Compare the art work of Usagi Drop, from character designs to backgrounds to animation, to any other anime airing right now. It’d be hard to find another series that has a similar humble art style as Usagi Drop does, although some other anime match well in specific areas. And considering how deviant the story and characters are from mainstream anime, it feels appropriate that the art style, too, should be tailored for such an original series.
Among the best examples of art in Usagi Drop are those segements that begin each show. The color, lighting, and backgrounds in all these scenes have a calm, watercolor feel to them. These are especially noticeable in the trees and shrubbery in this episode or the walls of the room in which Rin turned away from the television and was concerned about death. That watercolor feeling, too, seems simple as there isn’t a whole lot of detail or motion going on either. And similarly, each of these scenes is calm in atmosphere and easy on the plot. They’re usually something mild, like a quick joke, and serve as an introduction to reestablish our place in the storyline. And the gorgeous artwork does a fantastic job of creating that atmosphere and setting the tone for the entire episode. They are always wonderful introductions.
Another piece of artwork that continues to impress me is the range of expressions on Rin’s face. Over the course of the entire episode, Rin hits every extreme from energetic to jubilant to dejected to embarrassed and everything in between. You need not any context or voice work to understand how Rin feels when you see her face. Her emotions are as easy to read as a stop sign (although I assume this will change in her teenage years… be thankful now Daikichi!). But my favorite expression of Rin’s is her blank face, often used when she’s confused or fuming at Daikichi. It’s both adorable and humorous and does a wonderful job of breaking down or pausing the tension in a scene. The one common trait among these facial expressions is that they don’t require an excessive amount of detail either. All of Rin’s faces are really quite simple but do an excellent job in conveying the emotion in a delightful fashion. And really, this can be applied to most other characters as well, it’s just that Rin goes more expressions than anyone else. The picture below was probably my favorite of her expressions in this episode, with that respectful smile while talking to Sachiko.
The lack of complexity and detail, such as clothing or hair, is another touch that’s notable for the show. The characters do not wear flashy, attention-grabbing clothing or have a rainbow of hair colors, unlike many mainstream anime. Those details usually catch the viewer’s eyes and draw them toward that character, especially if it’s something fanservicey (for good or for bad). But those characteristics are missing from Usagi Drop. Instead, the cast don simple clothing, usually of one color and with minimal details, especially Daikichi with all his grey and black clothing, and have realistic hair, in color, style, and length. I suppose you could call it boring but it helps allow your eyes to wander and focus on other details, such as the character’s faces, props in scenes, and my favorite, the background. Perhaps it’s a problem I face more than most people but I do find myself noticing more details like those in this anime than others. That and it is another aspect of the meek art style that Usagi Drop has employed through the entire season. Not sure if it’s appealing but it is meek.
Overall, the art style in Usagi Drop can be summarized by the words simple and charming. And I feel it’s one of the better features of Usagi Drop. Not only is it unique and different than most mainstream anime but it feels very appropriate and meaningful to the anime. I tried to imagine Usagi Drop with some of the other art styles this season and came away with disappointed results. And while the art style of Usagi Drop is not the best this season it works extremely well for the anime and deserves some notice and celebration.
Last week, when I highlighted my change in judgment about Masako, I noticed most people shared my former opinion about her. That is the negative, detestable aspect. But we were able to see Masako again in this episode, this time when Daikichi asked about a tree that might have been planted to commemorate the birth of Rin. There really wasn’t a whole lot on Masako, although it does reinforce ideas brought up in the last episode. It’s apparent she still has conflicting feelings about Rin. Masako’s attitude at the beginning and end of the scene she’s still harbors some indifference in raising Rin. We already saw the stress she faces from work when she had that meeting with her manager, so her taking time off to talk to Daikichi can be seen as an additional annoyance to her. But the middle of her conversation with Daikichi showed another side of her. Someone who was taking time out of her busy schedule to accept a new photo of a child she can never see and draw directions to a sapling certainly would not have lasted long if they had no feelings for the person they’re attempting to help. That is, Masako was doing this for Rin’s sake. She isn’t doing this for Daikichi’s sake, especially since she was bitter with him at the end of the last episode and the beginning of this scene. From that, I draw the conclusion that she still loves Rin. But she is still having trouble expressing it, especially since she can never see the child she abandoned.
Anyway, the whole point of this was to ask you, the reader, if your opinion of Masako has changed at all. Maybe a week’s time (or whenever you read this in relation to what episode you’re on) and this scene may have altered your opinion of her? Perhaps you think highly of her now? Or maybe she’s sunk to a new low? Or maybe it’s a mix of both? For me, my thoughts haven’t changed regarding Masako, although I found her to be a bit more humorous this time around than last time. I am a bit annoyed with how she began and ended her conversation with Daikichi, someone she should be more grateful towards but I suppose that’s still a sign of her immaturity and lack of awareness and responsibility. Even more irritating is how she never really mentioned Rin at all during the conversation, even though that’s what connects Daikichi and her together and is the only reason they continue to see each other. I still don’t think she’s a bad person but there’s plenty of room for her to improve. Maybe one day, we’ll start to see Masako become a better person.