[Review] The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting

The reality of the word “yakuza” now is one romanticized beyond all recognition. Almost every story I see lately focuses on a singular character or entire family ripe for redemption through love. The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting makes it easy to forget that our comical characters are anything but a normal family. While I would normally sit back mindlessly and just enjoy the heartwarming episodes, the occasional small reminder of their true way of life makes the ride a bit of a bumpy one by the end.

We’re introduced to the Sakuragi Family with first lieutenant Tohru Kirishima settling business with a rival gang in a manner befitting his nickname, “The Demon of Sakuragi.” This failure to communicate peacefully rather than violently sets him up for a new role in the family as bodyguard to the 7-year-old heir, Yaeka. This job’s intention is to teach him responsibility while simultaneously ensuring her safety. While Kirishima initially balks at the assignment, he still takes it seriously, even going so far as practicing hairstyles on Sugihara, another yakuza member, to better serve Yaeka. This is the first step in the main tone the show takes through the season. Most scenes serve up warmth and healing, centering on Yaeka and Kirishima’s relationship. New people enter from different circles, but the focus always remains on bodyguard and charge.

While the general feel of the series uplifts the viewer, we still get moments of violence peppered throughout the episodes. The opening scene is one such example, showcasing a Kirishima very much wearing the guise of his nickname. Most other times, we are reminded of his reputation by those who fear, hate, and admire him: rival gangs, former peers, old friends. Yaeka stands by his side through much of it either literally or psychologically, a constant reminder of his new priorities in life.

It’s those other players outside of Kirishima’s new focus who seek to pull him back into a darker role. While I can understand the motivations from someone like Masaya Hayami, a former classmate and self-proclaimed rival of Kirishima, I have far less empathy for Yuuri Mashiro, a man spinning a web around our protagonist so he has no other escape other than to resort to his former ways. His obsession stems from admiration twisted to an ugly need to see Kirishima at his most destructive.

Despite the drama at the end and Yaeka’s emotional rescue of Kirishima, we’re still left in an uncertain place due to the lack of a decisive confrontation with Mashiro. We’re treated to what I assume is a real discussion beneath a bridge, but the ensuing shot looks to be pure fantasy with the lack of a body and Mashiro’s following observation as he drives away drenched from the rain. His promise of further excitement bodes ill for any hope for a future peace.

Since I’m unfamiliar with the original manga, I have no clue whether or not there’s more material for a sequel anime adaptation, but given the open-ended conflict here, I’m assuming that is the intention. I wouldn’t mind a sequel and if it does come I’ll definitely be there for it since I love Kirishima and Yaeka’s gentle friendship. I also appreciated the camaraderie with Sugihara and other members of the Sakuragi family, despite my misgivings about the softening view on yakuza and all they represent. Rather than a continuation following the current formula, I’d rather get something like a romantic comedy centered on an older Yaeka and her friend Koki with Kirishima playing the over-protective older brother figure (who never evolves beyond that).

Rating: 0 dango

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

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