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The Psychology Behind Childhood Trauma

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The titular character of Kotaro lives alone might first strike the viewer as another in a long line of adorably precocious animated children, walking around with their overly polite ways and behaving more responsibly than their adult neighbors.

However, the anime soon turns out to be a study in abuse and neglect, showing some of anime’s darker shades. In fact, almost all of Kotaro’s behavior can be attributed to this.

RELATED: Kotaro lives alone and the problem of lost children in Japan


Parentification: adulthood gone wrong

Kotaro lives alone

One of the main sources of comedy in Kotaro lives alone is the fact that when juxtaposed with his adult neighbors, Kotaro takes care of himself and his surroundings much more responsibly. He bathes regularly, cooks meals for himself, keeps a spotless house, takes out the trash, and generally seems like a pro at “adulting.” It’s nice until you think about why.

This type of hyper-responsibility, especially in such a young one, is a sign of parentification: a form of abuse where the child takes on the roles and responsibilities of the parent, usually because the parent is incapable due to substance abuse. of alcohol or drugs, negligence, or otherwise abusive. Children who experience this form of abuse are often portrayed as mature for their age or old soul, when in reality they simply have no choice in the matter and have they were robbed of their childhood and replaced by the drudgery and responsibilities of adults who simply can’t or won’t do these tasks.

overwhelming loneliness


In Kotaro’s case, part of the reason he’s so responsible is that there’s no one else to do these things. After all, he lives alone. This, in itself in such a young child, is defined as abusive due to the resulting loneliness and lack of care. Kotaro cooks elaborate meals to combat those feelings of loneliness and talks to dishes for companionship. He uses cute disguises to get a series of balloons he calls father, mother, brother, sister and ties to his waist so he can spend a “family” day at the park. He tricks a con man into calling him all afternoon just because he looks a bit like Kotaro’s dad, then asks the man to say “Good job”. before hanging up for the last time. He’s a child who is desperately aloneis used to it, and it’s only as the series progresses that he begins to notice that it’s not normal.

RELATED: What happened to Kotaro’s family?

One of the most poignant examples of this is when Kotaro spends the day with his kindergarten buddy Takuya who “runs away”. Not only does Kotaro not really understand what “running away” entails since it’s okay to be without adult supervision, but he spends his time tending to Takuya and reminding him that he has chance. It’s not until they return home at night, and Takuya is frightened by the emptiness he makes, that Kotaro seems to truly sense the difference and realizes that unlike his friend, there is no one there. to worry or care about him. .until the (comical) appearance of relief from his neighbor Shin Karino, frantic with worry that Kotaro had left his usual haunts.

The aftermath of the famine

Kotaro Sato Mizuki Akitomo (Kotaro Lives Alone)

But sheer loneliness isn’t the only form of abuse Kotaro experiences. One of the first clues is Kotaro’s fascination with expensive, high-quality tissue paper over cheaper or fun childlike character brands. He reads labels carefully and only buys the most expensive ones, saying they are “milder”. After a news report suggested to Karino that sometimes neglected children eat tissue paper to surviveand Kotaro tragically reads the ingredients as nutrition labels, his neighbor tries to talk him out of buying the more expensive brand, reminding Kotaro that he is now in control of his food and never needs to eat any more. silk paper.

Other habits that indicate his near-starvation are the fact that he regularly forages in the woods for edible green vegetables to ensure that the money he receives from the allowance of a “kind benefactor” (in reality his deceased mother’s life insurance) goes further. At one point, he encounters an older boy who is also looking for food while caring for two younger siblings who are literally crying from hunger. The boy, angry at being abandoned by his mother for at least a month, leaves the children in Kotaro’s care for hours just so he can take a break, and when Kotaro finds him eating a bag chips, younger children treat it as such. was manna from heaven. They argue but when Kotaro returns to see how they are, they are gone – suppressed by Child Services. Unlike Kotaro’s neighbors, these kids’ neighbors just gossiped about them. Kotaro can however help his friend Takuya, whom he teaches how fish and cook crayfish After worrying that Takuya seems unable to survive without much help from other people. What would he do if he was left alone, like Kotaro? Another quietly heartbreaking episode about hunger begins with the contrary realization by Kotaro’s neighbors that he has put on a lot of weight. The reason? There’s a new food program at school and all the other kids give him their leftovers. He eats, even if he doesn’t really want to, because he can’t let the food go to waste.

The psychological legacy of neglect

Kotaro-Lives-Alone feature

But again, abandonment and hunger aren’t Kotaro’s only problems. There’s also emotional abuse from his mother, though Kotaro doesn’t acknowledge it as such. Kotaro allows himself to get punched repeatedly in the face while learning to play dodgeball rather than not coming back or responding to an “overture” from one of his fledgling friends…because he remembers that his mother never responded to any of his overtures and how painful it was. In fact, it is revealed that she only touched him while wearing gloves. He clings to the Tonosaman cartoon because there was a time when it was the only thing he could turn to for advice on how to handle the world, despite claiming he was too old for it. now. He is quite frantic when he miss a bath for a day because at one point it was left so dirty that it prompted comments from other people. This also ties into how he acquires a set of shirts from a designer he knew in the past who noticed that Kotaro would come to his door in dirty, torn clothes. His cute and mature cleanliness habits, the sweet and fun way he uses the language of a feudal lord, basically most of Kotaro’s behaviors are rooted in abuse and neglect.

Physical abuse and self-blame

kotaro functionality

But worse is, of course, the physical abuse involved in her relationship with her father. Kotaro is hiding from his father, an abusive alcoholic who kicked him out of his group home just before Kotaro moved into the apartment complex on his own. He was found via a photo, and that’s why Kotaro runs away or covers his face or jumps up and down to destroy any image taken of him, even though he regrets not having photos of rare good ones. times.

When neighbor and nightclub hostess Mizuki Akitomo tries to cover a bruise Given by an abusive ex-boyfriend, Kotaro immediately admits she was beaten and insists that walking away is the only way to end the violence.

Here, the story fails while remaining faithful to the psychology of the character. Kotaro eventually manages to guilt Mizuki into leaving by saying he left because he didn’t want to be responsible for turning someone (his father) into a villain. This of course places the blame for the assault on the victim, as if their very presence turns normally good people into abusive demons like werewolves transforming under the moon. This belief is of course FALSE and terrible to hear reproduced in an anime, but it is very common among people who have been abused, and even those who hear about it. If she hadn’t led him…if he hadn’t been smart…if they weren’t there somehow, it’s clear that this person would have been an angel. This is a false, widespread and very dangerous belief.

In all other hands, and under any other treatment, it would be a harrowing story of abuse and neglect, rather than falling under the label of a slice-of-life comedy. As it stands, the series gently introduces the idea of ​​the different ways children can be abused, as well as its prevalence in mainstream society. By showing Kotaro in his larger environment and placing his experience of domestic violence within the larger context of his interactions with the outside world, Kotaro lives alone invites the viewer to consider their own situation and that of the people in their life and gives them the opportunity to recognize abuse in its many forms.

Following: anime children’s four horsemen

Source: ParentingforBrain, SandstoneBlog

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