Usagi Drop ends as series of vignettes

I am rather taken aback by how Usagi Drop‘s final episode appears to be all over the place. The anime only briefly deals with Yukari’s illness. In the end, custom and propriety keeps Daikichi from ever getting too personal with the woman of his dreams. Instead, the episode quickly goes from jump roping to losing one’s teeth, microcosms for a growing and maturing Rin. Finally, the story finishes by having the entire family plus Rin pay their respects to the deceased patriarch, i.e. Daikichi’s grandfather, yet again. In a way, the anime comes full circle, but in another way, the narrative feels unfulfilling.

I’m disappointed that the Daikichi-Yukari relationship never goes anywhere. It also feels as though Masako has been completely forgotten by the show. Yes, I did write that her character is a dead end, but that’s only because the anime is so fixated on the relationship between Daikichi and Rin. In any case, the story doesn’t feel as though it has reached a satisfying conclusion. Usagi Drop, as an anime, is just a series of positive vignettes about how awesome parenting can be. There’s no sense of finality, which the open-ended conclusion in the last episode seems to reflect.

If the anime does have any message, what is it? Few are going to agree with me on this, but the way the anime constantly trumps parenting as this be all and end all of adult existence is a little uncomfortable at times. The anime can border on propaganda when dealing with this particular issue. “But c’mon,” some of you will protest, “what is wrong with pushing parenting? It is a wonderful and rewarding experience!” After all, proselytizing parenting must be like climbing the pulpit for fresh air!

Well, in the final episode, we suddenly find out that Daikichi’s sister is about to get married. Unfortunately for our soon-to-be wife, she is not keen on her future husband’s insistence on having kids right away. Of course, I’ve been taught to think that if a woman doesn’t feel like having kids, well, she shouldn’t. After all, it’s her body and it’s her life. But maybe it’s different in Japan; maybe we could just chalk it up to cultural differences. Maybe.

The way Daikichi responds to Kazumi brought back memories of how the anime resolved Haruko’s situation. As a refresher, Haruko was unhappy about her home life for a multitude of reasons so she ran away to Daikichi’s place with her daughter Reina in tow. To make a long story short, Haruko eventually decided to bear her depressing situation at home for the sake of her family, especially Reina. Likewise, Daikichi’s “comforting” words to his sister echo a similar sentiment: “If you put your mind to it… Sometimes you just have to manage…”

It’s not just the way Daikichi seemingly tells his sister to settle down and bear it with a smile that leaves me feeling slightly uncomfortable. The way the anime portrays Kazumi makes her come off as selfish and flighty: “Are you kidding me?! I wouldn’t be able to go out drinking or go to concerts or go on trips or eat delicious food… I wouldn’t be able to do anything anymore!” Daikichi looks exasperated as he listens on. There’s a sense of “If Yukari can do it — hell, if I can do it — why can’t you?”

Child-rearing just isn’t for everyone and maybe it isn’t for Kazumi either. I feel as though the anime pushes the positives of parenting far too hard without giving any consideration to its negatives. Some people just aren’t fit to raise a family, and forcing a square peg into a round hole could court disaster. And if we’re going to judge other characters for being irresponsible, e.g. Masako, we should also take a close look at how the anime might be irresponsible in its own way. Raising a child is not as easy as raising Rin. Let’s face it — Rin is an anomaly; most children are not as easy to raise as her. Of course, you might say, “Nobody’s dumb enough to watch this anime and think he or she is ready to raise a child.” Well, maybe.

And if we look across the broad spectrum, we see Yukari held up as this goddess for how she can be a single mother and still care for Kouki (mostly) on her own. Likewise, Daikichi’s co-worker is a great woman for sacrificing her career for her son’s sake. Haruko “grows up” by returning to a home where she is unwanted by her in-laws. On the other hand, we have the immature Kazumi and the damned Masako. They both reject parenting in their own ways, especially the latter, and they are both rendered in a negative light.

It’s also interesting to note that the anime rarely confronts any of a father’s potential flaws and/or weaknesses. Daikichi is such a Mary Sue character that he raises Rin with no apparent problems whatsoever. Here’s a single man who instantly makes the transition to fatherhood within a year without so much as an existential crisis — how bizarre! Some guys just freeze at the thought of settling down, much less raise a kid. If Daikichi ever missteps, however, it’s due to his inexperience. You never see him worry about his personal dreams, his social life, and — dare I bring it up — his sexual needs. Similarly, his “father-pals” have no depth of character. They are introduced into the story rather late, and gosh, they seem like such happy-go-lucky fellas!

There’s no doubt that some of you will come away from this post with the idea that I didn’t like the series. I can assure you that this is far from the truth. Usagi Drop is one of the year’s better anime. The show’s strong points, however, are quite obvious. On the other hand, I find its potential missteps far more interesting. First, we have the fact that the ending lacks impact. When the credits finally rolled, I couldn’t help but mutter to myself, “Is that it?” More importantly, however, is Usagi Drop perhaps being too critical of women who are less than ideal? Is the anime advancing a subtler form of the “good wife, wise mother” model for a 21st century Japan that finds its young women all too unwilling to settle down and raise families for the good of the nation? The show has good intentions, but you know how the saying goes….

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20 Replies to “Usagi Drop ends as series of vignettes”

  1. This was the original direction I was going to take. The complications of parenthood just got overshadowed by Rin and Daikichi’s relationship. They could’ve took it further, but I guess I was being forgiving.

    Definitely wanted Kouki’s mom x Daikichi to happen…a shame.

    1. If you look at the anime as a series of vignettes, then I guess the story’s lack of conflicts can be overlooked. But as you post pointed out, Usagi Drop was also adapted into a movie, and I’m not sure how interesting a feature length film with no conflict would actually be.

      1. It got rated pretty badly…the actors were good, but it shared the same flaw, having little conflicts. The director’s directing was also pretty bad, apparently. Still going to give it a try though once it comes out.

        1. Yeah, this isn’t very surprising. Film and TV are two completely different beasts. I’m always amazed to see directors and studios too chicken to take any liberties with the source material.

  2. Man, they crammed a lot of stuff all over the manga this episode. It feels sort of incomplete…Obviously Daikichi and Yukari had something going, so absolutely no confrontation about it feels a little lame. I said the same thing at the end of the episode. Is that really it? But hey, now I hope it is, because if there is another season coming sometime we are going to go down a creepy road.

    1. It’s so silly for the anime to be so coy about the relationship between Daikichi and Yukari. It’s so obvious that there’s something going on between them, but the anime acts as though Daikichi and Rin is all that matters. Yeah right — Rin hardly elevates herself above plot device most of the time.

  3. How’s it looking on the second season front? It sounds like there’s still a lot of material in the manga to use. It’s not like there aren’t bad shows that got second seasons, and this one actually seems pretty interesting.

    Would you want a second season?

    1. Only if Production I.G. has the guts to move away from the manga’s dreadful ending. Unfortunately, there seems to be no indication either way so who knows. I’m sure that if the DVDs sell well, however, we would see a second season.

  4. i for once, don’t care about the open ending. usually i hate it. but then i went and spoiled the manga ending for myself among other things. so this place is a really good place to end a season, cause of the event that happens right after this in the manga. + i’m really looking forward to the second half of the manga. i was wishing for an older rin right from the beginning of the anime…

  5. Instead of seeing the anime as an endorsement of the traditional Japanese model of parenthood, I see it as a portrayal of the world, in a slice of life fashion. It shows the ugly side of the world, but life for Daikitchi goes on, he cannot solve all the world’s problem. Rather, these things have their own personal stories, important to the actors in the stories, but for Daikitchi and Rin, they are no longer major players in these stories any more.

  6. Sad to say I have to agree with you. I was very interested in this because the premise had a lot of promise. But it quickly turned pretty mundane. The moments I will remember the most were the cringeworthy ones, either in this or the runaway waifu episode.

    Have you seen Kamichu? My favorite slice of life anime that used the supernatural and the ordinary life pretty well.

    1. I’ve always felt slice-of-life should be “slice-of-a-compelling-life.” Don’t get me wrong — I still think Usagi Drop is fairly successful, but I can’t believe people are actually defending the series’ right to be mundane.

    1. I don’t really think overworking yourself counts as shaping up. It just gives her an excuse not to take any responsibility with the Rin situation, i.e. “I’m too busy to worry about that right now.” I get it: she doesn’t want her daughter to know what a lame woman she is. But there are still plenty of things she could do to take responsibility and not reveal her secret. How ’bout sending Daikichi some money to help with raising the child? Or sending gifts to Daikichi and have him say they were from him or a distant relative? She could also stay in regular contact with Daikichi for status updates about the child in case there are emergencies. The point, however, is that she doesn’t even try and the whole mangaka thing is a flimsy facade.

      1. Eh…Well, I read the graveyard scene as Masako finally having a weight lifted off her shoulders. She saw that Rin is fine with Daikichi and she no longer needed to worry about the child and could concentrate on what she was doing in her life. She didn’t need to take responsibility. The ‘overworking herself’ is her working as hard on manga working as she would have done on parenting.

        I agree that Bunny Drop pushed the whole ‘parenting is great!’ line too much, but I thought that was the one time where they allowed someone to be more interested in their career than raising a child

        1. I agree that Bunny Drop pushed the whole ‘parenting is great!’ line too much, but I thought that was the one time where they allowed someone to be more interested in their career than raising a child

          I don’t like either of the extremes. Women shouldn’t have to devote themselves completely to parenting, but it’s also not okay for career women to abandon all of their responsibilities if they happen to have children. Masako carried the child to term. There’s no turning back. She doesn’t have to be the world’s best mother — she doesn’t even have to be directly in Rin’s life — but I saw her portrayal as nothing but negative and irresponsible.

        2. But Rin has been adopted. Once the old parent has been assured that the child is happy, that’s the end of their involvement. I don’t get why you think she has to remain involved

          1. Adoption only absolves her of any legal responsibility. Her moral/social/parental responsibility is another thing entirely, but it’s clear that we’re not going to agree on this.

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