Usagi Drop first premiered alongside No.6 and at the time my mind was clearly focused on the latter series because of an interesting premise and a solid animation effort from Bones. Something about Usagi Drop then didn’t convince me to watch it at first: It seemed a bit dull and even with 11 episodes i didn’t feel like spending time on a series that would make me yawn. Yeah, i totally regret making that decision and putting off such a simple yet magnificent series like this one. After the disappointing (an understatement) finale of No.6 and the near-unanimous praise of Usagi Drop along with checking out some PV’s, i finally decided to watch this series.
This show is not going to be exciting at all. Lighthearted? Definitely, but nothing about this series is exciting and that is the biggest strength Usagi Drop has. Being a parent can also qualify as this, and that is the main focus of this series. Daikichi offers to take care of his recently deceased grandfather’s child Rin amidst rumours of an affair between his grandfather and a much younger woman. Dismayed to see the entire family focus more on gossip than Rin, Daikichi sets out to do the unthinkable for a man with many friends who like to drink and have fun. He now spends his days raising the quiet-turned-tomboy and bashful Rin and along the way meets quite a few people who can relate to his situation.
Though they aired side-by-side, Usagi Drop and No.6 showed me how flawed my logic can be when deciding to choose between one show or another when one has an “interesting” premise versus one that seems completely bland. Nowadays the most interesting premises in animes tend to create too much hype and high expectations and as a result, are unable to tell a solid and engaging story without resorting to the usual otaku wants and tropes. On the other hand, shows like Usagi Drop tend to be more of a hidden gem: finding out about this series and checking it out just on a whim and realizing you’ve seen arguably one of the best series this year.
The characterization is solid and you’re going to love at least Rin (who’s library of funny facial gestures are a treat) but if you really get a chance to be more interested in this series there’s a whole lot of other people to like. Daikichi is an interesting character: He can be socially awkward (towards females of course..), “tough love” material, boisterous and most of all: caring. All of these different personality types are blended together quite well and makes Daikichi a stand-out character who not only has to deal with raising Rin, but dealing with his own problems (like finding Rin’s mother Masako, family problems, etc.). Moving on to Kouki and his mother, they too share some very similar situations mainly that Kouki’s mom also is raising Kouki by herself. As such, expect to see these two parents interact with each other constantly as they learn not only how to raise their children but also learn what it means to be dependable when a situation arises. Seeing Daikichi and Kouki together along with flashbacks to Daikichi’s childhood (not to mention how eerie similar Daikichi resembles Kouki in his youth) shows that not only can a mother understand what her daughter thinks but the same also applies to a father and son. Finally our last main parent/child combo lies much closer to home as Daikichi’s sister Haruko and her daughter Reina though their ordeals are much less highlighted than our other characters but they do manage to bring with them a fairly realistic look at what marriage and raising a family is about.
The art is just wonderful, especially the watercolored scene before the OP plays – now that’s really stunning and it fits the mood of the series quite well. It looks simplistic, but the animation has something to it that makes it known that Production I.G. is the one behind the series. The OP/ED are also pretty good as well.
Overall, Usagi Drop is a real treat for those who know what it’s like to raise a kid, and a sweet heartwarming series for everyone else. 11 episodes really worked here for Usagi Drop and i thank Production I.G. for doing such a wonderful job on it.
Animation:9/10 – Production I.G. really put in a lot of effort here. The overall feel of the show in some cases is directly tied to the animation. It’s simple, it’s beautiful and it works. The watercolor scenes before the OP plays are nothing short of beautiful.
Story: 14/15 – Not the most interesting but completely believable and grounded in realism. Raising a child is no easy task and Daikichi learns that the hard way after vouching for Rin when no one else did. The story is beautiful and it really emphasizes hard work and dedication. The whole bit with Masako was kinda dull though.
Sound: 9/10 – The OP and ED are okay, but nothing special. The real strength lies in both the background music and the voice acting. Firstly, the background music really reminded me of Natsume Yuujinchou’s: very soft, very sweet and the timing couldn’t be any better. The voice acting is superb and kudos once again to Production I.G for hiring an actual child to voice Rin: It may not seem much but the emotional connection is even more stronger when the voice acting comes from a kid and not a 30-something year old female veteran.
Characters: 18/20 – From Daikichi and Rin, Haruka and Reina, Ms. Nitani and Kouki and everyone in between: the entire cast is tremendously well developed and really have deep and powerful stories of their own especially Kouki and his mom in an almost exact situation as Daikichi and Rin are. I really enjoyed seeing Kouki and Daikichi interact since he knows exactly why Kouki acts the way he is…a splitting image of his younger self!
Enjoyment: 41/45 – It didn’t quite connect with me (i’m too young to raise a kid :P)but it certainly did connect with me in terms of everything else. The water color/soft pastel animation, the near-perfect timing of the BGM, Rin’s cuteness and Daikichi’s rise as one of this year’s best characters. Production I.G, please do more of these kinds of shows and less like Guilty Crown. Trying to do too much is your biggest problem, just take it easy and really put thought into your series like Usagi Drop.