Saturday, July 21, 2012

Usagi Drop (Anime 2011)

Like most anime, at least that I'm aware of, Usagi Drop (うさぎドロップ) is an adaptation of the manga of the same name, which got it's start in print back in 2005. I've never read the manga, but this is an incredibly cute and charming anime series that showcases the importance of love and bonding in the family unit.

Daikichi Kawachi (Hiroshi Tsuchida), is a single, thirty-something, blue-collar worker who lives a relatively mundane life. On one of these relatively mundane days, he receives a phone call informing him that his grandfather has passed away. It's been awhile since Daikichi made his way back home, but few things can bring family back together like the passing of a loved one. At his family's home, he makes small talk with the members of his family but takes notice of a peculiar little girl that he hasn't seen before. She follows him around the house, staying hidden; clearly shy towards people. Eventually Daikichi strikes up a conversation with her and she tells him her name is Rin (Ayu Matsura), and that her father is Daikichi's grandfather. Say what!? It turns out that Daikichi's grandfather had an illegitimate child with his housekeeper, a young lady by the name of Masako (Maya Sakamoto). As you can imagine, this news has the Kawachi family in a bit of a tailspin and no one seems to know what to do with Rin. There's talk of sending her to a foster home but Daikichi, clearly being of a higher moral standing, feels that Rin is a part of the family and can't be discarded so easily. After a bit of thought, Daikichi informs the family that he'll be taking Rin home with him and will take care of her until he can figure out matters with Rin's mother. The family is in a bit of shock but Daikichi is determined to look after Rin and Rin is happy to go with someone that seems to genuinely care for her well-being. Daikichi's life as a lonely, single man has suddenly changed drastically, as has life for young Rin. Can Daikichi handle his life being completely turned upside down by the daily stresses of being a single father?

Throughout the series, Daikichi and Rin find themselves facing a number of challenges. First of all, they have to get used to just being around each other. Daikichi has to figure out how to enroll Rin in school, arranging his work schedule with her school schedule, buying her clothes and other supplies, dealing with Rin's birth mother, Rin getting sick, Rin making friends with a rowdy little boy named Koki, helping her cope with the concept of death (she tries to understand what happened to her father), and all the other challenges one would face when suddenly having a child thrust upon them without any prior preparation. I can't even imagine! I always enjoy these slice-of-life anime and Usagi Drop does a great job showing the difficult transitions that Daikichi and Rin face with what is essentially their new day-to-day lives. Daikichi is a guy who had a very ordinary life before his grandfather's death but he makes incredible sacrifices in order to accommodate this young girl that he really doesn't know. He's not always convinced he's done the right thing and even questions his ability to watch over Rin. However, he does know that she's family and deserves to be treated as such. Therein lies the really special, heartfelt message of Usagi Drop. Add to that the fact that it's all presented with a wonderfully eye-pleasing art style that is simple and clean, yet still shows attention to detail. Each episode begins with the art done in a painted, watercolor style then transitioning into a traditional, penciled art-style and this series just furthers showing it's character. You can imagine that from the show's content that there is a lot of heart in the storyline and Usagi Drop has no shortage of touching moments. I feel that Rin is an adorable character that you just find yourself rooting for and together with Daikichi, their relationship is really cute to watch. 

If you're a fan of "realistic" anime that focuses more on the human element and our relationships with one another, than Usagi Drop is a sweet series that you're sure to find heartwarming. It feels like an incredibly short 11 episodes and whenever a series feels like it's over too soon, that's always a good indicator of how enjoyable it is. (Lee)

Grade: A 

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