It’s rare that I say this, but I think the key to success for Usagi Drop is going to be a lack of ambition on the part of it’s creative team.
That’s not a criticism of what they’ve done so far – I like this series very much. Most of the time they get the tone just right, and it’s one of those shows that makes you feel all warm inside. I just feel as if the less push this material gets, the better it works. Play it very small and very low-key and it can’t miss. It’s an amazing premise, and Daikichi is a fantastic lead. Rin is adorable and charming. But the few times they’ve tried to give the drama a little shove, it’s stepped to the precipice of treacly. And that’s always going to be the danger.
What I especially liked in this episode was seeing Daikichi’s family, who haven’t exactly gotten painted in the best light, painted in broader colors. His mother especially came off looking better, though it was her scenes that came closest to being over-the-top. We get a little sense of the reason for her coldness towards the idea of Daikichi taking Rin in – she sacrificed her career to raise her kids (a rare thing in those days, a Japanese woman having a career). She knows just what he’s giving up. And as Daikichi himself said, it would be lying to pretend it wasn’t something valuable and important to give up.
That’s the thing here – raising someone else’s kid is an incredibly hard, demanding and expensive task. Raising any kid is. Daikichi’s family isn’t evil for resisting the idea or not volunteering – just human. Especially given the circumstances. But that’s what makes Daikichi so GAR for doing what he did.
Seeing Daikichi’s parents warm up to Rin, and her to them, was one of the joys of the episode. Even Reina isn’t just a textbook brat anymore. We also get the chance to spend some time with Daikichi’s younger sister Kazumi, who seems quite the party animal. She’s as bothered by Rin’s presence as anyone, but even she melts a little when her mother dresses Rin in her old clothes. As for Daikichi himself, he’s facing up to reality that he has to give something up – in this case, the fast-track career that’s consumed him. His subordinates love working for him and it’s easy to see why, but after consulting with a female co-worker who put her career on the back burner to be with her kid, Daikichi realizes that every path has sacrifices – it’s a question of which ones make the most sense.
The thing is, though Daikichi is naturally good at fatherhood and Rin is naturally a pretty easy kid, they’re still in it pretty deep. He bashes her head against the ceiling by accident. He doesn’t know how to answer when she expresses her fear of death. Rin has all the natural neuroses of a 7 year-old who’s just lost her father and is effectively an orphan. She doesn’t trust the permanency of anyone in her life, and that’s why she’s having her nighttime issues.
While Daikichi made some headway in the search for information about Rin’s mother this week, I suspect it isn’t going to become a major focus. He knows Grandpa had a maid named Masako (most likely the Mom) who used a computer, and that Rin hates Masako. Doesn’t sound like anyone Daikichi should be bringing into Rin’s life at this fragile time, as I think he’ll come to realize. I hope the focus stays on the day to day challenges the two of them face in getting through this uncharted territory together, and does so with as little dramatic embellishment as possible.