Netflix's Kotaro Lives Alone Review: A Beautiful And Emotional Masterpiece – Leisure Byte

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The latest offering from the streaming giant Netflix, Kotaro Lives Alone, brings with it a lot of tears and heartfelt moments. This isn’t a show you would ever want to miss, so let’s get on with this review!
Kotaro Lives Alone, or Kotaro Wa Hitorigurashi in original Japanese, is a slice of life and comedy anime published as part of the Netflix original anime catalogue. It consists of 10 episodes, with each episode being about 27 minutes with the opening and ending themes combined. It is developed by studio Lidenfilms, also known for anime such as Tokyo Revengers and Berserk (2016), sadly. The series is based on a manga written by Mami Tsumura. The show is directed by Tomoe Makino, whose previous experience with direction comes from the 2020 anime Woodpecker Detective’s Office.
– Kotaro Wa Hitorigurashi Review does not contain any spoilers –
“The “apartment comedy with laughs and tears” centres on a four-year-old boy named Kotarou Satоou, who moves next door to Shin Karino, an unsuccessful manga artist. Kotarou has no parents and lives alone. Not only does he seem to earn a living, he actually seems more put together than his own strange neighbors.” Courtesy- ANN
Have you ever just watched a few minutes of anything and thought to yourself- “This is going to make me cry, isn’t it?” You know this feeling very well if you’re even a little into slice of life anime. Such was my initial reaction to watching the first episode of the show, and by the end of it, the show had managed to fulfil this expectation multiple times over. Make no mistakes about it, Kotaro Lives Alone is an absolute gem and one of the best anime on the entire platform.
It tells the tale of Kotaro, a 4-year-old boy who moves into an apartment complex all on his own. Not only does he talk like a feudal lord of Samurai Era Japan, but he behaves like a perfect gentleman and has the intelligence and wisdom of someone way beyond his extremely young age. He introduces himself to his neighbours and finds himself not only in the middle of a fantastic found family but for the first time in his life, people who genuinely love him, care for him and want the best for him.
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The series then evolves into various hijinks, which results in us learning more about Kotaro’s past, which isn’t pretty. You see, there’s a reason why Kotaro is like that and why he was forced to grow wise beyond his years. It involves a lot of personal trauma and him barely surviving abusive parents and starvation. The worst thing about it all is that the poor kid blames himself for everything, and it takes the entire series for him to learn how to trust people again and finally confront his past traumas.
There are enormous stakes to Kotaro Lives Alone, despite it being a relatively tame slice of life show. The show goes to some dark places in the children’s and adults’ pasts and presents to show us the reality of being a bad parent and ignored kid. The realities of the modern-day hellscape through the eyes of a kid was a fascinating and highly emotional watch, and the series ended with one of its best episodes, proving that underestimating children, alongside this show, would be a grave mistake.
Child characters are extremely hit or miss in every show. They can either be the most annoying thing in the world and put you off a piece of media forever, or they are so well written that they take place in your heart for all of eternity. Kotaro, the main protagonist of this show, is the best example of the second description. In fact, he is the best child character from any show I’ve ever seen, and it’s not even close. Kotaro is perfect.
He talks like and has the mannerisms of an ancient feudal lord, all because he had to teach himself how to live with the help of his favourite Tonosaman. He would rather do everything by himself than trouble anyone else because he is afraid of anyone thinking of him as a burden. He somehow still manages to be the kindest, the sweetest, and the best judge of people and their characters. He is more put together than his neighbours and helps them become the best version of themselves just as much as they help him.
Speaking of Kotaro’s neighbours, they are all amazing and tremendously written characters as well. They are all good people in a world that isn’t afraid of portraying people being awful, which makes their kindness stand out even more. Kotaro’s relationship with Karino, Mizuki, and Isamu is precious, and the way they help each other out and keep each others’ company is the best part of the show. There is an inherent sadness to every one of them, but they find happiness with each other. Found family might just be the best trope in all of the media.
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There is a scene in Kotaro Lives Alone that will stand as one of the anime’s finest in the times ahead if the world is fair. While I can’t describe it without spoiling it, it’s the one with the balloons, for when you witness it for yourself. It is the most brutal scene in the show, and it doesn’t even feature anyone other than Kotaro and a good-natured balloon salesman. In these small moments, Kotaro Lives Alone‘s true strengths stand out, which are its emotions and how it handles them.
If there’s one thing that doesn’t stand out in the show, it’s the animation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from bad. However, it isn’t anything special and is quite simple in its execution. The art design is slightly different from most anime, particularly in the way the characters are designed. It works for the show very well, despite being simple. It allows for a greater range of emotion, especially to characters like Kotaro, who don’t portray much emotion of their own volition.
The music is also decent, but nothing stands out as worth remembering or going back to. There are the usual soft piano tunes alongside some violin, as in every other anime. The opening and ending themes are fun for what they are, but they aren’t much, to begin with. However, they fit the show’s tone really well and are pleasant to listen to. I guess you can’t really ask for much else beyond that.
Kotaro Lives Alone is a masterclass in character writing and storytelling. It is able to create emotional moments with the simplest of touches and is a deeply moving tale of trauma, parenthood, and growing up.
Watch Kotaro Lives Alone on Netflix!
Made me cry on the same level as A Silent Voice and Violet Evergarden
Absolutely on the same level as the two you mentioned.
Thank you for doing absolute justice to this anime in your review! I think you’ve captured everything I felt whilst watching Kotaro Lives Alone, but far more eloquently, as I noted down my thoughts whilst in the flashback grip of my own childhood trauma. Ha. 🥲 But seriously, it was a pleasure to read your review.
This anime spoke to me in a way very few things have, and I’m glad you felt the same. Thank you for those extremely kind words, they mean a lot.
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