REVIEW: Buddy Daddies was Made for Me and I Love It

Season aired: Winter 2023

Number of episodes: 12

Watched on: Crunchyroll

Translated by: ?

Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama

Thoughts: When Buddy Daddies was announced, the entire anime community assumed it would just be a gay SPY x FAMILY. Their premises do hold similarities. Two people in espionage-like jobs adopt a precocious child, and the story follows their everyday shenanigans afterward. The thing is, Buddy Daddies doesn’t resemble the more popular SPY x FAMILY in almost any other way than the beginning shallow premise. It’s a story about two assassin partners with traumatic pasts, who found each other and lived comfortably enough supporting each other until a little girl crashes into their lives. This unforeseen circumstance forces them to confront the pasts they’ve run away from and actively heal into better people devoted to each other and their adopted girl. Its themes, characters, and even story cannot be more different than SPY x FAMILY, and as it happens, Buddy Daddies fits my tastes more.

The first thing I liked about this anime is the violence portrayed. While it’s one thing to simply hear about a character’s unsavory job, it’s another to actually see it. Shows like The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting tell us how the protagonists do dirty work—Toru Kirishima is part of the yakuza, and we see him threaten someone at the beginning—but the majority of the time, they tend to focus on their softer, loving side. Buddy Daddies, on the other hand, throws us right in by showing the two dads murdering their targets with little remorse. This isn’t just a one-off either. Throughout the entire series, the show ensures that we remember just how dangerous these two men are. They have a kill count, and the number is quite high.

He will shoot and kill even at a disadvantage

Yet, we’re never made to dislike the dads either. Despite all the murders they commit, viewers know they’re good parents. This makes every action they take with Miri, the little girl they adopt, feel more impactful. We know there’s danger lurking around the corner because of what they do, and every peaceful second they find with the girl counts.

However, the best thing about this anime isn’t the blend of action and slice-of-life elements but the actual character development. Both characters suffer from extreme trauma: Kazuki watched his pregnant wife blow up in front of him as a casualty of a botched mission, and Rei is haunted by the actions of his abusive father. The two men undoubtedly help each other with their issues when they team up as an assassin duo, but it isn’t until Miri enters their lives that they’re forced to really confront what their pasts have done to them and how they need to move on if they want to continue to raise her.

This leads to some powerful scenes with impactful dialogue. “Memories are not a prison” is my favorite example as I’ve never heard something so eloquently summarized about how trauma keeps people trapped. Another notable moment was when Rei confronts his father for all the abuse he endured. Throughout the series, Rei is the one more likely to pull the trigger if it means solving a problem. However, in his biggest confrontation, he spends it talking — emphasizing the love and warmth he has learned by being with Kazuki and Miri, and ending with a powerful insult by calling his abuser, “father,” for the first and last time.

One of my favorite lines of dialogue

A bonus for this series is its intimate look at childrearing in Japan. Every country has its cultural quirks to raising children, but this is my first time seeing so many put so plainly on-screen. Kazuki and Rei are the only men taking Miri to school – something the moms of a daycare actively complain about in a group text, wishing their husbands would be more like the two assassin dads. This directly reflects how Japanese men statistically are significantly less involved in their children’s lives than women are. Once a kid enrolls in daycare, there’s an entire list of very specific supplies you must procure – some of which are required to be hand-sewn. The dads learned those specific requests the hard way by spending the entire night sewing and hurting themselves to get Miri everything she needs for school. In an interview, the production team revealed that to properly write what it was like to raise children, they called upon the various staff members who have children to ensure the authenticity of the portrayal. The research paid off because those were the moments I found most fascinating in the series.

If the story has any weakness, it would be the antagonists. Ogino and Rei’s father are given very little characterization aside from their villainy, and Ogino in particular can feel very cartoonish in his evilness when standing next to the complex protagonists. It wasn’t enough for me to dislike their characters, but more could’ve been done to flesh them out – especially Rei’s father, who isn’t just a pure psychopath; rather, he has some deeper elements to delve into as an abusive father who thinks what he’s doing is right.

Ogino

Part of the reason why I ultimately didn’t care about Ogino’s lack of characterization is because of how well the fights were choreographed, especially those involving him. Multiple episodes left me breathless with adrenaline as the daddies fight their way through danger and kill their targets. The two aren’t just shooting from the bushes. They’re disguising themselves, using hand-to-hand combat in close quarters, and getting creative in strategizing on the fly when faced with particularly difficult opponents. One fight lasts only seconds while another one lasts almost the entire episode, yet both felt equally important and impactful because of how real they look.

Soundtrack also lends itself to the story. The fight scenes are often accompanied by Hollywood movie music, with an addictive chorus-sung “Buddy Daddies” whenever fights are going their way. Then, the music cuts and switches to a minor key with heavier instrumentation when the dads find themselves in danger. There’s also a piano motif that works exceptionally well for emotional moments, whether happy or sad.

But the best part of the more technical observations of the anime is the voice acting. Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Kouki Uchiyama play off of each other’s voices and chemistry perfectly. Their tones encapsulate the different personalities of the two characters from the silliest to the saddest scenes. Hina Kino voices Miri, and while she can’t quite compare to Atsumi Tanezaki’s iconic performance as Anya Forger, she pulls off the small child voice to the point that sometimes I forget Miri isn’t voiced by an actual child.

A happy family

Of course, what people care most about is Kazuki and Rei’s relationship. Are they actually a couple? Or is the anime going to pull every romantic trope possible between the characters and then add in a quick, “but they’re not a thing,” like so many other anime do with two male leads? I simply look back to the theme. At the end of the day, this is a story of two men, both from rough pasts, who found each other, saved each other, and then grew together as devoted dads through the introduction of a little girl who loves them unconditionally and wants them to all stay together forever. Take that as you will.

Rating

Plot: 8.5 (Multiplier 3.5)

Characters: 8.5 (Multiplier 3.5)

Voice acting: 8.5

Art/Animation: 6.5

Soundtrack: 8

FINAL SCORE: 82.5

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