Interview: Taku Kishimoto, Scriptwriter for Usagi Drop

by Lissa Patillo and Mitsuru Uehira, Jul 6th 2011
Usagi Drop, based on the hit josei manga of the same name, follows 30-year old Daikichi Kawachi's perilous journey through the most dangerous game of all: parenthood. When his grandfather dies, Daikichi discovers that he had an illegitimate child - 6-year old Rin, who is treated like an unwanted outcast by the rest of the family. Daikichi takes the plunge and decides to raise Rin himself. You can check out the original manga by Yumi Unita, on shelves now thanks to Yen Press; the animated adaptation by Production I.G hits Japanese airwaves on July 8th.




ANN: What about Bunny Drop do you think made it appealing as an adaptation project? It's a unique subject matter - do you feel it brings something new to the medium that hasn't been done before?


Kishimoto: I heard that the producer who chose the Usagi Drop manga for an anime adaptation was looking for “a writer who knows the joys and pains of raising kids and can see the world through a mother's eyes”, as a criteria of selection . I'm currently raising my own kids, so that's how I was chosen to be in charge of the scriptwriting and series composition, regardless of the fact that I did not have much experience in those fields. I personally feel that this anime adaptation is ambitious, which tries to depict not “an adult-like kid”, but an actual “kid-like kid”. Even though the kids don't go on an adventure, don't use the magical powers, and don't fall in love, it still makes for a compelling story. I hope that I can demonstrate that.

If you hear just the basic story, that a 30 year old male happens to live with 6 year old girl, in the context of Japanese anime, you may assume that the show will target the male audience with some sexual connotations, but of course, this show doesn't.

Having kids will change your world. You see the things from the “lower angle” that kids do. You slow down to appreciate the grass and flowers. You feel an unexpected kindness from strangers on the trains, and get more irritated by people who are insensitive. In that sense, raising kids is, to adults, a journey into uncharted waters. However, it's only a fine line between enjoying the experience and sacrificing your time. It just depends on your mindset.

Daikichi doesn't have superpowers or special talents. Even after he starts taking care of Rin, he never ceases to be anxious. He is conflicted, trying to decide whether to continue to take care of Rin or not. However, deep down, he enjoys raising a kid. Daikichi is, without doubt, the hero of this story, but he's nothing like what you'd expect from a “hero”. But that isn't bad, is it?

The Bunny Drop manga is published in a josei magazine - do you feel the transition to anime will change or expand its demographic?

It all comes down to Daikichi's decisiveness and Rin's cuteness. You will like those whether you are male or female. Female readers who love the original manga are enthusiastic about Daikichi, who is decisive and warm-hearted. They like him since he has both manly and charming characteristics.

Male fans may also be attracted to Daikichi's way of living, where you value your principles rather than pursuing social status and reputation, especially in Japan where you can't expect promising economic growth. For the recent years, in the real world, there has been a word, “Iku-men”, to describe a growing portion of the population in Japan; it refers to the men who actively participate in raising the kids. For example, the head of a municipal government office voluntarily takes child care leave. “Men's child care” has been popularly recognized in Japan.

So, considering the current situation, there is a high possibility that this anime adaptation will expand the demographic of the Usagi Drop fanbase. I couldn't be happier if the men who watched this anime realize that they don't have to let women monopolize the enjoyment of raising kids.

The original manga is split evenly into two parts - the first four volumes with Daikichi learning to be a Father to Rin, and the second half ten years later which is more about Rin dealing with adolescence. Does your anime adaptation focus evenly on the two arcs or did you feel it worked better to shift focus more on one than the other?

Please look forward to finding out about this, when you see the anime.

Do you feel the original Bunny Drop story is a fairly accurate representation of raising a young girl in modern Japan? Is there anything you changed to reflect different societal trends since the series first started in 2005 or something you felt would speak more to viewers?

I don't think that the purpose of the original manga is necessarily to accurately reflect the modern realities of raising a child. There are a ton of problems when you're raising a child, which are not described in the original manga, considering my own experience raising kids. However, as I previously mentioned, it depends on your mindset whether you feel the troubles are “fun” or “sacrifice”. The Daikichi character makes you feel like he enjoys dealing with the troubles that don't appear in the story.

It isn't that I have to change the story to reflect the changes in societal trends between now and the time the manga was being published, but rather society has been catching up with the original manga. I feel that the word “Iku-men”, which has grown in popularity over the last year, has driven societal trends when it comes to men's childcare.

The manga has a nice mix of drama and humor as it follows Daikichi raising Rin both logistically and emotionally. There's also the mystery early on about Rin's Mother. Did you focus more on any one of these elements when adapting to an anime? (ie: more humor, less drama or vice versa)

Honestly speaking, my original plan was to dramatize the story by focusing on the troubles you face when raising kids. It was because my second child was born at that time and I was experiencing all the trouble you go through raising kids again, which made me think that reflecting those troubles in the story would make it more emotional. However, the plan was denied by everybody including the director. The point was, just as you asked, that the manga had a nice mix of drama and humor. The denial was perfectly correct. It was not an easy task to balance out a nice mix of drama and humor, but in the end, I feel we were successful with it.

When you were writing the script, did you find you had to change a lot of dialogue from the original or was Yumi Unita's writing already a strong fit for what you wanted from the series?

One of the intentions of the anime adaptation of an original manga is to make the characters “move”, so to speak. So, I carefully tried to describe the “voice” of Daikichi's heart, narrated in the manga, in the character's acting, facial expressions, and “ma” (short breath).

The themes of raising children really resonated with me. Then, regarding the characters and story, it is more accurate to say that I singled out what appealed to my heart from reading the original manga, and focused on those elements in the script. Specifically, my own kids are male, so, “Koki”, Rin's friend, has his naughty characteristics increased to an extent.

When you wrote the series, did you know that a nine year old would actually be performing the role of Rin? Did this change the way you wrote the lines at all?

When I started to write the script, it was not officially determined whether a kid or an adult would play the role of Rin. However, as I mentioned before, what this anime was originally aiming at was to depict not “an adult-like kid”, but a “kid-like kid”. So, I think the entire staff including the director implicitly shared the thought that they want an actual kid to play the role of Rin, from the beginning. I am currently at the recording sessions every week. Matsuura Ayu-chan perfectly lives up to our staff's expectations.

Subsequently, I didn't have to have much trial and error in the way I wrote the lines for kids. The original dialogue in the manga is written by a mother of two, so it's already realistic.


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