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.