The 'Slice of Life' genre is presented best as two sides of the same coin: one side depicts naturalism - showing a parallel to the reality of an average person, whether that’d be hardships through life lessons, growing up and facing the real world, or experiencing something for the first time that leaves you in awe, while the other displays mundane experiences lacking conflict and development for the story and characters, solely presented to 'tug the heartstrings' of a person. It's a challenging idea to demonstrate for a wide variety of audiences who have their own preferences of what 'Slice of Life' is, simply by the fact that everyone is unique, and will experience different aspects of what life has to offer as they grow up. Usagi Drop, however, manages to do everything right that all Slice of Life anime should strive for; Showcasing realism told through a strong narrative.
Tired of unrealistic, teenage, school dramas that have predictable outcomes, lack of character development, cheesy romantic sequences, and excessive melodramatic encounters? Tired of fan service characters and scenes that have no purpose in being in an anime, or sequences that were solely made to make us feel bad on-purpose? I know I sure was. With the exception of shows like Mushishi, I never once really felt like Slice of Life was natural or displayed a true realistic outtake on life; always having a forced outcome on situation that could be easily solved without immoderate drama, shoving moe down our throats, or painting a greater, grander picture of something that's meant to be a far fetched philosophical outtake on life. Usagi Drop is nothing like this, hell, it’s probably one of the most unique, heartwarming, and ambitious anime I’ve watched this year.
Usagi Drop is about what it means to be a family, and how raising a child has its merits and challenges. We are presented with something that has a mature feeling about each situation Kawachi Daikichi, the main character, encounters when put to the task of raising Rin Kawa, his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter, taxing his already stressful life of being a single, working man. Usagi Drop doesn’t try to woe you with pretty aesthetics or complicated characters to analyze, it’s trying to showcase an event in our lives that will happen to most people: parenthood; as well as time management, dealing with no duel income, stress when things don’t go your way, and normal things that eventually pile up and happen to us.
Usagi Drop isn’t just solely based on a parent’s perspective of life though, we also get to witness what the children in the anime are feeling as well, with Rin specifically, on how losing a loved one and moving in with a stranger you just met from the same family has an effect on you psychologically. Presenting two perspectives on the same situation of starting a family is a sign of a strong narrative, as it can relate to two different types of people watching the anime to get a better idea on the greater thematic value the show displays through realistic scenarios each of these characters go through. Maturity in the story-telling is what made the immersion and enjoyment so much more enjoyable than your typical run-of-the-mill anime. Not once was disbelief suspended, nor did I have to go back to understand something that didn't make sense the first time around due to flawed logic.
Charm in not only the story, but characters, is a frequent occurrence that makes Usagi Drop differentiate from majority of Slice of Life anime. Daikichi is the perfect example of how to write a realistic character, and in fact, a dad. With popular dad characters like Shou Tucker, Gendou Ikari, and Gamino, perspectives on what a fatherly figure is positively shown is a rare occurrence. Daikichi is a loving, compassionate, and hardworking fatherly figure that supports Rin’s transition into his life and will go to any lengths he can to make sure she’s comfortable and gets the proper necessities, while also spoiling her. Awkward and laid-back, but brimming with motivation and determination. Rin is a believable child character. With a side of independence and maturity, she also has a childish side to her who eventually learns to open up more and love her family that once shunned her. Masako, Rin’s biological mother, takes the role as the typical ‘I don’t want anything to do with my child’ role, but has a unique personality and traits of a stressful, mangaka workaholic who never could possibly have time to support Rin. The supporting characters, the Nitani family, are very similar to Daikichi and Rin with a single parent raising one child. Both the mother and Daikichi, as well as Kouki and Rin, become friends that help each other when dealing with later occurrences, while also learning from each other.
Scenes incorporating the right use of music to enhance the overall mood, as well as visuals to enrich the beauty of the anime were all very solid and consistent, never breaking off or diminishing in quality. While the anime is beautiful on its own, and setting up the mood helps make scenes and story telling more influential through visuals and sound, it's important to not pay too much attention to these sort of details in Usagi Drop's case, as what really shines is how the narrative and characters connect to make a grand experience of witnessing life.
What kind of an effect did Usagi Drop leave on me? It made me realize the importance of family and how important it is to stay in touch with them. Falling outs with family members is tragic and unfortunate, or with loved one dying. It’s a situation where you as an individual need others to help coupe with such feelings that friends may not be able to understand clearly as much as family members do. It made me realize how life is moving fast, and at any minute something can happen which can result in your entire perspective on life changed in an instant. Treasuring moments now instead of waiting for what’s in store for the future will help you better understand what it means to live and start a family. Now, I’m not a father/parent, nor was I adopted. So I’m sure that people who actually are can relate to Usagi Drop on another level. Even so, that didn’t hinder my outcome on what the core message Usagi Drop was trying to showcase. Anyone can see the value and beauty in such a heartwarming, telling narrative, recommended for anyone who wants a realistic approach on what your future might be like when raising a child.