I will be bluntly honest, I don’t like kids. However, despite all of that, kids are still cute and adorable at times, which made my experience with Usagi Drop quite enjoyable.
Kids are very, very far down on my “people I enjoy interacting with” list. They can be loud, annoying, obnoxious, dirty, and half a dozen other unflattering adjectives. It’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t get into Barakamon since children are portrayed in such a painfully accurate manner.
Daikichi is a 30-year-old single man with a solid position at his company and going through life at his own pace. At the start of the story, he has just been informed that his grandfather has finally passed away at the ripe old age of 79. However, upon arriving, he discovers that his grandfather has left behind a child named Rin from an unknown mistress. As Rin is ostracized by the rest of the family due to her illegitimacy, Daikichi decides to raise Rin by himself.
This comes across very well in the story, with Daikichi often getting confused or panicky over situations that he’s not prepared to deal with.
How do you register a child for school? What kind of clothes should you buy for them? What do you do if they get sick? Daikichi deals with all of these problems and many more in his experience with raising Rin, and his responses to each situation range from comical to heartwarming. There are also a lot of moments where Daikichi has to make significant changes in his own life to accommodate Rin, like having to become less ambitious at work so he can get off earlier to pick her up from school, and these moments really bring this story to life in unexpected ways.
Pretty much everything in this anime is focused on the relationship between Daikichi and Rin and how Daikichi has to change his lifestyle in order to raise Rin properly.
While Daikichi initially thinks that this won’t be that difficult a task, anyone who has raised kids before will know that he has no idea what he’s in for.
That being said, the conflict level of this series rarely ever gets above a mild panic. This may turn people off if they aren’t prepared for it, as this series is very low key and fits snugly into the calmer side of the slice of life genre. There’s nothing wrong with this type of storytelling though, and the atmosphere that it creates makes the show feel very homey and peaceful.
Daikichi himself surprised me a lot with how endearing he is as the main characters.
Instead of making him the greatest guy ever with an unending fountain of patience, he’s just a regular nice guy who wants to make Rin happy. He gets mad and annoyed at times and he messes up pretty often, but he still toughs it out and sticks with Rin through it all.
However, there are still some moments where the story teases at something bigger, but never really gets to that point. Several plot threads, such as one relating to Rin’s mom and how she feels about being separated from Rin, are addressed a little, but not enough to feel like a complete arc. I would say that I’d like another season, but based on what I’ve heard, this is one of the few shows where the anime ends better than the manga, which I’ve been told does not end well at all, so I’m happy that the adaptation didn’t go too far and ruin the calm and cutesy tone that the anime has nearly mastered.
Rin turns out to be a bit of a strange character at times.
For the most part, she does act like a typical kid: being bossy, not understanding adult life, and stuff like that. Occasionally, however, there are times where she seems to act like more of an adult than Daikichi. It does fit her character fairly well considering what she’s gone through and how she was raised, but it does happen just a little too frequently. Fortunately, the voice acting for Rin is fantastic. The decision to have her and the other children acted out by real child voice actors and actresses was a brilliant move, adding a lot of realism to this series that could have easily been broken by an adult voice actress.
The animation by Production I.G. turns out surprisingly beautiful considering how far it is outside of this studio’s comfort zone.
The warm color palette and softly-outlined character designs add to the mild and calming atmosphere that the story creates, and movement is so fluid at times that it comes as close to realistic motion as the medium will allow. My only minor complaint is that each episode starts with a more saturated watercolor aesthetic, then shifts to the regular style after the opening theme finishes. It’s not bad, but the discontinuity is a bit odd. Perhaps it’s meant to evoke the sensation of memory or something like that.
The soundtrack by Suguru Matsutani also bolsters the warm and fuzzy tone of the series.
With a strong base in piano work accompanied by strings and the occasional full orchestra or children’s instruments, the mellow sounds don’t stand out much to garner notable attention, but still fit the series very well.
Usagi Drop is an anime that I can recommend to pretty much anyone who’s looking for a more toned-down and relaxed story to follow for its brief 11-episode run. There are a few problems here and there, but they hardly ever detract much from the solid emotional core of this series.
Final Score: 8/10