Usagi Drop (Bunny Drop) Live Action Movie Review

Figured I’d kick off the summer posts with a title that’s pretty familiar to this blog.

Like the anime and manga of the same name, Usagi Drop tells the story of Daikichi, a 30-something that ends up taking care of his grandfather’s illegitimate child Rin—a six year-old that the entire family wasn’t aware of until the grandfather’s death. Oh, and it stars the guy that played L in the live-action Death Note movies as Daikichi.

Released right in the middle of the anime’s run, which in turn was right off the heels of the manga’s final chapter, the live-action movie essentially covers the same story arc that the manga does (thankfully), going over Daikichi and Rin’s experiences as the two begin to get used to their new living arrangements. However, unlike the anime and the first half of the manga, the movie seemed to lean more towards Daikichi’s perspective. Rather than an odd-couple type of storytelling, it’s clear that the movie’s focus throughout is Daikichi and the trials and tribulations he’s going through while raising Rin. Sure, some scenes are lifted right out of the source material, but rather than coming off as Daikichi and Rin working their way past a certain problem, it just comes off as the Daikichi show the entire way through. Perhaps it has something to do with popular actor Kenichi Matsuyama taking on the role of Daikichi that makes the movie want to bend to his every whim. Whatever the case, it just comes off as unbalanced when the story of a 30-something (totally doesn’t look like it in the movie, bytheway) and his adopted kid is cut to just the 30-something.

One aspect that I’ve heard a decent number of fans of the series want out of the movie was more interaction between Daikichi and Yukari—mother of Rin’s classmate Kouki. Well, we get what we’ve been asking for, but at the expense of the character’s… character. In the manga and anime, we don’t know much of Yukari’s life outside of the fact that she has a son, but the movie takes some liberties with her character, turning her into a model. Starting with the obvious, her change for the movie makes her come off as less of a single mother that tries to make it by on her own, and more of a needy model that struggles to balance her job and her son… which is a perfectly fine character-story, but just not right for this particular character (or movie, for that matter). Such a drastic addition to the character wouldn’t matter so much if it weren’t for the fact that it’s used as nothing more than a crutch to heighten the tension between her and Daikichi even more. The constant cutaways of Daikichi having fantasies of himself dancing with the Yukari, who ends up being the woman he sees in his magazines (yeah, I really have no clue why he’d even have fashion magazines since he’s supposed to be a bachelor) just seems out of place, unnecessary, and more importantly, results in Kouki’s character getting significantly less screen time and thus softening what’s supposed to be one of the more touching scenes in the movie.

That’s a feeling you get throughout the entire movie, really. As you watch it, you’re introduced to characters, such as Daikichi’s sister and parents, or his grandfather and Rin’s mother. But at the end of the day, no matter how important they seem to the plot, the focus still ends up going straight back to Daikichi, and in the case that she happens to be in the scene, Yukari. They’re like the magnetic North of the movie, except they end up steering things in the wrong direction entirely (ooh, zing!).

I will say I enjoyed how much Daikichi’s work life was fleshed out. Not only do we see him through his typical work day teaching trainees and juggling important phone calls, but we also get a much better picture of his life on the field as he works with other working class dads. You see a glimpse of these tough-looking, but kind-hearted fathers in the other iterations, but the movie is really where they shine as a whole.

Still, when you get down to it, Usagi Drop is a mediocre adaptation at best that tends to play to the strengths of its lead cast rather than the story itself, which is a shame since it’s really an enjoyable one when done right. Conclusion? I’d say the best version of the series to go with would be the anime. It’s short enough, and covers (the better part of) the manga, while cleaning up the writing here and there.

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