The "Other" Anime: Usagi Drop *spoiler free*
When an outsider, aka those “normal” people who don’t watch anime because they’re “too old for cartoons”, thinks of anime a few things come to mind. Things like well-endowed women, giant robots, and obnoxious teenage boy protagonists. And, well, they’re probably right to an extent. Those of us who are well adapted into the anime world know that there’s much more to it. Yet, it seems that no matter what we’re looking at, be it anime, movies, television, or video games, we are obsessed with grouping everything into categories. For video games we have fighting games, RPGs, puzzles. For movies or television there’s action, fantasy, comedy, etc. Within those groups, we have tropes that are associated with them. The wise old wizard belongs to fantasy, the funny roommate who’s kind of a womanizer belongs to comedy. With anime this need to categorize is certainly evident, but I have found that Usagi Drop is in a category of its own.
If you’ve seen this short but loveable series, try to think of one trope that it really fits into. The main character is a bachelor, but he’s not a skirt chaser, or the chosen hero. He’s just a typical thirty – something man. Usagi Drop is considered a slice of life anime, but the setting isn’t a school filled with peppy teenagers. It also can fall into the very rare josei genre, but doesn’t focus on romantic relationships like they so often do. I would argue that Usagi Drop would fall into the “other” genre if there was one in anime. This is what makes the show so special. It doesn’t have any of the clichés that anime are always associated with. It’s a breath of fresh air, really.
If you haven’t seen the show, here’s a quick summary. Daikichi goes to his grandfather’s funeral and discovers that his grandfather has an illegitimate child that he never told the family about. As the child’s mother left, Rin has no one to look after her. When none of Daikichi’s family is willing to take Rin in, he steps up to the plate. The next ten episodes follow Daikichi’s journey raising Rin and learning what it takes to be a parent.
The pacing may be a little slow for those of us who are used to the fast, in your face rhythm that is so often seen in anime. However, the anime is charming. Each episode takes its time, and the comedy is light and subtle. It’s a very refreshing break from the comedies with loud characters who practically beg you to laugh with their nonsensical antics. The artwork looks like it could have been drawn from a child’s popup book. This doesn’t decrease the quality, but rather makes viewers feel like they’re living inside of young Rin’s head.
There is one quality to the show that impresses me but also leaves me slightly torn. Of course, the relationship between Rin and Daikichi is heartwarming, but it’s not over the top. The big thing we expect from shows like these are those tear jerking moments that tear our hearts out. I must admit I was waiting for the obligatory episode where Daikichi will be in jeopardy of losing custody of Rin to her biological mother, but it didn’t happen. Even more surprising is the lack of dramatic moments on the whole.
On the one hand, I felt sort of cheated. Though I’m glad Daikichi didn’t have to fight for Rin and give an extremely trite speech about how special she is to him, I do think the show could have used a dramatic moment at least once. On the other hand, it portrays a much more realistic relationship. Daikichi and Rin are close, but Rin doesn’t immediately adapt to having a new father and while Daikichi does grow found of her, he isn’t over the top about his feelings. This makes his character believable, as Daikichi isn’t the type of man who wears his heart on his sleeve. There is sadness and loss in the show, but it doesn’t take over in an attempt to pull at the viewer’s emotions. The overabundance of tear jerkers and angst ridden moments will make shows like these clichéd and melodramatic. Usagi Drop avoids this to the point where you feel like something’s missing from it. Despite this feeling of absence I believe the show is much better off this way. The characters are more mature and the tale still manages to maintain its charm.
To put it simply, what makes Usagi Drop so special is its mature way of looking at a story that does not typically get told in anime. Because the story is so simple, it doesn’t really top everyone’s list of totally epic anime, but its simplicity and decision to not go over the top is what makes it so unique. In a weird way, this is a special show not because of what it does do but because of what it chooses not to do.
It’s been forever since I posted on here. It’s good to be back guys.