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  Listen to Me, Girls, I'm Your Father! Bringing up babes
Year: 2012
Director: Itsuro Kawasaki
Stars: Eri Kitamura, Hiromi Iragashi, Sumire Uesaka, Wataru Hatano, Daisuke Ono, Junji Majima, Nobuo Tobita, Sakura Nakamura, Sayaka Ohara, Yui Horie
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Animated, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: College student Yuta Segawa (voiced by Wataru Hatano) has just started his freshman year, for the first time living away the older sister who raised him. He has a hopeless crush on a voluptuous, if slightly aloof girl named Raika Oda (Yui Horie) and survives some embarrassing encounters with rambunctious students, but life is otherwise normal. Until a tragic plane crash claims the lives of his sister and her husband, leaving Yuta as legal guardian of their little daughter Hina (Hiromi Iragashi) and two beautiful teenage step-siblings, Sora (Sumire Uesaka) and Miu (Eri Kitamura). Rather than let the elder family members separate the sisters, Yuta volunteers to raise them himself in his cramped college apartment. All manner of complications ensue, not least because Sora is secretly in love with Yuta.

Armed with a premise seemingly aimed at simultaneously tugging the heartstrings and stirring the loins of teenage Japanese boys, Listen to Me, Girls, I’m Your Father! ponders how a young Nippon male would cope if circumstances forced them to cohabit with two nubile lovelies and a hyperactive moppet. Only an anime romantic comedy could be so blatant about intermingling quasi-paternal themes with nascent sexual longing. There is a long tradition of anime rom-coms wherein drippy young men find themselves unexpectedly surrounded by a harem of gorgeous girls, each embodying a different aspect of male fantasy (coquettish minx, shy girl-next-door, sporty tomboy - you get the idea). But in taking the slice-of-life route this saccharine comedy-drama shares some thematic parallels with the superior, affecting Baby and Me (1996) wherein a thirteen year old boy becomes a surrogate parent to his baby brother after their parents are killed in a car crash.

Based on a novel by Tomohiro Matsu, this offers a peculiar melange of wholesome family values and mildly risque sex comedy. Again, the kind of mix you will only find in anime. There is an emphasis on sexual tension with hapless Yuta torn between his attraction to the elder girls (who have a tendency to unconsciously snuggle him in bed or parade in skimpy undergarments) and growing sense of parental responsibility. The fact neither winsome brunette Sora nor frisky blonde Miu are related by blood to Yuta leaves the door open to romance, as the former grapples with her feelings, hopelessly embarrassed at suddenly finding herself in such close physical and emotional proximity to her lifelong crush. The plot is a slow burn, at times painfully so, and trots out familiar anime rom-com clichés, but for the sociologically-minded provides an interesting insight into Japanese gender relations and sexual mores.

Some intriguing issues are raised over the course of the plot, such as the fact Miu’s biological mother is still alive but the family “won’t hand her over to a foreigner who can’t even speak Japanese.” There is some dramatic weight as Yuta gradually realises the consequences wrought by his impulsive, if well-intended decision, its impact on his college studies and finances, not to mention his tenuous relationship with the strangely distant Raika (whose bountiful bosom gets as much camera attention as the nubile heroines), but too often storylines lapse into sugary sentiment or inane domestic antics. A weird subplot concerns Yuta’s ongoing attempts to keep the girls away from nerdy fellow student Sako (Junji Majima) who has a prediliction for young girls. It is meant to be funny but comes across rather sinister. The theme song, “Happy Girl”, performed by Sora’s voice actress Eri Kitamura is so sugary it could send listeners into anaphylactic shock, although the closing theme, “Coloring”, performed by Yui Horie the voice of Mui, is infernally catchy.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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