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.
#1 by redmaigo on August 5, 2011 - 9:13 AM
Oh, ho ho. Misako is back next episode. No spoilers but check the Usagi Drop anime website for screen caps of Episode 6 My Tree.
#2 by avvesione on August 5, 2011 - 10:15 PM
Ah, you are correct! I am curious to the extent of her involvement in the next episode now since I thought we were done with her for a while. Thanks for the heads-up.
#3 by tomphile on August 5, 2011 - 10:05 AM
Masako…she’s young I get it – but I couldn’t help but get this half-assed vibe from her. She’s a disgrace to women all across the globe…though I am not one. :P
#4 by avvesione on August 5, 2011 - 10:21 PM
I wouldn’t go that far, calling her a disgrace. She just wasn’t ready to be a mother and had an unexpected pregnancy. Sure, she seemed disinterested and lazy but I think she’s just immature and not ready for a full-time responsibility like motherhood (like all those scenes of Haruko/Reina). Daikichi summarized her perfectly when he said ‘she’s just like a little kid’. But yeah, I understand where you’re coming from since my first draft was pretty harsh on Masako (but I retracted most of it).
#5 by redmaigo on August 6, 2011 - 9:06 AM
Misako is a very complex character. Most people would share Daikichi’s anger, contempt and resentment of a mother who would abandon her child for ANY reason. But Soichi and Daikichi were right, Misako is not mature enough (yet) to raise a child.
Just because you can have a child doesn’t mean you can raise one properly. It is usually a choice for parents to either a) grow-up and assume those responsibilities or b) abandon, neglect (benign or otherwise) or abuse their children because they were not mentally prepared to do so.
Misako was incapable of the first choice and the second choice is not even an option to be considered. In the end, having Soichi, and then Daikichi, give her a loving, stable home is the only viable solution.
#6 by avvesione on August 6, 2011 - 2:30 PM
Very well said. I should go to you first for everything Usagi Drop since you seem to be a devoted fan of the series.
I also like how you added that ‘yet’ into the sentence about Masako’s maturity. Makes me excited to see what happens to her over the course of the anime (and maybe into the second season).
#7 by redmaigo on August 6, 2011 - 3:28 PM
I admit that I have read the manga all the way to its end. I love it because the characters grow and change over time. But I promised no spoilers.
This is a show that you should enjoy for the ride, not the destination. Kind of like life ya’ know?
I won’t ruin the wonderful experience that is Usagi Drop but if you want to discuss the episodes that have aired I am right here.
#8 by Kistories on August 8, 2011 - 3:11 AM
>>rather than fashion princess decked out in glamor and cosmetics.
I doubt that kind of woman would have had a child with an old man.
#9 by avvesione on August 8, 2011 - 9:30 PM
That’s true but you hear about those stories about young women marrying older men in hopes of inheriting their fortune. And maybe Souichi really helped Masako with a difficult period in her life, transitioning from school to becoming a manga artist and probably suffering through poverty (which is why she took up the maid job) and other insecurities, which then turned into affection and finally love. Maybe we’ll find out one of these days…
#10 by tsurugiarashix on August 8, 2011 - 9:08 AM
I just can not like the woman. Seems rather insincere to began with and her reason were just bleh to me. Daikichi is not even a parent and making more of an effort on his part than I believe she would, but guess that is just my way of seeing it and I guess I am being unfair. Although, I suppose she did make the right choice to not try to take Rin herself in that condition. Still not even sure how she and Rin’s dad could of been….
#11 by avvesione on August 8, 2011 - 9:40 PM
During most of the episode and all the previous ones, I felt similar to how you (and most others) do in that I didn’t like Masako, especially after seeing her attitude. So no, I don’t think you’re being unfair when you judge her that way. The reason I don’t think she’s a bad person anymore is that she never had any ill intent toward Rin or Souichi. She still had interest in her and took care of her part of the time but just couldn’t handle being a parent full-time like Daikichi decided to do. And her attitude is off, partially because I believe she doesn’t realize what a responsibility parenthood is and that she’s immature as a person. If we had spent an episode or two through her eyes, seeing her face these situations and make these decisions, that more people would think she’s not as bad a person as we do now but it’s difficult to say since we really have limited information on her past with Rin. I do hope she reaches out to Rin later in the series, even if it doesn’t lead to anything, just to put some effort into the relationship.
#12 by tsurugiarashix on August 9, 2011 - 3:22 AM
I see where you are coming from, but still something about her just sets me uneasy. Guess like you said, an epsiode or two is needed since little is known about her.