Hey guys, Samurai here! It gives me great pleasure coupled with a twinge of sadness to type the next sentence. Welcome to the last installment of my “Usagi Drop” episodic breakdown! Over the course of twenty-four days, we have went through all 11 standard-issue episodes of “Usagi Drop”, eating and enjoying each and every one like it was a chocolate treat in a box. However, it seems as though the last chocolate is upon us, so we should enjoy it while we can. In our last episode, Daikichi’s peaceful life with Rin came to a sudden stop as our little cutie contracted a case of the stomach flu. Falling victim to feelings of helplessness and despair over the situation, Daikichi receives some tough parental love from Yukari, who sets Daikichi straight and teaches him how to help his aiding charge. After a little TLC and some sleep, Rin is back to 100%, much to Daikichi’s relief and all is well…until our little yellow-socked boy wonder Kouki tells us that his mom has contracted a cold as well! All that out the way, let’s get started with our breakdown of Episode 11 – “The First Step”.
Picking up from where our last episode left off, Daikichi, Rin and Kouki head to the supermarket to pickup some things for Yukari. He tasks Kouki with getting some breakfast items for the following day. Kouki starts off in a sprint, but Daikichi nabs him, telling him to walk, which of course he does…for all of three seconds. [Yep…did the same thing when I was little…walk to the corner then BOLT!] Rin is clearly lost in thought as she and Daikichi go down an aisle. She finally asks Daikichi if she passed on her illness to Yukari. Daikichi comforts her saying that she could’ve caught it anywhere from anyone. Rin perks up at this and picks out a few things for Yukari; a bottle of water and a pudding cup. [Insert Bill Cosby Joke here…] The pair soon catch up to Kouki who, with a slightly bloody and gap-tooth grin, exclaims that his loose tooth finally came out. [Ironically it came out down the snacks and sweets aisle…] Hey PUFFY! One more time with feeling; hit us up with some “Sweet Drops”!
We then arrive at Yukari’s apartment complex. Daikichi initially hands the grocery bag to Kouki, saying that he doesn’t want Yukari to fuss over them, but no soon as they get several steps away, Kouki starts hammering the doorbell and calling out for his mom, who arrives at the door looking flushed. She’s of course happy to see that Rin is feeling better and lets the two kids go up to the window to throw Kouki’s baby teeth. […I’ll explain later…]Once out of earshot, Daikichi apologizes to her for potentially catching Rin’s cold. Yukari waves it off saying that she could’ve caught it from anywhere; the train, her office building, or any number of places. Daikichi, however, still feels somewhat responsible and offers to help out with Kouki by picking him up from daycare. She graciously agrees. Before leaving, Daikichi tells Yukari that Rin was the one who gave her the small bottle of water and pudding. Yukari is touched at the gesture, saying that pudding is her favorite food.
The next morning over breakfast, while Rin and Daikichi are brushing their teeth, Rin notices that yet another one of her front teeth is wobbly. Daikichi advises her to just brush slowly and not pick at the tooth as it will fall out on its own. [Advise that Rin, just like every other kid in this show, does not follow …]Later, the two head out to the park with Kouki and Yukari to practice jump roping as there is a special neighborhood jump rope competition she’s competing in. Daikichi decides to help out Kouki and Rin who are both clearly struggling with the concept. As he is giving the two kids pointers, along comes Mr. Tall and Handsome and Mr. Colorful Jacket Butcher with their kids. While the three kids continue to practice [Sayaka hanging onto her dad as she lost more teeth recently…] the adults get together for a chat. Yukari, noticing how shy Sayaka is, asks her if she has a special container for her baby teeth. Mr. Tall and Handsome explains, to Daikichi’s horror, that just about every parent gets their child a special keepsake holder for their childs baby teeth, should they opt not to throw them. [Seriously…this is a “thing” to throw your teeth either straight to the ground or high in the air so that incoming teeth of the upper or lower jaw, depending on where the tooth came from, supposedly, grow in straight. Couldn’t make this up if I tried. So much for the tooth fairy…]
After school the next day, Yukari presents Rin with a small keepsake of her own; a ladybug container for her baby teeth, originally supposed to be used by Kouki, but as he has opted to give his teeth the “Big Windup!” treatment and throw them, she decided to just pass it on to Rin. That night, after getting out the bath, Daikichi jumps on the scale and, to his horror, realizes that he’s put on weight. He then announces to Rin that he will take up Jump Rope with her.
That next day, while Daikichi brushes and fixes Rin’s hair, and Rin is picking at her loose tooth, he imagines how Rin will look with those missing front teeth, saying that she will look like she’s been clocked when she smiles. When Daikichi finishes her hair, WAAAAY better than his first attempt, one will note, he notices that she has indeed gotten taller…
Out in the park, Daikichi is not alone, as Mr. Tall and Handsome and Mr. Colorful Butcher have also opted to start jump roping with their kids to fight the battle of the bulge. Daikichi soon shows off his boxer-style jump rope prowess, which amazes everyone, including Kouki. Daikichi playfully teases our Jump Rope Impaired bozu that he needs to learn how to jump the NORMAL way before taking on an expert method. [Good thing he quit smoking, eh?] He then gets chased by all the kids begging him to teach them how to jump in such an expert manner. After a few minutes of this, Daikichi is clearly exhausted and begins ruminating on how amazing kids are and also how amazing adults and parents are. He then explains to a confused looking Mr. Tall and Handsome and Mr. Colorful Butcher that he’s not Rin’s dad and how, within one year of living with Rin, how his life has changed and he asks them if they were okay with not having much “me time”. Surprisingly, all three parents cheerfully say that they have no problems with it at all. When Daikichi questions this, they all simply laugh, much to his confusion…
Later, Daikichi asks Rin how she did at the Jump Rope competition. Rin admits that she messed up forward-jumping, only managing 15 revolutions. However, when Daikichi asks about backwards-style jumping, she coyly admits that she managed to jump 203 times, nabbing first place. [Well, the show IS called “Bunny Drop” in English…hopping would be her strong suit…] Daikichi is proud of her accomplishment knowing how hard she practiced her jump roping. Later, Daikichi celebrates another accomplishment; he’s lost weight–despite Rin playing a prank on him by stepping on the scale to increase the number.
That next day, Daikichi and Rin head out to his folks house on the train; this is the yearly visit to Grandpa’s shrine and the whole family will be there. Daikichi comments that his family will be surprised at how tall she is, and indeed, Rin is taller this time around then the last time we see her on the train, her feet now touching the floor. She is excited to also tell Grandpa just how tall she’s gotten too.
When Daikichi and Rin arrive at the house, they are immediately fussed over by Daikichi’s mom as she marvels at Rin’s house, and chastised Daikichi for making Rin walk to the station…for all of ten minutes. When Daikichi’s mom asks to see Rin’s loose teeth, she happily obliges, showing her how they wiggle and explaining that even though they sometimes hurt a little, she can handle it because “she’s a pro”. Horrified, Daikichi’s mom asks her son if there is anything he can do for her as her gums are turning red. Daikichi fires back at her, reminding mother dearest of how she tried to pull his loose teeth out with a thread. Mom, of course, developes a sudden and handy case of Alzheimer’s. [And judging by the look Kasumi gives her mom, she was also on the receiving end of the string treatment…ah, home dentistry…] That night at dinner, when Rin takes a bite of her food, she quickly covers her mouth and excitedly pulls her tooth from her mouth. The adults, of course, take this whole event calmly and seriously…yeah right…
That night, while Rin is sleeping, Daikichi and Kazumi have a chat over that popular Kawachi beer drinking snack, stove-top grilled squid. Kazumi comments that Rin has changed a lot since the last time she saw her, yet Daikichi comments that this could very well just be the real Rin that has finally emerged after all this time. He then congratulates his younger sister on her upcoming marriage. Kazumi comments that the guy in question wants to start a family right away which is something she’s not ready to do as she still wants to experience lots of other things that she couldn’t do if she had a child; like going out for drinks or concerts or trips or eating tasty foods. [Umm…are you kidding me? Last time I checked, you’re not joining a convent, Kazumi…while sure, there are many things you might be limited in doing by having a child, you can still do loads of things, just maybe in different ways. Unless I’m mistaken, the Umbilical Cord is not a shackle…] She then admits that she’s not confident that she could give up everything she is to raise a child. Daikich reassures her that she’ll be able to manage somehow if she puts her mind to it. Daikichi then recalls the conversation from earlier with the other parents when they explain to him that, even though they might not have time to do somethings that they would normally be able to if they were single, they consider little moments like being at work or hanging out with their kids “me time”.
The next day, with fragrant olive flowers fluttering overhead, the Kawachi family visit Grandpa’s grave. At the head of the line, offering up prayers is Daikichi and Rin. That night, on the train ride home, with Rin fast asleep, Daikichi remembers the past year and all the little milestones they encountered together. He figures that, even though he sees himself still freaking out at every little thing with regards to Rin’s development, he can take comfort in the idea that other parents probably go through the same process and that her smile will be his source of happiness. The last shot shows a picture of Rin, grinning from ear to ear as Daikichi takes her picture, her smile even cuter with the loss of her 2nd front tooth. Hey, Kasarinchu? Take us home one more good time with a little “High, High, High” if you please!
Our end trailer takes us back to Daikichi’s initial dream–a tall man and a young girl walking hand in hand. The tall man is Daikichi and the girl whose hand he is holding is our little bellflower, Rin.
To start with, I love how the creators made this a sort of two-part episode, carrying over the story from Episode 10 to this one in such a seamless way. “Usagi Drop”, by its nature, is a very episodic story, so to see a direct continuation from a previous episode was a pleasant surprise. I love the fact that, even though we’re at the last episode, Daikichi isn’t suddenly Mr. Mom, doing everything perfectly and calmly with an expert grace. He’s still the same goofy, panicky “Oh CRAP! I didn’t know about THAT!” parental figure we see in the first few episodes, only now he’s a little more wiser, and he’s more certain about his role as a parent. It was also nice to see his parental support group expand; were this series a bit longer, it would’ve been interesting to see what kind of advise Daikichi would’ve gotten from these two fathers on certain issues regarding Rin. I can honestly think of no better way to wrap up this story then the way it was done here. It’s not a sudden, jarring, “What the heck, did I miss something?!” stop like “Kokoro Connect” was earlier this year…[Thank-freaking-goodness…], nor is it a lingering lofty “The ending is whatever you make of it” affair like the bomb that was “I, My, Me! Strawberry Eggs” It’s an ending that stays true to the “slice of life” genre, which this show executed flawlessly.
With regards to the production aspect of “Usagi Drop”, I can honestly say this was flawless from beginning to end. Production I.G, the studio who has brought us, among other things, “FLCL”, “Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit”, and more recently “Eden of the East”. To think that they can create something so gentle and delicate blows my mind. The animation is warm and inviting, and the whole production has this warm hand-drawn feel to it, much like “My Neighbors the Yamadas.
Before I forget, did you guys notice the ending credits? Did you catch the little Rin montage that pretty much shows her from Episode 1 all the way through to the last episode? That was a nice little touch done by the creators and something I didn’t notice until I did the re-watch for these reviews.
Favorite scene this time around? I have to admit, I love the scene when Daikichi asks Rin how did she do in the Jump Rope competition and she is so coy with her answers. That was just funny and so dawg gone adorable! I also love her drawing of Daikichi for her school assignment. Gotta give the girl points for originality in that it looks a lot like Daikichi…if I didn’t have my glasses on.
Story and Premise: 25/25
Final Grade: 100/100 = 100% – (A)
And with that, our voyage through the magical world of “Usagi Drop” is concluded! I want to thank each and every single one of you who took the time to read my ramblings on this magical series, and I hope you take the time to experience it for yourself! Well, seeing as how we’re at the end of the year, you guys know what time it is! Yes, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was 2012, and kick off our “Best/Worst of 2012” series! It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and we’re going to look at them all! Stick with us this last week of December as we break it down, build it up and pray for a better 2013! Later!