Directed by Tomoe Makino, “Kotaro Lives Alone” is an animated series that narratively follows the earnest story of a kid who has lived through neglect and abuse and is now trying to lead an independent life. The story deals with issues that a lot of abandoned kids face. It sheds light on the complex nature of victims of emotional abuse. The series has been authored by Hiroshi Sato and animated by Liden Studio.
‘Kotaro Lives Alone’ Season 1: Plot Summary
It is the story of a kid who has just shifted to an apartment unit in Japan. He seems to be living all alone, and none of his parents seem to be around to help him through his journey. This little guy, Kotaro, studies in a kindergarten when he meets his new neighbors, who look after him and guide him through the little things in life. Karino Shin, who lives next door, takes on the role of a guardian and accompanies Kotaro wherever he goes. It is a thought-provoking story about a toddler struggling to take care of himself in the world after experiencing years of abuse and neglect.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Life Before Moving Into The New Apartment
Kotaro had suffered from severe neglect and had developed certain coping mechanisms. Before learning to cook by himself, he used to eat plants and tissues when he felt hungry. He would enjoy the sound of the television because he felt lonely. The television introduced him to the show Tonosaman that became a favorite of his. He started copying the mannerisms of Tonosaman because Tonosaman was presented as a hero character who taught Kotaro to be strong and overcome his weaknesses, and it is through this show that he learned to speak formally and also be mentally strong. Kotaro learned empathy and showed fortitude, unlike any other kid. He could sympathize with the elderly and was mature beyond his age which led Karino to believe that somehow Kotaro had forgotten how to be a child. He was afraid to ask for help and to ask people to stay. He had developed walls around him that were finally broken down by people who understood him.
After his mother left him alone in their shared apartment, Kotaro lived in a group house. His father had a restraining order against him due to abuse. After his father found out where he lived, Kotaro had to move out of the group house and live independently in an apartment of his own. On the other hand, his mother, after leaving, had actually died. Her life insurance ran Kotaro’s independent life. Nobody informed him about his mother’s death, so little Kotaro waited for her to return to the apartment. He grew up all alone before he accepted Karino as his family.
Kotaro’s Life In The New Apartment
In the new apartment unit, the neighbors are quite taken with the new member. The neighbors try to figure out Kotaro’s mysterious past. The story expands when the neighbors figure out his situation. They collectively try to help out. They fall in love with the kid who has the thought process of an adult and shares an uncanny awareness of situations that usually escape a kid’s mind. The neighbors figure out how to raise him without hurting him.
Kotaro gives a box of tissues to each member as an introduction. These tissues play a key role in defining Kotaro’s past. He meets Karino Shin, a struggling manga artist, who at first is perplexed by the behavior of Kotaro, but later on, understands him and takes on the role of his guardian. Karino drops Kotaro off at school and accompanies him on his errands. He gets used to a daily routine following Kotaro, guiding him through his errands as well as letting him do what he wants. During one of their visits to the departmental shop, Kotaro ends up contemplating the different brands of tissues, and he comments about the taste. Karino at first shelves it as Kotaro’s odd behavior, but then comes across a story of a boy eating tissues when he was hungry. Due to Kotaro’s suffering through years of neglect, he was often left alone, and during that time, the kid survived on plants and tissues when he was hungry. Karino understood what had happened, and he set about correcting the behavior without hurting Kotaro any further.
Kotaro meets Mizuki, who is a hostess. She keeps him company and helps Karino take care of him. Mizuki promises Kotaro that she will never leave him. But, due to her boyfriend turning out to be abusive, she has to change apartments. Kotaro empathizes with her and opens up to blaming himself for his father’s being abusive to him. He understands her situation and denies the existence of any such promise. Kotaro cries while hiding his face behind a mask when Mizuki leaves. He fears abandonment. His mother had left him to fend for himself. This impacted him, but he let Mizuki go because it was right.
Kotaro meets Isamu while gifting him a tissue box as well. Isamu instantly takes to Kotaro because he has a kid, Yatou, who is of Kotaro’s age. Isamu is not allowed to see Yatou due to his wife and his separation. His wife fears that Isamu’s thug-like dressing sense and behavior may create a wrongful impact and lead to society questioning her son. This is why she does not let Isamu meet his son. On the other hand, Kotaro accepts Isamu the way he is, which resonates with him. Isamu is overly affectionate toward Kotaro, and this leads to Kotaro learning and accepting affection from his new neighbor.
Kotaro is granted a weekly allowance that runs through his house. With this money, he gets to buy his day-to-day supplies as well as pay the rent. The money comes from his mother’s life insurance policy which is unknown to Kotaro. This is where he meets Ayane, a lawyer who is in charge of handing out the money to Kotaro. She lies to Kotaro about the money’s origins to make sure his belief that his mother might return stays. She does not want to hurt the little boy anymore, so she tells him that the money was given by a very generous benefactor.
Takei comes along after Mizuki moves out. She is a person who cannot really handle kids. While keeping this in mind, Kotaro tries to help Takei get used to kids and not feel nervous anymore around them. Takei, during this time, discovers that Kotaro had kept gloves that belonged to his mother in pristine condition. Takei realizes that his mother had actually been disgusted with Kotaro and had been touching him while wearing gloves. This resonates with her because she had faced the same neglect. Takei helps Kotaro overcome it but also understands his point of view that it is the last thing left of his mother. Kotaro also argues that because of those gloves, his mother could touch him. This touched Takei and made her realize that Kotaro sees the good in almost everything.
‘Kotaro Lives Alone’ Season 1: Ending Explained – Kotaro Finds A New Home In Karino
After Karino becomes the guardian of Kotaro, Kotaro slowly improves a lot. As the series progresses, Kotaro finally pouts and cries like any other child, his innocence and curiosity regaining their zeal while he accepts Karino as his family. Karino treats Kotaro very carefully and tries to be there for him in every way possible. He protects Kotaro from more harm and makes sure his life is better.
After his favorite series, Tonosaman, is made into a movie, Kotaro gets excited about it. Karino offers to take him to watch the show. Kotaro gets excited, and he tells his friends about it, this, in turn, makes his friends want to tag along. Karino listens to the whims of the kids and watches a different movie with them. He also buys them popcorn so that none of the kids can tease Kotaro and say he’s cheap. After the movie is over and the other kids have gone home, Kotaro opens up about being jealous. He is mad that Karino paid attention only to the kids, to which Karino laughs and offers to watch Tonosaman’s movie alone with him. This makes Karino believe that Kotaro has accepted him as a family member in his own little way.
Karino puts up with all of Kotaro’s antics and goes the extra mile for him. He takes responsibility for him and accompanies him to make sure he is safe. He also attends every single function held in the kindergarten, as well as the parent-teacher meetings. He tries to be there and cheer for Kotaro whenever possible. Kotaro becomes sad when one day, Karino does not remember the Kindergarten showcase, and he loses his zeal to perform and mumbles through the lines. Yet, when Karino shows up, Kotaro lights up and starts singing with renewed vigor.
Kotaro behaves like a child of his age only in front of Karino. He learns to be angry with him, feel jealous, and love him in his own way. Kotaro fears becoming a burden to Karino. Karino tries his best to be responsible for Kotaro and also makes sure his fears never become a reality. After being neglected for so long, Kotaro seemed to have finally found a place with Karino. Karino becomes the pillar Kotaro needed to lean on in his little life.
“Kotaro Lives Alone” is a 2022 Animated Series directed by Tomoe Makino.