I never thought I’d feel sympathy for Masako. After all, she was the one who abandoned Rin and left her alone with no one to look after her. But after finally meeting her, seeing who she is, and learning about her situation, I don’t feel that way anymore. She’s actually not a bad person.
We were introduced to Masako, Rin’s biological mother, in the fifth episode of Usagi Drop. In the four episodes prior, we had begun to build a profile for her, although it turned out to be very minimal, from the few tidbits we learned: her name is Yoshii Masako, she worked as a maid for Souichi, and she abandoned Rin. And that’s it. For such a noteworthy and central figure for the story, you’d figure we’d know more about Rin’s mother by this point but she did a marvelous job keeping herself a secret from Souichi’s family and even to Rin, her child. Guess you could add that to the nominal profile, too.
Judging from that incomplete profile, at least my interpretation of it, I figured Masako would turn out to be a selfish, heartless, and superficial girl who viewed herself as unfit to be a mother because she wanted to go out and live her life partying and having fun. I imagined her to follow the latest fashion trends, be all about appearance, and live in some dank, cramped apartment in the suburbs of this city where she spent her afternoons resting after a night of drinking and puking. I figured she’d put up a wholesome and saintly image for Daikichi’s meeting but eventually crack and reveal her true self toward the end of the conversation. I was ready to burn her at the stakes when she answered Daikichi’s phone call. But after hearing her speak on the phone, my opinion slowly began to change. And the meeting at the restaurant completely obliterated my incorrect impression of her.
We finally saw Masako when she and Daikichi met up in a local family restaurant. Her reserved and shy personality was the complete opposite of what I expect. Her voice, lack of confidence, and mannerisms, such as stroking her hair when she’s nervous or scared, seem to indicate that she doesn’t do well around others or in stressful situations (more on this later). It does seem similar to how Rin acts around people, being shy herself, but Masako’s lack of interest and energy was not expected, especially with how animated and lively Rin is. She appeared to look like an everyday, young adult with long, straight hair, glasses, and jeans rather than fashion princess decked out in glamor and cosmetics. Not surprising is that she still has some interest in Rin, which is why she met Daikichi. The most surprising, however, is her reason for leaving Rin behind.
Turns out that Masako left Rin behind so that she could concentrate on her career. No, it’s not the life of being a minimum-wage maid but something more interesting. It turns out that Masako is the author of a budding manga. With her popularity increasing, she began to devote more time into her true occupation, meaning less time for everything else. But by then, she was already pregnant with Rin and troubled by the prospects of raising a child and tackling a more demanding career as an author of a manga. Wanting to be successful in her career and following the advice of Souichi, Masako left Rin in the care of the old man allowing her to continue her manga career. And now with Souichi gone, Masako believes she’s unfit to be a mother since she wouldn’t have enough time to spend watching and raising Rin. She still has feelings for her child, evident in that she met up with Daikichi about her and requested she change Rin’s name, but not enough to disrupt her promising manga career and her way-of-life. In a sense, you could call her selfish but hardly heartless or superficial. She was given a situation where she had to choose between her child and her career and thought that the best option would be to focus on her career and leave Rin in the care of her loving father. But now with the father out of the picture and Rin alone, she couldn’t readily drop her career to take care of Rin. She still cares for Rin and wants the best for her but she can’t be her mother. After seeing all this and understanding her situation, I do feel some sympathy toward Masako. She not the best one out there to care for Rin since she can’t love her and support her with her stressful career and lack of confidence. The final scene with her compounded that feeling, seeing her resort to several cups of pudding after learning that her recommendation on changing Rin’s name was rejected. She just has no control over her daughter’s life and it must be hard for her to accept that truth. It’s almost hard not to feel somewhat sad for her. At least, that’s how I feel after seeing her in this episode.
I wonder how much more we’ll see of Masako. Seems her involvement in the anime is about over now, especially with Daikichi and Rin moving on. She does seem a little interested in Rin’s growth but not enough for her to go out of her busy way and see how she’s doing. And it doesn’t appear that she’ll be contacted by Daikichi or Rin anytime soon, especially with Rin starting elementary school and Daikichi shifting settings and beginning a new job. Maybe there will be a time when Rin becomes interested in manga and picks up one authored by the mother she never knew. Maybe. But I doubt we’ll see Masako anytime soon, especially when this is a story about Daikichi and Rin.