Yesterday, Yi posted a wonderful (as usual) piece. In it, she argues for the path Usagi Drop takes after the material that was covered in the series. She claims that the evolution and devolution of certain relationships in the series are fitting and well done. While I won’t argue with the relationships that did not come to pass (in fact, I see these as very strong points, if not disappointing ones), I don’t agree with the elephant in the corner of the manga page.
The Listless Ink post gave me an opportunity to write down the feelings I’d had since first reading the manga several months ago. Although these points are no doubt more thoroughly and elegantly covered in the comments on Yi’s site, I still felt the necessity to get these thoughts off of my chest and onto the digital page.
Warning: Spoilers galore after the jump
My problem with the ending of Usagi Drop, particularly, is this: the series has run with a theme that is very important – a family is more than blood ties. And even more specifically, a father sacrifices for his daughter and a daughter can find love from a father who sacrifices – blood related or not, it’s all about the actions we do which make us family.
Usagi Drop runs with this poignant theme and takes the cheap, romantic way out. The signs are there right from the beginning that the mangaka was going to move this direction (though I doubt most readers, including myself, would’ve allowed ourselves even the possibility that the series would end this way). Unfortunately, this ending undermines the theme I mentioned above, which is the most important one of the manga. Basically, the ending undoes the wonderful message of Usagi Drop. The work is a victims of its own success – we wouldn’t care if a manga less kind, touching, subtle, and beautiful had an faux incest ending, but Usagi Drop’s too darn good to let the ball drop.
The pre-time skip volumes make this point clear: Daikichi is becoming Rin’s dad. Any observer can see that. He cares for her and loves her like a dad should love a daughter. And just because Rin doesn’t call him dad, or she’s had troubles developing a romantic relationship, or she she’s not related by blood to him, that doesn’t suddenly change their relationship from father-daughter to lovers.
In a rotten way, the beautiful story devolved into a Woody Allen-Soon Yi tale. Woody Allen was not legally the adoptive father of Soon Yi, but he was still a father figure, adding a shocking twist to the story of the famed director leaving his muse for her adoptive daughter. This story was a big one in the 90s because it was so sensational and also tested our thoughts about what constitutes incest. Soon Yi wasn’t literally Woody Allen’s daughter, so I guess it didn’t matter.
And that’s what Usagi Drop ultimately tells us: Rin is just an adopted, throw-away girl, so it doesn’t matter if she marries Daikichi. After all, she’s not really family.