Reading the last and final volume of Aishiteruze Baby is so heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time. I’ll be talking about the final volume of this series quite a bit, so expect spoilers below.
As I have mentioned in a previous post about Aishiteruze Baby, the main character Kippei Katakura is tasked with taking care of his little cousin Yuzuyu after her mother leaves her in the Katakura family’s care. I’ve also mentioned how Kippei slowly evolves from being an irresponsible kid to a man who takes responsibility seriously. By caring for Yuzuyu, she changes Kippei’s perspective on women and treats them more than a temporary fling. In fact, he realizes he wants a relationship with his girlfriend Kokoro. In Volume 7, Kippei pledges to always be with Kokoro, and that he’s actually serious about her. We also have Kippei facing the inevitability of letting go of Yuzuyu.
Kippei starts seeing how much the absence of Yuzuyu’s mother is having a bad effect on her. The experience is so crippling that Yuzuyu doesn’t realize she has thrown away a photo of her mother. And when Kippei confronts her about it, Yuzuyu actually can’t recognize the woman in the photo as her mother.
Eventually a trip to the zoo, where Yuzuyu sees a mother soothing her son, triggers her memory of her mother and she becomes distraught. Kippei is equally distressed by Yuzuyu’s behavior lately and doesn’t know what to do. He knows Yuzuyu really needs to be with her mother, but he also isn’t sure if her mother will come back for her. Kippei is reluctant to instill more false hope in the event Yuzuyu’s mother never comes back.
When Kippei is informed by the teacher that Yuzuyu’s birthday is coming up, he is determined to make it special for Yuzuyu by volunteering to make a cake for her. His family teases him about how impossible it will be for him to make one, but he brushes them off. I really enjoyed reading and looking at the panels where Kippei makes the cake because he really tries hard. Kippei is motivated by love and wanting to make Yuzuyu the happiest little girl in the world. The first cake Kippei makes is a complete disaster, but he just tosses it aside and gets started on a new one. The result? A near perfect cake ready for Yuzuyu’s celebration the next day.
On the morning of her birthday, Yuzuyu is up before everyone else and sees Kippei’s handiwork on the kitchen counter. You can tell she’s amazed and extremely grateful for the work Kippei put into the cake. Without waking anyone, Yuzuyu gets dressed and wanders off outside to pick fresh flowers for Kippei. It’s a bit vague in this particular part of the manga as to how far Yuzuyu wanders off for the flowers, especially when she comes back home again, everyone is visibly panicking over where she went. However, Kippei graciously accepts the flowers and wishes her an official, “Happy Birthday.”
The rest of the scene continues where everyone is gathered around to watch Yuzuyu blow out her candles. The scene is happy enough until they get a visitor. Immediately, Kippei’s sister knows who the visitor is––Yuzuyu’s mother. Just a few days before her birthday, Yuzuyu writes her mother a bunch of letters and sends them out to her. When Kippei’s sister goes to check the mail, she finds a letter from Yuzuyu’s mother simply stating she is coming back for her daughter.
Without alerting Yuzuyu of who the visitor is, Kokoro ushers Yuzuyu upstairs to distract her in the meantime. Once gone, the Katakuras confront Yuzuyu’s mother. She presents her case to the entire Katakura family as to why she should get her daughter back. She admits she left Yuzuyu in their care because she needed to pull her life together after the death of her husband. During that time period, Yuzuyu’s mother has found a job and has found a good man who wants to take care of her and her daughter. Believing she has turned her life around, Yuzuyu’s mother thinks it is the right time to take her daughter back. Kippei’s mother thinks differently. She slaps Yuzuyu’s mother across the face and tells her how selfish she is being. No amount of reasons will ever be enough to explain why Yuzuyu’s mother abandoned her own daughter. Yuzuyu’s mother holds her ground though, and explains leaving Yuzuyu in their care is the best thing she could have done at the time. If Yuzuyu stayed with her, it would have been worst for her daughter when she herself was still going through an unstable period in her life. The point Yuzuyu’s mother makes is this, she has done everything in her power as a mother to protect her daughter and to put Yuzuyu’s well being above everything else.
After making her case, Kippei’s mother and sister refuse to hand over Yuzuyu and instead, tells her to keep coming back to the house to show how devoted and serious she really is about Yuzuyu. She agrees and prepares to go until Yuzuyu comes down the stairs and sees her mother for the first time. As Yuzuyu tries to go to her, her mother explains she can’t go with her for now but will come back again. Unfortunately, Yuzuyu doesn’t understand and pleads with her mother to take her with her. Yuzuyu watches as her mother leaves her again.
Kippei witnesses Yuzuyu’s heart breaking all over again. He is greatly affected by how much Yuzuyu really wants to be reunited with her mother. It’s in this instance that Kippei makes a definitive decision––he lets Yuzuyu chase after her mother before she gets too far. This is where it’s painfully bittersweet. It’s Kippei and Yuzuyu’s goodbye. He knows the Katakuras can’t possibly keep Yuzuyu away from her mother any longer, and he is reassured his aunt will be the type of mother Yuzuyu needs this time. After all, she does come back for Yuzuyu. There are a lot of tearjerker panels towards the very end. Kippei tells Yuzuyu how much he loves her and simply tells her goodbye with a wistful smile.
Everything that happens in those moments are particularly powerful in my opinion. It’s in these moments where you see how much Kippei has been changed by Yuzuyu. It really hurts him to have to let go of his cousin after looking after her like a mother and father. But like Yuzuyu’s mother, he wants to do what’s best for her. My only complaint is the timing of the goodbye. I really wished Kippei and Yuzuyu didn’t have to do the goodbye on her birthday. The following panels after the goodbye, where Kippei goes back into the house and quietly retreats to his room without saying anything to anybody, you get the image of the birthday cake Kippei made for Yuzuyu in one of the panels. A cake that never got eaten. I nearly cried when I saw that. I couldn’t help but scream, “Why couldn’t Yuzuyu at least eat the cake Kippei made for her? WHY?!” What also really resonates with me are the words Kippei narrates towards the end of the volume as he thinks of Yuzuyu, “Though one day you may forget…deep in my heart you shine on.”
The relationship between Kippei and Yuzuyu is a strong bond of love and deep affection. The words he says indicates how much Yuzuyu will be a huge part of his life forever. He also seems to accept the possibility of Yuzuyu forgetting all he has done for her one day. Of course, there are a few fast forward into the future scenes that wrap up the manga, where you see a grown up Yuzuyu. You find out she hasn’t forgotten her “Big Brother Kippei,” and tells him so in a letter. In a lot of ways, both their lives have changed for the better.
I think the final volume of Aishiteruze Baby has closed out the series nicely. It’s also one of the few shojo mangas out there that doesn’t focus solely on romantic love. Sure, there is romance between Kippei and Kokoro, but at the center of the series is the familial love between Kippei and Yuzuyu. This is what makes the series as a whole a really great read. There isn’t the usual “boy chases after girl” or “girl can’t decide if she loves the hero or not.” What you get is a 17-year-old boy who looks after his cousin, and finds himself learning important life lessons in the process. They may not have thought their lives would involve each other, but they really wouldn’t be where they are now without the other. Life may have gone on without having each other in their lives, but both have left an imprint on their hearts forever.
I highly recommend this manga if you are looking for a different kind of shojo series, and if you want to watch a beautiful family bond grow and develop into a bond that can’t be broken no matter how much time has passed or how far apart you are.
Reviewer Rating: 10/10