What’s it about? Single dad Goto Kakushi desperately loves his five-year-old daughter Hime. But, while he would do anything for her, he also has been keeping a secret from her: he draws manga for a living. Not just any manga, but a gag manga brimming with crude sexual humor. He’s terrified that if she ever finds out, she’ll lose all respect for him. And so, every day, he dresses up in a suit and tie, changes into his shorts and t-shirt at his studio, and then changes back before going home. But Hime is a curious sort, and keeping her from finding out is proving to be quite the challenge!
Yes, hello, it is I, the single dad anime reviewer. I reviewed Somali and the Forest Spirit, I reviewed If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord, and now I’m reviewing Kakushigoto. What can I say? We all have our niches.
Mangaka Kumeta Kouji has had a few of his manga adapted into anime, but easily the best-known one is Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Kakushigoto bears some resemblance to its predecessor, especially with Kumeta’s distinctive art style. It also has the same highly allusive, often bizarre sense of humor, but I wouldn’t expect the Venn Diagram of people who like the two series to be a perfect circle. Kakushigoto is sweeter, softer, gentler, and the first episode was a delight to watch.
What makes Kakushigoto work where other single dad anime have failed (including, sadly, Somali and the Forest Spirit, which I dropped halfway through) is its balance of the razor-sharp comedy about Goto’s work, the sweeter bits focusing on Hime, and the comedic misunderstandings that stem from a five-year-old trying to figure out the world. Kumeta, as a manga author himself, finds plenty to skewer about his own field, both through Goto himself and the people he works with. My personal favorite of the bunch is Kakei Ami, his sharp-tongue female assistant who loudly criticizes capitalist faux-meritocracies, because I am nothing if not predictable. What can I say? I like what I like.
On the spectrum of anime children, from “completely realistic and believable” to “might as well be a sedated kitten,” Hime falls pretty squarely in the middle, which is good enough for me. She’s neither obnoxiously sassy and precocious nor boringly obedient and “pwecious,” which is a big relief. She’s cute and curious and trying to figure out the rules of the world, which can be tricky when your dad is keeping key details of his life hidden. As is often the case in anime, she and her friends have way more freedom than I’m accustomed to five-year-olds having, which leads to them getting into misadventures and scrapes. Kumeta’s genre-savviness – the show remarks on how easily young children form detective agencies, a mainstay of shows about ensembles of kid – keeps things interesting, but not overly winky.
One thing that did bother me throughout the episode was that I had no idea where Hime’s mom is. She seems to have given birth and then, having performed her function, disappeared into the ether. Goto is clearly Hime’s biological father, since the first scene is him holding her just after she’s born, so it’s not one of those cases where the dad ends up adopting a daughter (it’s always a daughter, of course) through happenstance, but he doesn’t seem to be grieving his wife either. Are they divorced? Is she still there and just not a very present parent? What’s happening?
Speculating about the mystery of Mrs. Goto reminds me of the ultimate purpose of most single dad anime, and why the kids tend to be so idealized. The primary affective goal isn’t about the father and the daughter as characters; it’s about their relationship. Specifically, it’s mostly for a male audience to project themselves onto the main character and indulge in the fantasy how nice it would be to have an adorable, obedient daughter. It’s the same kind of energy that gives the world things like father-daughter dances, with an extra layer of abstraction. It’s about experiencing the warm fuzzy feels of fatherhood without the messiness and exhaustion of having an actual child.
Sorry, I’m being kind of a downer here. I just got to thinking about why it’s always single dad anime and never single mom or happily married parents anime. Kakushigoto may indulge in a bit of fantasization about the nature of the father-daughter bond, but it’s certainly not the most egregious example, and it’s low on the creepiness factor that haunts some of the worst ones. Its razor-sharp wit and observational humor keep things fresh and funny, and there’s just enough edge to avoid dipping into saccharine territory. It seems likely this one will draw a dedicated following.