” and this upsets him, leading him to guilt trip Ryuichi into helping him with outside family drama.

Another child Ryuichi babysits is Kirin, and she’s also one of the only two girls. Her father, Satoru, is a photographer who travels a lot for work. He dotes on his wife and daughter to the point where he ends up furious when any men come near them. In response, Kirin’s mother has the boys crossdress when he comes to visit. Satoru flirts with them, seeing through Yoshihito and Hatayo almost immediately, but not Ryuichi.

Ryuichi is kind, warm, and effeminate in personality, but SCHOOL BABYSITTERS never treats this as something that makes him less manly. Ryuichi’s personality does, however, lead to Satoru treating him strangely. He’s kindest to him but becomes the opposite the minute he thinks Ryuichi plans to do something to Kirin.

These two fathers both project their own parenting issues onto Ryuichi and I think it’s inappropriate for them to do so. While Ryuichi can certainly assist Kosuke and encourage his children to play with him, Ryuichi can’t overstep his boundaries.

CHILDREN OF THE WHALES: An Ambitious Disappointment

Headmistress Knows Best

Ryuichi is not paid for his work. The only compensation he receives is a free ride in Morinomiya Academy and housing in the chairwoman’s mansion with her and her butler, Keigo. The reason Yoko adopted him is clear in episode one: she lost her son and her daughter-in-law in the same accident that killed Ryuichi and Kotaro’s parents.

Yoko is a very tough and distant caretaker at first. Over the course of SCHOOL BABYSITTERS, her attachment is clear through her actions. When Ryuichi gets sick, she keeps Kotaro away and has him help her make medicine. When Kirin has a fixation with witches, she eludes to the idea of being a witch herself. This picks Kirin’s spirits up when Ryuichi tries to calm her down.

Keigo, on the other hand, is quite eccentric. He has a very polite personality but an unwavering tone and facial expressions, so it’s always difficult to understand him. Yoshihito asks him to take over when he gets sick in episode 11. Though he’s not adept at caring for children, he works hard. He doesn’t want people to worry and he cares about everyone, even if he doesn’t work for them.

The thing I love about these two characters is their tenacity. They want Ryuichi to open up to them and ask for things. They encourage him to make friends, they buy him a new cell phone when Kotaro accidentally ruins his old one, and Keigo spoils him with lavish meals regularly. Having Ryuichi and Kotaro around reminds them of the past when Yoko’s son still lived with them.

They are the only adult characters who don’t take advantage of Ryuichi and this is something I treasure them for. 

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Babies?

It isn’t even just the adults that unintentionally take advantage of Ryuichi. Hayato Kamitani is a brilliant friend, but he has one major flaw: when his younger brother Taka annoys him, he hits him. The anime makes a point of showing how it stemmed from his mother hitting him when he’s obnoxious, but it’s still very distressing. Ryuichi chides Hayato for it regularly but still takes up the task of picking up after him.

Hayato holds a tantrum-throwing Taka by the back of his shirt, the other two SCHOOL BABYSITTERS watching.
Hayato picks Taka up by the back of his shirt, despite his brother’s flailing. | Image: crunchyroll.com

The sibling dynamic between Hayato and Taka is a dramatic parallel between that of Ryuichi and Kotaro. The age gap is similar in both pairs, and both often feel like dealing with their kid brothers is a heavy burden at times. But, Ryuichi is more patient with Kotaro and rarely gets angry, while Hayato expresses his aggression freely.

Ryuichi coddles Taka the most, Yoshihito teases Taka and makes him frustrated, while Hayato calls him an aho, an aggressive word for idiot, and hits him. I find it interesting that Ryuichi is more patient than Taka’s own brother. Hayato causes a lot of the messes with Taka that Ryuichi then cleans up. Since he views Hayato as a friend, Ryuichi continually allows this to happen with little complaint.

This is just one of the recurring examples of Ryuichi going the extra mile for those he cares about.

SCHOOL BABYSITTERS is a Babies’ World

If Ryuichi didn’t have such a strong sense of responsibility and a deep, overwhelming kindness, SCHOOL BABYSITTERS wouldn’t be as compelling a story. Yoshihito, the parents, and even Yoko and Keigo have so much to learn from this modest teenager. He’s patient, he’s compassionate, and he’s constantly polite, if not a little exasperated with the eccentricities of those around him.

KINO’S JOURNEY Teaches a Lesson on Perspective

None of these characters are mean. They’re difficult to deal with, sure, but they’re worth the trouble. It’s similar to how Ryuichi feels about the babies; he tells his classmate Ushimaru in episode 11 that sometimes even he can’t stand how gross babies are. However, he reaches a point where he stops seeing them as “gross babies.”When that happens, he only sees Taka, Kirin, Takuma, Kazuma, and Midori.

Ryuichi will always spread himself thin in order to care for the people he now loves. It’s for this reason that I can’t really fault anyone in SCHOOL BABYSITTERS for their actions.

If you’re interested in seeing cute babies doing cute baby things, you can check out SCHOOL BABYSITTERS now on Crunchyroll.

Featured image courtesy of Crunchyroll.

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