Usagi Drop – Series Review

[HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.05_[2011.07.07_12.58.16] [HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.28_[2011.07.14_16.27.33] [HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.18_[2011.07.28_15.24.30]

As I look back on this series, it strikes me that it managed to be very faithful to the manga, yet separate itself from it in some crucial and fundamental ways.  That it managed to do so without turning off most of the manga readers is a pretty remarkable achievement.

Usagi Drop was many things, but one of the most important was “restrained”.  This is a powerhouse of a premise, and I felt from the beginning that a low-key approach would serve it best.  My thanks to Kamei Kanta and Production I.G. for realizing this and treating the material with a light, deft touch that only very rarely pandered directly to the tear ducts.  I suspect that many of them got a severe workout without the show having to go to any special pains.

I think this may very well be the best anime about parenting I’ve seen.  It’s a rarity, certainly, in that there wasn’t a teenager to be found anywhere in the cast – I can’t even remember a guest appearance.  So maybe there isn’t a huge amount of competition when it comes to parenting series, but there are quite a few that touch on it, and most either err on the side of too much frivolousness or too much drama.  Usagi Drop got it just right, focusing on the small moments of daily life that ultimately stay in our memories and prove the most important.  That it was done through the eyes of a 30 year-old bachelor learning about being a parent through the course of the series was a brilliant conceit, and the credit there goes to mangaka Unita Yumi.

While the character who most obviously grows during this series is the adorable and precocious Rin, make no mistake – more than anything this show is about Daikichi’s growth.  He starts the series with a total absence of experience as a parent but an embarrassment of riches when it comes to empathy and good instincts.  Daikichi is the signature character here, the one who stands in the pantheon of rare and indispensable anime characters.  There are plenty of cute little girls in anime, but 30 year-old single Dads are a rare sight.  Daikichi is a simple and humble guy in many ways – he works hard and responsibly, cares about his career and advancing – though it’s important to point out that he’s trying to do so the right way – but doesn’t have a whole lot going on in his personal life.  It’s his instincts that draw his attention to Rin after the death of his Grandfather, and I think she sees a soul-mate in Daikichi as well.  Daikichi has little patience for injustice, and correctly sees Rin as the victim in his family’s petty squabbling.  If his decision to take her home was impulsive, it could hardly have been otherwise – he has no context to make decisions like that – but as always his instincts carry him through where his experience fails him.

For me the best parts of the series came in watching Daikichi and Rin learn how to live together and grow to become a real family.  Simple things like clothes shopping and choosing cereal became milestone events, and were played both for affectionate humor and subtle emotional tug.  But things really took a quantum leap forward with the introduction of Kouki and his mother, Yukari.  Not only did I enjoy both characters in their own right (especially Kouki) but I loved the way they changed the dynamics of the series.  There was the obvious romantic interest from Daikichi towards Yukari, teased in the anime but not explored fully.  But there was also the growing bond between he and Kouki, one of the best elements of the series.  The two could understand each other in ways their housemates couldn’t, and that gave them a special connection.  They were great together, and the four of them were a fantastic unit.  The romantic in me hopes that they might someday become a proper family, though there’s no real indication Yukari sees Daikichi that way.  In the meantime, it’s enough that he provided support for Yukari (and she for him) and a father figure to Kouki, who desperately needs one.

There are some nice surprises to be had in Usagi Drop, such as the heartbreaking episode involving Daikichi’s cousin Haruko and her unhappy marriage.  There are lovely moments with Daikichi’s parents, and a surprisingly balanced and nuanced portrayal of RIn’s damaged biological mother Masako.  There’s the question of whether Grandpa is really Rin’s father, which I consider to be very much in doubt, which is left open-ended.   And there’s some fantastic humor, a good chunk of which involved the irrepressible and incorrigible Kouki.  Mostly, though, the best  moments are simple observations of Daikichi and Rin in their daily lives.  It’s hard to remember a more low-key series that packed such an emotional punch.  Like a fine chef working with extremely rich raw ingredients, Kamei realized that a light touch was needed here, and he used it. 

Production-wise, while this is not a flashy series it has a lot of nice little touches.  OP and ED are superb and appropriate, and I love the small changes to the ED animation every week.  The animation, a sort of soft water-color look, is understated and suits the material perfectly.  I.G. has used this sort of style before (Kimi ni Todoke, etc.) but it’s never looked this good to me.  And a special commendation for using real kids in the child roles large and small.  Matsuura Ayu and Sakai Noa are spot-on as RIn and Kouki, and the series definitely would have lost some authenticity with adults playing those roles.  The irony is that Matsuura and Sakai play these roles in a much more understated fashion than the typical adult seiyuu, who typically overact terribly when playing children of this age.

This series was a genuine pleasure, and a real triumph for I.G. and NoitaminA.   Unless the Fall Season is a very strong one I think it has an excellent chance of landing in my Top 10 list for 2011.  My question now is really whether to read the rest of the manga, knowing its controversial nature with the fans, or to happily leave things as the anime left them – which is to say, facing a world of possibilities and full of hope.

[HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.10_[2011.08.11_15.46.19] [HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.59_[2011.08.18_12.20.06] [HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 09 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.25_[2011.09.01_12.51.56]
[HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 09 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.07_[2011.09.01_13.06.12] [HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.31_[2011.09.15_13.14.15] [HorribleSubs] Usagi Drop - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.36_[2011.09.15_13.16.21]
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

17 comments

  1. M

    I'm really going to miss this show. For me it's one of the best this year so far.

    I really don't have anything else to say. I loved every single minute of it. That being said, I would have very much liked to see the romantic aspect explored further.

    I'm certainly going to read the rest of the manga. I wonder if there is anyone here kind enough to tell me where the anime left off?

    Anyway, great review. I'm impressed at how quickly you posted a review for both this and S;G. You are a beast!

  2. A

    The anime ends right at the time jump (ch 24). Rin is in high school Ch 25 onwards.

    Personally, I don't think the second half of the manga was a good as the first. It essentially becomes a fairly typical high school drama, albeit executed in a more understated way, and the parents more involved. You do get to see the resolution of Rin's relationship with her mother, and Daikichi's relationship with Yukari though.

    As previously noted, the ending is pretty controversial. I wasn't too shocked though, since I could see it coming. While I thought the ending was disappointing, I didn't think it was as horrible as some people make it out to be.

  3. Beast, eh? Rawr?

    Let's be super cautious with manga talk, in light of Blogger's inability to use spoiler tags in comments. I think what you posted is OK, Anon, but I wouldn't want to give any more info than that.

  4. A

    I wonder if they will animate the Bangaihen that started this June. It more of Daikichi and Rin's life pre time skip. Which sadly hasn't been scanlated yet…

  5. l

    Wow, the anime is having the "my pace" all the way until the end. Unlike most anime, this one doesn't even hint of a possible 2nd season. It like if season 2 comes it comes, we are not promoting it. Just a perfect slow pace, quality entertainment all the way till the end.

    Now that it ends, I can finally start reading all the manga chapter that I have been holding back for 3 months time. I suppose there will be no sleep for me tonight.

  6. Presales are pretty good, I hear, so maybe we'll get a Bangaihen OVA.

  7. d

    A nice ending to a nice anime. Thanks for blogging Enzo.

    Watching this anime on Thursday has always uplifted my spirits after a long week.

    From what I've heard, if the ending is controversial, I'd rather hope for an anime-original ending too, if there will be a second season.

    Regardless, Usagi Drop is a delightful anime, that not only taught me of some adult life-lessons and put a smile on my face. I'll definitely re-watch this soon. 😀

  8. A

    This series was great. If there was a chance for a second season, I wish the creators of the anime would stray as far from the second part of the manga as possible and create their own adaptation of the series. I would be completely happy with a new adaptation to the series that ended with Daikichi and Yukari getting together and becoming a family with Kouki and Rin. The new adaptatation could focus on Daikichi understanding how to become a family man to a rebellious boy (Kouki) and a husband (to yukari) ending with Daikichi having a child of his own. I honestly did not like the direction the mangaka took the series in the time-skip and felt that the characters were cheated. The ending of the manga is controversial and I think it was a decision the mangaka chose to make the series debatable and memorable for some time. An adaptation of the second half of the manga would probably ruin the adaptation for me.

    In short words: I loved this show and hope for a second season with a different adaptation to the second half of the manga.

  9. a

    this is what i wanted from the begining. but after i read the last 2 chapter, i had a psychological damage, and i cant find a right word to express it. thanks for expressing it very good!

  10. Careful, Icarus…

  11. j

    This anime really worked for me since it is relatable. I mean, even though there's no drama per se, I get all emotional since I reminisce my own childhood with Rin's and especially Kouki's (yes, I admit it. Haha, LOL). And this series also makes me wonder what kind of parent I'll be, and appreciate my own parents more.

  12. A

    Beautiful show, one of the few I watched weekly as soon as was available, and that's saying something. And it's been a pleasure following your blog, it's always great to have the subtleties teased out for me to deepen my appreciation.

    I think I'll start reading the manga just to see what this hoopla is about. A mangaka who has produced such good material, I'm willing to give a chance.

  13. a

    This was definitely my favourite anime of the season, and probably of the year as well. Its so nice to see an anime being realistic and dealing with important issues in life. Maybe its just me, in that I'm coming up to Daikichi's age, and do not have a child myself, but it is always special when I do get to see my nieces.

  14. andall, it is special when I get to spend time with my niece and nephew, and it does remind you of the choices you make. Daikichi was an accidental parent, but his instincts overcame his inexperience.

  15. i

    gosh, I won't know what to expect if any of my cousins have kids that were elementary school aged…

    and I would like to see the rest of the adaptation (just for completion sake), AND IT'S NOT THAT TERRIBLE…if you keep your mind open, that is…

  16. A

    Well before I gush about this series I must say to @info600: I have a kid AND an open mind, and YES IT ABSOLUTELY IS STILL THAT TERRIBLE! … that is all I will say in regards to that.

    Usagi drop was fabulous! I disagree a little bit with you Enzo, since I think that lovely "restraint" they showed is owed more to the studio than the mangaka in this case. Unita sensei – to be honest – could've done with a HELL of a lot more restraint post Vol.7 IMHO, though that takes nothing away from the incredible job that was done with Vol 1-6 of the manga. I don't think I have EVER encountered an anime that I preferred to the manga in terms of pacing until Usagi Drop. For me the bond between Rin and Daikichi is just magic! Here comes this sort of awkward 30 year old guy who's lived for no one but himself, thrust headfirst into a crazy world of bed wetting and baby teeth and six year old shenanigans lol, and he handled it like a champ! The thing I really loved about Usagi was that while the series didn't rely too heavily on the melodrama they still didn't pull punches. Parenting/ marriage is no walk in the park, heck being a kid is no cakewalk either especially with a situation like Rin's … and I feel like the anime remained true to those realities while still showing how wonderful parenting/childhood are even despite their shortcomings.

    I'm eagerly hoping for an anime-original S2. I'd love to see Daikichi finally catch a break in the love department (poor guy lol), and I'm not at all adverse to exploring Rin & Kouki (god I love that kid!) growing up into adolescents either. It would be refreshing though, to see the studio continue with their trend of "restraint" and opt for an outcome that befits the theme of family which Usagi Drop so uniquely showcases. As someone from a (crazy) blended family, I firmly believe that family is not necessarily about blood, but the bonds we build and the people we treasure … This anime hit that right on the nose. Two thumbs up for Usagi drop!

  17. a

    wise word coming from a parent… thank you for saying the thing i couldn't. i totally dissapointed with the ending.

Leave a Comment