Anime as a medium is one of the most varied in all entertainment. It is truly incredible to do a bit of research and see how many stories there are, and how varied they can be. We are talking about a medium that is able to execute on the idea of a kid who wants to be the King of the Pirates, as well as the idea of a roman architect being transported to modern Japan to learn about public baths. Imagination seems to have no limits when it comes to anime.
Kotaro Lives Alone is a new Netflix anime series that pushes the imagination just a tiny bit in order to create an emotional tale about family and friends and the importance of having those foundations in life. Kotaro Lives Alone is made by Liden Films, an animation studio based in Tokyo and Osaka that has been constantly pulling off short series with great success. The studio is now producing standard-length series, such as Tokyo Revengers or even taking on the challenge of adapting Rurouni Kenshin for the big screen.
Kotaro Lives Alone tells the tale of Kotaro Sato, a mysterious four-year-old kid that rents an apartment all by himself and starts living in the tiny complex apartment building with five other neighbors. Kotaro is certainly a particular kid, being rather serious in nature and talking very formally, using feudal speech for his interactions with the adults that live next to him. Kotaro Lives Alone is an adaptation of a manga written and illustrated by Mami Tsumura.
Because of its source material being a gag manga, Kotaro Lives Alone is structured differently from normal anime series. This means that, instead of a continuous storyline throughout the entirety of an episode, each episode of the series tells about two or three short stories.
These stories can be connected by a theme, or maybe even not have any connection at all other than Kotaro developing his relationships with the other tenants in the building. It makes for a refreshing storytelling form, as it doesn’t really rely on continuity to make each story relevant to the characters.
The series is also what anime fans would call a “slice of life” series. This means that there isn’t really a plot per se. For example, the series focuses more on the characters and seeing how they react to everyday life’s hurdles, For example, the lack of money to buy dinner or not being able to take a bath because there’s no water. Things like that.
This might make it sound like Kotaro Lives Alone is very mundane, and that isn’t a wrong statement, but being mundane is the point of the whole deal. To that mundane aspect, you then add the fact that there is a four-year-old living alone in an apartment, and you get a very original set up for stories to develop.
That’s the charm of the series, the fact that Kotaro, even at such a young age, is able to learn and understand things about life that adults are still trying to get. Kotaro is such a fascinating character because he isn’t only particular thanks to his way of speaking and his personality, but also because there’s a mysterious backstory that is revealed little by little, but never entirely.
This keeps the character veiled by mystery. Where does he get all of his money? What happened to his parents? They are all important questions, but not really relevant to the story that Tsumura is trying to tell.
Alongside Kotaro, there’s a wonderful cast of characters that make up the core cast of the show. We have Karino, an aspiring manga artist, Tamaru, a crook with a heart of gold, and Mizuki, a host with mysterious issues. They are Kotaro’s neighbors, and they make for interesting characters all by themselves. But it is Karino, the one that stands out from the rest.
It is clear that there is something of Tsumura in Karino. Both are manga artists, but also because Karino becomes the second protagonist of the show, and the first who establishes a relationship with Kotaro that goes beyond the fact that they live next to each other.
Although the visual style of the show is rather simple, it accounts for most of the show’s comedic vibe. The series is also quite stern, sincere, and deep when it tackles the themes of family, self-worth, loneliness, and more. These are complex and deep themes, and the show just tackles them with honesty, so the reflections that the show makes on these topics never feel forced or cringy in any way.
Kotaro Lives Alone is the perfect watch for those who want to relax, watch something funny and still get something from it. Along with Midnight Diner, also on Netflix, it might be the most wholesome show on the entire streaming service. It might not have action or amazing revelations, but it is charming in its own way.