Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Rin is now a first grader, and Daikichi is trying to cope with some of the realities of parenthood, like school festivals, sick days, and learning to get along with other parents. When his cousin Haruko and her daughter Reina show up at his house, Daikichi also has to think about what marriage and childrearing means to a person and just what it takes to be considered an adult.
Are you ready to be a parent? That is one of the major questions behind the fourth volume of Yumi Unita's charming tale of a bachelor-turned-dad and it makes the book particularly relevant to readers of the 24 to 30 set. Rin's school is having its annual festival and naturally Daikichi goes to see what she's been doing. While he's there, he meets the fathers of two of Rin's friends. Daikichi isn't sure how to react to the other dads, but soon finds himself getting along with them to the point where he asks them to help Rin practice for the school jump rope contest on weekends. While he's there, Daikichi suddenly realizes that while he's been Rin's father for one year, that is, since he was thirty years old, these people, along with his cousin Haruko and his sort-of crush Kouki's mom, have been raising these children since they were in their twenties. This forces Daikichi to reevaluate how he was spending his life up to this point – could he have handled parenthood at twenty-four? And was the life he was leading even one that could be called “adult?”
These are the central themes of this particular volume, although one could argue that they have been the mainstays of the entire series. They also are fairly relevant to the manga consumers who began with Viz's flipped, oversize translations of Ranma ½ and Maison Ikkoku all those years ago. Most of us who started there are in our twenties and thirties now and still enjoying a form of entertainment damned as “childish” by the mainstream. Some have children, others are single with large amounts of animals. For that category of fan, it is interesting to read Daikichi's musings and ponder their application on our real lives. Presumably this is also true of Unita's original Japanese audience, although perhaps for different reasons. But concerns about “my time” versus “time with my child” are universal, and Daikichi's grapplings with those issues make for thoughtful reading.
One of the provocateurs of Daikichi's worries is his cousin Haruko. The first half of the book follows a storyline where Haruko and her daughter Reina, both of whom readers may remember from the series' first volume, show up on Daikichi's doorstep. Haruko has left home for reasons she doesn't care to mention at first, and her cousin is flummoxed by this decision. In Daikichi's mind, Haruko is a wife and mother, and those things should come before personal concerns. In fact, it is questionable whether or not Daikichi sees Haruko as even having concerns outside of those roles. Readers may find themselves nodding as Haruko reveals that while she may fit into both of those parts, she is also still a person. “I should have liked to stay a little girl forever,” she tells her cousin at one point, an echo of many other women in literature, most notably the heroine of Mary Mackey's “Cleopatra.” The sentiment is recognizable to readers of both sexes, and it is this statement that prompts Daikichi's later thoughts on adulthood. This symbiotic relationship between the two main storylines of the book make this a more satisfying read than previous volumes, as well as suggesting that Unita is really hitting her stride.
For all of its universality in terms of themes and feelings, Bunny Drop is still very much a Japanese story. Scenes of Daikichi and Rin bathing together (his genitals humorously blocked by a strategically placed shampoo bottle) or getting dressed together may cause some readers pause, and what Daikichi does with Rin's lost baby teeth will likewise seem strange. (Yen Press does include a note on the subject.) What is more likely to cause friction, however, is Unita's art style. Yumi Unita uses an economy of line that will not appeal to everyone, with faces simple ovals without many distinguishing features. While this is common enough in josei manga, it is still a bit of a surprise for people who primarily read shounen or shoujo. Backgrounds are minimal unless the characters are somewhere specific, like a grocery store or at Rin's school. There is a nice balance of white, grey, and black on the page, and panels are easy to follow. Most pages are numbered, which is a nice change from a lot of manga on the market, and characters are easily distinguished.
Bunny Drop stands in a severely underrepresented category of English-translated manga – the adult slice of life. Sometimes thoughtful, sometimes adorable, Yumi Unita's tale of one man's struggle to raise a little girl is heartwarming and charming. This volume beats its predecessors in terms of continuity and relatibility, and despite a style of art that is not overly attractive, Bunny Drop's fourth entry is one that deserves a wider readership than the series likely has. Give it a try. This series may be better than you expected.
Overall : A-
Story : A
Art : B-
+ Charming story, relevant issues for a certain age of readers, easy to read.
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