Story: The manga revolves around a 30-year old bachelor who decides to take care of the recently found out illegitimate young child of his grandfather, after no one else in his family decides to step up to the responsibility. This follows the developing relationship between the single man Daikichi and child Rin and Daikichi understanding how to be a parent and care for a young child.
The story mainly has two arcs. The first was absolutely heartwarming and beautiful, depicting death, divorce, difficult marriages, family strain, and the hardship of juggling a full-time career and caring for a child in a sweetly enduring but not cliché and sappy manner. This first arc wonderfully depicts the difficulties that come with raising a child along with the growth and happiness that comes along as well. This was not the simple case of Daikichi becoming an ideal parent followed with cute interactions with a child. The focus, thankfully, mainly remains among the interactions among Daikichi and Rin, with the characters and their situations adding to their relationship, and less on romantic and biological mother/father drama, so the series feels realistically slice-of-life as opposed to having a soap-opera feel. If only the manga had ended here, I would have given the series overall a 9/10.
Sadly, that was not the case. Instead, the manga continued through a second arc, which paled in comparison and had a rather bizarre and slightly disturbing ending. This arc focused more on romantic drama and angst while the parent/child relationship started falling more towards the background. As such, the quality seemed to have a more high school drama feel with less of the heartwarming and uplifting feel of the first arc. Though relationships were still realistically depicted and the characters remained true to themselves for the most part, the plot somewhat fell a little flat and progressed in a bizarre manner towards the very end. Truthfully, the ending seemed slightly too convenient, trying to make the entire situation less disturbing and more acceptable but I still was not a fan.
Art: Beautifully simplistic and yet nicely detailed. There was little use of sparkles, glitter, and flowers tainting the scenes and the panels were well organized with little clutter. There was not too much going on in any page. The background was simple but still nice and cleanly done. The character design was simple but distinct, with characters depicted in a realistic manner as opposed to having characters who are all somehow unrealistically attractive. Had the characters all been model attractive, the story would seem less realistic and relatable as such much focus was given to make them seem more ordinary and typical. There mannerisms were comical, sweet, and melancholy as the situation called for without being over-the-top. They each truly looked the part and such nice detail was taken to portray their individual characteristics. The animation was highly suitable for the slice-of-life and realistic portrayal for the plot of the manga.
Characters: The characters are the main reason that manga was as wonderful and heart-warming as it was without being lame and cliché. I will focus ont the main two since they were the ones who carried the plot through and through.
Daikichi, the single over-time workaholic, does not just become an ideal parent overnight. He clearly struggled raising Rin, even honestly admitting that he had to make sacrifices and wonders if he made the right choice or not, but worked hard, nonetheless, to be a good parent due to understanding how helpless 6-year-old Rin must feel from the situation. Despite some reasonable shortcomings and typical human imperfections, Daikichi showcased what a truly kind and thoughtful person he was deep down. Though he was new to parenting, he was able to wonderfully care for her by simply trying his best to make her happy and be there for her.
Rin depicted an almost ideal child. She was sweet, caring, mature, proper, yet still naïve all in an endearing but realistic manner. Throughout the series, she also progresses and starts opening up from a shy, reserved young girl to one who feels more comfortable expressing herself and supporting Daikichi the way he does for her. The love between the two was beautifully depicted.
The others were either fairly likable or somewhat annoying, but still realistic, keeping the manga grounded and not becoming some cliché and dramatic soap opera. However, the second arc seemed to take away slightly from the characters, making them more unlikable. I was not particular to the decisions the characters made in them even though I marginally understand some of them.
Overall: A beautiful and endearing depiction of a bachelor turned parent by a sweet young girl. This manga sweetly yet realistically conveys the hardships that are faced by parents (may they be single mothers or father, divorced, married but clearly unhappy) and the positive and negative events that come from raising a child. Had the manga simply ended with the first arc, this series would be one of my favorites. However, the second slightly tarnished the overall series. I would highly recommend reading the first arc of the series and just stopping there.
Usagi Drop is for the most part a tale of two stories. The first is a extremely heartwarming look at a young male that takes in an abandoned child. This part of the story contains some of the most tear bringing moments I have ever read. The second part of this tale though really leaves a bad taste in some people's mouth as we descend onto a very strange path.
I am going to throw this out here first; if you want to see the heartwarming stuff then read up to the end of volume four then STOP. After this point the story jumps ten years to when Rin is in high school. This is also the case for the anime based off of this manga; it stops right before the time skip.
So the start of the manga was something extraordinary; it had everything you needed to be a tear jerker. We start out with a meeting in order to decide who would look over the recently abandoned Rin. After much debate, Daikichi decides to take it upon himself to look after Rin through childhood. The first 4 volumes of this manga depicts Rin growing up through grade school and how Daikichi deals with being a single male raising a little girl by himself. How everything flowed together was actually quite surprising since this was apparently the authors longest running manga. Everything was great about the first arc plain and simple.
Now a lot of people will tell you that the manga takes a nosedive after the time skip into the high school years. I will agree that the plot does seem to fall off considerably in quality moments but the real reasoning behind everyone's distaste is actually extremely superficial and lame. It's hard to talk about without ruining the ending but just remember that social customs of one nation will not be the same as your own so something that seems weird to you may not seem weird to most Japanese citizens. The main focus of the second arc is the relationships between Rin's friends, Daikichi, and Kouki's mother. Unlike the first arc, the second did seem like a complete 180 degree turn in terms of how the story was being told. It was not as appealing as the first bit that is for sure.
Overall it is unfair to rate the story in halves but if I were going to rate each arc, the first deserves a perfect score while the second is barely passable.
The art style was actually quite good but the character models were not. There were proportion issues throughout the entire manga and the author really doesn't know how to draw hands that well (lol). One thing to point out however is that the visual quality of the anime is astounding.
I do not care what you think about the second arc but the moments between Daikichi and Rin in the first arc will continue to be some of the most heartwarming stuff I have experienced so far. While I didn't talk about Kouki and his mother hardly at all, they were also very important to the story. This 10/10 rating though really goes to Daikichi. He entered a situation blind of what the outcome would be but he adjusted his life in order to properly raise Rin. He is the most important male character to date in manga.
For the entire manga this score might be a little too high but I wholeheartedly recommend you either read the first four volumes of this manga or go watch the complete anime. If you feel invested in the characters then move on to the second arc if you have an open mind. It is not horrible but just does not have the same emotional impact as the first.
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WARNING: NOT A SIMPLE HEART WARMING STORY ABOUT ADOPTING A CHILD
SPOILER WARNING: The ending I found hard to come to terms with. It wasn't like the worst possible ending but I just can't believe that Dakichi truly had strong parental feeling because there is no way in hell a person who feels like a father to someone could marry their daughter. Plus its a 24 year age difference and I feel she wasted her potential. In the end I was routing for her to still be with Kouki because I just didn't want her to be with Dakichi. Why couldn't she have married Kouki and they all lived together? But then you can argue that the ideal scenario was for Dakichi to marry Kouki's mother and for Kouki to marry Rin. Its still very difficult for me to wrap my head around what Dakichi and Rin were thinking but I don't regret reading the series just wish it ended slightly differently.
While the ending could cause a little frustraition with most American readers, I love this series. The over all story is one that you can almost relate to in some ways because we all have known someone we could possibly relate to from the story, which adds more to the story I feel.
Story: I've seen the "single parent suddenly get child" concept done several times in different mediums. However, Usagi Drop does it but with completely different feel. It has two major timelines. The first timeline is mostly slice of life. There is drama but nothing like soap opera. It's mainly Daikichi figuring how to make a family with Rin and the moments and feelings that unfold. The second timeline is more dramatic. However, neither become like soap opera which is nice. I will admit that I have a preference for the first timeline but the second is still good. Although this is a slice-and-life series, it's really enchanting and engaging. It's never jaw dropping but you can't put it done. You'll start and before you know it, the second timeline hit. There is humour and romance while both are executed beautifully. I did enjoy the ending and I think it was fitting and endearing. If someone told me the ending beforehand, to be honest, I would be skepetical and think "seriously?!". However, as the series progressed, I really did see the ending as being the best option. Someone may not see it that way but that's my opinion since it can be difficult to swallow. I think it would have been amazing ending right before the second arc begins. Ideally, I would have liked that to happen. However, I can understand the ending and I by no means think that it's bad.
Art: The art style is very simple. However, it gets the job done without all the extra details and being flowerly. It gets the feeling across for every moment whether it be humour, drama or a heart warming scene. Yes, the art could have been better from a technical aspect. The important part though is that the art never hindered the story, characters, or the feelings it was trying to get across. The mangaka definitely has her own style which comes through.
Characters: The star contenders are obviously Daikichi and Rin. They are amazing characters who are so realisitc and lovable. They are completely relatable and the decisions they make are understandable. I could see myself in their shoes which is something I don't see in many female orientated series. Also, their relationship is heart warming. One of the most endearing relationships I have seen. They don't lie about their feelings. Daikichi does show how much trouble having a child can be. He doesn't lie about the fact that he made sacrifices for Rin. However, throughout the series, you see how his prospective of her changes into a beautfiul and meaningful relationship. The same goes for Rin. The secondary characters are also given adequate time and development. One of the best things about the series is you can always see where the love comes from. In many female-orientated series (mainly but not limited to shoujo), characters just love each other without you seeing why. There is no question why they love each other in Usagi Drop because you see the reasons clearly.
Overall: Honestly, one of my favorite series. I will warn you that there is a definite change in tone with the second timeline (begins around volume 5). However, I still adore it. Usagi Drop is definitely an endearing and heartwarming slife of life series. Also, I'll warn you that the ending is not for everybody and many will be happier ending before the second arc begins(I probably would have been too). BUT that doesn't change by rating of it and the fact that I loved the series.