Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jan 14th 2012
Daikichi is a thirty-year-old single man not so much living life as allowing it to happen. When his grandfather dies, he (and the rest of the family) is shocked to find that the old man had apparently fathered a little girl, whom he was raising at the time of his death. While the rest of the family is embarrassed and ashamed that Rin even exists, Daikichi feels badly for her and in the first truly adult moment of his life decides to adopt her. These first three books detail the adjustments and hardships of raising a child as a single parent as Daikichi learns to do hair, handle bed wetting, and just simply be there for someone who needs him.
Before we even begin, forget everything you've heard about this series. Don't think about the rumored ending. This is a review of the first three volumes of Yumi Unita's gentle tale of a man growing up and the little girl who helps him to do it.
Bunny Drop is an unusual title for the English-speaking market. It is a story for older readers, but it isn't “mature” in the sense that it contains sex or violence. In many ways it is a coming of age story for those of us who have ostensibly grown up, but only in the sense that we are living away from our parents and are reveling in our ability to eat popcorn for dinner because there's no one to tell us not to. Daikichi, the protagonist of the story, is one of those adults. He works late, he drinks hard, and he hasn't really given much thought to the direction of his life. All of this changes when he attends his grandfather's funeral, however, and discovers a sad little girl in the garden. The girl, his mother miserably tells him, is apparently Grandpa's illegitimate child with a missing lover. Grandpa has been raising the girl without the family's knowledge, much to their horror. Most of the family is so embarrassed by her very existence that they ignore her, which Daikichi finds reprehensible. “Did anyone even sit down and tell you that your dad just died?” he wonders, watching Rin play quietly by herself while everyone praises his cousin's child. He is the only one who pays her any attention at the funeral, and when the family is discussing what a burden it would be to take her in, he gets mad. He yells at the assembly and ends by asking Rin if she would like to live with him. As he is the only person who has been kind to her, the little girl agrees.
Daikichi quickly learns that raising a child isn't like having a toy or a pet. Rin needs food and clothes and he isn't quite sure how to provide them. She also needs a parent who gets home at a reasonable hour, something that high level Japanese employees are not known for. Daikichi has to rearrange his entire life, taking a voluntary demotion at work and even changing the style of bag he carries in order to better parent his new child. In volume two he realizes that he doesn't know how to dress the little girl's hair and that he will be expected to go to school information nights or other functions. And then there are the emotional issues – Rin understandably has a fear of abandonment after having lost her father, and her mother is strangely absent. She isn't a panicky child; rather she expresses her fears by withdrawing and wetting the bed. She clearly knows that what she's doing isn't good, but she needs Daikichi to soothe her fears. She also asks to visit her former home and wants to talk about Grandpa and death, things Daikichi is able to do for her. Rin is a mature little girl – she wants to keep Grandpa's last name to feel close to him, for example – but she is still clearly a child in need of a parental figure to feel safe.
As it turns out, she does in fact have a living parent – her mother, Masako, is a leading contender for worst mother in the universe. It isn't that she is abusive to her child, but more that she isn't mature enough to have one. When Daikichi tracks her down in volume two, she yells that she is a mangaka, not a girl. This emotional instability and immaturity explains why she was able to simply give her child away, and despite Daikichi's efforts, she is unwilling to interact with the girl. While it is clear that Rin has inherited some traits from her mother – volume three reveals that she is a good artist and she also bears a slight physical resemblance to Masako – it is equally clear that Rin is better off as far away from her mother as possible. This seems a controversial step for Unita to have taken, given the strict societal norms of Japanese culture; even in the west is it generally thought that a child is better off with her mother than her father in the case of a separation. One could almost say that Unita is making a case for fathers being equally effective parents as mothers with this series.
While the story is endearing and engaging, there are some points that will turn off potential readers within these first three volumes. The first is Unita's art style. While she has very good lines to her drawings, the beady-eyed and generally chinless characters will not appeal to everyone, nor will the dominant whiteness of her backgrounds. Within the story, some readers will be uncomfortable with bathing scenes where Rin and Daikichi are in the tub together, sharing a futon, or getting dressed. There is absolutely nothing sexual about these scenes, but it is not a sensibility that we in the west are accustomed to, or at least that puritanical Americans aren't used to. Yen Press' presentation of the books is excellent, with fluid translations and no attempts to make the children's speech “cute.” The slightly larger trim size and pastel covers make these look nice on the shelf, and the thick paper and color pages make the slightly higher price acceptable.
If you have been scared off by the scandal of the potential ending to the manga, don't be. These three volumes, along with the fourth, make up a lovely story of a man learning how to be one through raising a little girl. Unita's story is charming and touching, and it will strike a chord with older readers whether they have children of their own or not. Bunny Drop is one of the best titles on the English market, and it absolutely deserves your attention.
Overall : A
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Charming story with unusual coming of age themes, believable dilemmas for Daikichi. Rin is a real child without forced cuteness.
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