It’s a bitter-sweet ending to Usagi Drop, only in that all good things must invariably come to an end. Finishing at eleven episodes the series never deviated from the path it laid in the very first episode back in early July. This was the anti-overkill show, with neither too many character introductions or crazy plot developments, and there definitely wasn’t any fan-service. Unless maybe you consider Daichiki in his underwear to be so. Indeed, the show was never too cold, nor ever too hot, but always seemed to be just perfectly right.
The episode begins with the threesome of Daikichi, Rin and Kouki as they shop for groceries. Yukari is under the weather (aren’t we always?), and Daikichi is eager to return her hefty favor from the previous episode. Rin, ever concerned about the people closest to her, feels a little down, as it turns out for fear that she passed her bug to Kouki’s mother. Daikichi puts her fears to rest and everything turns out ok, as Yukari quickly recovers.
Throughout the final episode we see Rin continually playing with her wobbly front baby tooth. A nice reminder as we get through the final episode, that Rin has definitely grown in the year she’s been with her nephew Daikichi. We also see several scenes with jump roping, which the kids are practicing for a contest at their school. It’s a good opportunity for parents to meet up and jibba-jabba as well. Dai’s new daddy friends show up, as well as Yukari, for a nice day in the park.
In addition to the jumping rope and normal adult chit-chat, Daikichi uses the situation to once again, reaffirm his decision to raise Rin. He declares that parents are pretty amazing in their own right, and boldly asks the others if they’re honestly ok with not having time of their own. They’re unanimous and quick in their response, surprising Daikichi, but ultimately putting him at ease.
We learn that Rin wins the “backwards” jump rope contest, and the next day, Dai and Rin pay a long due visit to his parents’ house. There are a few noteworthy moments at the Kawachi household. His sister Kazumi immediately notices the changes in the previously introverted Rin and very subtly (through masterful quietness) conveys her admiration for her older brother. Added is the fact that she’s engaged to be married now, but that the future husband quickly wants children, something Kazumi can’t see happening. The sacrificing of her life being the hump she can’t mentally get over.
Rin finally loses the first of two of her front teeth while eating dinner and another worthy moment (extremely brief), is when they show all of photographs that Daikichi’s mother has kept, including Rin cooking, her graduation from kindergarten and her first day of the first grade.
The ending of the final show begins with the same parents again in the park. Daikichi relays some of his sister’s sentiments and once again the others make him feel better. Marking the one-year passing of his grandfather the family visits his grave, with Rin telling him about her adult teeth coming in. On the train ride home, all of Daikichi’s days with Rin flash sweetly through his mind. Later at home, Rin loses the other of her front teeth. All the while we hear Daikichi’s inner thoughts, based around the decision he made at the start of the season.
In Episode 02, after asking for the demotion, he states, at the end of the episode, “Right now, I couldn’t say, ‘This isn’t a sacrifice’ without having it sound like a lie… But I hope I will be able to think that way some years from now.” It would seem, from his thoughts at the end of the series, that he didn’t have to wait years to believe so. After the credits roll, there’s a scene in which Daikichi and Rin, holding hands, stroll down a wooded path with leaves falling. This is the same scene shown in Daikichi’s dream sequence in the first segment of the first episode.
Usagi Drop is easily my favorite show of the year so far. Easily so, in fact. I’ve enjoyed others, like Madoka, AnoHana, Steins;Gate, etc, but this was a gem through and through. It just oozed smoothness and had an ease to it I don’t think I’ve ever seen in an anime. Some other kind of true to life shows I might compare it to would be the depressing, but ultimately rewarding, Welcome to the N.H.K and the stellar romantic-dramedy Nodame Cantabile. I’ll try my best to identity some of the well-laid elements of the show.
First and foremost, any reviewer would be doing a great disservice without first mentioning the characters of Usagi Drop. I would sum them in 2 words–Complex & Simple. It may sound paradoxical, but that’s exactly what they’re like. I’d go as far as saying that that’s what real people in the real world are like as well. There are good times and bad times, there are times in which we need help and there are times that we can offer our help to others. The series creators did a superb job showcasing the characters. Especially in fact, the female characters.
This makes a lot of sense due to the mangaka of Usagi Drop being the very female Yumi Unita. While Daikichi is a well-formed male lead and the other guys (Kouki included) are completely solid, it’s the real women of Usagi who steal the show. Gotou, Daikichi’s co-worker gets some props for being the first person he encounters who shoots straight about family and sacrifice. Haruko, (Daikichi’s cousin) along with Masako and Yukari, show multiple facets of not only motherhood, but womanhood in general. Daikichi’s sister and mother also provide some small pointed moments.
The main characters are pretty much a joy from start to finish. If I have one knock on the entire show, it’s that there can’t possibly ever have existed a child as sweet as Rin. But I rationalize it like this–if there was a child that sweet, someone would have to turn them into a fictional character, which Rin is. It’s circular logic, see?
The production of the show is 100% flawless. In fact, while mulling over the live-action Usagi Drop, I can’t help but think the story will suffer from lack of animation. I can’t imagine this story without Rin’s happy face or Daikichi’s what the hell face. The animation is memorable, which means a lot from me–an anime fan not so impressed by, well, not much of anything really. It’s very simple in its colorful pastel-like colors and always easy on the eyes. The opening of each episode, in particular with its water colored illustration style, was outstanding.
The music was fantastic. I’m not an opening/ending kinda’ guy and Usagi didn’t particularly overwhelm me. The background music however, was flawless, and unlocked an entire other dimension to the animation. I submit the following sound clip as evidence letter U, and to which I now can’t listen without getting a little choked up.
Just one of many musically magical pieces used throughout the series. Another aspect of the sound was the ever-present Ayu Matsuura, the 11 year-old seiyu who voices Rin. Hearing her voice was like goddamn sunshine throughout all the summer days. All the actors and actresses were solid and I can’t honestly remember noticing any characters with strange sound qualities. I imagine, in my silly mind, all these adult roles being that which voice actors go nuts over. I don’t know about you, but I love mature sounding people in anime. All the adults and all the kids were wonderful. Like in all aspects in Usagi Drop though, it’s Rin and Daikichi who are the centerpieces.
That leaves me with just the plot, which was tight and once again, simple. The story is set up in the first episode. And the story never changes up or switches out. There aren’t other stories introduced that take away from the original. There seemed to be two main type of episodes, with some slight variations. There were central story episodes–He takes Rin home, finds out about her and later her mother and deals with being parent. And there were the “Daikichi learns a lesson” type of episodes, in which he sometimes imparted those lessons to Rin as well.
There were slight variations, such as the Haruko episode, in which Daikichi’s resolve is bolstered, just from bearing witness to the struggles of another familiar parent. I’ll fight the urge to detail any further character growth or subtle plot development. By sticking to the “non” rating system we developed last season, I would go ahead and recommend this show to anything with a pulse. It easily makes my favorite list, and were we to make another “anime shows you’d recommend to someone who doesn’t watch anime” list, this would have to be near the top.
Just know that if you haven’t seen this series, the people in it and some of the things they deal with, will be true to life. Not always mind-blowing and not always exciting, but always just right. Thanks Usagi Drop for making my summer a little better. Thanks also to anyone who may have followed these reviews or left comments!