Home > Episode Reviews, Usagi Drop > Usagi Drop Episodes 8 and 9 – How Can I Make You Remember Me?

Usagi Drop Episodes 8 and 9 – How Can I Make You Remember Me?

Last time I wrote about Usagi Drop, I wrote about Daikichi’s cousin, and my discomfort with the show’s insistence that she remain in what seemed to be a demeaning and unfulfilling existence. The show’s emphasis on traditional Japanese family values has been something of a reoccurring theme so far, and it comes back again strongly here, with its most untraditional female character.

An earlier draft of this—when it was about Usagi Drop's very un-feminist take on femininity—hinged on this scene of Masako shouting "I am not a woman! I am a manga-ka!" I still like it

Abandoning your child—a child you never wanted in the first place, and would have been aborted if not for the intervention of your boss—is definitely not something a show like Usagi Drop could ever accept or condone. As a result, Masako has been reviled by basically the entire cast, herself most of all. Daikichi has been the most vocal of his utter disdain for her, and continues in this episode.

He takes Rin to visit her father’s grave, because it’s almost the Obon Festival, where Japanese return to ancestral homes to visit and clean the graves of their ancestors. Masako and her boyfriend had a similar idea and have just left, so Daikichi catches up with them and asks Masako if she’d like to surreptitiously catch a glimpse of what Rin looks like now.

Bellflowers, if you remember, were the favorite flower of Rin's father

She accepts, of course, and marvels at how much Rin has grown in the months since she last saw her. She also remembers that the reason why she gave Rin over to her father completely was so she could concentrate on her work without having to worry about caring of a young child. This strengthens her resolve, making her ask for even more work, despite being at the point of collapse already.

“I have to work until I can no longer remember”, she says. It’s her way of atoning for what she’s done, for not being a parent to Rin.

I love this shot of Masako

I don’t want to downplay Masako’s sacrifice, because I think the struggle between her dream of being a professional manga artist and the affection she feels towards Rin is one of the stronger bits of drama in the series, but I’m a bit curious why the show needs to continually assert that she’s the villain.

What Masako has done is basically given her child up for adoption. Sure, she gave her over to Rin’s legal father, who happened to be an elderly man, but the concept is the same. Either way, Rin had someone who loved her and was capable of taking care of her. It’s not like she was left out on the street.

Sometimes, on hot days, you just need to lie down on the floor

Not only that, but from the brief glimpses we’re given into how she acted as a parent, it’s fair to say that she wasn’t really capable of taking care of Rin. Masako is hardly a mature adult (I was assuming she was in her early 20s, but she’s actually closer to Daikichi in age), and barely capable of taking care of herself, much less a child. Her boyfriend says in this episode that she’s just barely making enough money to put food on the table with her manga work. Giving her over to someone who is, presumably, better able to care for her, and who convinced her to even have the child in the first place, doesn’t seem like an evil act: it seems like the right thing to do.

So, when Daikichi’s mother says in an earlier episode, “I can’t understand why someone would abandon such a cute child,” what she’s actually saying is, “I can’t understand why anyone would have to give someone up for adoption.” It shows a frightening lack of empathy from someone who’s one of the moral pillars of this show. It makes it all the worse that Daikichi, the other moral pillar of the show, brings it up every chance he gets, stoking his hatred of Masako.

Daikichi knows Masako is there based on the ink bottle she leaves behind

It wouldn’t be all that jarring if this wasn’t otherwise a cute little slice of life show about a single parent and his kid. Most of the show is not about the social issues its subtext focuses on, to the point where I almost feel like I’m misrepresenting the show by focusing on them to such an extent. This tension just seems out of place, not because it doesn’t make sense for the characters, but because it doesn’t make sense for the show.

It’s like the show feels the need to have a villain, despite all evidence to the contrary. Or, more likely, it’s like a young writer doesn’t know how to create conflict with any subtlety. But then again, I’ve become used to a lack of subtlety in anime by now.

Rin has to go put the smack down on Kouki to get him to behave in school

Episode 9 continues Daikichi’s growing understanding of what it means to be a parent, by looking at the other parents he works with. It’s something that will set the tone for the last two episodes, which deal with it much better, by giving Daikichi a group of other fathers he can befriend and commiserate with.

It also provides a chance for more pot shots at Masako’s expense. “I can’t imagine them doing what Rin’s mother did,” he says. The subtext is pretty clear: if these schlubs can manage it, why can’t she?

Daikichi awkwardly stalking Masako after he spots her leaving the cemetery is one of the series' weirder moments

I honestly don’t mean to be so down on Usagi Drop—it’s a cute show, and fun to watch. The problem is, there’s some subtext to it that just doesn’t sit right. After having read through the manga, I’m going to place the blame squarely on the source material, and more specifically on an immature writer who is capable of coming up with cute situations, but not properly thinking through the consequences of the dramatic tension she’s creating.

There’ll be more on that in my next post, as well as an explanation for why it took me a month to finish writing about this show. For the moment, you can watch these episodes here and here.

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