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"Kodocha" Vol. 4: Child's Toy for the Whole Family

Sana Kurata, despite only being 12, has accomplished more than most people accomplish in their entire lives. Between being the star of the popular TV series Child’s Toy, appearing in commercials, and attending school full-time, it’s amazing that she still manages to fix every personal problem of those around her. She’s tamed the class lone wolf Akito, unified his family, and given him a personality, as well as helped her manager Rei reunite with his long lost love. Now she faces the task of finding out what’s troubling her meek fiend Tsuyoshi and setting things right. The last volume ended with him disappearing from school, so let’s see what his deal is!

The first episode picks up where the previous left off, with Sana and Akito in search of answers to Tsuyoshi’s dilemma. Akito learns that Tsuyoshi’s parents have divorced, and they head to his father’s house for answers. What they learn is unpleasant, as Tsuyoshi’s father acts very uncaringly about the fact that his wife and children have left. Despite Sana’s suspicion that the man may care more than he lets on, she and Akito continue on to Tsuyoshi’s new home to pay him a visit. Upon arrival, Sana and Akito help Tsuyoshi’s family unpack and settle in. While his sister and mother settle into their new home, Tsuyoshi settles into his new position as “man of the house.” The divorce has affected him deeply but he resolves to be strong for his family. Simply put, this is a “nice” episode full of positive messages about courage. Many families go through divorce, and it’s encouraging to see someone as timid as Tsuyoshi stepping up to the challenge. The moving-in scene is funny, and it’s nice to see similarly timid schoolgirl Aya confess her love to Tsuyoshi and have him accept it. And thus a new relationship is born!

Next is a two-part story about the beginning of Sana’s summer vacation. Her class is going on a camping trip, but her mood is soured when her mother tells her beforehand that within days, she will be writing a biography of Sana’s life. Doing her best to forget about whatever secrets Momma might reveal, Sana puts on her best face and goes on the trip. It isn’t until Zenjiro and the cast of Child’s Toy arrives to film a special episode that Sana’s worries begin to set in. Chasing Akito and falling down into the same ravine that he did, she expresses her discomfort of the idea of a biography to him. There is a great payoff for the series thus far as Akito expresses his gratitude and amazement at all that Sana has done for him over the months. After eventually freeing themselves from the ravine, Sana and Akito return home in time for her to shoot more commercials and prepare for a play with famous pretty boy Naozumi. These two episodes, despite the ominous tones of Momma’s biography looming, manage to get back to the lighthearted comedy elements that I feel is the true strength of Kodocha.

The final episode of Volume 4 is all about Sana’s play with Naozumi. Everyone from her school attends it, including Zenjiro. Akito begins to express quite a bit of jealousy at Naozumi and how close he seems to hover around Sana. While all of that is going on, Rei desperately tries to figure out what the mysterious secret about Sana’s absent father is, and what potentially career damaging information Momma could be putting into her book. This is another hilarious episode that proves that Zenjiro deserves as much screen time as possible. While I’ve yet to warm up to the inclusion of Naozumi in the cast, his revelation that he knows Sana’s “secret” is worth it.

For once, an extra feature on an anime DVD is worth it. The interview with series director Akitaro Daichi lends a great air of authenticity to the release. While the interview itself doesn’t reveal anything particularly shocking, its inclusion is a nice glimpse into the creation of Kodocha. The other extra of note is the episode commentary by the dub VAs, this time featuring the voices of Babbit and Aya. While, again, there is nothing particularly shocking about it, it’s definitely funny and great to hear the actors’ real voices and their insights on their characters.

Kodocha Volume 4 continues the trend of family friendly comedy mixed with plausible, real-life drama. If ever there was a show I could recommend to the entire family, this would be it. All I can say is that the wait between volumes proves consistently worth it, and I can’t wait for the next one and the secret of Sana’s father!

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