Anime · Manga · Reviews

Review: Bunny Drop (Manga)

BUNNYDROP_1

Bunny Drop, known as Usagi Drop in Japanese, is a josei manga series written by Yumi Unita. It lasted for nine volumes and one compilation volume, from 2005 to 2011. Like many other serials with captivating storylines, Bunny Drop was made into an anime series and that is how I first encountered it. After thoroughly enjoying my journey with the show I decided to pick up the manga. My curiosity for the characters’ fates was just a bit too profound, I suppose.

I read it entirely in a couple of days, more like evenings, lying in bed after work. I would get bundled up into bed, crack open the pages and just bask in the feel-good nature of a unique family story. Within the very first pages we encounter Daikichi who is in his thirties and attending his grandfather’s funeral. At the funeral, we then encounter a kind yet lonely and sad little girl name Rin, who turns out to be a very close relative of Daikichi’s. Plot elements occur and the two end up living together. Daikichi has been single for the vast majority of his existence, but now all of a sudden he has a child to raise and take care of, without a single clue as to what this responsibility truly entails.

Immediately you are flooded with an array of emotions. There is grief chief amongst them as you begin the tale with a gathering to mourn someone’s death. Very shortly afterwards you feel a strong tension within the family because there is a child born out of wedlock that needs to be cared for, yet it’s a burden that no one in the family wishes to bear. This tension is heavily tied to themes of shame, disgust, loneliness, rage, and pity. Then as we watch Daikichi and Rin adapt to a new and unfamiliar life, we are washed with a wonderful sense of warmth and comfort. If you’ve ever been a parent, you can relate to the struggles that go into raising a child. The bulk of that has to do deal with making sure that you’re feeding them enough and nutritiously, clothing them, and providing them with a home as well as shelter. But there is also that other half: teaching them a sense of self, respect, culture; helping them understand what it takes to survive and live as they grow up and ask some very difficult questions, questions that usually only experience itself can answer.

Because of every single one of these amazing aspects, I felt wholeheartedly enchanted. Daikichi and Rin were learning so much about each other as well as themselves and they were doing it together. Rin helped Daikichi learn the virtues of patience as well as the skill to thoroughly think about a situation before making decisions. The brash instincts of a bachelor were quickly being matured into something deeper because these choices would affect more than one person now. Daikichi helped Rin fit into a world where she felt comfortable and at peace, a place where she didn’t feel like an unwanted, broken toy. A home where she truly belonged.

I have never read a manga that examined parenthood on such a substantially deep and intimate level like this. This made up the artful and elegant first half of the series, however. The second half loses its unique story appeal and rapidly mutates into an atypical shōjo plot line. After Rin enters high school, the perspective shifts from Daikichi to Rin’s social and romantic development. The tale becomes less and less about Daikichi tackling parental concerns and more about high school life and drama.

I won’t say that I despised this variation, but I certainly did not find it pleasant. Instead of seeing her go about her day studying, interacting with friends, and then coming home to cook and study some more, my preference would have been to see Daikichi having to adapt to Rin turning into a woman. That means fighting off boys who want to date her, having to address any questions or issues she would have with the decision to go to college (or to not go), and how to financially prepare for something of that magnitude. It would have been very fascinating to use this period of Rin’s life to examine sex. How would Daikichi speak to Rin about sex and her self-worth as a woman? These particular facets create a considerably more compelling serial then what was given.

Unfortunately, that is not even the worst of the disappointment. There are relationships and interactions that grow on you so deeply that watching them fall apart just breaks your heart. Then you have other relationships that are so toxic that you feel a strong sense of fear for the characters you have grown to love. In this manga series, I felt as if the author was purposefully trying to make her audience wither with rage or frustration. While I suspected Rin’s feelings before it was blatantly revealed, I had never anticipated that it would be met in such a dishonorable fashion. Meanwhile, Daikichi has a chance, finally, for something beautiful but it’s completely stolen after volumes of teasing and pining. The resolution in this scenario was abrupt, unpredictable, and plain unfair.

The finale and the wrap up of the tale left a bitter taste in my mouth and a heavy heart in my chest. There was an ocean of wondrous possibilities for Bunny Drop to be one of the best josei manga serials ever written. Yet, everything from the second half unto the conclusion was a complete and utter disaster. I won’t even recommend the manga. If you really want to experience the series then please just watch the anime, as it had a very good reason for stopping where it did. Two and a half bunnies out of five and a sad face on top.

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