by Yumi Unita
published by Yen Press; $12.99 US
In this volume, new dad Daikichi continues the search for Rin’s mother he began in the first book. (Click that link if you want to know more about the series premise.) He also begins preparing the little girl to attend elementary school; they’ve barely bonded, and already she’s growing up.
While it’s very important to the story and the reader to solve that mystery and settle the question of the little girl’s parentage, I most enjoy the everyday changes we saw in the first book. My favorite moment in this volume was Rin and Daikichi cooking together in the kitchen, including nutrition and safety lessons. It’s those small moments, where Daikichi realizes just what it means to be a parent, that I appreciate best about these stories. Raising a child is a full-time job that never goes away, as we’re reminded here when he can’t go out drinking with co-workers because he’s got that responsibility waiting at home. Thankfully, so do others, so a compromise can be reached.
Rin’s presence is also drawing Daikichi closer to his existing family, as he returns home to investigate his grandfather’s life further, and Daikichi’s mother bonds with the little girl. Daikichi and his dad have an open-hearted conversation about parenting that illustrates how different modern generations are, how they have more options than older people did when they raised their kids. Dad’s description of how Mom had to give up her career just for being pregnant really disturbed me, and their choice (and its results) can be seen as a warning sign, not to fall into their mistakes and to appreciate the modern options. Even though it’s punctuated with humor in light of Daikichi’s sister’s reactions.
That encounter serves as a subtle prelude to Daikichi’s discovery of Rin’s mother and the explanation of how Rin wound up in this situation. Not every woman is cut out to be a mother, and a family that wants a child (even if it’s non-traditional, like a single father) is a better choice than one forced into parenting resentfully. (Of course, my modern American perspective wants to know how the unplanned pregnancy came about in the first place and whether the participants were protected.)
The art is lovely, expressive and easy-to-read. Rin is adorable, adjusting to her new situation and having little-girl worries, like wanting cute pigtails that Daikichi must learn to create. (She calls it “bunny hair”.) For those allergic to too much sweetness, there’s also plenty of emotion underlying the cuteness, providing some meat to balance the dessert treat of Rin’s presence.
It’s rare to see American comics tackle the subject of parenting, as those independent creators best inclined to handle the topic tend to be younger, not yet raising families, or drop out of the tough grind of comic-making when they do have kids. (Understandably, other things take priority over a professional hobby that is too much work at the best of times.) Although I’d still like to see more comics about mothering, this series, although non-traditional, brings something unique to the market.