How to Cook a Series: Kotaro Lives Alone

Isn’t Kotaro Lives Alone so cute you just can’t stand it? That brave little boy, living alone, living up the ideals of the noble knight, making all the people around him better because of his faith in them, is an almost perfect hero.

Of course, it all revolves around Kotaro, and Kotaro is a character built around a simple gimmick. Ready?

He’s not really four.

I mean, the writers can say he’s four, but a four-year-old is incapable of the logic and language Kotaro uses.

Remember your Piaget? Wait, you haven’t heard of Piaget? Dude is like the father of developmental psychology, the understanding of how the human mind develops from birth to adulthood.

Go dig up Piaget. He’s buried in an unmarked grave in Geneva. Don’t get arrested for grave robbing.

He’ll tell you that at four Kotaro, assuming he’s like even remotely a normal human boy and not some alien entity planted on Earth to undermine our confidence in our offspring, would be glad to tell you that Kotaro’s mental development is in the preoperational stage. At four, if he’s a bit precocious (I can grant you that) he can think in images and symbols, but is just barely beginning to comprehend logic.

More importantly, he doesn’t understand the relationship between cause and effect.

Kotaro. Four year old body. Teen-aged mind.

Now, Kotaro makes faulty cause and effect conclusions all the time. That’s one of the things that makes him a cute character, right? My favorite is when he sees the woman giving out samples at the supermarket. She’s visibly very pregnant, which he misinterprets as “fat.” He leaps to the conclusion that she is “fat” because she’s forced to eat any product that doesn’t sell by the end of the day, so he demands additional allowance so he can buy all the product, saving her from having to eat it.

See the logic? Effect: Fat. Cause: Forced to eat. Effect: Skinny. Cause: Sell all product. Conclusion: If I buy all the product she will not be forced to eat what’s left, so she will become skinny.

Of course the logic is wrong and of course it is both endearing and funny. It’s endearing because he thinks he is a noble knight saving this fair maiden from a life of obesity, and it’s funny because we know his entire logical house of cards is based on the false premise that she is fat.

Didn’t you love that sequence? I did.

A four-year-old can’t perform that sort of logical gyration. They don’t do logic. Their minds aren’t developed well enough yet.

One thing that bothers me is the way he speaks. I don’t know what it sounds like in Japanese, but in the dub he’s given the speech patterns of a medieval knight, which he picks up, along with the moral code, by watching a TV show about knights.

Can he learn the sounds of language from watching TV? Sure he can.

Can he learn what amounts to a linguistic dialect from which he can form complete original statements and even paragraphs? Out of words he hasn’t heard on the TV?? Oh, heck, no! He can’t speak that well in the language he was raised with yet, let alone something he picked up from TV.

Kotaro has a fully formed moral code. As above, in the dub it’s the code of a medieval knight, the chivalric code, which he picks up from watching his TV show. But Kotaro is too young to understand what a moral code is. It’s far too abstract.

And, as cute as he is, he’s a manipulative little sonovagun. He goes up to people who are being (in his mind) bad, such as his friend the scam artist, or even his buddy Shin. By showing them his absolute faith in them, he forces them to be better people in order to reward his faith in them. Similarly he manipulates his social worker into giving him whatever money he wants.

But once again that sort of logic is beyond his age. Not just beyond his age; WAY, WAY beyond his age. I mean, he hasn’t even reached the stage yet where he can punk his parents by screaming “I hate you!” At four he’s still in the “cry and kick his heels” stage.

Of course it’s cute and that’s why it works. He holds himself like a “little man;” he stands upright, carries a sword, accepts responsibility for things he should not need to be concerned with at his age. There’s a natural tension there between the way he’s portrayed and the gentle little idiot he really should be at that age. He’s cute because he’s WRONG; he’s acting more like he’s 15 or 16 than four.

You know what it is? If he was a 16 year old doing what he does we might chalk it up to chunibyo/role playing, but when we’re told he’s four it seems real, honest, earnest, and cute.

But he’s not acting like a four-year-old. He’s acting like a 16-year-old. It’s a delightful little show, and one of the things that makes it work is that he looks four and acts 16, and everyone around him accepts that as though it is 100%, absolutely normal.

Even though it’s not.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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