From Blue Exorcist’s Rin and Yukio Okumura to Demon Slayer’s Tanjiro and Nezuko Kamado, anime is in no way starved for iconic sibling dynamics. After all, it’s a very common dynamic for people to have; more people than not have at least one sibling. It’s only natural that it would be popular to have characters with brothers or sisters show up in a series. However, the two duos named above aren’t exactly in the most normal of situations. Rin and Yukio are constantly battling demons and their father is Satan himself. Tanjiro and Nezuko are constantly on the move and under stressful and dangerous circumstances, as well. Often, sibling dynamics in anime are skewed by the situation they find themselves in. The settings are extreme, and at times, it pushes siblings to be either perfect pairs or entirely dysfunctional. Sometimes, it’s fun to see a realistic portrayal. That’s where Gakuen Babysitters comes in.
Released in 2018, Gakuen Babysitters is an anime that follows a pair of brothers - elder Ryuuichi Kashima and younger Kotaro - as they navigate life after the tragic death of their parents. After they’re taken in by the chairwoman of the prestigious Morinomiya Academy, Ryuuichi learns that in order to earn his keep, he must work in the school’s daycare before and after school and during lunch, watching the children of the teachers. In the daycare, he meets a group of toddlers (and classmates) with larger-than-life personalities and a penchant for causing trouble! Now in addition to caring for Kotaro, Ryuuichi has to care for his new friends, big and small, and help them learn some important lessons along the way.
There are two big brothers that are central to the series: Ryuuichi, and Hayato Kamitani. They are how Gakuen Babysitters demonstrate the duality of sibling relationships. Ryuuichi has been placed in a primary caregiver role for Kotaro; he is used to doing everything for his little brother. He feels the need to protect Kotaro and is quick to forgive and forget. More than anything, he knows that he needs to be strong for Kotaro, and does everything he can to be someone Kotaro can rely on. Ryuuichi is incredibly kind, patient, and cautious, and has a soft touch when it comes to children. He represents the positives of a sibling relationship: always having someone in your corner, having someone you can rely on when your parents aren’t there, and unconditional love.
Hayato, however, is very much the opposite. He’s blunt, harsh, and often holds grudges when it comes to his little brother, Taka. He’s often frustrated by Taka and when Taka misbehaves, he’s quick to give him a tap to the head or simply pick him up and haul him off, seemingly unfazed by any tantrums or tears. In this way, Hayato represents the negatives of sibling relationships: close proximity, bickering, and annoying each other. Despite his serious and stern demeanor, though, there are moments when he can be more gentle with Taka, even if it's often hard for him to show it.
Hayato and Ryuuichi act as two sides of the same coin, and anyone with siblings will know that such a coin exists. For every moment that your sibling annoys you or makes you see red, there’s one that is full of love. No matter how mad you may get at each other, you’ll still protect each other when push comes to shove. These things are seen in many moments of the series, such as when Hayato confronts his father about the way he treats Taka, despite how petulant the toddler is towards him. Gakuen Babysitters is excellent at portraying the balance between loving and hating your siblings, and how a sibling dynamic can change and differ based on family structure, such as Hayato and Taka’s parents being divorced and Ryuuichi and Kotaro being orphaned. Another great example is that of Chuukichi Nezu, a student of Morinomiya Academy and friend of Ryuuichi that comes from a large family and is the second oldest of six children. Being one of the oldest and most responsible, he very much takes on the role of a third parent in the family and keeps multiple jobs in order to care for his siblings and family in general. Gakuen Babysitters doesn't cut corners when it comes to representing all of these different families and roles; it embraces them.
In addition, the series is great at showing how older siblings influence their younger ones. Kotaro is rather calm and soft, always showing affection and acting as a mediator for friends. He doesn’t move very quickly and prefers to read or play quietly. It seems that he definitely gets his demeanor and kind personality from Ryuuichi and finds solace in his big brother. Taka, on the other hand, is brash and loud, always running and yelling and being bossy. He tends to be somewhat of a hot-head, and many of these traits are also seen in Hayato, whom Taka spends a lot of time with. This is also seen in other characters, such as Chuukichi’s younger siblings, who greatly admire him and often try to model themselves after him through mimicry. This is another one of those things that is part of the duality of siblinghood; on one hand, imitation is the highest form of flattery. On the other hand, it’s irritating. The lines are so fine.
Gakuen Babysitters also manages to sum up how people feel about their siblings in just one line: “I don’t like or hate you.” The line is spoken by Hayato after he finds out that Taka has written all over his precious autographed baseball. Taka apologizes and asks for forgiveness, but Hayato simply gives him the cold shoulder. Ryuuichi sympathizes and tells Hayato that Kotaro has done something similar; he dropped Ryuuichi’s phone with all the voicemails he had from their parents in the toilet, causing him to lose something precious. However, Ryuuichi explains that he forgave Kotaro. Kotaro didn’t know any better. Hayato says that Taka knew how much the ball meant to him and explains that he doesn’t hate Taka, but he also doesn’t like him. The phrase might seem mean. It sounds like something you would say to clean your hands of someone and say you simply don’t care about them. However, what it really means is that you don’t like or hate your sibling. You love them. Sometimes that means they make you insane or that they hurt your feelings, but you only get so upset because you care about them so much.
These things are ultimately what make Gakuten Babysitters a perfect show for anyone with siblings; between the humor and general lightheartedness, it has plenty to say about how siblings interact, and it says it rather truthfully through many different lenses. Unlike some of the sibling relationships seen in other series, the ones in Gakuen Babysitters aren’t taking place in worlds full of battles, monsters, and dystopian societies. They take place in a modern, everyday setting where they can be explored realistically, and that makes the dynamics recognizable and relatable to viewers. For those with siblings, Gakuen Babysitters is a hilariously honest watch that is quick, painless, and heartwarming.
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