Usagi Drop, episode 1: Your grandfather’s lover’s illegitimate child is your mother’s sister

After watching KamiMemo – which was equivalent to watching Charlie Sheen just puke nonsense after nonsense non-stop just desperately grasping to find some snappy and clever lines along the way – Usagi Drop was like watching a simple, understated silent movie. The dialogue was sparse. The score was perfectly whimsical and non-obstrusive. And when characters spoke, they weren’t trying to engage in battles of wit.

At least she didn't have to call a younger woman "mom"

I mentioned this in my season preview, but the premise for Usagi Drop isn’t too dissimilar from some Hollywood movies, where a guy one day finds out that he has an illegitimate kid and becomes a father overnight, with all the zaniness and incompetence associated with that. Usually he hates it at first, but then finds himself “saved” when he learns the value of [family/responsibility/enjoying life like a child/fill in adjective here]. But there’s a couple differences here. One is cosmetic. 30-year old Daikichi has returned to his grandparents’ home for his 79-year old grandfather’s funeral. Only to find that a strange little girl , Rin, lolling around the house is actually his grandfather’s daughter. Her mother’s run away, leaving the family in a bind.

Now two things came to mind here. One – damn, his grandpa’s a playa! Knocking boots with a woman half his age, having kids. You hear about irresponsible teenage pregnancies. But irresponsible septuagenarian pregnancies? That’s a new one. The other thing that came to mind, was that makes Rin Daikichi’s aunt. And that his – I’m guessing mid-50’s mom – now has a sister that’s about 50 years younger than her. Something tells me they won’t be sharing boy talk. It was nice to hear Daikichi comment on that comically. Actually, he seems pretty non-plussed at finding out about Rin. The rest of the family’s distressed, because it’s embarrassing and causes a huge logistical problem, as far as who’ll take care of Rin, but none of that seems to bother Daikichi.

A picture says a 1,000 more words than a NEET detective can

I mentioned that watching Usagi Drop after watching KamiMemo was like watching a silent movie. Usagi Drop’s pace and direction was just really refreshing. While there’s technically nothing all that impressive about the show – the animation is ok, the backgrounds are attractive but rather plain, you could say the same about the character designs – director Kanta Kamei does a really good job communicating through sound, or the lack thereof, and through expressions and actions. People tend to reflexively call slice of life’s relaxing, because of their laid back pace. Usagi Drop has a similar laid back pace, but I wouldn’t call it relaxing, it’s more just… appropriate. I thought the deliberateness of the scenes were a nod to the setting – viewing/funeral, as well as to the situation – Rin being shunned and reaching out to Daikichi slowly.

Pachinko is srs biz!

The drama is also well done and nicely understated… quite a contrast to a certain recent Noitamina emotional wreck. The one thing that would’ve been nice would’ve been to get more of a window into Daikichi’s thought process. When he sees the family fighting over not keeping Rin, he seems to make a hotheaded decision in deciding to take her in.

If she washed her hands, she's a keeper. If not...

Off the bat, I don’t think Usagi Drop’s going to be a masterpiece, but there should be plenty of both comedic and dramatic opportunities here. Although… if I had my druthers, I wouldn’t mind seeing Rin undergoing a magical transformation and resurrecting as another certain green haired orphan taken in by a single guy. Seriously. When are they going to animate that manga!?

14 Replies to “Usagi Drop, episode 1: Your grandfather’s lover’s illegitimate child is your mother’s sister”

  1. A little spoiler: the first segment of the manga (which the anime’s 11 episodes or so SHOULD cover) is daww-inducing. If the anime follows it even slightly, then it’s going to be great.

    The second segment (which continues after a 10-year timeskip) started fine, but gives a !!^@%$#^-inducing ending.

    Seriously, if there was a place the story HAD to go, it wasn’t there.

  2. I would have agreed with this post if the episode were half as long.

    To me, the mellowness of Usagi Doroppu doesn’t show that it’s moving the plot and characters along subtley. Rather, it screams ‘boring.’ I can see Rin as nothing more than the sophisticated gentleman’s moe character, and her actions don’t seem to be very meaningful – or meaningful enough to warrant so much screentime. That clock scene was a waste, for one. If anything symbolic was there, it didn’t feel very strong.

    On the positive side, it’s nice to see a drama (?) show without so much drama. The ‘who takes care of Rin?’ scene (what the entire first episode was building up to) was executed well, and the few lines about aunts and whatnot were placed in good locations.

    Overall, I’d rate this episode a 6/10. Usagi Doroppu is semi-obligatory to watch, so I’ll make myself follow this show until it becomes something good or until I can’t bear it anymore.

  3. Also it would be a miracle for a Yotsuba anime to come out in our lifetimes. Kiyohiko Azuma, the genius of a mangaka, said that he won’t allow a Yotsuba anime to be produced quite a while back. I think he said the manga wasn’t suitable for anime.

    Anyway, we can always dream..

      1. If Yotsuba& translates to anime as poorly as Nichijou did, I would rather they don’t mar the manga with that stigma. I know Nichijou has it’s fans, but I think it made for a pretty clumsy, awkward anime compared to the manga. I’d hate to see Yotsuba& end up the same way.

        That being said, if they can pull off Usagi Drop, I agree with you.. Yotsuba& should be doable as well, especially if they do it like Chi’s Sweet Home and don’t try to cram it into full-length episodes if that isn’t suitable.

      2. Well, I don’t know if Nichijou’s translation is all that poor. I read a couple chapters of the manga, and the anime adaptation seems just fine. It’s just that the source material wasn’t all that good to begin with… I think Yotsuba& is definitely doable. Like you mention, each chapter doesn’t need to be a full episode, each episode can be built on snippets. Either like Chi’s Sweet Home or Minami-Ke or Ika Musume.

      3. I’ve seen/heard a lot of Nichijou hate, but I haven’t read the manga.

        My approach to adaptations is: first watch the anime, then read the original manga. So far it’s worked for Welcome to the N.H.K., Soul Eater, and Gintama.

  4. It’s really a story about Daikichi in this segment where Rin is a kid.. but yeah, it’s sold by how little it feels needs to be said through words, and how much through body language. That sure is a welcome change from the usual anime over-indulgence in exposition and creepy over-acting. One episode in and you already know more about the situation and characters through simple osmosis then 99% of anime can accomplish with a fast-paced clichestorm of a first episode.

  5. I really like this approach towards a drama, much more understated and less in your face than Ano Hana, as you mentioned. In fact, the first episode already managed to tug on my heartstrings a little. It’s weird that I connected so much to the funeral scene, especially seeing as there wasn’t much done other than some base characterization on the main leads. I guess I connected more to the thought of having a grandfather die, in comparison to losing a loved one at a very young age.

    Still, the premiere was brilliantly executed. I hope this first ep is indicative of the quality for the rest of the season.

  6. I also thought the artistic direction was very intriguing. The colors gradually filling up and the backgrounds growing more and more lucid in detail through the episode was a really interesting touch, even though the minimalistic feel never left the show. The BGM and BGM matching was also of superb quality. This was a joy to watch. Many slice of life shows invest in sensual appeal like these to tide the viewer through the slow pace and the long stretches of uneventfulness. It’s nice to see it being used in more dramatic settings too.

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