A second look at Usagi Drop…

One of the most interesting posts I’ve read on Usagi Drop, by errinundra on the ANN forums.

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Please don’t click on this unless you already know what happens at the very end of this story.

An ethical approach to Bunny Drop

It seems to me that people have been making moral judgements about Bunny Drop without considering the beliefs underlying them. To condemn Daikichi and/or Rin for marrying because of the difference in their ages or because of Daikichi’s role as guardian is to make proximate judgements only. There is nothing wrong, per se, in a 44-year-old man marrying a 20-year-old woman. (Twenty being Japan’s minimum marriage age). There is nothing wrong, per se, with a man who has had a guardian’s role with a minor, then marrying her when she is an adult. Talk of grooming or cradle snatching is, I think, ignoring more fundamental points.

I think there are six essential questions to be answered before condemning Daikichi, Rin and, by extension, the ending of Bunny Drop.

1. Are both Rin and Daikichi fully capable of consenting to marriage?
2. Do they actually give their consent?
3. Do they have genuine intentions and good will?
4. Are they equal?
5. Is it legal?
6. Is it wise?

On the evidence provided by the manga (and ignoring personal belief systems) I believe the answer to the first four questions is yes. I have no doubt about the first three and, while I am equally certain of the fourth, it may require more argument. (In short, throughout the manga Rin makes it abundantly clear that she does not consider Daikichi to be her father. What’s more, she has the stronger personality of the two: it will be Rin who will set the terms of the marriage.) The answer to question five is also yes – if they wait until Rin is 20 before marrying – especially given that we now know the truth about their supposed kinship.

It’s only the last question that I have misgivings about, but for reasons that may surprise you. I’ll expand upon that in the third part of this post.

A polemical approach to Bunny Drop

Many people have criticised the manga for its unexpected and supposedly tacked-on conclusion. Further, it surprises – and disappoints – me that a female reviewer would entirely ignore the underlying feminist polemic that propels the manga. If Yumi Unita’s political motivations are taken on board then the end is not only not shocking but it becomes central to her argument.

Let me provide a different reading of the first half: Daikichi isn’t learning how to be a father; he is learning what it is like to be a single mother. We now have an entirely different slant on what Bunny Drop is about. Daikichi, a privileged male from a patriarchal family, must learn how constricted are the choices for women in a modern society. The manga rams this point home time and again not only with the problems he faces but also with the examples of Kouki’s mother, Haruko, his co-worker who takes on a low status job, and even Masako. Single mothers are isolated, restricted and condemned. Society tells them how they must behave. It deprives them of choice.

The second half of the manga takes a different tack by showing women making choices we don’t want them to make: Kouki’s mother choosing someone other than Daikichi; Masako continuing on in her self-centred world; her response to her daughter’s marriage; Rin overlooking Kouki; and, of course, her choice of marriage partner. The argument has been developed: a woman’s freedom to choose, so long as she chooses something we approve of, is no freedom at all. Women must be free to make choices that confound us.

At the start of Bunny Drop a conservative, patriarchal family condemns the unorthodox behaviour of an old man and his young house cleaner. At the end of Bunny Drop we are cast into the role of that family facing the same dilemma. Have we learned the lesson that Yumi Unita is teaching us? Rin Kaga is a capable, intelligent woman who knows precisely what she wants in life. Are we so sexist, so patriarchal, so conservative that we would deny her that life just because it makes us uncomfortable? The end takes us back full circle to the beginning. Where on Yumi Unita’s political compass do you fall?

A personal approach to Bunny Drop

Possibly the main reason why I have never been unnerved by the end of the manga (and why, perhaps, I can see it differently to other people) is that I am the product of exactly that sort of marriage. My father was 24 years older than my mother; they were related – my grandfather (my mother’s father) and my father were cousins and good mates; and my mother knew my father well from childhood. Like Rin and Daikichi, my mother was the headstrong, wilful one while my father was the mild, generous one. By all accounts it was a relatively happy marriage between two consenting, equal adults.

I say “by all accounts” because I know all too well what the real problem is with such a marriage. The man will die many years before the woman, something that people here aren’t imagining. My mother was left a young widow – I never met my father. This, of course, is a practical problem, not an ethical or polemical thought exercise. Four years later my mother married a man within 12 months of her own age, surely meeting the approval of everyone here given all the rhetoric in this thread. He was an abusive man and it was an unhappy marriage.

It isn’t the age difference that matters. Or the social relationship. It’s what’s in people hearts. Rin and Daikichi have their hearts in the right place. I’m rooting for them. Readers here should show the same generosity.

I had been going to write my own comments, but honestly, I think the post speaks for itself. To this day, I still wonder how I would have reacted if I’d managed to read through the story without knowing how it would end. I would like to think I’d have been as generous and insightful as errinundra, that I’d have been astute enough to realise what Unita Yumi was trying to say with this manga.

As it turns out, after being spoiled so badly, I accepted their relationship quite readily, probably because I was prepared for the change. But I didn’t think about it quite in this way until I came across this post. Quite thought provoking, non?

usagi-drop-final

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

16 Responses to A second look at Usagi Drop…

  1. ravenanne says:

    Wah… What a nice post! Thanks for sharing it Karice chan!

    I only read Usagi drop on the latter chapters of the manga, Rin was already a grown up, so I was not really repulsed by the idea that Daikichi and her ended up together. The growth of their relationship is wholesomely portrayed so I never thought of Daikichi as Rin’s father.

    But I did watch the anime. I love it though.

    Rin and Daikichi still looks the same for me even right after they got married. maybe the bigger problem by the other readers is their age difference and the fact that Daiki became Rin’s guardian, other than that… Rin at 20 marrying Daiki at 40ish something is normal even in real life.

    Like

    • karice says:

      It’s a good one, isn’t it? I thought it was something that really should get more attention. Not that my rarely read blog will be much help with that, I must admit… (^_^;; )

      And I agree with both you and the poster: what really gets people is the fact that Daikichi was Rin’s guardian…but the fact remains that she never saw him as her ‘father’. I really think that Unita Yumi has succeeded in posing some important questions about the structures that constrain the way we think.

      (Pardon the late reply. Besides real life stuff over this holiday period, I’ve been really busy preparing all the year end posts… orz)

      Like

      • Joshua-C says:

        Yay, found someone that also enjoyed the read. Well this is more than a year late but never the less while busy with my second read I was quite unhappy with how many people showed so so so much hate for it. I really appreciate that ending and also showing something like Rei being passionate about wanting to be a mother and bear a child.

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        • karice says:

          Rei? I take it you meant Rin?

          Well, I’m not entirely sure I can say I enjoyed the read, because I read it as the anime was airing, and all the negativity that showed up in the discussions really affected my own experience reading it… A few people raised some good points about why Unita-sensei constructed the story the way she did, but I feel that the way I came to know about it (through all that negativity) was not helpful in terms of that.

          Glad to hear you enjoyed it, though.

          Like

        • Joshua-C says:

          Yes Rin sorry. And yea I had the same problem, it was actually near depressing with the amount people were going on about it until I actually got to the end and saw it and immediately had a fat grin on my face for a few chapters.

          While alot of people ask how even if i was happy with the ending it doesn’t mean I was a little sad also, Rin to me was still that little one that pulled a cute face and pointed out wobbly teeth partially. But Rin was also a woman that loved children and wanted to raise a child of her own while looking after Daikichi which she fell in love with as a man as well as father irrespective of the incestuous relationship before finding out otherwise. And as much as other people dont like it things like this actually happen in the real world and people develop very deep feelings for each-other. Ones that can even rip peoples emotions to shreds if toyed with. Anyways before I loose sight of i what I wanted to say even more its kinda like this ending is good because its something that actually does happen. People develop these feelings, with Rin even more so with her past she wants to be a mother that is successful in bearing Daikichis child making sure that it has a good future. Rin falling in love with Daikichi and Daikichi falling in love with Rin is very possible with how close they had gotten with Daikichi practically raising Rin from whetting her bed but Rin was also always a very mature character in an odd sense and the manga slowly broke down the pillars and gates stopping them so this could of been because the writer actually wanted them to be like that.

          Anyways, ill stop there before I cry at the subject of how unhappy some people are with the ending >_> And with that I think this is appropriate: “Men are weak in surprising ways” special old lady line. 😛

          Like

        • karice says:

          Apologies for the late reply — I wanted to try looking for some of Unita Yumi’s interviews to try and see if she’s mentioned what she was trying to do with Usagi Drop. Unfortunately, all of the interviews I found have largely been given in the context of the story when it was still running, rather than after it had finished (e.g. the interview included in volume 10 was the one she gave for the final BD/DVD release). The Japanese wiki does say that the first half is about Daikichi and Rin learning what a ‘family’ is together, whilst the second half has Rin learning what it means to be a mother, but I’m not sure whether that is based on anything that Unita said, or whether it was just how a fan has interpreted this manga…

          I do think that it’s probably one of the better ways to describe the second half of the manga — and that’s what your comments about Rin really wanting to be a mother to Daikichi’s child suggest as well.

          At the same time, though, the ending is so controversial that I want to know what Unita-sensei was trying to get people to think about, especially since this is what she had in mind right from the very start.

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  2. kunti says:

    Sorry, but I still don’t agree to this, I think they screwed the whole thing in the second part of the manga, but well people can think what they want. He raised her for whole 10 YEARS, and raised her as his daughter, don’t you think that’s reasonable enough? The anime was awesome congratulations to those people, sad thing was a adaptation to a manga like that…

    Like

    • karice says:

      Yes, people can indeed think what they want. Unita Yumi apparently had it planned out from the start–I’m sure she knew how controversial it would be, but she went ahead with it anyway. I doubt she’d be all that concerned if most readers didn’t understand why she did it, either. So if what she did with her story ruins it for you, so be it.

      Like

    • Joshua-C says:

      The artist wanted it to run this way so, its completely fine by me. Yes its controversial, does it matter? No. The overall point of this manga was to show that things wont always go the way people expect or want them to but it doesn’t mean people cant find happiness in their situation. I think the ending was indeed brilliant from the perspective that both of the characters found some form of happiness and secondly from the point that the artist was able to do what she wanted to do rather than being forced into the pinhole which is that of most peoples outlook.

      Well this is also just my opinion so it can be taken with a pinch of salt but still wanted to say something, as it was something that gave me a limitless amount of inspiration to actually pursue what i want.

      Like

  3. Unnecessary shock value says:

    I have recently just finished reading this manga. I find myself in the percentaged that was repulsed by this ending. I find myself searching the Internet, in hopes of anything to wash clean how dirty this ending made me feel after taking time out of my busy schedule to read this. I was so happy with the refreshing take on manga that the first half of the manga took. It’s direction is what made me want to find out more about how Daikichi would grow as a father. The moment volume two was set 10 years later, I knew that the sweetness of the first half was soon to be mangled into something disturbing. I get it, this outcome is the reality for some people and it makes it easier for you to stomach. But for someone to say I loved and raised you as my daughter for 10 years could then turn around and change that love into one of lovers. Make Daikichi a pervert in wait from me from the beginning. It negates everything he sacrificed as a father, which was the whole reason I had grew to love this manga. If we exclude her feelings and only look at his, a parental love that can grow into something sexual/ intimate is the reason SO many are repulse. The post above explained that they were the product of cousins marrying and this is the reality that shaped your acceptance of their situation. Cousin is not the same as father/ daughter. Yes they were not related but he raised with a fathers heart. The author knew she would end it this way since the beginning, she should have gave a spoiler so us with a desire to read something less controversial could bowout early.

    Like

    • Joshua-C says:

      Yep, its controversial but this is the way the author wanted it to run and honestly I wasn’t repulsed by it because for one they are not related by blood even slightly, not even as cousins. If they were it most likely would of bothered me a lot more.

      Secondly because I know a couple that have a very similar situation to this and they are amazing people. Maybe they are perverted, I wouldn’t know no matter how much time I spent with them I guess.

      And thirdly because so many things are accepted in nowadays society and society is now slowly adjusting, and I’m sure by now people should have realized that people will break and go against the norm when they are in love. Be it genuine or driven by perversion its hard to tell. But either way we have seen people are willing to be outcast if it means getting what they want.

      I do though think Daikichi is though weak willed as is most Japanese men in comparison to their wives in modern day society so it was a lot easier for him to accept from the stand point versus a European or western thinking.

      Anyways, I just hope people see why the author did what she wanted to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • like3344 says:

        You love usagi drop’s ending but You would hate the ending id daikichi and rin were blood relateed? why? Their relationship still be just as loving and pure. Love is love. Race gender class nationality age or even blood relationship doesnt matter when it to love.

        Also what exactly is the relationship of the couple you know? Did they used to be adopted parent and adopted child?

        Like

    • karice says:

      Yes they were not related but he raised with a fathers heart. The author knew she would end it this way since the beginning, she should have gave a spoiler so us with a desire to read something less controversial could bowout early.

      I can understand the absolute disgust that so many people feel about this. Whilst I probably am not quite as repulsed as you are, I did drop a couple of light novel series because I saw that they were headed for incestuous relationships, largely because ‘this is something that will draw in more fans’.

      However, with Usagi Drop, I suspect that Unita did it on purpose because the point of it was to challenge readers to realise that a lot of the social norms that we have are artificially constructed. What is a father? What is a mother? Do people who take on guardianship roles take on feelings akin to people who have real blood relationships to the people they care for? Can feelings change? Those are just some of the questions that I feel can be asked if Usagi Drop were to be studied in a literature class.

      I do though think Daikichi is though weak willed as is most Japanese men in comparison to their wives in modern day society so it was a lot easier for him to accept from the stand point versus a European or western thinking.

      Yeah, I think I’m a bit ambivalent about Daikichi, though it’s something that’s arguably characteristic of Japanese men these days–the “herbivore” description has been around for a good 10 years now, I think.

      That said, Japanese society really isn’t particularly kind to families, especially slightly lower income ones, so I can understand why he and Kouki’s mother didn’t get together, and why he might not have seriously tried to find someone else after that…

      Like

  4. Jiji says:

    I read the two parts of Usagi drop with about 3 years intervale so, most of my shock was due to the change of tone. I ended the first part on a sweet and heart warming note and I came back to a story way less interesting, with an ending that felt kinda off. It felt off for me because Daikichi didn’t really seem that eager to marry her. he was still acting like a parent and making sure that she was happy. If you see it in a feminist perspective, as a way to show that a woman can make her own choices even when they are at odd with societal norms, I think it is a good move from the author and I can admire that decision (I never thought about it that way). I recently read about the condition of single moms in Japan and how short the short end of the stick was for them. I will probably reread it and think about the story in that light.
    However, from an individual perspective, I still don’t like the ending. Rin is chosing to remain in the confort of a life she always had with Daikichi, a man she admires for his reliability and good character, a father figure. She decides to stay in a relation that is still very much that of a Father and his daughter. It seems to me that she is crystalising this relationship and chosing a man that will always be nice to her because of the type of love he feels for her, fatherly love. Like a girl who says “I’m going to marry daddy when I grow up” but who actually manages to do so due to strange cirscontancies. She is chosing sameness and ease. Which is not something I admire.
    At the end of the day, I still love these two characters though.

    Like

  5. JH says:

    I don’t see the issue with the pseudo-incest or age-gap angle because the message of the entire series is that love and relationships as a whole is confusing and unconventional. I agree however that the second “half” of the series is kind of jarring with the dramatic shift in tone and genre.

    I would like to believe that the suddent shift resulted from pressure from the publisher or the editors, since Unita stated herself that she intended to have Daikichi and Rin end up together from the beginning, and was probably going to develop that relationship more naturally over the years (would would require a far longer period of serialization). Electra Complex is not an uncommon theme in various kinds of media and it’s nice to see it being explored a little more to break some of the more traditional conventions.

    Like

    • karice says:

      (Eep…my apologies for this really late reply. I’ve Oh? Where did Unita state that she intended to have them end up together right from the start?

      Though true — it was a little strange when the story had that 10-year time skip. But come to think of it, Rin’s feelings for Daikichi only developed after that, so perhaps Unita planned it from the start as well…

      Like

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