Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bunny Drop Volume 1

By Yumi Unita. Released in Japan as "Usagi Drop" by Shodensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Feel Young. Released in North America by Yen Press.

The manga and comic artform, in general, relies a lot on character exaggeration to prove a point. Unless you want completely photorealistic art, your characters are going to look like, well, cartoon characters. And act like it as well. Hey, a lot of manga/anime/comics are drawn around the ability to do things you could not get away with in real life. Stretchy limbs, magical healing from being beaten up, turning into a giant head of rage. Both people's looks and personalities are exaggerated, either for comic effect or for action fighting or just because it's what the artist does.

This can lead to trouble when drawing a series where the characters are meant to be in a realistic situation. In a medium where everyone is used to conveying things in an overblown fashion, sometimes it's hard to hit the middle of the scale. The person is a bit TOO flawed, or the heroine a bit TOO perky. How do you find a happy medium?

Well, if you need examples of what to do right, you could do worse than Bunny Drop, the excellent new josei manga from Yen Press. As I read it, I kept thinking that the characters were particularly well-handed. The lead is not so much of a loser that he makes you want to smack him, but is not a selfless and wonderful new dad, either. Likewise, the little girl does not, despite what the first chapter might hint, turn into the stoic emotionless girl that Japanese fandom always falls for, she's merely a little girl struggling with unfamiliar feelings and forced to grow up a little too fast.

The premise of this story is that a young single man, Daikichi, goes to the funeral of his grandfather and finds that the old man had a young lover... and a little girl, who is now abandoned as the mother has disappeared. After listening to the rest of the family bitch about how they can't possibly take her in with all their problems, he gets fed up that one one seems to care about what Rin, the girl, thinks and takes her into his home.

Again, this is just a really well-balanced story, showing the difficulties involved with a single guy (who has not really had much experience with women) suddenly dealing with a little girl's problems... and not just 'what school/day care should she go to?', but things like 'will everyone around her die just like her father did, the moment she turns her back?'. Daikichi handles these situations pretty well, being awkward but sensible, and proves to be much more adept at fatherhood than he imagined... even while he spends the volume panicking and worrying. (It's shown he's apparently the same at work, where he's proven to be an awesome manager, but doesn't quite get how everyone can look up to him like they do.) Even his relatives, who we really dislike in the first chapter, prove to be merely human and show better qualities when we see them again.

This is a title for young women (it was in the highly underrated magazine Feel Young, home of Happy Mania), and as such has, I suspect, been marketed accordingly. It emphasizes the father/daughter relationship, and is apparently coming out just twice a year, indicating that Yen likely knows it's never going to be a hot seller. There's no romance to speak of yet, although I already wonder if Daikichi will end up courting the divorced mom of one of Rin's daycare friends. It's a title where you read it because you enjoy watching people grow up, and live their life, and want to see how they do. Most of all, it's balanced almost perfectly between father and daughter, work and school, and the character's personalities. It's a 'feel good' title, and I'd recommend it for those who want to break in a non-manga friend with a more relaxed title.

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