By Benny Carrillo / March 3rd, 2015
Children are some of the hardest characters to write.
We’ve all seen a favorite show or game ruined somewhat for us by an annoying child character either because they’re just written badly or because the actor just can’t act. So, often in anime and games, child characters are made to be really simple, or to act beyond their age so you forget they’re a kid.
Listen To Me, Girls. I am Your Father!, however, decides to not only tackle this challenge head on, it decides to do it with a three-year-old… and win!
Hina Takanashi is the youngest of the three Takanashi sisters. The elder two being ten-year-old Miu and fourteen-year-old Sora, and, for those sharp-eyed readers out there, yes, there is a reason they don’t exactly look alike.
For those of you who don’t know, Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! or Listen To Me, Girls. I am Your Father! is a popular light novel series in Japan that revolves around these three sisters and their adoptive guardian, Yuuta Segawa. This quintessential Slice of Life series was adopted into an anime in 2012, and is the version we’ll be discussing here.
After the obligatory setup, the plot begins with Yuuta being asked by his sister to visit and suddenly finds himself tasked with watching the three girls for the day. From the get-go, the writers clearly establish we’re dealing with an actual three-year-old by having Hina refer to him as “Uncles,” think he’s stealing her toy trumpet (and then being amused when he can play it only to almost burst in to tears when she finds she can’t) and then start sobbing when he beats her in a video game.
Already from reading this, you might think that this character is horribly annoying. However, what makes Hina work is the fact that the writers carefully balance the annoying characteristics of a child character with that natural cuteness kids tend to have at that age. It’s the pure simplicity of the character that actually makes Hina endearing and complex, though I must also point out that the writers are very careful not to overexpose the audience to her.
After this impromptu babysitting session, Yuuta finds out the real reason his sister asked him to come over was to see if he would be willing to watch the girls for a week while she and her husband go on a much-belayed honeymoon abroad. The two having not gone on one since they were married over three years ago.
With some coaxing from the girls, Yuuta agrees to the job, and it seems like we’ll be following Yuuta’s week of watching the girls. Then the plane Yuuta’s sister is on goes down over the ocean…
Suddenly, the three girls find themselves as orphans and about to be split up amongst the remaining family until Yuuta declares he will take the three in so they can stay together. Did I forget to mention that Yuuta is a college student who works a part-time job and lives in a tiny one-room apartment?
Shenanigans ensue, and Yuuta ends up having the girls move in with him as they somehow try to find a way to make this very awkward living arrangement work. It’s here, though, that we really start to see Hina shine through.
Hina very much acts as the heart of the group, bringing their spirits up with her cuteness and sunny disposition. In fact, this becomes the saving grace of the group at a few points as it seems the audience isn’t the only one who is susceptible to Hina.
Another thing that the helps flesh Hina out is the fact she sees the stay at Yuuta’s as just one big adventure where she’s making lots of friends and having fun. She is oblivious to the true gravity of the situation as she enjoys her day-to-day life with her new family, while she awaits the return of her mother and father.
This causes one very dark question to loom over the series as Yuuta, Sora and Miu have to try and figure out a way to explain to Hina that her parents aren’t coming home. While I won’t spoil the end result of this particular plot thread, what I will say that not only is it addressed, but resolved quite well and in a way that actually makes a lot of sense.
In the end, Hina works so well because the writers decided to take a chance and explore how a family tragedy would affect a child so young, and the amount of thought put into that topic shows. However, most of all, they allowed her to be a kid. They allowed that natural charm to shine through and give us a character that could not only lighten up even the darkest of moods, but tug at your heartstrings until the very end.
In the end I think we can all agree with Raika on this…
Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! is available on Amazon:
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