Daikichi is a single thirty-year-old man whose elderly grandfather has just died leaving behind his secret, illegitimate six-year-old daughter, Rin. When his family treats the girl like a leper and considers giving her to the state, Daikichi, disgusted at their behaviour, announces that he will take her in and raise her himself; thus begins his journey on the road to parenthood. I won’t lie, not a lot happens. The show simply follows Rin and Daikichi in their first year of living together as they face each new trial that comes their way, be it enrolling in nursery school, coping with a fever, or solving bed-wetting problems. However, Usagi Drop is a master class in subtlety. This series is all about the development of its central players, and each everyday hurdle that comes their way facilitates the next stage of their evolution. Nothing hurries along at the speed of light, forces its way into the narrative, or thrusts itself in your face, instead the plot moves forward at a realistic pace, with plenty of fuzzy, heart-warming moments that make the anime all the more engaging to watch.
Outside of the two protagonists’ development, the anime begins to explore several other sub-plots, such as locating Rin’s mother and exploring her motivations for abandoning her child, or the burgeoning relationship between Daikichi and another single parent at the nursery school. However, at a mere eleven episodes in length, Usagi Drop doesn’t really resolve all of the threads it explores, and since it only covers four volumes of the manga, this isn’t too surprising. The arc of this season covers the “settling in period”, reaching a comfortable conclusion as Daikichi accepts his new life and responsibilities so as not to leave the viewer feeling unsatisfied. Likewise, while the central focus of this series is quite closed – in mainly being about Daikichi and Rin – that there are still unanswered questions at the finish, the anime leaves the path open for a continuation that could potentially expand beyond their tight-knit family and venture into a wider world of relationships.
With a style of colouring akin to that of watercolours and a slight flickering effect, the opening moments of each episode look as if each individual frame has been hand-painted. These visuals are absolutely luscious and more like the sort of imagery you’d find in independent shorts such as The Diary of Tortov Roddle. Unfortunately, when the main part of the episode kicks in this effect disappears in favour of more standard animation. That being said, however, Production I.G. has nailed a suitable design for the show’s tone. Using a muted, but far from dull, colour palette full of lighter hues the series has an altogether soft appearance that mixes well with the fluffy and comforting content. Sure, the show suffers from the inevitable pitfall of a looser animation style and boasts some iffy proportions or just plain dodgy drawing at times (one scene depicting Daikichi from behind makes it look like his ears are halfway down his neck instead of on his head), but overall the visuals work well and serve to enhance the anime rather than hinder it.
The background music for Usagi Drop is ideal for the series’ tone. The various piano based melodies scattered throughout perfectly reflect Rin’s charming, cheerful innocence while others emphasise the show’s overall nurturing nature. The latter quality is particularly noticeable during the scenes where Kouki’s mother is tending to a feverish Rin where the gentle harmony warms the heart as much as a bowl of healing rice porridge.
The voice acting is also top-notch. Ayu Matsuura’s performance of Rin perfectly suits the character and conveys both her naivety as well as her more mature side with ease. Likewise Hiroshi Tsuchida's inflections manage to allude to Daikichi’s rough-around-the-edges nature while imbuing the voice with an increasing softness that can only come with being a loving parent. The secondary vocal cast also perform just as well with Nao Sakai nailing Kouki’s boisterous attitude and Maaya Sakamoto exploiting Masako’s immature mannerisms.
This show would be nothing without its characterisation, and in particular that of the two central protagonists. As an individual, Rin is perfectly pitched. She manages to exude an aura of absolute adorableness but without becoming too cutesy, sickly sweet, or flat. Certainly, had she failed to be so damn cute, Usagi Drop wouldn’t work half as well as it does. The viewer needs to like Rin and sympathise with her and the series manages this flawlessly. By portraying her loneliness and sorrow in the opening episode then proceeding to depict her coming out of her shell, the anime manages to avoid making her into a tragic case or an emotional brat. Instead, it manages to balance her carefree and childlike nature with her insecurities and sadness in a way that ensures she’s wholly endearing.
While Rin may take centre stage a lot of the time and tug at every woman’s maternal instinct, for me the real star of the show is Daikichi and the development of his character is absolutely stellar. At the beginning he’s a bachelor through and through and isn’t particularly good with women or children. However, as the series progresses and he spends more time with Rin, he realises that he has to grow up, make sacrifices, and can no longer live purely for himself. Gradually his focus shifts more and more towards Rin, and it’s small details such as his quitting smoking that make his evolution seem all the more real. That Daikichi goes from the man who will bribe his relatives’ children with sweets just so that they’ll leave him alone, to a responsible parent holding a sick child’s hand all night, and that the viewer goes on this journey with him makes watching the series truly worthwhile.
However, what truly brings everything together is Daikichi’s interaction with Rin and how they both learn from each other. Daickichi himself admits at one point during the show that he wonders who is raising who, and throughout the series, the parental role flip-flops between the two. One minute Rin will be berating her guardian for not saying thanks before his meal and waking him up for work; then in the next instant it will be Daikichi teaching his ward about cereal and reassuring her that she won’t be abandoned. With Rin’s “parenting” contributing some gentle comedy into the mix and Daikichi’s inciting more than enough “aww moments” to keep a gaggle of broody housewives cooing over him for a week, it’s undoubtedly this rapport between child and adult that makes for the most engaging and heart-warming viewing.
It’s been a long time since I sat and watched a series with a constant dopey grin on my face, but that’s exactly what happened with Usagi Drop. This series ambles along with a quiet and understated grace without relying on any gimmicks. Instead it lets the beauty of human interaction, innocence and development take centre stage and leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Before I start let me clarify that I don’t care about slice of life shows. I find them to be the second most simplistic and passable genre, with moeblobs topping them by a few miles for going overboard. In this particular case I sat down to watch it simply because the anime became top ten in almost every site in just a few weeks. I wondered “hey how is this possible; it is just another everyday show”.
I read the description of the story and it doesn’t seem like much. Some guy finds out his grandfather had a kid in an old age and decides to raise it after he passed away. Ok, so why is this so great to bother? Some said it was because of the really weird thing that happens in the end of the manga (which I will not reveal since it is a spoiler) and others because it is very good at what is supposed to be about (meaning that you watch it mostly for the feelings it transmits to you). The story is otherwise very basic, the characters are very basic, the ending is not really there, so I am already not seeing this as a perfect show, all in a very objective and undeniable manner.
Other than that I do admit that as far as presentation goes it does a fine job. It really feels like everyday life. More than the usual too. For example, there was an anime I watched some years ago with a rather similar story. It was called Chocotto Sister and unlike Usagi Drop it had a lot of silliness in it, from lolicon, to harem, to ecchi, to female Santa Claus gifting naked girls to teenagers. Its slice of life feeling was fine too but quickly became stupid and the rather low production values made it passable and even forgettable.
Usagi Drop on the other hand does things a lot more subtly and artistic. The visuals are made at times to look like cute pastel-drawn pictures, the characters have lively motions that make them look interesting to pay attention to, the voice acting is appropriate and never overdone. The characters are also behaving in a much understood reason; you won’t find energetic, angsty-filled teenager cop-outs here. The protagonist is an adult working, and the girl needs psychological support. All these everyday aspects of a normal life are very rare in anime and it is quite interesting to see them being given such attention. Most shows would skip all that, give the characters magic money, their hardest problem would be their scores at school and everybody would accidentally bump on one another while undressed. And do I even need to remind you how mature parenthood was portrayed in Astarotte no Omocha?
Usagi Drop avoids all that and focuses solely on portraying realistically what it means to have an actual working life, while having to take care of a melancholic child. It shows all the things you need to sacrifice after you have kids to take care of and it’s not holding back to be sad about it. This unfortunately makes it a show which is hard to be appreciated by anyone who doesn’t like realism in his shows, and by that I mean around 99.98% of any anime, cartoon, movie, dorama, or Hollywood movie out there. Heck, I myself am no fan of too much realism. At the same time the show is far more mature and down to earth that anything else I have watched regarding parenthood. I know for example many who consider the second season of Clannad to be realistic, but the ending alone yells it was just an escapism fairy tale and nothing more. There is another one called Kurenai, which felt realistic in how a young boy needs to take care of a little depressed girl. It also had a fair amount of action, dementia, and even incest. Was it better than Usagi Drop for having action and dementia? No, because the protagonist was a super powerful fighter who was beating crooks every day and yet acted in school like he was a meek wimp and nobody ever questioned his injuries. It became too far fetched after awhile too.
Now before you start thinking I am praising the series too much for it realism, I must still clarify that it also has its minor issues in terms of storytelling. For example, the way Daikichi took Rin under his wing happened very easily. He just took her home and that’s it! She was also accepted to the kindergarten without any paperwork to clarify who, what, where, when. The whole adoption thing happened really easily.
But it is not the story or the development that matter but the feelings it transmits to you. And sure, any stupid fan catering/poser/moe show out there can do the same but none of them manage to succeed by being normal. They are just exaggerated, throwing in lots of sex, violence, death, immorality, and then call themselves “mature” when in reality they are just over the top and eventually poke your disbelief too much. The characters are also good for being basic, without any unnecessary extra, such as being defined by quirks, hairstyles or dress fetishes. They are good at their role and in no need of extra spices. This is what I appreciate in this show; it manages to be simple and quite realistic without being dull right away even if you are not a fan of the genre. And this comes from someone who tried colossi like Aria, Wandering Son, and Yokohama Shopping Diary and found them unbearably BOOORING.
So is it a good show? Well it definitely is an uncommon one, and I say this in a positive way. It is getting really hard to see something out of the ordinary in most recent anime and Usagi Drop succeeds by being about REAL life and not some wannabe “mature” story. At the same time, I doubt it would be so famous if it weren’t for “that event” in the end of the manga (which was deliberately left out in the anime version).
You liked it and want more? The only similar ones that come close to being good for me are Koi Kaze and Aishiteru ze Baby. There is also Aka-chan to Boku but it is old and it was never fully subbed so good luck on watching it raw. Yet even those are barely as artistic and captivating as Usagi Drop, which for me now belongs in the best realistic anime I have ever seen.
… Not that there are that many of those around.
p.s. Dear NoitaminA, you are doing a great job when you stick to slice-of-life shows. Please keep the frakk away from science fiction, because over there you stink badly.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 2/2 (good for its kind)
Visual Effects 2/2 (pastel overtones)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (calm and mature)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (semi-episodic)
Complexity 2/2 (rich from a social point)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 1/2 (rather open)
CHARACTER SECTION: 9/10
Presence 2/2 (strong)
Personality 2/2 (simple but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (simplistic but at least everyone has some)
Development 2/2 (major)
Catharsis 1/2 (left incomplete but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 7/10
Historical Value 1/3 (not much)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you liked its style)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely well made to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Simple tale but does great on the emotional level.
A list of things you need in order to enjoy Usagi Drop: One eye (two recommended), knowledge that children exist (also acceptable is knowledge of childishness), and half a soul (more recommended). You've got those? Great! Watch it.
This is a classic slice of life show. Perhaps The classic one. It is all about a single man having a child suddenly enter his life, and their learning to live together. The choices in it are very real: children have a way of changing everything in your life, starting with the most basic of priorities and up to what you have for breakfast. But ultimately, if you try hard enough, it will be well worth it.
People have told me there is a manga which this is based on. No one should really care because "slice of life" requires just a slice to get the point across, and Usagi Drop most certainly does. From the "happy happy happy" opening, the gorgeous artistic choices, mature voice acting, intelligent writing, to the beautiful underlying themes... this is hands down the greatest description of a parent/child relationship anime has ever seen. I tried limiting that statement for the sake of objectivity, but nothing else comes close.
Writing (Story and Characters):
The characters are not a particularly interesting bunch. The story can be basically summed up as "30 year old man adopts young girl". Still, this is magnificent. The format is semi-episodic, where each episode is a certain slice, yet some of it carries forward. A lot of challenges like "how do you buy clothes for a girl?" that are so extremely mundane are brought to light.
That is the series in a nutshell. Instead of focusing on the grand side of things, it is more just a list of mundane decisions. Nothing over the top, no huge drama, just a series of challenges that every parent has. Through it all, a very realistic portrayal of a little girl makes this work so well. Slice of life at its very best - the characters react to life, that is all.
It is compelling tale, woven with great care. Perhaps the best work in the slice of life genre in anime. The writing is simple and effective, reflecting the fact that life is often not as complicated as people make it - and that something that forces you to change priorities has a way of making that clear.
Art (Animantion and Sound):
Gorgeous and unique. Nothing of the cookie-cutter stuff that has dominated the past five years. The character designs are excellent. The movement is natural (except when taking artistic license) and smooth. The backgrounds are magnificent and detailed. The use of water-coloring is glorious. Even the opening and ending sequences are a perfect fit for the series.
Rarely does the art add so much to a series. It sets the atmosphere, it adds to the characters, it fits the narrative. The voice acting is well above average and at times absolutely brilliant. The effects are used intelligently. The soundtrack is perhaps the perfect selection for the series.
This is the first time, and perhaps the last, that art has caused me to add a picture to a review. This is not the art that impressed me most, but it definitely takes the standard and pushes it to new levels. Usually artwork can help convey things that aren't ordinary, but this is the rare case that the artwork takes the most mundane things in the world and gives them proper respect.
If only for the art, this series is definitely worth a watch.
In case it wasn't obvious: I love Usagi Drop. In a landscape full of formulaic shows with formulaic characters and formulaic art, this stands out as something special. It is hands down the best pure Slice of Life anime series ever. Don't expect anything shocking to happen. Do expect it to wear down every level of cynicism you have and be one of the most touching shows ever.
Have you ever been placed in a situation where you're not sure what to watch so you just say "fuck it" and look for a short anime with good reviews so you can move on to bigger pictures? Yeah, that's basically Usagi Drop for me. This was an intriguing find for me, as I'd mostly been sticking to the high-action adrenaline filled shounen or the goofy comedy anime before then. Oh, and a couple of ecchi and yuri for no good reason whatsoever... moving on.
Usagi Drop interested me with its premise. A 30-year-old man who goes by the name of Daikichi is living on his own, when he recieves word that his grandfather has died, leaving behind a 6-year-old girl who is his daughter; he had an affair with *** ** *** ******* and the girl is an illigitimate child. Named Rin, the family refuse to take in the orphaned girl due to the embarassment of a 79-year-old elder having such a young daughter, and it's at this point that Daikichi steps up to take the girl in as his own. After this, the series takes on a semi-episodic pace, with the situations being episodic but still having some form of structure. I suppose it's best to put it like this: Daikichi trying to find out who Rin's mother is can be called the main story, but anything involving Daikichi and Rin is slice-of-life. There is story beneath all of the episodic style but it's not given as much attention.
Watching Rin and Daikichi become closer friends was a truly heartwarming experience for me. Seeing how Daikichi would sacrifice his cynical nature and smoking for the sake of this pint-sized girl was remarkable, and I found it to be one of the more interesting friendships out there. That's what separates Usagi Drop from other anime: friendship. Most anime that focus on a male and female together scream romance, but seeing that he's got 24 more years ahead of her... that'd be pretty fucking weird. Regardless, the bond between Rin and Daikichi is completely believable and more genuine then a good amount of the shounen friendships that you see in anime like Bleach.
Neither Rin nor Daikichi are each others superior or inferior... well, let me rephrase that. Many would simply look at it as a story of adoption, but when you look into it, you realise that Rin is helping Daikichi as much as Daikichi is helping Rin. She's helping him stop his cynical ways, she's the cause of him quitting smoking, she's a source of happiness for him, she's giving him a reason to live. All while he is supplying her with food, clothes, luxuries, etc.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast isn't NEARLY as memorable as our two protagonists. I always found Kouta (Rin's friend) to be bratty and obnoxious, and his mother is just there for the sake of Daikichi wanting a woman. It's not that they're BAD or anything; each character has their own distinct personality that separates them from each other, and certain individuals DO command a good amount of presence when the situation calls for it. They just don't compare to Rin or Daikichi who are, on their own, outstanding characters.
The animation is gorgeous. Everything looks like it was drawn in with watercolour or pastilles, the colours are very soft and it isn't at all hard on the eye. The character designs are pretty forgettable but I won't spit on that too much, this is an anime set in the real world so it can't go all out in terms of extravangant character appearances. The music isn't very memorable either, but it's darn decently written and pleasantly atmospheric. Nothing great, but nothing terrible either.
And lastly, the ending is very... open? There's not really any conclusion, it just stops. Hopefully there'll be a second series soon, as the first was a great time from beginning to end. Usagi Drop earns an 8 out of 10.
What else to watch:
Barakamon: comedy anime, similar friendship between man and child.
Clannad After Story: romance anime, again friendship between man and child.
Azumanga Daioh: comedy anime, cute girls acting cute just like Rin.
Usagi Drop is one of those anime that you could literally watch without having a brain.
No really, you could, because for the whole 11 episodes, you just have a sensation of... peace.
Daikichi's grandpa just died so he went to his funeral, but there, he discovered that his grandpa had a child with another woman than his grandma, and is no 6 years old.
Daikichi, having 30 years already without a wife, living a rather gray life, and seeing that no one would accept this little, adorable girl, decides to change his life, and so without having a clue on how to be a father takes her under his custody.
The story now on, I'd say from episode 2 on, is pretty much over, since the episode to come will be Daikichi rising as he can Rin, learning himself something from her.
ANIMATION AND SOUND
Studio I.G. has no problem on making super realistic graphics for his anime, they're very capable.
Still they prefered to make something more... childish for their little SoL anime, that fits very well the show and makes it even better.
The sound is pretty good too.
Characters are no big deal, they're like a common family, with Daikichi learning the way to happiness from Rin and Rin growing by Daikichi advises, with the family step by step getting close to Rin.
Only problem in the show is that Rin is rather a perfect child, she's flawless, and ruins a bit the opera.
Off-Topic: this is solved in other anime, like Wolf Children, where rising a child alone is actually realisting, with tears and happy moments.
There's no much left to say, I higly reccoment this anime especially to people in search of a slow-peaced show.