Daikichi Kawachi is a 30-year-old bachelor working a respectable job but otherwise wandering aimlessly through life. When his grandfather suddenly passes away, he returns to the family home to pay his respects. Upon arriving at the house, he meets a mysterious young girl named Rin who, to Daikichi’s astonishment, is his grandfather's illegitimate daughter!
The shy and unapproachable girl is deemed an embarrassment to the family, and finds herself ostracized by her father's relatives, all of them refusing to take care of her in the wake of his death. Daikichi, angered by their coldness towards Rin, announces that he will take her in—despite the fact that he is a young, single man with no prior childcare experience.
Usagi Drop is the story of Daikichi's journey through fatherhood as he raises Rin with his gentle and affectionate nature, as well as an exploration of the warmth and interdependence that are at the heart of a happy, close-knit family.
Raising a child isn't easy, and every parent or guardian knows just how taxing all of the daily tasks can be, the sacrifices that need to be made in terms of work and social life, and the almost constant stream of considerations and worries. The truth is that looking after children is one of the biggest causes of stress and grey hairs (or hair loss), amongst adults, but given that the majority of people in the world are (or will be), parents, it's a little odd that such a major topic is still a rarity in anime.
The again, who wants to watch a show about
the trials and tribulations of raising children, especially when the steady diet of fanservice, explosions, brainless muscular heroes, top heavy heroines, nonsensical plots, pseudo-psychology, quantum-hokum, etc, are apparently what passes for entertainment these days. It's a sad fact that in a medium where literally any story can be told, the ones that may actually cast anime in a positive light are constantly overlooked or ignored completely.
Which is why Usagi Drop is such a rarity.
Adapted from the josei manga by Unita Yumi, the story begins with Kawachi Daikichi, a 30 year old salesman who has returned home to attend a family funeral. During his stay he finds out that his deceased grandfather had an illegitimate daughter called Kaga Rin. Nobody knows who the girl's mother is, so the family begin arguing over who will raise her until Daikichi, who has become increasingly annoyed and disgusted by their behaviour, asks Rin if she wants to live with him.
Usagi Drop is one of those uncommon adaptations where the anime has tried to stay true to the source material, and while that does place a number of limitations on it, the series also manages to retain the charm of the manga. The story develops at a measured pace that can sometimes feel a little slow, and there's a surprising lack of over the top melodrama that is so often a hallmark of shows like this. The plot takes a much more mature approach to the issue of parenting than one might initially expect, and while certain problems that Daikichi is faced with are specific to Japanese society, the overall theme is one that will resonate with anyone who has raised children.
Which is also the reason why some viewers may not enjoy this anime, but we'll get to that in a bit.
In addition to the story, the artwork also tries to stay as true as possible to the source material. The characters are depicted in a stylized form, and the rather simplistic approach to emotions is surprisingly expressive. The design is focused on showing each person as an individual not only facially, but also in their build, posture, and even their movements. The animation is fluid, if a little utilitarian at times, and it's clear that attention has been paid to each character's physical traits and personalities. In addition to this each episode is preceded and concluded by short, but rather charming scenes that are notable for the watercolour style palette that is used in them. The dichotomy between these scenes and the style and colouration used in the main body of the narrative adds a nice, almost picture book touch to proceedings.
Between these shorts and the story proper lie the opening and ending sequences, both of which are designed with children's paintings in mind. The opening theme, "Sweet Drop" by Puffy AmiYumi (yes, they of Teen Titans and Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi fame), is a surprisingly well suited J-pop song that's very much in keeping with Rin's character. In contrast to this the ending theme, "High High High" by Kasarinchu (a pop duo consisting of a beatboxer and a guitarist/singer), is more reflective of the overall atmosphere of the series.
As for the background music, Usagi Drop features a variety of tracks that are generally quite mellow or upbeat, but every so often the score is punctuated by a slow, simple piano piece to highlight the more sensitive moments of the story.
Now it's a trite thing to say that good acting can bring any type of story to life and give it the feeling of something new and different, but in this case it's actually a true statement. The simple yet natural script allows the seiyuu far more room to express themselves than one might expect, and with little in the way of manufactured melodrama, all of the cast (especially the child actors), are able to deliver some truly worthwhile performances.
The most interesting character in Usagi Drop is, without a doubt, Kawachi Daikichi. Part of the reason for this is because much of the story is told from his perspective, but he's also one of the most defined adult male leads in anime to date. From the start he is shown to be a complete individual with his own thoughts, habits and values, and rather than trying to develop him, the narrative is more focused on evolving him through his relationship with Rin, and the problems, worries and sacrifices he works through in order to be a good parent.
On the other hand Rin is very much how one would expect a child of her age to be - inquisitive, precocious, and somewhat withdrawn around people she doesn't know well. As with Daikichi, she doesn't really develop as a character, but instead what the viewer is shown is a little girl who is slowly coming to terms with her new life and coming out of her shell. Now this is surprising as it's a clear message about how resilient children actually are and how they are able to cope as long as they know they have the support of the adults who care for them.
Speaking of support, aside from the two leads there are a surprising number of well written characters in Usagi Drop, both adults and children, and it's their presence in the story that really rounds out the whole thing. The particularly strong friendship between Nitani Kouki and Rin for example, or the slightly befuddled attraction between Daikichi and Kouki's mother Yukari, all add to the overall charm of the series. In addition to this, one of the things that really stands out about Usagi Drop is the lack of angst where relationships are concerned. While there are events like the death of Daikichi's grandfather, these don't cast a pall over the narrative, and this allows for some interesting interactions and dynamics to emerge, the prime example of this being the bond that develops between the two lead characters.
Usagi Drop is a simple, straightforward and charming tale about what it means to be a parent, and while the story and characters are presented in an ideal form, this doesn't really detract from one's enjoyment of the show. It goes without saying that anyone who has experience of raising children will be able to relate more readily to a number of the themes in the show, but it should be pointed out that the plot is simple enough to allow anyone to enjoy it.
Which brings us back to why some people won't like this series.
Aside from the sometimes slow pace, the main theme of the show is one that many younger fans (and even a few older ones), may not like, especially if their penchant is for action, heavy melodrama, etc. On the surface it can seem as though Usagi Drop is nothing more than another lighthearted slice of life drama that's only different from the likes of Aishiteruze Baby because a full fledged adult is cast in the role of parent instead of a teenaged playboy, but there's more to the show than that.
The simple fact is that this anime is one of those rare titles that doesn't use the word "mature" as a marker for violence, gore, sexual content, etc, and this makes it almost unique when one considers the shows that have been released this past year. The emphasis on realism, albeit in an idealized form, may also be a factor as there are a few people out there who want pure fantasy and escapism.
Whatever your opinion or taste, one thing remains true - Usagi Drop is clearly aimed at a more mature audience than the norm. The fact that it doesn't demean the creators with pointless gore, violence or fanservice, or insult the viewer's intelligence by explaining everything that happens, are what sets it apart from many other slice of life shows out there.
I’m happy. Why? Well, because this show did so much right that it’s tough not to be. Usagi Drop stayed true to the essence of the manga (before the timeskip) and didn’t stray far, if at all, from the original story progression. It captured splendidly the little nuances of an abnormal parent-child reality.
Our lives are full of insignificancies. Waking up irritable and half alert, washing your teeth, brushing your face, fumbling to find your valuables, grocery shopping without a list. The shit we wade through daily but clean up and forget soon after. These are experiences almost all can relate
to but never share with one another because it’s stuff not worth sharing. Then of course, spliced in between those bits of irrelevance are the undoubtedly meaningful moments to be remembered. And we want to save those precious moments by documenting them. It’s in our nature to try and preserve the best times of our lives in some form or another. So when something like Usagi Drop comes along that personifies ‘life’, in both the boring and the beautiful, we’re able to really connect with the characters and their story on a more personal level.
Rin is modest, caring, independent, and responsible. She’s very mature but then not without those traits which you find ever-present in kids around her age. Joyful, curious, and downright adorable! In terms of lovability, she’s on par with Ushio in my book. You just want to squeeze those little cheeks and embrace her till she dies of asphyxiation. She’s that HNNNGGable. Needless to say, her expressions are genuine signs of love and appreciation, even for something like a poor attempt at tying pigtails. How she feels shows on her face clear as a sunny day. And the window through which we get to see all these sides of her is Daikichi.
Daikichi’s a very straightforward guy, both in personality and appearance. On top of that, he’s nurturing, compassionate, and protective. A little awkward at times but it comes with the job. Not to say I don’t like my dad, I love him, but Daikichi is the kind of father I wished I’d had growing up. He juggles his new responsibilities well with work and still manages to maintain a good relationship with everyone around him. Standing in as a guardian for your past grandfather’s illegitimate kid probably isn’t easy so I think he deserves a break here and there for his goofups. Watching Daikichi is a true breath of fresh air what with all the high school/university kids hogging most of the attention in anime. What you get is a middle aged guy just trying to do his best to provide for himself and his new little house warmer.
TWO little house warmers considering the frequency of Kouki’s visits. He and his mother are two more people you’ll find to be endearing as they interact with Rin and Daikichi. Aside from his apparent cheekiness, Kouki’s a good kid and it shows in his submissive yet protective behavior towards Rin. Looking at their close friendship and the overt chemistry between Yukari and Kawachi, it’s quite easy to envision them becoming a family in the near future. In fact, beyond the show’s conclusion you could say they’re already family.
And because of the relatively fluid art and animation, we’re able to see how they become so close. Soft watercolour-esque scenes start out each episode before the opening song rolls. It’s really a nice way of preceding the bulk of the episode. Character designs are markedly simplistic but there’s no need to fuss over it. With some added touches of realism, it’s nice knowing they do change clothes each day and night and that Daikichi does grow a stubble if he doesn’t shave every day like any other grown man. The backgrounds are subtle yet detailed; from pavement cracks to packaged market meat, everything in view is easy on the oculars.
To supplement the animation is the writing which shines through in the dialogue. Ayu and Tsuchida’s performance as the voices of Rin and Daikichi leave little more to be asked for. Thanks to them and all the other seiyuus, the talking that goes on in the show becomes one of its strengths. For example, in one episode, Daikichi and Harumi, Reina’s mom, have a serious discussion about Harumi’s marital problems which is eavesdropped on by Rin. But noticing this, Reina takes her aside and shows her how she copes when mom and dad don’t get along. Not something seen every day, you get both the child and parent’s perspectives of when things aren’t going so smoothly at home. Really, kids are keen in times like that and it’s great to see that the anime picks up on this detail. And it’s not only those I’ve listed who have depth of character but everyone has their own charm about them and grows, if just a little, in their own way in the span of only a year.
Now soundwise, the piano melodies and environmental acoustics fit well with whatever present surroundings were onscreen. The opening/ending songs are two very cheery jingles. Catchy it was but not enough to my taste to warrant a replay every week. Though, I would’ve never known that the group who did the opening is the same group who did the Teen Titans theme song (one of my favorites) had I not looked it up. Nostalgia, woo! From their tower they can see that all together, the music worked in pacing the way scenes played out.
Usagi Drop was an engagingly heartfelt tale of an atypical family living and learning how to adjust to their odd circumstances and the intricacies it affords. It handled themes like the importance of family values and the trials of child raising with great consideration for its audiences.
Despite its title I advise against dropping this anime because sitting down to watch Rin and Daikichi go through child/parenthood is an experience to be cherished. And I, for one, certainly have.
Secretly funded by the Japanese government to combat declining birth rates, project "USAGI DROP" targeted a very specific, generally non-reproductive demographic of the Japanese population: the otaku. At the core of the project was a 11 episode television series that was specifically designed to thoroughly rouse hibernating paternal instincts. Researchers noted a 41% increase in the desire to have children in males in their 20s to 30s who watched a single episode of Usagi Drop. Researchers also noted that of that 41%, 77% of those males explicitly stated that they wanted daughters. One of the biggest advantages project USAGI DROP had over its predecessor, project
MINDLESS ECCHI is that it instilled the desire to propagate in its viewers rather than the desire to merely fornicate. Researchers of the project also documented what later became termed as the "Usagi Drop effect;" after watching an episode of Usagi Drop, viewers would often ramble off a list of random names before being able to engage in proper conversation. After a conducting several widespread interviews, researchers discovered that these ramblings were the external symptoms of an internal debate that was common among all viewers of Usagi Drop; the viewers consistently tried to decide what name they wanted to bestow on their offspring after watching an episode of Usagi Drop. After these very promising test results, the Japanese Government gave the project the green light and the anime aired in the Summer of 2011. They are expecting great returns in nine months.
To be Frank, I was skeptical about committing to watching Usagi Drop having read all the manga. Adaptations are great and all, but boy oh boy the source material (manga) didnt sit well with me, almost leading me to drop the show entirely.
Now, I can safely say I'm glad to have watched this amazing experience.
So how do I describe and score Usagi Drop? Well, this happens to be one of those shows where numbers just won't do, and an in-depth analysis is quite frankly overkill. I can talk all I want about what it's about; the premise, the execution, pacing, but none of
this will do justice. But heck, I'll give it a shot just for you.
We follow our Main "protagonist" Karachi Daikichi, a single 30 year old man whose grandfather has recently passed away. At his grandfather's funeral, he meets his grandfather's daughter, Kaga Rin; age 6.
Hmm.... Ok... So this little girl is his....
Moving along, Both the two meet and under the rather dreary atmosphere of mourning adults, Daikichi takes Rin under his wing and thus begins Daikichi's new life as a parent.
Pretty basic premise... Meh, not really. Transition into parenting/parenthood is a topic RARELY touched on in anime. Why? Doesn't sell... Anyways, the story focuses heavily on Daikichi's and Rin's new life, how they adapt, perceive, and going about the day. Now, remember, Daikichi has been a single 30 year old working and drinking constantly, having only to care and feed for one person. Let's add another expense to deduct from your income... Don't forget, kids have soccer (football) games and stuff. Better to make some time in my already dreadfully unflexible schedule..
Get the picture? Good, but ultimately, the story only moves forward with each new experience both Rin and Daikichi undergo. With that, we see that as time goes on, they change and develop.
As far as pacing goes, it's relatively slow paced... Then again, with an awkward number of 11 episodes, this seems appropriate. Each episode never seems rushed.. Scratch that, each scene never seems rushed. The story isn't overly complex, so holes aren't an issue. All in all, the only word to describe the story is simple, and that isn't such a bad thing.
Fans could give this a 10, those without a heart could name it plotless. Depending on what you're expecting, it could go either way.
This was a surprise considering Production I.G touched this one up. If we look at Production IG's other works, we see something completely different from what you see here. Please be aware, this is a pleasant surprise. Thumbs up on this one.
The show comes off as.. Rather childish, but it isn't that big of a deal considering that kids are involved in the story after all. In fact, the art is rather fitting, and in those few moments throughout the show, I stared in awe at the magnificently drawn and animated scenes. This might be a surprise because the art is so simplistic. Character design, lighting, the background. Nothing held extraordinary detail except, again, in those few moments of high interest and excitement, although "excitement" isn't so appropriate to describe this.
I must compliment the pastel, water color-y (forgive me as I am uneducated in accurate art terminology) scenes through out the series. It's very different than what many people are probably used to seeing on the current market.
That being said, because of how boldly the art is presented, the different art style showing off as strongly as it does might end up being a miss for many.
So how do I sum up the art? Like the story. Simple, but sweet, with a touch of magnificent sprinkled in. It isn't Shinkai breathtaking, but it's pretty dang close in many scenes.
Character voices are appropriate for the whole cast. I might have a problem with only one character, but she's completely overlook able in comparison to everyone else. The sound track was well done, though Unmemorable. Heck, everything was done satisfactorily here as the pleasant background music compliments the "feel good" atmosphere. The music even addresses the more dramatic scenes with ease. The OP and ED are nothing too special, but very fitting to the theme of Bunny Drop.
Now, this may seem like a slice of life show, and it is, but the abnormal time frame this series has is rather stressing to many viewers for many reasons. For example, many short series fail to develop their characters since, like in life, time is limited, so rushed plots and such can hurt the cast as a whole.
Thankfully, Usagi Drop nails that instinctive preconception to the ground. With only two main characters and very well planned out execution and pacing, there is a feeling of satisfaction by watching Rin and Daikichi grow. Heck, we even see there is more to the support roles than what we are presented prior to the next time they make an appearance. The show addresses how Daikichi feels and grows quite clearly, which then leads the viewer to imply a few thing about Rin. While Rin arguably is very static, we must realize that she is a 6 year old. A child whose mind is still in development. Realistic? Appropriate? Do you have a problem with this ideally perfect little girl? Stuff your whining and refresh your perspectives.
By the end of the show, I came to realize what a delight It was to watch Daikichi & Rin grow as characters as a whole.
A rare delight and one of the best shows of 2011. It's hard to explain why this anime was so successful. The story is a heartwarming one, packed with many little lessons on ethics and such. Perhaps our reaction to the characters and their interactions came off as hilarious. Going into the show, you might find plenty of the characters relatable even. Perhaps this caused me to reflect on my childhood and outlook for my future. Usagi Drop offers something for everyone to relate to and enjoy.
Hopefully this gave you enough insight as to whether or no you should pick up Usagi drop. Be aware, the intended audience is a more older one, not really specifically targeting teens or younger audiences of the sort. Still, the show is appropriate for a broad audience. If you're looking for action, harem, a complex plot, you'll find none of that here. What exists before you is a really simple but sweet treasure that can be watched without being disappointed. I encourage you to give this show a shot at becoming what could be one of your favorites of all time. My only issue with this show is that it was given a measly and awkward 11 episodes.
Final thoughts? It was far from perfect, but Usagi Drop did so many things right that it doesn't even matter.