Spoilers for Buddy Daddies
When Buddy Daddies first aired, many anime fans described it as “the gay version of Spy X Family” for its similarities in depicting two adults (in this case, two male assassins) adopting a child for practical reasons to create an unconventional, but unexpectedly loving family. These comparisons largely dried up when it became clear that the show was not depicting a romantic relationship between the two male leads—not even to queerbait or ship-tease them. Despite the lack of a love story between the protagonists, however, Buddy Daddies can still be read as a queer series. While queer relationships in mainstream media are often defined by romantic and sexual attraction, Buddy Daddies stands out because it examines queerplatonic relationships, which is rarely depicted even in LGBTQIA+ storytelling.
Within aromantic and asexual communities, a queerplatonic relationship (QPR) is defined as an intimate committed relationship which is not romantic in nature. For many aro/ace folks who experience little to no romantic and/or sexual attraction, queerplatonic relationships involve a level of commitment and emotional intimacy that appears similar to conventional romantic relationships. As Julie Sondra Decker wrote in The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality, a QPR “looks indistinguishable from romance when outside the equation,” but should not be “assigned a romantic status if participants say it is not romantic.” Based on this definition, Kazuki and Rei’s relationship can be interpreted as a QPR, having a deep and meaningful relationship without the specific elements of romantic and/or sexual intimacy.
Buddy Daddies starts off introducing Kazuki and Rei as two highly paid assassins living together in a lavish apartment. It’s immediately established they don’t have meaningful connections with anyone because of their jobs. They primarily focus on earning money to maintain their stagnant lifestyle while they live separate private lives (Kazuki has casual hookups with women and Rei plays video games all day). That all changes when they kill a human trafficker on Christmas Eve and end up adopting his young biological daughter, Miri, because they feel responsible for her well-being.
Even though Kazuki and Rei had the best intentions, they both slowly realize how challenging it is to raise a child. They quickly learn she can’t be left home alone since their home isn’t childproof and she quickly finds Rei’s hidden weaponry. Bringing her to work is not an option, either, as when they attempt this she exposes them and the trio has to quickly escape. Thankfully, Miri wasn’t hurt in either situation, but both force the assassins to reconsider their roles as carers. Rather than backing out of their new “mission” as co-parents, however, they double down and dedicate themselves to working together to make sure Miri is safe and taken care of. The anime dedicates a surprising amount of time to the strenuous amount of paperwork needed to be filled out in order to find an appropriate daycare for Miri and difficulties of preparing her school supplies.
Both Kazuki and Rei grew up in abusive home environments that leave them unprepared for parenthood. Kazuki was an orphan and always desired to have a happy family, which he almost had with his wife, Yuzuko. Unfortunately, while he was chasing his target on a mission his pregnant wife got caught up in the chase and died in a car explosion. As for Rei, he was born into an assassin family and was forced into a violent upbringing because his father wanted to destroy his tender and kind side so that he could become a heartless killer.
Kazuki and Rei’s trauma comes out in different ways while they are raising Miri, but because of their experiences they both know their violent upbringings isn’t something they want for her. Despite making mistakes along the way, they both take their responsibilities as co-parents seriously by sharing household chores and childcare (work that’s usually relegated to female caretakers). Neither of them know what “traditional” heteronormative parenting looks like and that format would not apply here anyway, essentially meaning they must learn how to balance raising Miri as equals outside the traditional, gendered expectations of parenthood.
The anime shows the pair communicating and working hard to figure out a balance of shared responsibility: Kazuki gets frustrated with Rei since he initially wasn’t putting in the same effort as him in taking care of daily tasks like cooking and preparing Miri for school. As a result of Kazuki taking a “day off,” Rei becomes primarily responsible for Miri’s daily care and learns just how difficult it is, especially when she gets sick. Rei isn’t perfect, but he ultimately tries his best for Miri by making sure she gets proper medical care and stays by her sickbed holding her hand. Because of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, cis men often aren’t taught the value of domestic work and childcare. By depicting Kazuki and Rei learning to appreciate those responsibilities, Buddy Daddies is effectively normalizing cis men taking on “feminized labor.” Because nothing about the scenario—two assassins with tragic backstories spontaneously adopting the child of one of their targets!—is “normal” in the first place, this narrative has the opportunity to skew social norms and show its characters finding happiness outside of them.
Kazuki and Rei are sensitive to Miri’s feelings and always try to communicate with her through ways that are comfortable for her. The “non-traditional” family structure they created is not only healing for Miri, but it’s healing for Kazuki and Rei because all they’ve known is abuse and neglect. For many queer folks who are often rejected from their “traditional” nuclear family dynamics, this point reinforces how chosen families can be equal to, or often a better alternative, to the nuclear family structures we often see in mainstream media. There are a few instances in the series when people react oddly to Miri having two male figures as her parents, but the moment Miri’s asked by her teacher how she feels about her dads, she reacts positively, showing she doesn’t have a problem with her family situation.
Despite the show’s progressive themes, it stumbles in its portrayal of Miri’s mom, Misaki. There isn’t anything wrong with depicting that moms can also be abusive and abandon their children, but Misaki isn’t given a chance to have a proper character development and reflect on her life after finding out she’s diagnosed with throat cancer. Sadly, she’s brutally murdered by Rei’s father who was targeting Miri since he wanted to sever all of Rei’s personal connections outside of the assassin organization. It almost feels like Misaki dies for the sake of highlighting the chosen family narrative and moving the plot forward, unfortunately evoking the trope of the woman who gets “fridged” in service of the main male characters’ storyline.
Even with these somewhat sexist issues taken into account, Buddy Daddies is still worth celebrating for its desire to examine overtly queerplationic relationships and alternative family structures. Kazuki and Rei love the joy and warmth they experience with Miri and they’re determined to stay together as a family. In order to ensure the safety of their family, they prepare to quit their assassin jobs and begin a new life. Kazuki was able to get his former sister-in-law’s blessing to move on with his life after they both came to terms with his deceased wife’s death. As for Rei, he directly confronts his father and gives a powerful speech about what family means to him and ends his speech by shooting his right arm so that he can never hold weapons ever again and effectively becomes useless to his father’s organization.
Rei is willing to put his life on the line for the sake of protecting his family and walks away from his toxic past in order to achieve the peaceful life he always wanted. Kazuki and Rei’s personal journeys show that, even if it isn’t easy, it’s entirely possible to end generational trauma and create a happier future for the next generation with the family you choose—a theme that resonates with a lot of queer narrative. In the final scene of the series, there’s a timeskip that shows Kazuki and Rei running a cafe and Miri as a lively teenager happily taking a picture with her parents.
Even though Buddy Daddies isn’t the blatantly homoromantic series that most queer alloromantic folks wanted, it still conveyed Kazuki and Rei’s relationship as absolutely queer—just through a different and often less recognizable framework. There’s plenty in this series that will resonate with queer audiences: the characters are able to confront and walk away from their traumatic pasts so that they can create a safe home for their daughter. The struggles and tribulations they experienced throughout the series shows that chosen families are no less valid and loving than nuclear families.
Chosen families are the backbone of queer and trans communities trying to survive a world that doesn’t want them to exist, so for Buddy Daddies to effortlessly depict how powerful those familial bonds are is beautiful. The timeskip ending also shows that there is a future in these alternative family structures, and that narratives about them don’t have to be defined by tragedy. While it has its flaws, Buddy Daddies is a sweet and fun series that speaks to a queer experience that’s deeply underrepresented in the media, and I hope it starts conversations about QPRs and helps open the door to more being depicted.