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.
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.
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.
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.
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!?