Raising my six-year old aunt
Thirty-year old Daikichi has found himself in a peculiar circumstance. One day, he is living the normal lifestyle of a bachelor, going to work, hanging out at home and generally being a slacker. The next day, he has a six-year old girl in his house that he needs to clothe, feed, get to school on time and generally take care of. This six-year old girl also happens to be his aunt.
That is the basic set up for “Bunny Drop” (a direct translation of the Japanese title “Usagi Drop”), which plays a twist on the “Single Father with Young Daughter” -type of manga seen recently in popular series like Yotsuba&!, Vol. 1. But whereas “Yotsuba&!” plays it for laughs, “Bunny Drop” is the type of story known in Japanese as “hono bono,” meaning “heartwarming.
The story begins when Daikichi returns to his family home for the funeral of his Grandfather. At the home, Daikichi is surprised to see a young girl in a black funeral dress that he has never seen before. He soon finds out that this little girl, Rin, is the illegitimate child of the dead Grandfather, who had an affair with a young woman despite his seventy-nine years of age. Through an odd twist of fate this six-year old girl is actually Daikichi’s mother’s little sister, and his aunt.
Rin’s mother is nowhere to be found, and none of Daikichi’s family wants anything to do with her. While the family argues in front of Rin about who will be stuck with her, in a burst of anger and sympathy Daikichi volunteers to take care of the poor girl. From there the adventure begins, as the two of them find an awkward balance of family and love together. Daikichi has to figure out what to do for the girl, with simple things like buying new clothes and getting her to daycare being monumental tasks. Rin enjoys having someone to take care of, but feels isolated at school when trying to explain the relationship to the man who drops her off and picks her up everyday (not her father, but still family she says), and is slowly coming to realize just how different her situation is.
I really enjoyed “Bunny Drop,” and felt that author Yumi Unita did a good job establishing personalities beyond the stereotypes of Rin and Daikichi. Rin is so sweet, being very vulnerable and afraid yet opening up when shown love and true affection. Daikichi is also believable as a goalless young man forced into a position of responsibility, who finds himself enjoying the new life he never chose. The story is simple but effective. The pacing is somewhat slow, although there are some plot developments like Daikichi bonding with a divorced woman over single parentage, but most of the best parts are just Rin and Daikichi living their daily life.
The main weakness to “Bunny Drop” is the art. Yumi Unita has good storytelling skills, but her artwork is just not there. The line work is scratchy, and some of the faces look odd. While she has Rin and Daikichi down well, several of her female characters’ faces are too skull-like and angular.
In Japan “Bunny Drop” is currently up to volume seven, and the series has recently been released in the US from Yen Press, who also do “Yotsuba&!.”