Thirty-something Daikichi never imagined himself as a father, but one day he finds himself being the only one capable of caring for Rin—the little six-year-old girl his grandfather sired with an unknown woman. Now both Rin and Daikichi have to learn how to live together, and cope with a world that has a very rigid definition of “family.”
This simple and lovely story, told unpretentiously and with beauty (both in its visuals and its drama), will have something to say to every audience, both old and young. It’s that rarest of anime titles: one actually about something.
- A gentle and humane story told with directness and simplicity.
- Beautiful animation and production design that resembles a watercolor come to life.
- A great example of an anime that is suitable for most any audience.
- Ends somewhat in the middle of things, as it's an adaptation of a much longer work, but not unsatisfyingly so.
- Director: Kanta Kamei
- Animation Studio: Production I.G
- Released By: Dentsu
- Released Domestically By: NIS America
- Audio: Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: All audiences
- List Price: $69.99 (DVD/BD combo pack)
A death, and a new life, in the family
Daikichi is a thirty-year-old man who knows the contours of his life entirely too well. He works an undemanding job for a clothing company, lives alone in an old-style Japanese house where wood planks are laid over the bare kitchen floor, has no girlfriends, no attachments. Life has thrown him no curveballs. Even if it had, he would most likely just duck.
Then comes the death of his grandfather, a family scion with a bit of scandal to his name. Despite his age, he sired a daughter only a few years before his death. Her name is Rin, she’s six years old, and the rest of the family has been uneasy about the mere fact of her existence. They not only don’t know who the mother is, they do their best not to know. And yet there she is, underfoot during the funeral, horsing around with the kids of the other relatives Daikichi’s age, a pariah before her time.
What’s going to happen to Rin? No one knows, and again, no one wants to know. The uncomfortable fact that no one is going to take responsibility for this little girl looms ever larger in Daikichi’s mind, until finally he stands up and decides to do it himself. It’s not because he sees himself as a white knight riding to the rescue, but because, dang it all, this is wrong. Rin should not have to suffer because of why she came into the world at all. And so he bundles her up and takes her home, completely unprepared for what he’s about to get himself into.
A crash course in child-rearing
At first raising Rin seems like a matter of little things: what to get her to wear, which nursery school to enroll her in on alarmingly short notice, what to keep around the house. But a child is not simply a pet, and Daikichi quickly realizes Rin’s reticence and emotional reserve is a by-product of her strange upbringing. He’s just as uncomfortable with the idea of being this girl’s “father” as she is being his “daughter”, and it shows in both his perplexity and her own moodiness (and bedwetting). At one point he even asks her “What am I to you?” and the answer is simply, “You’re Daikichi!”—but perhaps that by itself, he hopes, will be enough.
The mystery of her mother also tantalizes Daikichi, and after some detective work (one of the major clues almost hits him over the head, actually), he finds her. It was his grandfather’s former maid, a woman who has now gone on to a reasonably successful career as a manga artist. She walked out on the whole thing, telling everyone that she didn’t have time for a child, but she knew full well—as she admits in one of her rare moments of honesty—she simply didn’t want to do it. She allows Daikichi to assume full responsibility for Rin, and there are heartbreaking suggestions she feels she doesn’t even have the right to try and re-enter their lives after throwing everything away—not even as a casual acquaintance.
This business with Rin’s mother is the closest Bunny Drop comes to a formal plot with a manufactured payoff. The show doesn’t need any such thing, anyway. Its strength, and its main appeal, is in how it closely observes Daikichi and Rin in their new life together. Simple things form the backbone for each episode: Daikichi having to work late and picking up Rin from the nursery school, way after dark; Rin’s friendship with one of the more rambunctious boys in her class (and Daikichi’s relationship with the boy’s single mother); the planting of a tree in their yard to commemorate Rin’s own growth.
Beauty in the simplest things
In the hands of a lesser show, all this stuff would be a cliché. Here, as one of the shows produced for the cut-above-average "Noitamina" TV programming block, it’s all been given the breath of real life, thanks to excellent writing (courtesy of Yumi Unita’s source manga), direction, and animation (Production I.G). The last in particular is doubly remarkable: in an age when most any look either impossibly glossy or just plain flat, Bunny Drop looks like watercolors come to life. It gives the goings-on a homespun, unpretentious flavor, and even the most “ordinary” of scenes in the show look lovely as a result. The way it’s all been written, directed, and performed also matches that sensibility: we’re just allowed to look affectionately into these peoples’ lives, instead of being beaten over the head with manufactured moral lessons about them.
I mentioned the lack of a formal plot. Part of that is because the show only adapts a portion of the original story, the first year or so of Daikichi and Rin’s life together, but again that’s not a drawback. I actually braced during the final couple of episodes for some big, forced bit of drama to be shoehorned into the goings-on—maybe some business involving Rin’s mother—but nothing of the kind happens. The biggest incident of the concluding episodes is Rin losing her first baby teeth. But in the lives of a little girl and her adoptive father, that’s bigger than anything a screenwriter could come up with, and this show knows that in its heart.
Bunny Drop takes its place alongside a number of other anime that use the regular ups and downs of life—Whisper of the Heart, or perhaps Princess Jellyfish—to create something lovely and moving. It’s also one of those few anime that really is for all ages: whether you’re closer in age to Daikichi and Rin, there’s someone here to root for and admire.