Manga fan or not, you’ve probably read Brigid Alverson’s writing somewhere, because she’s all over the place. For Guest Reviewer Month (GRM, as we call it here), we really wanted to put a great range of writing, and subject matter, on display. So here we have Brigid adding a touch of class to the joint, and reviewing a book it’s a pretty sure bet wouldn’t have found its way onto TWC if not for her. But it sounds pretty good now!
Bunny Drop, vol. 1
By Yumi Unita
Rated T, for Teen
Yen Press, $12.99
Bunny Drop is that rare manga in which the characters act like real people, even when they are thrust into an absurd situation.
The situation is that old chestnut, the bachelor who suddenly has to take care of a small child. Often the humor in these stories comes from a self-centered single guy who is knocked out of his complacency by the immediate, physical needs of a baby. This is not that book. Daikichi, the bachelor in question, isn’t suave or debonair; he’s good at his job but doesn’t have much of a social life, and he’s a bit insecure. And the child, Rin, is a remarkably self-possessed six-year-old. Daikichi’s challenge is not to take care of her physical needs, although there is some of that, it’s to figure out what she needs emotionally. And that’s a lot more interesting than watching a klutzy guy try to change a diaper.
Bunny Drop does have its ridiculous moments, including the opening sequence, in which Daikichi arrives home for his grandfather’s funeral and learns that the old man had a love child, Rin. The family first learned of this at his death, and Rin’s mother is nowhere to be found. As is common in manga, everyone in the family announces they are too busy to take care of Rin, and anyway, she doesn’t seem to be quite right. The dialogue is lightened up by the convincingly obnoxious antics of Daikichi’s bratty cousin, Reina, who is the same age as Rin.
Meanwhile, Daikichi and Rin are already establishing a bond. Daikichi, it turns out, is the image of his dead grandfather, so Rin attaches herself to him and follows him around. This gives him a chance to see that although she is quiet, she is also smart and intuitive. So when everyone in the family announces that they just can’t take on another burden, it seems natural that Daikichi stands up, tells them all off, and walks off hand in hand with Rin.
The rest of the book chronicles Daikichi’s introduction to parenthood, but while it follows the standard script—finding day care, juggling work and family, and perhaps finding love at the end of it all—the story is rich in detail and texture. For instance, Daikichi must choose between three emergency day cares and then weigh the good and bad points of several permanent ones. Something that could be dismissed in a panel or two gets the full treatment here. Similarly, when Daikichi asks for a transfer at work to reduce his hours, Unita shows him having detailed discussions with his superior and his co-workers about his plans and their possible repercussions. This gives the story depth and also presents a rare (for manga) example of a worker standing up to The Man.
Unlike the girls of shoujo manga, who cheerfully shrug off their parents’ deaths and go off to sleep in the park so they won’t make any trouble, Rin is scared, lonely, and sometimes unable to articulate what she is feeling. From the beginning, she insists on sleeping cuddled up next to Daikichi. This awkward situation is depicted without innuendo, and later on, when Rin starts wetting the bed, Daikichi sees it as a reflection of Rin’s feelings and they have a frank conversation about death. Unita handles this episode with taste and tact, and it’s a moment that many parents will be able to identify with.
Daikichi’s defining characteristic is his good heart. He immediately puts Rin at the center of things, rearranging his life in order to accommodate her needs, and he does this without resentment—he genuinely enjoys her company. Furthermore, he realizes that he can’t just respond to what she says; the interesting thing about this book is that Rin is not straightforward, and Daikichi has to develop genuine empathy to figure out how to take care of her properly.
Unita’s art is simple and linear. She keeps screentones to a minimum, instead using areas of pure black and white to define most of the shapes in each panel. Her compositions are often reminiscent of Fumi Yoshinaga—large, long panels filled with a single head shot. Backgrounds are either blank or crisply drawn depictions of everyday life, and Unita often throws in a surprising detail, such as a male co-worker’s bunny pen. The effect is economical and readable, even for readers who aren’t manga fans.
Bunny Drop follows the becoming-a-family formula but avoids the traps of cuteness, moe, and broad physical comedy, opting instead for a more nuanced story of a developing relationship. At the same time, the tone is light throughout, making this an engaging and unusually satisfying read.
Brigid Alverson grew up reading American and British comics and developed a passion for manga late in life. She is the blogger at MangaBlog and editor of Good Comics for Kids. She also writes about comics for Publishers Weekly Comics Week, Comics Foundry, Robot6 and other publications. You can see examples of her noncomics journalism at her personal site. She lives north of Boston with her husband and two teenage daughters.
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