Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kouki has been pursuing Rin romantically since middle school, despite his involvement with an upperclassman named Akari. Akari has subsequently done her best to drive the two apart, using methods unknown to Kouki. Matters come to a head as Rin grapples with past hurts and whether or not she wants to go down the primrose path with her childhood friend, and Daikichi finds himself in the middle of full-blown teen heartache.
There is something bittersweet about the idea of first love. Its very name suggests that it won't succeed: if it is “first,” there is the implication of a “second.” Much has been made of it in romantic manga, generally with some sort of manufactured happy ending or a much more cruel fate. Bunny Drop's sixth volume, the second since the time skip, handles things, if not more realistically, than with a more in-depth look at what can destroy a love story and what might have made it succeed.
Readers who felt thrown by the sudden ten year jump in volume five may find volume six a more welcome change of pace, as it contains several chapters flashing back to Rin's first year of middle school. This is when Kouki was fully in the depths of his bad boy phase and when he first falls under the power of Akari. It isn't entirely certain what their relationship is – clearly there's some coercion going on – but it is very clear that she has feelings for him. To that end she sets out to bully Rin out of the picture. The method she chooses, as we learned briefly in the previous book, is cyberbullying, and though Rin puts on a brave face, we can see the toll it takes on her. Daikichi knows that something is wrong, but like many parents who don't fully understand what the new technology is capable of, he doesn't know that Rin is on the receiving end of cruel emails. The days of Akari's viciousness have a huge impact on Rin's emotions, and as readers (or romantics) more accustomed to a sweeter picture of young love, the sequence of events and the way that this third party is able to come between two life-long friends is heartbreaking. Yumi Unita deserves credit for taking this road, melancholy as it is, and her unwillingness to romanticize middle school love returns Bunny Drop to some of its former glory as something a little different than the rest.
There is also a definite increase in Daikichi's role from book five this time around. While the focus is still on teenage Rin and Kouki rather than on the trials of raising a child, his role is dramatically more parental this time, with both teens coming to him for advice and several passages of him musing over how to handle Rin's teenage moods. He refers to himself as Rin's father a few times, and she doesn't object when others call him that at school. Almost more interesting than his parenting of Rin, however, is his relationship with Kouki, who clearly sees Daikichi as his father figure. The ease and comfort with which Daikichi dispenses advice to the boy speaks volumes about how he has grown comfortable with the role of parent, and if he isn't always as aware as he might be, we can see some of that being due to Rin's reticence rather than a lack of parenting skills on Daikichi's part.
Unita's art suffers a little in this volume, with pelvises generally being less well drawn than in previous books and Rin's hands being far too large for her body most of the time. Faces, however, are very well done, and the large panels with few backgrounds make for an ease of reading that counteracts some of the more difficult subject matter. Most of the splash pages were clearly in color in the original magazine run, and it's a bit of a shame that we can't see that reproduced here, as Unita's skill with soft pastels has only increased as the story goes on. (The one color image in the front shows this nicely.)
Overall, Bunny Drop's sixth volume is an emotional ride in a different way than its first four. While readers might find themselves desperate to blame Akari, we ultimately don't know enough about her to take this easy out, and the way that Rin reasons things through does make sense when seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. This isn't the story many of us fell in love with, but with this volume there is a definite return to the emotional power and strength of storytelling that marked Rin's early childhood. Don't give up on Bunny Drop yet – it is clear that Unita still has some stories to tell that are worth reading.
Overall : A-
Story : A
Art : B-
+ Strongly told story with a return to the emotional depth of the first arc, more focus on Daikichi as a parent.
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