Aishiteruze Baby Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, May 01, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Translated by:Marie Cochrane
What They Say
Viz kept the original art for the front cover, which I do prefer that publishers do, but this particular design is a bit busy for my taste. In the center against a blue background is Kippei with Yuzuyu framed by pastel tiles. The two are in their school uniforms, and Kippei is holding a lollipop which Yuzuyu looks as if she's trying to get a taste of. The center image is surrounded by numerous pictures of Yuzuyu with Kippei. Centered at the top is the series logo in bright pink and baby blue surrounded by yellow stars. It's extremely bright and colorful, perhaps a little too much.
The back cover is mostly white with bright pink edging, the Shoujo Beat logo in red at the very top, and the pink, blue, and yellow Aishiteruze Baby logo just below and oriented to the left. It includes the story summary in black text to the left, and a picture of Kippei winking to the right. Below are manga rating, reading orientation, and genre icons in red and white.
Binding and materials are average, but the print quality runs a touch dark, which is woefully apparent on an otherwise extremely cute two-page title spread of Kippei and Yuzuyu. Extras include seven pages of author notes, including "Baby Diary"; Aishiteruze ABC's (a page of cultural notes); and ads for other Viz releases.
Character designs from toddlers to young adults are very pleasant to look at (with the notable exception of the "scary girl") though there's not much variation to facial features, which are on the androgynous side. The only difference between Kippei and Kokoro's faces is that she has longer hair and eyelashes, and, asides from height, Kippei and his younger brother look exactly alike. The adults unfortunately have a hard look to them "rather like a botox experiment gone wrong.
Backgrounds are done in true shoujo fashion as Maki alternates between well-detailed hand-drawn backdrops and sparkly light and flowery screen tones for emotional impact or emphasis. There's a sense of spaciousness to her art work. The way she draws, it seems as if she has all the pages in the world to tell her story. In fact, on several pages, she leaves the left margin wide for nothing more than a little bit of cute character art (they're like little headshots framed in a TV screen) that has nothing to do with the storyline. Her panel spacing really accentuates the tender moments between Yuzuyu and Kippei and makes them that more touching.
There are no honorifics. Most Japanese cultural references are explained in footnotes or Aishiteruze ABC's, and signs are translated in side text or overlays.
It was a little difficult to rate this volume. As with other Shoujo Beat titles, Viz Media has done a very nice job of removing all the original Japanese sound effects and replacing them with English sound effects. However, the dialogue was less satisfactory. While I don't doubt the accuracy of the translation, it certainly does not come off as polished. There are two scenes towards the beginning of the volume in particular where Kippei says things that just seem to come out of the blue and don't fit the ongoing conversation from a colloquial English point of view. I also caught a couple of homophonic mistakes (which personally drive me insane) in the "Baby Diary" section (you "pedal" a bicycle when you ride it, not "peddle" it!).
17 year old Kippei is a popular high school Casanova, who skips out on class to flirt with girls. He's not serious about his relationships with his fan girls, not serious about school -- not particularly serious about anything really. However, Kippei's carefree days come to a screeching halt. His aunt disappears suddenly, and his 5-year old cousin Yuzuyu comes to live with his family. Kippei's bossy older sister, annoyed with Kippei's free and loose behavior, saddles him with the responsibility of taking care of Yuzuyu.
It's a big change for Kippei. Between taking her to kindergarten, picking her up, and watching after her, he has no time for the big girls he used to play around with. At first, he just feels sorry for her, but it turns into a genuine affection, and he comes to enjoy doing things for her. He evens learns how to prepare a proper lunch because of her (when the story begins Kippei doesn't even know how to make a rice ball- how stupid is that?)! As for Yuzuyu, she is a bright and sweet child despite the jarring changes in her life. She latches onto Kippei as her surrogate "mommy" readily, and soon comes to see him as a combination parent/big brother/first crush.
The girls at school notice the obvious change in their resident playboy, and not all of them are happy about it. When one jealous fan girl learns that Yuzuyu is the focus of Kippei's attention, she starts picking on the little girl. Her vicious words wound Yuzuyu where it hurts the most, and Yuzuyu becomes withdrawn and anxious. Kippei notices the change in her but is unable to figure out what's wrong. Fortunately for him, help comes in the most unexpected of people: Kokoro, the one girl at school seemingly immune to his charms.
I heard the comment once that dogs and babies are "chick magnets." The Shoujo Beat series appears to be capitalizing on the "babies" aspect of it as they have now two titles, "Baby and Me" and "Aishiteruze Baby," where the upbringing of younger children are thrust upon older brother figures. "Aishiteruze Baby" may have a slight edge in regards to the chick magnet factor as Baby and Me tells of the struggles of a elementary school child trying to help raise his toddler brother while Aishiteruze Baby shows how the hottest boy in high school turns out to be surprisingly good with small children.
Kippei's family is rather dysfunctional " their fights are heated and I don't understand why the others don't help out more with Yuzuyu, especially the grandparents (3 generations live in Kippei's house). That aside, Kippei's relationship with Yuzuyu is sweet, believable, and "I stress "entirely innocent. Kippei's relationship with his older sister is also very realistic. It's true they fight a lot, but they also have deep conversations, and I think that many siblings have this kind of dichotomy in their relationships.
Yuzuyu is adorable. Perhaps she's a little too well behaved-- I don't think I've ever seen a 5-year old that good. However, she obviously misses her mom and feels somewhat to blame for her disappearance, which could account for her extra-good behavior.
This title is rated "teen," mainly because of Kippei's interactions with the opposite sex (he's a Casanova, after all). There's one scene where he's telling a girl he isn't in the mood to fool around even as his hands instinctively start reaching into her shirt.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left