I've developed a greater fondness for 'Slice of Life' manga recently and Bunny Drop is one series that provides quality real-life drama. The series follows 30-year-old Daikichi as he struggles with raising a six-year-old girl, Rin. He becomes her guardian, unexpectedly, following the death of his grandfather. During the funeral Daikichi meets Rin and discovers that she is, apparently, his grandfather's illegitimate daughter.
The warmth and heart of this series comes from watching this socially-awkward man come to terms with caring for a young child and their growing bond. Daikichi had never been able to get on well with women and finds being a single parent strange and difficult but he tries hard to support Rin and connect with her. In looking afer Rin he also meets Yukari, anouther single parent, with whom he has a very (very) slow-burning and subtle romance.
One of the features I enjoyed about the series was the realistic way it portrayed life in Japan, providing details about Daikichi's work-life and his struggles balancing this with daycare and school. Usually manga will conform to the fantastic stereotypes of the genre, especially in regards to school, and although the silly school-life manga can be enjoyable I think there is scope for more realistic portrayals.
I felt a little annoyed when the back-story of Rin's mother was revealed though because we are told, reasonably early on, that she gave up Rin for her career and, in my opinion, said career is a real slap-in-the-face. It is revealed that Rin's mother is a manga-ka (manga creator) and this is the demanding job that she has to devote herself to.
I would have literally preferred for her to have any other profession than this - nurse, TV executive, pop idol, stripper, lawyer - anything but a manga-ka! I don't see why her profession, even if Unita Umi had wanted something demanding and creative, couldn't have been within some other media. This might seem like a strange detail to pick on but this is a pet-peeve of mine.
I just can't stand that so many of the real-life manga and anime series' focus on the anime and manga industry and its fans. Some such as 'Genshiken' and 'Welcome to the NHK' are really enjoyable and very high-quality but I just don't see why these artists and writers can't just create a series that takes place in the real world and has nothing to do with manga or anime. 'Bakuman' for instance is absolutely superb but I don't know why Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata couldn't have chosen a different topic for their follow-up to 'Death Note.' Quite frankly I think of a story about teenage manga creators as being the subject of a short magazine special. I can't consider it worthy of a long manga series by such a talented team.
In any case we only really see Rin's mother for a little bit in one volume which makes her presentation easier to swallow. The rest of the manga is largely about wonderfully cutesy things such as Daikichi learning to tie up Rin's hair properly and finding out what colouring books she likes and helping her to get good at jumping rope. This is, largely, the subject matter - until volume five.
Volume five, and the following volume, alienated a lot of the fans because, without warning, the series skipped ahead ten years. I was, myself, a little taken aback when I saw the cover for volume five and Rin was so obviously a teenager. Many fans expected that the series would follow Rin aging slowly and found this time skip very jarring. For one thing, although the sentiments of love and family are still present in the series, the focus is now upon Rin's school life, friendships and relationships. It ceases to be what it had begun as: the quirky tale of socially inept middle-aged-man trying to raise a small child.
I personally enjoyed volume five quite a bit and appreciated that it had a flashback to when Rin had entered middle-school to fill-in any significant gaps. Rin's relationship with Kouki, her hot-tempered childhood friend had progressed and they were unsteadily walking a line between friends and lovers, with jealousy and uncertainty providing the conflict. I was very touched by the developments between Daikichi and Yukari too, who had admitted the potential for a relationship between them but decided to wait until things were more settled between their respective children.
I had been given the sense that things were drawing to a close and was looking to see things beginning to get quietly resolved in volume six. I have to admit that I was disappointed there. Things became more strained and complicated between all the characters and the situation became definitely bleak between Daikichi and Yukari. I don't particularly like pointless obstacles in relationship where consummation is denied because a character thinks something along the lines of 'he'd be better off without me anyway...' so I wasn't happy with certain turns of events. I found myself pretty much screaming at the book, 'Why? Why can't you all just get married?!'
I have to admit that with volume six, although I still wanted to continue reading, I sympathized with the fans who had abandoned the series following the time skip. The tone and focus had shifted so dramatically that it was almost unrecognizable from the first volume. It was in the moment where Kouki's ex-girlfriend was trying to pressure him for money for an abortion that I couldn't help but think, 'this is not what Bunny Drop is supposed to be about. This is not what I signed-up for.'
Incidentally it is revealed that Kouki's ex-girlfriend, Akari, was lying about the pregnancy but this is just one of the details which makes her character so unpalatable. Akari is an absurdly irredeemable character, from the way she black-mails Kouki into going out with her, to the way she cyber-bullies Rin out of jealousy. She breaks the realism of the series significantly because I can't comprehend why anyone would tolerate her behavior. She also ruins Rin's and Kouki's relationship, wrecking the bond between them possibly beyond repair.
In other words Akari straight-up ruins Bunny Drop. The series carries the slogan 'Don't you think this world is better than you expected?' on every volume - an incredibly stupid tagline but when contrasted with a image of Akari flipping her hair on the back on volume six it is particularly frustrating. I would like to respond, 'No! Because of this witch!'
I really have loved this series and even though the last volume has left the story in sad place I hope that it will move forward towards a pleasant conclusion. The series is, on the whole, a funny and sweet one and I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of later developments.