Buddy Daddies Episode 1
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In their place, a mysterious new character takes care of the situation. Barely introduced halfway through the episode as another assassin, Ogino Ryo is the protagonist of a blood-curling post-credit scene that presents him as a true villain.
Buddy Daddies mostly does it well, although it almost lost me at episode two. We meet our primary duo, Kazuki and Rei, in the midst of completing a hit and quickly learn that they are also the guardians of four-year-old Miri, the daughter of a human trafficker they murdered while Kazuki was dressed as Santa. Kazuki still has a soft spot for kids and was once upon a time an expectant father. Rei is more cat than human and sleeps in a bathtub. The pair of assassins live together in a pretty luxurious apartment and are now saddled with Miri, who firmly believes Kazuki is her dad (there is more than a passing resemblance).
Neither adult is out and out cruel to Miri even though she's a wrench in what was a well-oiled killing machine. She's a nuisance in ways that are very typical for her age: insisting on playing when the grown-ups need to get something done, wanting to "help" with tasks that are outside of her abilities, and isn't above incessantly kicking and stomping around to get what she wants. Most of her antics walk that difficult line between cute and obnoxious, which is perfect because while most kids are adorable, it's that same energy that makes them exhausting. However, Buddy Daddies stretched my suspension of disbelief in episode two, where Kazuki and Rei have to take Miri along on a hit. Most of Kazuki's infiltration attempt goes according to plan until Miri gums it up. This culminates with Rei walking through a wide-open backyard with a rifle and opening fire through glass doors. An unknowable number of mobsters (at least five?) return fire but fail to hit him despite the fact he has no cover and is approaching them in a steady, straight line. Kazuki and Miri escape by running through the line of fire and also not getting hit. Miri has absolutely no reaction to the gunfire at all.
Fortunately, episode three shifted gears and added some much-needed emotional weight to the proceedings. The narrative wants to communicate the idea of what makes someone a parent and affirms that blood relationships aren't necessary. We get a better idea of who Kazuki and Rei are, what they're missing from their lives, and the kind of life Miri had prior to her "adoption." Kazuki is an orphan who may or may not have lost his pregnant wife after a car bomb was planted under his car. Rei appears to have come from a mafia family that included some pretty terrifying grooming from his father. Both men have some deep-seated issues around the concept of a family, and it's Miri, who doesn't even know she was abandoned, that teaches them both what it means to be a Papa.
I'll admit I got pretty choked up in certain parts of this episode, although it was hardly doing anything profound with its story. We have a traumatized guy sleeping in a bathtub so he can fake out any would-be intruders and another man who won't let go (nor admit) of his dream of everyday family life. Kazuki tries to reunite Miri with her mom, but she's a drunk working in a club whose only allegiance is to her boss, who smacks her around. There's nothing but resentment in her voice as she recalls daily care for her child. She internalized Miri's happy interactions with her as a mockery. She shouldn't have been a mother, and with abortion laws being what they are in Japan, she very likely could have gotten one without issue, but that's another conversation. Regardless, the story's framing up to this point is supposed to make us sympathize with Miri (and I do) while also casting a shadow of judgment on her mother. I would have liked to see more nuance and empathy here in what is often a more complicated emotional situation.
From a production standpoint, Buddy Daddies consistently looks nice to exceptional. The action sequences in the first episode were stellar but could have been more memorable and well utilized in its second outing. Miri's variety of humorous faces aren't Anya tier but are equally cute and expressive. I'm a big fan of the show's score, which appears to be influenced by 70s buddy-cop features. The backgrounds are colorful, and I'm impressed with the thought that went into designing the layout of Rei's expensive condo.
I don't know where Buddy Daddies will go from here; I can only guess we'll eventually see the return of the hitman introduced in episode two. Now that Miri and her two Papas are firmly established, I'm hoping they up the action in the next episode and present some more narrative to chew on.
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