For probably the first time in the entire season, Daikichi actually struggles with parenting. Yes, it’s never easy to adopt a child, but I’ve always felt there there was something missing from Usagi Drop that prevented it from feeling whole: adversity. Parenthood is tricky business, but almost everything has gone a bit too smoothly for our single father. At times, the anime can feel a little… sterile? Finally, when a fever afflicts Rin, we see Daikichi fret and worry like any healthy parent should.
A scene that most parents should relate to occurs near the end of the episode. Daikichi, with Yukari’s help, has seemingly weathered the worst of the storm, i.e. Rin’s condition is improving. As Daikichi looks down at the sleeping child, however, he silently curses to himself: “If I’d gotten [sick], it’d be nothing to me. Dammit! Dammit! Goddammit!” In the background, we can hear a slower, more plaintive version of the OP playing. I think the scene is effective without being manipulatively so. Even though I’ve never been a parent, I can sympathize with how the man feels. In adversity, we see Daikichi’s vulnerability. In his vulnerability, Daikichi becomes a more rounded, human character. Yes, if we wanted to be pedantic, Daikichi has always been human, but you should know what I mean.
When, on the other hand, the show only presents the lighter side of parenthood, well, it’s not that I become suspicious of the anime’s intentions or anything, but something just feels off. It becomes harder to emotionally invest in the story’s characters when they aren’t facing any ordeal. Of course, I’m not asking for tear-jerking drama in every single episode. And if a show only intends to convey a particular mood, especially one of contentment and happiness, I suppose many slice-of-life anime could be deemed successful. I guess, however, I just don’t think — and I’m sure many of you will disagree with me on this — that “This makes me feel good inside” suffices for successful storytelling. As a result, while Usagi Drop has been a good anime thus far, I nevertheless felt a certain something was missing from the show to elevate it to upper-tier status. With this episode and one more to come, however, the anime may have a chance to hit the mark after all.
The anime sure does make a big to-do about fathers taking an active role in parenting. One could chalk this up to cultural differences, but I’m not so sure about that. Even in the West, many fathers don’t embrace parenthood as much as they should. I guess I’m just wondering if Usagi Drop is reflecting reality (“There’s really more of us out there than one might think!”) or desiring something that doesn’t quite exist at the moment (“I really wish there were more guys out there like Daikichi!”).
An ominous ending
Usually, the tertiary bit of animation after the credits is nothing more than a footnote or a light-hearted aside. Think of these scenes as petit fours, i.e. a pleasant end to a good meal. Since the adaptation is near its end, however, this week’s petit four is more like, oh, I dunno — what’s a culinary equivalent of a cliffhanger? I guess if you got a savory macaroon, you would wonder if the meal was really over. Anyway, it seems that dear Yukari has gotten sick — from Rin? — and Daikichi appears quite concerned.
With next week being the last episode (I think), this is an interesting way to end a story where everyone has been dreading the conclusion. If you know how the manga ends, you’d see that these concerns aren’t necessarily unjustified. In my mind, I think the only natural course of action is for Daikichi to nurse Yukari back to health. Of course, considering how innocently and delicately the adults have danced around the romantic angle all season long, who knows what the adaptation will ultimately decide to do. For once, I guess, I will put on my fanboy hat and root for a Daikichi-Yukari finish. It just makes sense.
• I guess a rose by any other name would still be a rose, but I wonder if it bothers Daikichi at all that Rin always insist that Daikichi isn’t her father. I mean, yeah, he isn’t her biological father, but at some point, shouldn’t she feel as though this loving man is more of a paternal figure than ever?
• When Yukari melts over a laughing baby the way that mothers just seem to do, the camera slowly zooms into Daikichi’s goofy face.
I’m not quite sure how to interpret this brief moment. Is it a “Aw, man, she totally wants babies. Score!” kind of reaction from Daikichi?
• Gruel? When I was sick as a kid, I got congee. In fact, what Yukari gives Rin looks a lot like congee… though my mom never added peas to hers.
• As average as the technical animation has been, the art direction can’t really be faulted. There are some neat touches here and there that help to add characterization to the anime.
Daikichi looks a little unshaven near the end of the episode, which shows how much Rin’s illness has affected him. The man’s too worried and preoccupied to even shave! Poor Daikichi doesn’t seem to excel at growing facial hair though.
• Just a quick note: fever isn’t really a bad thing. As long as a person’s body temperature isn’t brain-impairingly high, fever is just the body undergoing homeostasis. A lot of these fever-breaking medicines are quite unnecessary. Our immune systems are better equipped to fight off illnesses than we might think, but in the modern era, pharmaceutical companies have led us to believe that every minute change in the body requires a specific medicine of some sort. Rin had a 39.8 degree fever? I’m sure most parents will naturally be worried to see that number — and when I have a kid of my own, I will be too — but from a medical standpoint, it’s nothing out of the norm for children over the age of two.