Usagi Drop Was Adorable: Why I Can’t Relate

Disclaimer: I am a very disorganized human being, this can be seen in my writing, especially since Josh hasn’t edited this post (he’s too busy doing ocean related things). Therefore, I would like to apologize in advance for all run-on/verbose sentences, lack of cohesiveness, fundamental “all over the placeness”, and other random errors that will likely be found in this blog post. I’m great at editing things for other people, but when it comes to my own stuff, it tends to be a hot mess.

That being said…here’s my post!

As it’s common consensus that Usagi Drop is one of the cutest shows ever. I thought so too (until I read the second half of the Wikipedia article, which completely destroyed it for me). I’m usually not the biggest fan of slice-of-life or Josei shows, but for whatever reason I really enjoyed this one. I mean I finished it in two days, which is shockingly fast for me, the queen of 1-3 episodes a day. However, in this post I’m going to be focusing on the anime and leave the creep factor that the manga provides out of this. Not that there isn’t something creepy about the premise of the anime anyway:

While attending his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi is surprised to discover that his grandfather had an illegitimate child with an unknown mother! The rest of his family, fearing the obligation and embarrassment, want nothing to do with the silent little girl, Rin. Sensing her imminent abandonment and outraged by his complacent family members, Daikichi decides to adopt her himself! …yet he may have underestimated the difficulty of balancing his work, family, and love life with his role as her guardian. (Synopsis courtesy of MyAnimeList.net)

Check out that tension.

Check out that connection.

I think it fair to warn you now, that although this is a happy show, this will not necessarily be a happy post. I will be talking about how idealistic the world portrayed in this show was and the fact that people tend to romanticize childhood–their own in particular. This show portrays that concept to an extreme. Anime tends to put things in the realm of fantasy or idealism, but Usagi Drop does a particularly good job of butchering reality.

Rin is an ideal child. She is remarkably well-adapted and mature in spite of the fact that she was raised by a 70 some odd year old man. Not to mention, she grew up with an absentee mother–one who creepily stuck around and pretended to be a maid, but had no positive interactions with her own child. Daikichi is a lucky, lucky man. I’m sure parents everywhere wish they had thoughtful and well-behaved children like Rin. She doesn’t throw temper tantrums, she enjoys helping around the house, and she has no difficulty assimilating to her new life with Daikichi. No wonder he is so willing to adopt her and be her guardian. If Rin had been like any normal child he would have turned directly around and returned her to his parents’ house. I mean we see Reina, Daikichi’s cousin Haruko’s daughter, running around at the funeral throwing flower petals and being a nuisance. Sure, it’s not the cutest thing ever and it’s annoying, but isn’t that the point? Yes, I understand that Rin’s father died, while for Reina it was just a distant relative, but Rin never behaves like this throughout the entire show.

usagi-drop-05-mkv_snapshot_14-40_2011-08-05_22-20-15
I actually cut my fingers cooking the other day. Maybe I should invest in a kiddy knife like the one Rin has…

Another issue that unnerved me was her lack of grief. Rin is thrown into a new household with a new guardian after her father dies and she goes from being distant and standoffish to enamored with Daikichi in a matter of a few days. A normal child would probably be freaking out and likely dragged to a child psychologist to help him/her overcome their grief and confusion with such an overwhelming situation. Rin doesn’t know anything about Daikichi other than the fact that he was nice to her at the funeral, yet she goes willingly with him and accepts him as a father figure with very little prompting. There is an overall lack of realism here seeing as most kids would probably be dragged kicking and screaming if forced to live with someone they’d never met before. She lost a parent and she barely bats an eyelash. We see her cry at the funeral, but after that, she shows very little emotion whenever her father is mentioned. She never talks about him, never asks about him, never cries over him. Rin seems to bear no resentment toward Daikichi either. She is too cognizant of the situation for a 6/7 year old child. At that age, she should be asking why over and over again until the adults around her are blue in the face from trying to explain. That’s what I would have done as a kid. I would have screamed and cried and tried to get answers to things that I couldn’t possibly understand.

Aside from being the ideal child, Rin is an ideal person as well. She is well-liked by her classmates, she is great with younger kids and knows how to keep Kouki and the other boys in line. She is a gifted artist at 7 years old and is always cheerful. Sure she’ll tease Daikichi and give him a bit of a hard time, but when it comes down to it, they never actually fight about anything. There are no hissy fits or screaming–Rin even finds a way to enjoy a tedious train ride. I challenge you to find a child that exists like this in the real world without being heavily sedated with horse tranquilizers. Kouki and the other boys running around and throwing their hats and refusing to participate in art class were much more believable characters than perfect Rin who acts much more like she’s 11 or 12 than 7. I have babysat for 7 year olds and trust me, they are far from sweet. Talk about the things I’ve heard when it’s time for bed. “I’m thirsty.”  “When are Mommy and Daddy coming home?” “The one eyed one horned flying purple people-eater is coming to get me.”

image.axd

Ah, the strange things they teach you at summer camp…

This is why I can’t relate. My parents like to romanticize my childhood, saying that I was such a sweet, happy kid and what happened to me now that I’m older? (They like to think they’re funny.) I do not remember my childhood as such. I was an awkward kid. I was weird–as in you’d think I was mildly autistic if you saw some old home videos. One of those kids that you see and say “there’s something off about him/her, but I can’t quite put my finger on it”. I wasn’t popular like Rin, in fact I didn’t have any friends and those I did have, I didn’t keep for very long. However, I wasn’t just the awkward friendless kid sitting inside with the teacher during recess, nope. I simply didn’t know how to behave in general. Therefore that made me the awkward, friendless, disruptive kid. Great combination, I know. Raising my hand and paying attention were foreign concepts and I was constantly getting in trouble. I was not a sweet kid. Here’s a great story: when I was in kindergarten I sat behind this girl (I don’t remember her name) and she had this really long, pretty hair. I was so jealous. The entire year, I would surreptitiously snip at the ends of her hair with my kiddy scissors. As luck would have it, she never noticed–to this day I don’t know how.

While most kids don’t misbehave to such an extreme, I’d say that most kids are much more like Kouki and Reina than Rin. Most kids don’t listen to their parents unless either some incentive or the threat of punishment is involved. Children scream, yell, and throw things when they don’t get their way. They like eat play-dough and stick things up their noses because they think it’s funny. I know what I’m saying is obvious, but Usagi Drop somehow makes you forget what normal childhood behavior entails to the point that you get easily annoyed with the children who behave in a realistic way (Reina and Kouki). It’s only once you finish the show that you think “oh wait, children don’t actually behave like Rin.” Kids aren’t well behaved, especially not at 7 years old. Asking them to act like Rin is like asking Josh to not wear his orange jacket. I mean I was probably worse than most–the vice principal and I were on a first name basis, but that makes me the anomaly, not the rule.

Another reason I can’t relate is the fact that I was raised by both my parents. I don’t know what it’s like to come from a single-parent household. It’s ironic because as I was growing up I didn’t have any friends with parents who were divorced or who only had one parent for various other reasons. Now that I’m older, I don’t have any friends (in my hometown), but most of the parents of the people I used to be friends with are divorced. I can only imagine that it is an extremely different environment having only one parent to nag you to do things or having only one person to go to for advice. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I know that I can’t fully understand what it’s like because I spent my entire life with a mom and a dad in the same house as me. This show predominantly showcased single parenting with Daikichi and Yukari (Kouki’s mom) being the main parental figures. Even Haruko, was essentially a single parent since her husband was never around and took no role in taking care of their daughter Reina. This being the case, I don’t have enough experience with this style of family to fully understand it.

Then there is the matter of Daikichi–he gives up his career for a girl he’s known for a month. After I was born, my mom hired a nanny and went back to work full-time. Yes, taking care of children is important, but this show made it seem like there was virtually no resentment about having to juggle both children and a job. One line that struck me particularly was when Daikichi asked the other parents if they missed their “me time” and Yukari responds that going to work is her “me time” as is taking care of Kouki. I call total bullshit on both of those. I work, albeit in retail, and I sure as hell would not call that “me time”. Obviously I do not have children, but if my parents are any indication, they like to go on long weekends without me and my siblings in order to get “me time”. In my world, “me time” is sitting on my butt watching anime or going to the kitchen to bake cookies. Essentially things that I enjoy doing by myself or with a select individual. If and when I have kids, I seriously doubt that anything involving them will provide me with a personal outlet.

Look! Yukari is having “me time”.

I guess the point of this post is: I can’t relate to this show. I know there are some people who can relate to certain aspects mainly either being raised by a single parent or being a single parent themselves. However, being a socially-awkward child, behaviorally problematic from a nuclear family I cannot claim any true connection with the situations or characters in Usagi Drop. Not to mention, that if Rin and I were classmates, she would probably try to become friends with me and seven year old me would probably just cut all her hair off.

Beginner-Sewing-Scissors-7

Me cut hair? Never…

*On a side note, I thought I might add that while I was a terrible child, you wouldn’t be able to tell at all if you met me now. Josh can attest to the fact that I am actually a very well behaved human being. I can also provide other character witnesses if you don’t believe me haha.

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17 responses to “Usagi Drop Was Adorable: Why I Can’t Relate

  1. My dear, your kid self sounds like a hair fetishist in waiting… perhaps you should make Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge your next anime to watch lolololol

    Excellent points with this post: Usagi Drop was not realistic in the slightest, but that I suppose was the charm in it. I’ve been told I was a good kid because I was quiet and did not make a mess, but I suspect that was only because anyone would look good next to my major rascal of a brother. He was basically Kouki personified.

    I think the appeal of this show is for older women who have had kids. Sometimes, they just wish they could have reared a child who wasn’t annoying and this is the kind of fantasy that’s easy to imagine but completely out of reach. I’d liken this to maybe writing a seinen story for gamblers about a gambler who always wins. It’s a different kind of fantasy from the teenage chuunibyou, but it reflects the needs and desires of the target audience.

    Also I suppose older ladies would get a kick out of seeing the man having to change the diapers and all that gross icky stuff. The phenomenon of the “house husband” isn’t quite as widespread over in Japan as it is here. On that note, my father was a house husband and I think I turned out quite fine. But I could just be looking back and idealising my own childhood in retrospect, heh. Just like the show.

    • Froggykun–thanks for the comment! As for Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge, I distinctly remember making fun of Josh while he watched that show, but maybe I’ll take another look at it (even though I haven’t cut anyone’s hair in over ten years lol). In terms of your point about the show’s audience, I definitely can see how this would appeal to women who have had children simply due to the fact that they probably would have enjoyed parenting much more if their kids were like Rin. However, because my total progeny number 0, that’s another reason why I can’t relate to this show or fantasize about any of the aspects.

  2. It’s interesting that women don’t necessarily buy into this, either. Have you encountered much idealization reading titles in the josei demographic? There’s bound to be some, to be sure, but it almost seems to be downplayed.

    I actually happen to be thinking through my own post on UD, from the point of view who tends to watch “anything” 2D featuring little girls, clean or smutty. I echo nearly all of your thoughts: all of this came to mind when I recently rewatched it. I will always end up comparing this series to Kure-nai, which — directorally nonsensical as it sometimes is — is a blast to rewatch.

    Perhaps as important as relatability for me is just how boring or impotent it often is, even as part of the iyashikei genre. I sort of had this problem with the Aria titles, a wee bit, though not by any means cripplingly. I had a lot of fun with Binchou-tan, on the other hand, and it really did what the genre is supposed to. It made you feel, *and you cared about the little things*. It’s amazing, the catharsis (and I really mean that word) you get when the genre is done “right.” Binchou stubs her toe or gets sick, and you clutch your freaking out like, “O NOES BINCHOU”

    With UD, the conflicts don’t really work themselves out naturally, because they’re all snuffed by the foresight and general on-top-of-stuff ness of characters. Nothing ever seems beyond them. Even if the show is supposed to relax you, who cares? Instead of getting a fictional world to shed your cares in, you get something delusional, and kind of perverted (dunno what you thought of the manga). It’s lies posing as truth.

    The thing that gets me is that I can’t figure what’s so life-affirming about this show. Things are better these days, because I think viewers and anibloggers acknowledge the BS much more straightforwardly. I wouldn’t have even gotten riled up so much about that angle if people didn’t appeal to it in their reviews and retrospectives so much. Doesn’t the goal of showing what family is like end up backfiring somehow? So, really: who the heck is this show helping?

      • Misfortune–I haven’t read/watched too much Josei so I don’t think I’m qualified to make a statement about the genre as a whole. I’m glad that I was able to articulate a lot of thoughts similar to the ones you had already and I thought that you had some good insights as well in your comment. I haven’t gotten a chance to look at your post on Usagi Drop yet, but I will try to take a look at it some time soon.

  3. It may be helpful to remember the 1996 book “Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga”, by Frederik L. Schodt. His basic thesis is that anime and manga is not Japan as it is, but as imagination and dreams see it. Most anime and manga is more obviously non-realistic; all the magic and futuristic technology, and empowered women who are NOT empowered in even present-day Japan. Usagi Drop is unrealistic because of the unreality of the personalities of Rin and Daikichi and also because of the unreality of the ending which I won’t go into for spoileristic reasons.

    • Alex–I definitely agree that most anime and manga are more obviously unrealistic. I mean how can they not be with magical girls and creatures like Mokona bouncing around? However, while I acknowledge this, it’s also important to recognize that because fantasy-based worlds are so clearly unrealistic, the characters within these worlds are given a lot more leeway in terms of suspension of disbelief. It is when characters that lack validity to this extent exist in a world that purports reality that said lack is much more glaring. I think it has to do with the severity of the contrast between the relatively “realistic” world and the highly implausible characters.

  4. I definitely related to many more elements in the show (being both a relatively well-behaved kid and coming from a single-ish parent household), but to me it was much less a “ah nostalgia at childhood” thing (although there was a fair bit of it, since I empathized with Kouki) as a “Mom, I understand a bit of what it was like trying to raise me as a kid”. I mean, I got her to watch the show as well, and we both agreed it was pretty idealized, but still – in the end I felt we understood each other better, you know?

    • That’s sweet that you got your mom to watch it with you–hell knows I couldn’t pay my mom enough to watch anime with me. I’m glad that it held some nostalgia/learning experience value for you. Also, it does prove to a point that while this show is idealized, there are still people who can relate to a certain extent–I just happen to not be one of them.

  5. Pingback: A Rudimentary Breakdown of the “Realist” Iyashikei Series: Or, Why Usagi Drop Didn’t Tickle One Lolicon’s Fancy | Things in the Fridge·

  6. “One line that struck me particularly was when Daikichi asked the other parents if they missed their “me time” and Yukari responds that going to work is her “me time” as is taking care of Kouki. I call total bullshit on both of those. I work, albeit in retail, and I sure as hell would not call that “me time”.”- hahahaha, how much I agree with you. This probably has to do with the japanese culture which dictates that the individual serves the community and that (s)he derives joy from the traditional societal values of work and family. I find it very sadomasochistic. It also has to do with how much one honestly loves his/her job and how well (s)he is treated there.

    Many chlidren in my country (Greece) at least grow up with the mother being the one caring the most, like in Reina’s case, even though there’s a father. So, if the one parent doesn’t care much isn’t much of a difference from single-parenting, I guess.

    Generally, yes, Rin is the child everyone would want. I’m sure Daikichi who is said to despise women in the manga, wouldn’t ever think of sheltering Rin.

    • Very true, although I doubt you would find many people who love their jobs enough to associate it with “me time”. I made the comparison to single parenting in Reina’s situation because it seems as if the father is virtually never around. So yes I think in some cases it can be like single-parenting, but that usually depends on whether the father even tries to have a hand in raising his children or not. In terms of your final point, I haven’t read the manga so I can’t really comment on Daikichi’s personality in that medium. Thanks for the comments!

      • it seems as if the father is virtually never around

        whether the father even tries to have a hand in raising his children or not

        In Japan, it’s completely normal for the average salaryman to not only pull 60+ hour workweeks (and then spend time with coworkers afterwards), but spend most of the weekend out with other members of the company as well. It’s incredibly demanding, and from what I hear most parenting is consequently essentially “single-parent” (usually the mother) households since the other parent (the father) is out so much. This is also why Daikichi’s conflict to take care of Rin is so acute. I would actually say Reina’s case is quite normal for most Japanese – everybody else in the show are the unusual ones. It’s not like these fathers don’t “care” about having a hand in raising their children – most just don’t have the option if they want to provide their family with a good, stable income. This, by extension, also makes it extremely difficult for women to be both working and parenting. See this article for a nice overview of gender inequality (such as caused by this work culture) in Japan.

        A little bit of a tangent, so sorry about that lol.

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