On Usagi Drop

Usagi Drop ended Thursday on a predictably positive note. I applaud it for staving off the Hallmark-esque barrage of vapid goodwill for so long.

Truth be told, I did not object to Usagi Drop‘s ending. I found myself satisfied with the vague and open-ended nature of the show’s “conclusion.” After all, how does one stop parenting? How can there be an end to a lifelong commitment?

Given this context, even the concluding montage seems excusable. The montage reflects upon the changes in Rin and Daikichi’s character throughout their first year together. Perhaps this is the closest thing we can get to a conclusion— a summary of the show’s major events and the impact these events had on the lives of its main characters.

Usagi Drop‘s distinguishing characteristic is its subtlety. There are no overly dramatic moments. Small crises are just that— small crises. Daikichi even acknowledges them as such. He fusses over Rin’s baby teeth coming out and her (potential) losing of the jump rope contest: small, symbolic milestones in her life which will, through time, fade into the past.

Yet, Usagi Drop‘s subtlety serves it well. It is through the banality of the show’s events that Daikichi’s love for Rin truly shines. Loving a child in times of serious crisis (illness, grief, etc.) is not noteworthy. Caring for one’s child during such times constitutes the bare minimum of acceptable parenting. Truly extraordinary parents love their kids even when nothing’s going on. It is only through the mundane events of Usagi Drop that viewers can truly appreciate the depth of Daikichi’s fatherly love.

Indeed, Usagi Drop‘s plot moves steadily towards the mundane. Daikichi and Rin’s meeting constitutes an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event. The first few episodes are concerned primarily with Daikichi attempt to maintain a basic standard of living for Rin— enrolling her in kindergarten, buying her clothing, investigating her family history, et cetera. Yet, slowly, Daikichi’s life normalizes to accommodate Rin’s existence, and it is only from here that we truly begin to see Daikichi slowly grow more and more affectionate towards her.

Not only do we begin to see Daikichi grow more affectionate, we also see him becoming more assertive. At the series’ beginning, he often asks his cousin or his mother for guidance; by the end of the series, he’s giving advice to his sister and comforting his cousin. Though wracked with self-doubt about his life choices at first, Daikichi gains more and more confidence as the show progresses.

Rin’s biological mother, Masako Yoshii, is a non-character in Usagi Drop. But that is well— Daikichi deliberately chose to make her a non-character. He rejects her advice to have Rin change her last name to match his. In addition, he allows her to watch Rin cleaning Souichi’s grave, but only from afar. Daikichi asserts his status as Rin’s guardian, fully supplanting Masako’s role and relegating her to an insignificant position.

There’s also Yukari Nitani, Kouki’s mother. Upon first glance, she seems like nothing more than a potential love interest. Even until the very end of Usagi Drop, Daikichi refuses to pursue a relationship with her— a decision which must have upset quite a few viewers. However, she does not merely function as a love interest. Daikichi sees herself as a reflection of himself; like him, she is a single parent. It’s only natural that he’s drawn towards her plight; he, more than any of the other parents in Kouki and Rin’s class, can empathize. In a society where being a single parent is a source of embarrassment and suspicion, Daikichi and Yukari have found a confidant in each other. Yukari is more than Daikichi’s love interest. She’s his friend.

It’s true that Usagi Drop has no overarching plot. I found myself not so bothered by this, either— after all, life has no overarching plot. In a way, Usagi Drop represents modern life much better than any other slice-of-life show. It fully captures the random, disjointed and mundane nature of everyday living. These are people with real concerns— going to school, buying new clothes, making friends. These are the things that first graders are concerned with. Usagi Drop refuses to make itself, and its lead characters, exceptional. They are run-of-the-mill in almost every way. Rin may be a bit mature for her age, but even she acts her age quite frequently— wetting her bed, refusing to eat medicine, getting excited over winning a jump rope contest, and so on.

The only exceptional part of Usagi Drop is its belief in the all-powerful nature of parental love. Despite being a new parent with absolutely no clue how to raise a kid, Daikichi seems to just “get it.” In reality, love is often not enough to overcome barriers in ability. Usagi Drop makes no effort to address the difference between enthusiasm and competence. However, since Daikichi is portrayed as a competent and caring person, it’s not too far of a stretch that he’d make a good father. Besides, he isn’t perfect— Rin doesn’t always listen to him, and he relies on the support of his family and his friends in order to raise Rin in the best way possible.

Usagi Drop truly is a show for adults. There are no superheroes, no supervillians. The show refuses to cater to those with chuu-2-byou and delusions of exceptionalism. Though there’s quite a bit of Hallmark-esque empty goodwill towards the tail end of the show, I can forgive Usagi Drop for trying to be uplifting. I do not fault it for not having a clear-cut conclusion. Life has no clear-cut conclusions, and parental love is eternal. The best we can do is look back, reflect and examine how past experiences have changed us for the better.

14 Responses to “On Usagi Drop”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this review. Usagi Drop was one of my favorite shows of the season and I’m sad to see it end. A lot of people have been saying that it’s vague ending could mean a second season. If a second season is ever made, I just hope it doesn’t go in the direction the manga went…

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  3. I believe you have mis-characterized Masako and Daikichi’s relationship with one another. Daikichi never forces the exclusion of Masako from Rin’s life. His motives are hidden by his distaste for Masako’s abandonment and seeming disinterest of her daughter. But in fact, he continually tries to lure her through the story, and tries futilely to resow the bonds of motherhood. Masako realizes she is too immature to raise Rin, and suffers, pushing herself to be a successful Mangaka. The few scenes of Masako tell a story of a broken mother being a positive influence on her daughter by Finding success financially and staying out of the way.

  4. I think that Masako is relegated to a non-character because of her choice to not be part of Rin’s life, which ultimately leads her presence to the show minimal to some extent. I don’t think it’s because Daikichi actively made her so; he even had the decency to give Masako a second chance at motherhood.

  5. I have to say I rather agree with moesucks on this show. I liked it at first, but did not grew on me, in fact I found cringeworthy moments more and more common. But the plot was at least not a mess like #6.

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  7. Daikichi refuses to pursue a relationship with her— a decision which must have upset quite a few viewers

    Yeah, but if you have a look at what happened in the manga it’s logical that he didn’t get together with Kouki’s mom…

    But this series was adorable and made me really look forward to being a parent someday…in a very, very long time because I’m too young for that right now.

  8. Wow, this post was amazing. All your points are great.

    One of the most powerful aspects of Usagi Drop is to /do/ all this without /seeming/ like it’s doing all this. Compare that to, I don’t know, [C], which /seems/ like it’s doing a lot but isn’t actually doing anything.

    I don’t know whether it’s the mangaka or the director that’s doing this, but it takes almost no skill to write a story that doesn’t say anything; it takes some skill to write a story that tells a lot; and it takes a huge amount of skill to write a story that /can/ not say anything if you want to watch it as such, and also /can/ say a lot of you want to watch it like that.

    On its surface, Usagi Drop is just like Croisée – a heartwarming anime about the mundane daily life of some girl. However, when you look deeper, there are so many small nuances to see (I’m sure Croisée also has those nuances, but they’re not as prominently hidden).

    Yet, does this mean the show was good? Or just that it was written well?

  9. The review is good and I agree with most of what I just read, but I think that you will change your mind about a few things (the role of Rin’s mother, Daikichi’s relationship with Kouki’s mom and the open endedness of the story) if and when the tale will be completed.

    Right now the “issue” with the show is that it covers just about half of the story as told in the manga and I would be very surprised if Production I.G. decided not to produce a second season.

    I won’t go into details, since obviously I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story to anybody, but in my opinion the second half of the tale is essential in order to get that sense of closure that appears to be missing in the series right now: the last part of the story is instrumental in developing that thematic statement that gives a sense to the tale and makes the audience feel sated. It’s also very interesting because it manages to be provocative and yet completely politically correct at the same time (this feels weird, but it mostly depends on the perspective you approach the end from).
    Right now the show has not yet tackled the main thematic question of the story…

  10. This is indeed a very good review. I admit that it grew on me but then I found out where the manga author had intended it to go. And thus, while I am very glad that the anime ended on such a cute note, I couldn’t keep watching it.

    To put it lightly: Romantic (as in beyond parental) love between Rin and Daikichi and implied marriage when she’s a teen.

    Yeah….couldn’t bring myself to keep watching but for people who haven’t been exposed to that, I definitely would recommend you watch the anime.

  11. Let’s avoid spoilers, please.

  12. *slow claps*

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