Usagi Drop is an anime series that follows the misadventures of Daikichi Kawachi, a thirty-year-old single guy who has recently become the foster father of his six-year-old aunt. Ah, isn’t anime wonderful? Where else but in Japanese cartoons can you sample such unique tales… well aside from South American soap operas perhaps. The anime series partially adapts Yumi Unita’s manga strip, which back in 2011 was nominated for an Eisner Award (or so the always reliable Wikipedia informs me.) MVM Entertainment is distributing the series in the United Kingdom via a Complete Collection set that presently retails for around twenty pounds.
My advice to anyone checking out Usagi Drop is to persevere with it past the first episode, because trust me it gets much better. The opening chapter of the anime adaptation revolves around Daikichi attending his grandfather’s funeral, so things naturally kick off on a more sombre note than the subsequent stories that follow it. Whilst at the wake Daikichi learns of Rin, the adorable offspring of Gramps and the young maid who was looking after him (I guess she serviced him in more ways than one.) The girl’s mother has since gone AWOL, leaving Daikichi’s relatives to squabble over who should look after this embarrassing surprise. When it appears that no one will step up to the plate Daikichi volunteers to become Rin’s guardian, saving her from life at an orphanage.
From that point onwards viewers get to see Daikichi fumble through his inaugural year as a single dad. The show’s eleven episodes have Daikichi handling a spell were Rin wets the bed, overseeing the loss of her milk teeth and nursing Rin through a nasty case of stomach flu. The transition from disorganised bachelor to responsible parent isn’t always a smooth one, but with the support of friends and family Daikichi eventually gets there. His new responsibilities demand certain sacrifices (such as giving up on a promising career to secure a new job with more stable working hours) but it’s worth it when you see how the pair bonds. Rin’s growth from introvert to a cute girl almost makes me want to have a daughter of my own. Later in the series she however befriends an annoying brat who is a prime example of why I can’t stand kids. Thank goodness I’m naturally blessed with looks that repulse women.
My rating for Usagi Drop is a five out of five. Aside from the somewhat dreary first episode, which had the unenviable task of setting up the show’s bizarre premise, I was smitten throughout by the touching father/daughter relationship that the leads share. Given that I have a high opinion of Wolf Children and Clannad: After Story, I am slowly coming to the realisation that I am a big softie when it comes to single parent storylines. My rating reflects the fact that I didn’t have any major misgivings about the anime. The inclusion of an English dub would have been nice, but I can live with having subtitles only. The visuals could perhaps be a bit better, but they are still decent and I thought the watercolour tinge utilized in the opening segments was a nice touch.
It’s a shame that only eleven episodes were produced, as I would have gladly lapped up even more. The short run means that some plot threads aren’t fully explored, such as the hints of romance between Daikichi and a single mom he meets at Rin’s school. Another example is Daikichi’s attempts to reach out to Rin’s scatter brained mother. From the limited screen time she gets I’m not certain what her true feelings are towards her daughter. It’s up in the air whether she abandoned her child to pursue a dream career, or if she is using the job as an excuse to avoid the awkwardness of interacting with Rin’s other family members. Ah well, perhaps it’s for the best that the manga didn’t get fully animated. Apparently the later chapters have a teenage Rin professing her love to Daikichi. Is the writer making a point that daughters often resemble their mothers? Nah, I just think that Japan is obsessed with incest.