Monday, September 17, 2012

Anime Review - Usagi Drop

Usagi Drop

This is gonna be my second official review, and my first official anime review! I watched this a few nights ago (it’s a really short series—eleven episodes in length), and it’s right up my alley! Short, sweet, and light-hearted!


Spoilers, you say?

This review is a lot more well-thought-out than my previous one, so enjoy!

Animation/Art: 8/10

I love noitaminA anime series (if you can’t tell, “noitaminA” is “Animation” spelled backwards; a bold name for a Japanese midnight programming block featuring anime). Tatami Galaxy, another series featured on noitaminA, is one of my personal favourites, so upon learning about the connection between these two wonderful series, I can now check out other series this programming block has to offer! But I digress—I’m here to talk about the overall quality of Usagi Drop’s animation.

Anime, in general, lately, has been very good in its animation value. If you were to look back only a few years, the overall fluidity you find this current year is not yet realized. This series is no exception to this influx of fluid and luscious movement—even as a slice-of-the-life anime—and uses unique techniques to boot; at the beginning of every episode, a pastel technique is used for colouring, rather than normal colour methods. It demonstrates a sort of nostalgic feeling of childhood in this way.

Four examples of the pastel-colouring style

As I was saying, about the fluidity, the framerate for anime seems to have increased, and this series uses this nicely, allowing for facial expressions to gradually and subtly appear, and movements to seem more tender and appropriate. It always perplexes, yet amazes me that slice-of-the-life can get fantastic animation, while some shounen even nowadays are still choppy and silly looking (even though this is a gross generalization).

Voice-Acting: 8/10

Being as straight-to-the-point as I can be, the series has excellent voice work (I find that a lot of Japanese-original dubs do), and all of the seiyuu play their roles well; from Daikichi’s young-but-aging tone, with gruff sub-tones and gentle overtones, to Rin’s appropriately childish and curious-sounding voice, which does not seem to stray too far from polite or sweet at any given time (unless she is teasing someone playfully).

His voice-actor is so good that he’s extremely annoying.

Music: 9/10

Like most slice-of-the-life anime, the music is very important to the overall mood of a scene. There are a lot of piano and acoustic guitar compositions, with other instruments, such as strings and reeds/brass/etc. tossed in the mix. Most of the music reminds one of a lullaby, but there is enough variation to give feeling to any sort of scene that may be in the show. It says a lot when you promptly download the original soundtrack after watching only a few episodes, so you could say that the music is good, at the very least. The composer, Matsutani Suguru, is not one I’m familiar with (and believe me, I’m familiar with a few anime series composers),  but they definitely showcase the feel-good nature of Usagi Drop through the wonderfully composed soundtrack.

How could you not imagine this shot with some sort of stringed accompaniment?

Story/Execution: 9/10

This series is based off of a manga of the same title (translated to “Bunny Drop”), and the concept of the series is actually very realistic and believable in terms of general anime/manga concepts.

Daikichi Kawachi, a Japanese man in his thirties, hears news of his grandfather’s death and travels to attend the funeral services. Upon his arrival, he notices a six-year-old girl at his grandfather’s house that he has never seen before.

I think this is one of the defining shots of the series: Daikichi taking notice of Rin upon arriving at his grandfather’s house.

It turns out that this girl, named Rin, is his late-grandfather’s illegitimate child, and her mother allegedly abandoned her and Daikichi’s grandfather. The family faces the predicament of who will take care of this child, and Daikichi, frustrated with his family making excuses for not taking her in, volunteers himself almost thoughtlessly.

What ensues following this situation is a heartwarming story of a good-natured and honest (albeit clueless) man, raising a child as if she were his own. Thanks to his involvement in Rin’s life, Daikichi meets new parent-friends, sacrifices his full-time position at a large company, and ultimately learns how to be a real father-figure, doing everything in his power to provide for Rin, who might as well be his own daughter.

Daikichi pinky-swearing to Rin that he will try to get off of his full-time job as early as he can so he can pick her up from nursery school.

I have not come across a more refreshingly sweet anime in a very long time, and the only bad thing I can say about it is that the source material goes further than the adaptation—we see that, in the future, Rin, as a teenager, develops an unhealthy-sounding longing for Daikichi and they get married when she turns eighteen.

Now, I haven’t read the manga, but this definitely turns me off to it, and it’s not only because the whole situation goes against all of my values, but it also seems like a lot of stories coming out of Japan lately seem to involve some sort of incest-based romance… Take My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, for example; the title says it all. But the biggest difference between that and Usagi Drop is that the former played the concept mainly for laughs (except how the ending is kind of serious about the incest...), whilst Usagi Drop is primarily a dramatic story (from what I gather), albeit the light-hearted humor in the beginning.

Reading about this ending after witnessing the portrayal of the sweetest and most innocent relationship between characters in any anime I’ve ever seen was enough to make me mad, and also enough to become hesitant on lauding this series so much, unfortunately.

Still, I have to say that I loved this series very much. The characters were excellently portrayed, the concept was realistic, yet interesting, and the relationships were engaging and fun. Overall, I now regard this as one of my favourite series, and I like to pretend that the ending in the manga is just some gross fan-fiction. Be sure to check it out! As far as I know, it’s still on Crunchyroll for free!

Overall: 9/10

There's evil afoot! Daikichi... Away!!!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to tell your kids, tell your wife, and tell your husbands, too, ‘cause I’m reviewing all kinds of stuff out there!


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