Manga Mondays: Bunny Drop Review

(Image Courtesy of Yen Press)

Last week, I introduced all of you to one of the, if not the best, seinen manga series on the market.  This week, we’ll be shifting away from the grim and war-torn battlefields of Berserk and instead visiting modern day Japan to take a look at the more recent josei series, Bunny Drop.  Written and illustrated by Yumi Unita, Bunny Drop has quickly become one of the most popular and well known josei series in its native home of Japan and has even received its fair share of praise here in the United States.  The series began in 2005 and was completed in 2011. The manga consists of nine volumes (seven of which are available in English at the time of writing) and also received a very short spin-off series, subtitled Bangaihen (Bonus Story) which was released in a single volume.  The series was also adapted into an anime series last summer which is being released state-side in the coming months. A live-action movie was also released around the same time as the anime but no word yet if this particular adaptation will see a release outside of its homeland.

Bunny Drop follows the day to day lives of Daikichi Kawachi and Rin Kaga, two very different individuals whose worlds are brought together by the hand of fate, which in this case happens to be the death of a shared relative. While attending a funeral for his recently deceased grandfather, Souichi Kaga, 30-year old Daikichi discovers that said grandfather had a secret he had been keeping from the rest of his family.  This secret comes in the form of six-year-old Rin, who as it turns out, happens to be Souichi’s illegitimate daughter, and Daikichi’s aunt by proxy.  Daikichi’s family shuns Rin and treats her like an outcast.  Eventually, discussion turns to what is to be done about Rin, as the identity of her mother is unknown and none of the other family members seem interested in taking her in.  Daikichi, somewhat disgusted by the actions of the rest of his family towards this lonesome little girl, decides to take responsibility and offers to take care of Rin.

Daikichi’s moments of stress and frustration serve as both great comic relief moments and an effective means of making the character more relatable and believable.

What follows are a series of stories that show the growth of the relationship between guardian and child and how this life changing event helps both Rin and Diakichi grow as people and as a family.  At the beginning of the series, Daikichi is a fairly typical middle-aged man with his share of potential bad habits like smoking and keeping a messy house, but is nevertheless a hard worker and one of the most respected amongst his company. Rin is incredibly quiet and shy but has a surprising layer of maturity to her character. As the two spend time together, we see both of them grow from their collective experiences. Daikichi alters his lifestyle to better suit that of a parent, doing things like giving up smoking and adjusting his work hours in order to be able to spend more time with Rin. Rin slowly becomes more open with others, picks up hobbies like cooking and develops a great fondness and respect towards Daikichi.  Both characters grow up in their own way, Daikichi learning how to be a good parent and Rin learning how enjoy her own childhood.

While this type of story has been done a few times before, it’s the loving care that Unita puts into creating her characters that makes the story such a treat.  Daikichi is one of the best protagonists I’ve seen in a slice of life style manga in recent years.  I love the somewhat snarky attitude he has just as much as a like his strong sense of duty towards his family and friends.  Rin is also a fun character and provides a fair share of laughs, smiles, and even a few tears along the way.  Stories include events like Daikichi’s attempts to get Rin into a good daycare and subsequent elementary school, Rin’s attempts at making new friends, Daikichi’s budding relationship with the single mother of one of Rin’s classmates, and Rin’s struggles to comprehend concepts like life and death.  All of these scenarios are well crafted and avoid some typical pitfalls of the genre.  Daikichi’s relationships and struggles with work don’t just magically get fixed; he has to work to make them happen the way he wants and sometimes, he fails.  In this way, the manga feels more true-to-life and it makes each little victory all the more satisfying to read but also makes each failure that much more depressing.  This mimetic quality in both the writing and character development is what makes Bunny Drop such an entertaining read.

While the use of silhouettes is simple, it does a lot to accent some of the more thoughtful and contemplative moments in the series.

The artwork in Bunny Drop is simple, but still very pleasing. The characters are all very distinct without the need for wild hairstyles or unusual features. The small touches that Unita puts into her designs, like the little wrinkle lines that appear on Daikichi’s forehead when he’s tired or frustrated and Rin’s confused expressions when she encounters something new and strange, help to make each character seem that much more human and help the reader to empathize with the characters, through good and bad times. The backgrounds are also fairly simple design wise, but they get the job done. On occasion, Unita will render certain conversations or moments in a silhouette style, which make for some nice visuals and help to emphasize moments of introspection and careful thought.

I should mention that the series is also broken into two distinct parts.  What I’ve described in this review covers the first four volumes of the manga.  Starting with volume five, a ten year time skip occurs which sees Daikichi coping with the pains and difficulties of raising a teenager and Rin’s day to day life in high school. There’s something of a division between fans of the manga regarding the second half of the series.  Some readers feel the writing quality dips and the ending seems forced while others think the title still maintains its superb writing and very natural feel.  Personally, I lean more towards the former of the two opinions. At any rate, if you’re in the mood for a heartwarming and fairly unique slice of life drama, be sure to give Bunny Drop a read.