Usagi Drop by Yumi Unita (links to Japanese website) is about Daikichi a thirty year old bachelor with a successful career. When Daikichi’s grandfather dies his family is shocked to learn that his grandfather had an illegitimate daughter. Rin, who is six years old, is now fatherless and alone. Embarrassed and annoyed the older family members are slow to respond to the situation and show little consideration the feelings of the little girl. Angry at his family’s behaviour and affected by Rin’s quiet manner and obvious isolation Daikichi offers to look after her himself.
Daikichi struggles to be a good parent to Rin despite the steep learning curve. He panics in the childrens’ section of the clothing store and agonizes over finding a daycare. These scenarios will seem very familiar to anyone who has cared for a child and the pragmatic and humorous narrative is both realistic and revelatory. The story also conveys how quickly social and family communities around Daikichi shift in response to his new role as a parent. By taking the act of becoming a parent out of its conventional context Unita draws attention to often undocumented aspects of parenting and it’s confluence as both a complex societal role and an internalized process of self-definition.
Unita seems to be able to convey inner turmoil through line weight alone. There is a lot of effective restraint shown in her panels and page design and the draftsmanship of her interiors and street scenes is excellent.
I hope I can find more information on her other titles – they all look really interesting – and a number of them seem to perfectly fit the josei/slice of life genres I’m advocating. This is a josei title that I would love to see licensed and translated in North America.
Images: cover and character art from Usagi Drop by Yumi Unita