Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

Sometimes in A Centaur’s Life, we are bluntly told about the social and political rules of the universe we are watching. Characters explain clearly or we see educational material. Sometimes there are voice overs. But where the show really shines is when it shows rather than tells. And while the premise of the most recent episode is simple—childhood development and learning—it also produces the best episode of the series yet.

A Centaur’s Life takes place in an alternate universe where human evolution and development was very different. The series revolves around a group of high school students who are various types of mythical creature. This includes centaurs (the titular character is named Himeno), satyrs, fawns, mermaids, angels, and draconoids.

And the series, as both Ken and I have discovered, is a non-stop smorgasbord of social studies. It deals with political science, history, sociology, civil rights, and psychology. As a social studies teacher in Japan, no series could be better suited to me as a reviewer.

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I’ve loved almost every episode of A Centaur’s Life so far, and I’m incredibly glad that every episode has something I feel I can dig into and write about. Most recently, with episode 11, we have an episode that focuses on the dissemination of culturally and socially important information to children. Maybe childhood development and educational psychology is boring for some, but as a teacher, it’s endlessly fascinating to me. And I’ve often wondered, with so many body shapes, so many differences, how do children get their information about society and world around them?

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

While, of course, we would assume that such information might come from school or from parents, we see the important role that siblings, and especially older siblings, play in passing down this key social information.

As with most episodes of A Centaur’s Life, the narration style jumps. It’s divided into two different situations, but both of these situations center around the common theme of the regular characters (in this case Himeno and Tama) casually informing and instructing younger children on cultural and social realities. Himeno takes the role of big sister to her kindergarten age cousin, Shino, and Tama of course has her four younger sisters: the “Chi-chan” triplets and Sue. 

Given the wide variety of potential genetic expressions in phenotypes including tails, wings, extra limbs, etc. humanity has come up with ingenious designs in clothing. Every child has something different they must learn to use.

Children who are slightly older often will demonstrate newly acquired information to younger children or children who just don’t know it yet. While the triplets certainly learned control from Tama (who doesn’t have a tail, with a full angel gene expression unlike her youngest sister Sue), they then attempt to teach Sue. But, of course, they don’t do it very well. 

Likewise we see a discussion of grasses and flowers between Himeno and Shino. Himeno often babysits for her aunt and uncle by taking care of Shino. Also, she genuinely seems to love and dote on her cousin. So, they spend a lot of time together. This means that Shino asks Himeno a lot of questions and Himeno also periodically offers up interesting tidbits of information.

Shino then models her behavior after Himeno, and when she goes to either pre-school or kindergarten (it’s probably pre-school, based on the smocks), she repeats everything Himeno says to younger students. She even mimics Himeno’s behavior. While she is teaching her younger classmates important information, she also is practicing what it means to be an older person herself. As she tells Himeno, “it’s hard work being a big sister. You have to know many things.”

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

We still don’t know precisely what has happened to Tama’s mother, but it has been made clear several times throughout the series that she is the “adult” of her household. Her father is a conflicted artist type, and seems to struggle with work, art, and general adult responsibility. It seems with instruction, too, his absence is felt. That role falls to Tama. While she lectures him in private, she defends him publicly. When the triplets (already old enough to recognize complex human relationships) are negative towards him, she admonishes them, and reminds them that their father deserves respect because he is head of the household. 

Tama is my favorite character for so many reasons, and a big part of it is the role she plays in her family, and specifically the role she plays for the Chi-chan triplets and Sue. I love the casual hints we’ve received about her romantic and/or sexual orientation. I also love the idea that while she is a shrine maiden, which is a source of income for her family, she’s also secretly an atheist (despite being an angel).

I love Tama because she has the hardest role of all of the characters in A Centaur’s Life, yet she almost never complains. Even when she lectures her father, she does so out of obligation, responsibility, and duty. Just as she strives to set a good example for her sisters, she pushes her father to make him a better person. She does not whine—she just does.

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While her younger sisters may not realize it, in Tama, they have both a mother and an older sister. Although it must be incredibly stressful on Tama, especially as a teenager with responsibilities at school, friends, and even a romantic interest, her attention to her sisters will no doubt produce great results.

It’s absolutely true that outside factors, especially in a household, directly affect the type of learning results from early childhood on. Children with poor household situations even in early childhood struggle to catch up even after the problem may be resolved. 

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

With no mother and an irresponsible almost absentee father, it’s hard to think that the triplets or Sue (who is often ill for reasons we don’t really know) would be able to succeed. Tama shoulders responsibility far beyond her years, and in many ways seems to be sacrificing her own carefree youth for her sisters. That’s the kind of unconditional love you rarely see in adolescents, as it takes time to fully develop. Both Shino and Tama’s sisters have an equally excellent shot at educational success, but we see the toil that Tama takes on to make it happen. Shino can rely not just on Himeno, but also her own parents, and Himeno’s parents. Tama is all her sisters have. 

The beauty to be found in this episode, and in A Centaur’s Life in general, is just the fascinating way that the mundane has become the spectacular. None of the concepts shown or discussed in A Centaur’s Life are at all unusual to us as humans. They are, in fact, part of the basic human condition. They are so familiar that we often ignore their importance. By taking on these weird evolutionary forms in a parallel Earth, they suddenly become less comfortable, significantly more visible. And we are forced to consider the deepness of the everyday. Like how children learn and share knowledge of their world. 

A Centaur’s Life can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

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