Earlier this month I wrote about the anime series Usagi Drop, based on the manga series of the same name. When I say the same name, the manga series actually bothers to translate the Japanese word usagi, so you will find this series of 10 books under the title Bunny Drop. The anime ends at book 4 in the series, so I was keen to find out what happens next, having heard this is a bit of a controversial one.
Book 5 jumps the story ahead by ten years, with Rin now 16 years old, or thereabouts. It feels like a very different series from then on, while still remaining true to the spirit of the original. Daikichi’s struggles with being thrown suddenly into parenthood are of course in the past, and instead we have some of the usual issues we would expect to see in a manga series about teenage life. Kouki is still an important person in Rin’s life, and wants a relationship with her, but that doesn’t feel right to Rin. It doesn’t help that Kouki’s ex-girlfriend has been cyber bullying Rin, to the extent that Rin virtually cannot use her phone at all. Meanwhile, Daikichi’s hopes of a relationship with Kouki’s mum are finally dealt with, and Rin starts to become curious about her birth mother.
Once we get to the 8th volume, things start getting weird, and here’s where we come to the controversial bit, and the reason why a lot of people consider it a good thing that the anime stopped where it did. I’m not going to be able to discuss all this without spoilers by the way, so if you feel you want to read this manga series unspoiled then stop reading now. If you just want a recommendation then I would say this is definitely a series worth buying, even with the rather uncomfortable developments towards the end.
So here’s the thing. Rin develops romantic feelings towards Daikichi. Icky, right? And yet it somehow just about works, although I was never quite able to get past the feeling of wrongness about it all. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe the reader is supposed to be challenged by this. The revelation that Rin and Daikichi are not blood related after all seems like something of a sticking plaster over a wound. Either way, he has been her father figure for 10 years, and acknowledges that he still has paternal feelings towards her. Both of them end up feeling a sort of duality in their relationship. So yes, a bit icky, and yet writer Yumi Unita sells it well, placing the emphasis on how these are simply two people who just want to be together forever. And it’s worth mentioning at this point that Unita is a female author, so this is not some unsavoury male fantasy fulfilment. Let’s not run away with that idea. This is a writer telling a genuine slice of life story. It’s not sensationalist. There is not even a panel in the entire manga series that shows Rin and Daikichi kissing, so it’s far from being incest titillation. In the end, I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this turn of events, except to say that the author does a great job with selling it, the approach to the subject matter is gentle, but it was still a little unsettling.
The main story concludes at the end of the 9th volume, and then the 10th volume is a sort of bonus, with stories told throughout Rin’s childhood. It’s not a dispensable volume though. In fact, it goes back and explains several key moments that were hitherto missing from the series: how Rin’s mum met her husband, how Kouki met his girlfriend, etc. The final chapter takes place after volume 9, and is a nice little coda to the series. Also included in the 10th volume is an interview with Unita, although it is a transcript of an interview that was included on a Japanese DVD release of Usagi Drop, so it very much focusses on her reactions to the anime series and doesn’t cover what I would really have been interested in reading – her thought processes behind the final couple of manga volumes.
I’m glad I read this manga series though, even with its twist in the tale. In the end, there was one coherent theme throughout that came across loud and clear: family is the most important thing in the world, and families come in all shapes and sizes. RP