So an anime I’ve recently watched is Usagi Drop. Crunchyroll categorizes it as “slice of life,” a genre my husband and I enjoy, so we decided to give it a try. We ended up watching half the available episodes the first night and watching the remaining half the next.
Here’s the basic premise: Daikichi, a 30-year-old salaryman, goes to his grandfather’s funeral and unexpectedly finds himself with custody of Rin, his grandfather’s 6-year-old illegitimate daughter (yup, she’s his aunt).
Usagi Drop is unusual in many respects. Unlike the vast majority of series which center on adolescence and young adult life, the main characters are a middle-aged man and a little girl. In addition, it really is a slice of life. Anime in that genre tend to have either extremely quirky characters (like Honey and Clover) or end up supremely boring (like Ocean Waves), but with Usagi Drop, you can actually envision a family challenged by their particular quandaries. Daikichi and Rin are utterly relatable, and my husband and I were completely invested in them by the end of the first episode.
So there are no superhuman powers or end-of-the-world plot lines, but Usagi Drop’s themes about family and belonging are compelling in their own way. Daikichi must make the abrupt transition from bachelorhood to a single father role, and Rin grapples with fears of abandonment and death in the wake of her father’s passing. Maybe it’s because Daikichi’s so close to my own age and life stage, but his brand of quiet, gentle strength really appeals to me.
I can’t think of a whole lot of anime comparable to Usagi Drop. The closest I can come up with is the manga Aishiteruze Baby, but in that series, the primary caregiver of the abandoned child is a high school Casanova, which makes it more fantasy and less slice of life to me. Not to say Usagi doesn’t have its own less than believable components, most of which are connected to Rin’s mother. For one, I can’t fathom the woman and Daikichi’s grandfather in an intimate relationship. For another, compared to all the stories I’ve heard about child abandonment, her reasons for stepping out of Rin’s life are lame, frankly.
Fortunately, Rin’s mother doesn’t dominate the entire series, and the focus generally stays on Rin’s place within the extended family and the parallel struggles of Rin’s friend Kouki and his divorced mother. And just to be clear, there’s nothing perverted about Rin and Daikichi’s relationship. NOTHING. The worst that the series offers up in terms of language and violence is kindergarten naughtiness from Kouki. (I can’t say the same about the manga though. I haven’t looked it up yet, but a friend tells me that it’s very different from the anime.)
So if you’re looking for a contemporary anime about family and the noble side of the human spirit, give Usagi Drop a try. As far as content goes, I’d probably rate it “All Ages” if it weren’t for the discussions about Rin’s parentage.