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Anime Reviews: Bunny Drop
Bunny Drop is a deeply heartfelt and bittersweet look at the trials and joys of being a single parent, despite its maddeningly-incomplete ending.
Title: Bunny Drop a.k.a. Usagi Drop
Production: Production I.G
Series Length: 11 episodes
Air Dates: 7/8/2011 to 9/16/2011
Age Rating: 3+ (no objectionable content)
Summary: Daikichi Kawachi awakens from his sleep after having a strange dream--a dream where he walks hand-in-hand with a small girl. Now 30 years old, he lives alone, has no romantic partner, and works a menial job, so this dream comes as a great surprise. However, it seems to have also been a dream of foresight, for Daikichi's grandfather passes away not long afterwards, leaving behind a 6-year-old girl named Rin, who is supposedly the old man's illegitimate child. When Daikichi attends the funeral, he notices that his family refuses to even acknowledge Rin, treating the girl like an outcast. Daikichi's feelings of indignant anger--as well as his memory of the dream from that morning--incite him to step forward and claim Rin as his ward, despite the fact that he's never raised a child before. Now with Rin under his care, Daikichi is about to learn the hardships, as well as the joys, that come with being a single parent.
The Good: Sweet and simple visuals; handles its subject matter perfectly; the ending is beautiful...
The Bad: ...even though it resolves nothing; pre-opening scene animation takes some getting used to
The Ugly: Don't read what happens in the manga after the anime ends. Just...don't do it.
2011 was a great year for anime. I'm sure if you've been following my reviews, you know that already. Let's move on to Bunny Drop. Adapted from a manga of the same name, it was featured on the Noitamina block of programming of Japan's Fuji TV, which is where other prominent shows of the past few years aired, such as Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Guilty Crown, and AnoHana. The whole point of this programming block is (supposedly) to provide anime that appeals to a demographic other than the 16-25 males, as well as something different in general. Sometimes they fail, and sometimes (like in this instance) they deliver gold.
Okay, so what's the deal this time? What makes Bunny Drop one of the best anime in recent years alongside its 2011 brethren? So glad you asked.
First of all, the art/animation style utilized here is absolutely perfect. Budget-wise, it doesn't look any more impressive than any other TV anime, but that's not the point--it's the style itself that makes Bunny Drop unique. The character designs are simple and earthy with subdued colors without looking dull, and the backgrounds are done in a delicate, subtle way that invokes the feeling and familiarity of everyday life. Occasionally, there are even entire scenes done in the style of a watercolor painting. There is just innocence and wonder brimming forth from the artwork of the show, and that's why it's perfect.
Why, you ask? Well, that's because innocence and wonder are part of the show itself, not just the visuals! Now obviously, since Rin is just a very young child, a lot of the show's wonder is going to come from her discoveries as she grows up, but there's a surprising amount of this from Daikichi's end, as well. As they become closer to each other, they both grow as human beings. This isn't just a case of a child changing because of a parent's influence; it's both the child and the parent changing because of their influence on each other, and as it's presented here, it's a beautiful thing. But that's not to say the parent-child relationship is the only aspect of the show (because, believe me, it sure isn't), but it's definitely the most prominent. I don't want to give away too terribly much, so let's get to talking about the ending.
That sounds contradictory as hell, but I can tell you that once you've finished the series, it definitely leaves you with nothing but good feelings. You feel like you know these people--it warmed my heart to see them progress through life, and it broke my heart to be separated from them due to the series coming to an end. But even though I was sad it was over, I still felt content in that I'd seen all that needed to be seen. The series came full-circle (I won't tell you how~) and everything was resolved. The end, right? Except, when I finally got all the fuzzies out of my heart and decided to apply just a single brain cell to the ending, it was all wrong!
Whatever happened to Rin's mother? We had a story arc going with her, and then it just stops! That didn't get resolved! What about the Nitanis? We get a lot of development with them, and the series heavily hints that Daikichi would get together with Yukari, but then they just vanish! That didn't get resolved, either! What about the bombshell Daikichi's grandfather left behind? That changes everything we've known up until now, and that doesn't get any resolution, either! Nothing was resolved! Nothing!
I had to know what happened next, and so I had no choice but to read the manga. I regret that decision. It wasn't bad or anything (many of those questions were answered), but...but...I just can't watch the series anymore without shivering involuntarily. And not in a good way. For all of you folks out there who read the manga, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Production I.G. really should have pretended the rest of the manga didn't exist and made something up. Go the Fruits Basket route and improvise, you know? But no matter what, don't look to the manga for an ending if you want to ever feel clean again.
Aside from that, the only other piece of criticism I've seen regarding the show is that some people really, really hate the watercolor animation before each episode's opening theme. I always found those scenes to be very well-done, but apparently not everyone thinks so. Just be aware that, if you don't care for that style, it does go away after the opening theme. It's not necessarily a flaw as much as it is a matter of personal preference.
So yeah, that's Bunny Drop in a nutshell. It's not a very complicated series, but it definitely is a heartwarming one. I loved the artwork, I loved the characters, I loved the ongoing themes and development of the characters, and I generally loved everything about the show. If it weren't for the fact that the ending left a lot of unanswered questions, this would be the perfect slice-of-life anime, but I suppose I'll have to be thankful for what I got, and it's a good thing that what I got was still a great anime.
Final Score: 9 out of 10. Although Bunny Drop suffers from the fact that it leaves nearly all of its plot threads dangling when it ends, the overwhelming amount of heart and soul that it exudes is more than enough to make up for it.