Oh dear — you’ve seem to have caught the moe. I’m afraid it is quite fatal….
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.
I agree with you on this episode. Daikichi could come close to a Gary Stu at times (I believe that you yourself called him that at least once or twice), and so this episode was needed to make him more believable and realistically flawed, imo.
I also think that its Ok for a slice of life show to just be heartwarming, but to stand out from the crowd of slice of life shows out there, the show needs to be more than that alone.
In other words, I would call a slice of life show that is only heartwarming, and doesn’t really engage you at an intellectual level, to be “average”. What makes Usagi Drop above average, in my opinion, is the fact it often intellectually engages you. Not always, but sometimes.
Like yourself, Rin’s constant insistence that Daikichi isn’t her father does seem a bit tiresome to me at this point. No, he’s not biologically her father, but he might as well be, given how he’s taken on a parental role here. I also dislike this because I think that Rin’s refusal to view him as her father was perhaps even done to purposely help set up the manga ending that many people did not like… Since you alluded to it yourself, you probably know what I mean there.
Part of me thinks it would be best if Daikichi asked Rin to call her “Uncle”. That would be ironic given that she’s actually his Aunt, biologically speaking, but I think it would be a way of recognizing that Rin’s biological father was very important to her, while at the same time recognizing that Daikichi is also a legitimate parental figures of sorts for Rin. Just an idea.
Anyway, really nice review! :)
It’s also just strange. Most young kids, having not had a father after a while, will acclimate to a new paternal figure and eventually want to refer to the new guy as dad. Rin has no such desire. Yes, she might just be respecting Souichi’s memories, but I dunno, it still strikes me as odd.
But yeah, you could cynically interpret this all as the manga setting itself up for the unsavory ending. With one episode left, however, it’s clear that the anime isn’t going to go down that road. So unless Production I.G. intends to animate a second season that will have that disgusting ending, why didn’t they just remove this oddity from the story or, as you suggested, tweak it slightly?
I interpreted the zoom to Daikichi’s face as a “Wait, I never saw Rin as a baby…” reaction. Just him thinking about how much he’s missed.
Daikichi’s wish that he could have fallen sick in Rin’s place did feel a bit manipulative to me. It brings to mind the pattern of “Why, God, why? She was too good / young / kind to die! Why couldn’t I have died in her place!” which already strikes me as manipulative. When we have the same thing applied to a cold it feels silly. Apparently my family didn’t treat colds with the seriousness they deserve though- 24/7 bed rest, monitoring minute changes in temperature, sleeping within arms-reach, and spoon-feeding.
You have a good point about the lack of adversity. A cold strikes me though as more a conflict with nature than a conflict over parenting, where the root of the problem is in the relationship between the parent and child. Rin didn’t play much of a role in this segment aside from lying in bed and looking sick. What I think would have been really interesting to see is if Rin hadn’t been such a perfect child. But that could never air because it’s not moe enough.
Hm, maybe. As with anything, I think there can be multiple interpretations and I wouldn’t put it past the anime, however, to imply that Yukari’s love for babies might also be an attractive quality.
I would also imagine that Daikichi, with no previous experience or guidance on how to raise a child, is being blind-sided by Rin’s illness. I always took the entire episode as sort of tongue-in-cheek. I mean, it’s just a damn fever, but everyone’s freaking out over Rin, especially Daikichi. So to me, it’s kinda like “Yeah, I bet this newbie would take his child’s first illness this hard.”
The anime hints at this multiple times as well. In a way, Yukari and Kouki serve as foils to Daikichi and Rin. The man can’t imagine how hard it must be for Yukari to raise Kouki, but it’s certainly true that Yukari cherishes her son anyway. It would have been interesting to then see the same anime but with Kouki as Daikichi’s kid rather than Rin. How would things have turned out? Well, I bet no one would have abandoned an Asian son in the first place!
I too am rooting for a Yukari/Daikichi ending, but with the amount of material that they have to tie up, this may just turn into a “I’m helping you because you helped me” kind of deal more than a sincere feeling of caring for her in that way, not that I’m saying he doesn’t. It’s just that there’s so much left unsaid about this whole show that makes me think they might be leaning towards a second season. I certainly hope that’s not the case, even if Usagi Drop is an entertaining show. I’d rather see it end now with hints of a further relationship or – better yet – an actual confirmation of a relationship rather than a second season that would follow the manga.
The scene with Yukari and the baby actually brought to mind that mothers – though it’s more like women in general – are suppose to have that nurturing quality towards any young and defenseless creature. I just kind of funny that, me being a female, I don’t really have any nurturing quality to me, unless it has to do with animals. I was never good with kids. But, like you said, perhaps my attitude would change when and if I ever became a parent. That nurturing quality’s probably there somewhere.
If Yukari and Daikichi don’t get together, I will feel as if the ending is lacking punch. Like whenever we finish a good story, we should get the satisfied feeling that, y’know, everything’s wrapped up, everything feels right, i.e. “This is a good time to depart from the story.” Usagi Drop, however, has only been this loosely related series of vignettes with no real thrust to the anime’s plot. In other words, the stories haven’t really been building up to anything in particular. I’d like one major event to tie everything together.
I once had a 40 degree feber when I was young, and trust me, it is not fun. I could relate a lot to Rin this episode. I suffered with her.
I’m sure it felt horrible. I’ve had some pretty high fevers of my own. All I’m saying is that I don’t think high 39s are necessarily life threatening.
I saw Rin insisting that Daikichi isn’t her father more as a child’s pedantry than anything else, which fits with her slightly precocious character. Also note that (iirc) Rin even referred to her biological father as grandfather growing up, so I don’t think she thinks of “father” as meaning anything special (and why should it?). When asked about she just says (lit.) “Daikichi being called Daikichi is good”. (Which is also the idiom for “should”, but I think there’s positiveness nonetheless).
Also, I believe children’s medicines usually include painkillers, which is one reason to use them, even if they don’t actually cure the fever.
Well, we don’t really know if Souichi really is her biological father or not. The family merely jumped to those conclusions and nobody has really had the guts to ask Masako whether or not it’s true.
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