by Yumi Unita
published by Yen Press; $14 US
I suspect a number of readers may have approached this “bonus volume”, collecting Bunny Drop short stories, the same way I did. I had hopes that it would provide more of the cute “raising a kid unexpectedly” tales that made this series so charming in the early days. I didn’t want to be reminded of the unpleasant change the series took.
Unfortunately, that authorial decision, to turn Daikichi and Rin from adoptive father and daughter into married couple, is strongly present here as well. (Sean Gaffney has more background on possible reasons this approach was chosen. An interview with Yumi Unita, most of which is about the anime series, is included in this volume where she contrasts Bunny Drop with another series she was working on, a more traditional family story. Perhaps that’s the one I should wish had been translated.) You can see it on the covers, with the front showing Rin as a young schoolgirl, and the back showing them with two other characters in a way that suggests two couples.
The chapters themselves will please series readers, as they touch on key points of the overall story over its run. The first is set very early on, with it only being a short time after Rin’s adoption. She’s killing bugs, which leads to a discourse on which insects are beneficial and how to teach her the difference. It illustrates how much of a challenge Rin can be to Daikichi, and his struggles to explain things in a way a child can understand. That’s a pretty good summary of the series theme overall.
The next story has neighbor kid Kouki and his mother joining the pair for a day at the park … and an unexpected trip to the emergency room. I was reminded how much I’d have preferred Daikichi and Kouki’s mother getting together, since they had similar struggles as single parents, and she seemed a much more mature, developed character (in the small amounts we saw her). She was an adult, anyway.
Those four characters appear in a followup, as they go to an aquarium. That was my favorite segment in the book, both for the cartooning, which well captures the squirmy activity of a kid, and the theme, about needing to take care of and be considerate of others.
Next, we jump to Rin’s mother, the manga artist, in a story that shows who she eventually coupled up with. He starts as an assistant to her during a crunch period, while her other helpers have flaked. Complicating matters, he’s just broken up with his girlfriend, who threw him out of their apartment, leaving him no place to live. Although they’re about a decade apart in age (continuing the pattern of mismatched couples), they suit each other well. This marked the end of the part of the book I enjoyed, before the last two stories.
An older Kouki features in a glimpse at his acting-out days, before his devotion to Rin led him to make better choices. The final chapter has Kouki coming back for a kind of reunion, as we check in briefly with a variety of characters. To me, the final bits, with Rin and Daikichi spatting, demonstrate how poor a choice the author made. Those who enjoyed the series through its end likely feel otherwise — although I’d love to hear why they felt that way.