by Yumi Unita
published by Yen Press; $12.99 US
Daikichi finds a surprise at his grandfather’s funeral: The old man had a six-year-old daughter no one knew existed! The rest of the family wants to pack her off and forget her, but Daikichi, out of impulsive, unexpected motivation, since he’s a 30-year-old bachelor, takes his new aunt Rin home to watch over her.
The two form an unusual, heart-warming relationship. There’s humor, of course, as Daikichi realizes how little he knows about children, especially little girls, but underneath it is deep feeling, as he helps Rin acknowledge her grief and fears of abandonment. It truly seems as though he cares about Rin and wants to be a good father to her, no matter how much he has to learn or change his life to do it.
And it is quite a change — he doesn’t realize he’ll need to find decent child care, and change his work schedule, and buy clothes suitable for Rin. The devil’s in the details, and careful attention to them make this story something memorable, while the plain talk kept things feeling down-to-earth. I truly felt like I was peering in on the daily life of a single Japanese father, complete with work and home concerns. Daikichi’s still a bit of a child himself, pointed out beautifully in the scene where Rin makes him hold her hand when walking down the street, instead of the other way around. I love all of his goofy faces as he copes with the many changes he’s going through. He’s growing up.
The focus on the emotional reactions of simple-line faces reminded me somewhat of the work of Fumi Yoshinaga, but with more backgrounds to establish setting. It’s perfectly suited to the story. Rin doesn’t talk much, but her feelings are clear through her expressions and attitudes. She made me want to take her hand and tell her everything would be ok. The two begin to develop friendships, Daikichi with another working parent, Rin with a hilariously overblown cousin her age and a boy at day care, another child of a single parent.
Fans of With the Light and Yotsuba&! will find much to enjoy about this series as well. It’s a wonderful, satisfying read, with plenty of mental meat to chew on. The question of the missing mother runs underneath the incidents covered here and provides a hint towards possible future stories.