Monday, November 29, 2010

Manga Monday: An overgrown adolescent ends up with a kid, but not in the normal way

Guys have a horrible reputation when it comes to children. For the most part, it's really undeserved; plenty of guys make at least as good a parent as the mother, if not better. But hundreds of episodes of Maury and Springer do a number on the collective psyche, and guys are labeled 'deadbeat' until proven otherwise.

It's prevalent in fictional media, too. Fathers are either incompetent (the Homer Simpson type), or absent altogether. The contrast between this and Bunny Drop Volume 1 by Yumi Unita might be part of what makes it so special.

Daikichi is a 30 year old, single salaryman. He's gotten himself fairly high up the ladder at his company, mainly by working long nights, attending alcohol-based social events, and by generally ignoring his family and social life. Admittedly, his less-than-stellar looks haven't helped him any in that department, either.

He takes off at the end of September to head home for his grandfather's funeral. He walks in to the barely controlled chaos that is most family gatherings, right past a young girl playing outside that he's never seen before.

Turns out, no one else there had known of her, either. It turns out, Grandfather kept himself busy in his golden years, and he's ended up with another daughter. Her mother is nowhere to be seen, and she's mostly quiet and just playing alone out of doors.

The most appalling turn of events, though, is how the family reacts to this piece of news. Each of Daikichi's family members comes up with some reason or another why they couldn't possibly take the girl in. When one person mentions finding a facility to place her in, Daikichi impulsively tells his family how horrible he thinks they're acting, and declares that he'll take the girl in himself. While this causes some concern for Daikichi's mother, the rest of the family is mostly relieved that someone else is dealing with the problem.

So, Daikichi has found himself with a quiet, six-year-old girl named Rin. All they're able to find of hers around the house is her mother-daughter health book (a sort of baby book with immunization records and the like in it), and a change of clothes.

The book goes on from here mainly as a slice-of-life story with a new father and daughter getting to know one another. Thankfully, perhaps because of her upbringing so far, Rin is fairly easygoing and as she comes out of her shell, she has no problem telling Daikichi what she needs at the mall, such as clothes and socks and the like.

Oh, and daycare too. Mustn't forget about daycare.

Later on, we start to see that Rin might not be as well-adjusted as she wants to seem. This comes out in the usual childhood ways, such as nightmares, a brief bout with bedwetting, and some problems when daycare starts, and she doesn't want to be left alone.

This is a very sweet story about Daikichi and Rin, and the way that a child changes every decision from that point on. The cast grows slowly, as we meet a working mother at Daikichi's office (more of a rarity in Japan than in the US), and another woman at Rin's daycare, whose child Rin seems to like.

This topic could easily become sickeningly sweet, but the fairly matter-of-fact manner of Rin keeps it grounded. It's simply a good hearted, slice-of-life story of what happens when good people try to do what's right, even when it's not exactly what they expect.

Highs: Seeing what every day life of a salaryman and child would be like in Japan, the way a normal, bickering family is portrayed

Lows: Very simplistic art at times, though emotion is shown quite well on the characters' faces

Verdict: Excellent josei slice-of-life storytelling

Further Reading: Chi's Sweet Home Volume 1, Honey and Clover Volume 1

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