One bothersome aspect of children in modern anime is that they often seem unbelievable. They regularly fulfill the role of a minor character used for cuteness or comedy and typically follow the stereotypical moe outline that has been obviously successful. But those characters never seem realistic, instead being the byproduct of a formula for maximum likeability and popularity. Fortunately, the children of Usagi Drop, Rin, Reina, and Kouki, are believable as real children while still being adorable and humorous.
Usagi Drop is an anime with countless positives and among the best is the cast of characters. This episode featured an expanded cast with three families spending a majority of the episode together and reflecting on what a family is. This allowed for scenes where just the children interacted with each other or with minimal adult interference, giving us the chance to see a less observed side to the kids. In past episodes, the children would get together to play or something as a device to get the parents alone to have a conversation. But that was not the case in this episode as it turned to focus on the children a bit more. And the realistic nature of these characters was brought to the forefront.
Probably the most convincing aspect of the children is their complexity. They are curious about their surroundings and are eager to learn, such as when Rin and Reina were comparing textbooks and discussing the difference between being single and being divorced. Rin and Reina also proved that they’re aware of what’s going on although they do not comprehend the entire situation. Reina especially since she knows her mother and father are frequently fighting and listens in on their arguments when they think she’s asleep. She has no way to express her feelings to her parents, so all she can do is quietly listen and try to understand what’s going on. Thankfully Rin was around in this episode, so she had someone to talk to and play with when the topic was brought up (and more on this later).
The children also are full of energy and emotion. Rin and Reina are always animated, running, playing, laughing, and always moving. Never walking, always running. They’re like little sugar-rockets, bouncing around and excited at everything around them. Just like real kids, they’re always animated and doing something, only staying still when they’re eating or sleeping. Oh, and not cleaning up after themselves, too. How childish of them.
Their communication skills and sound are also very realistic, too. Their vocabulary is limited and when certain words are brought up that they don’t know, they question it. They’re able to hold conversations with adults as well as respond to their commands when they misbehave or whatever. And we haven’t heard them say “Onii-chan” yet, which I hope stays permanent. What might be the best aspect is how they sound when they talk. They don’t sound like typical anime kids. Their voices match what you’d expect a real child to sound like.
Overall, the children of Usagi Drop feel very realistic, especially when compared to other children in modern anime. They aren’t there simply for admiration or for fans to obsess over but they play vital roles in the story and contribute to it. They aren’t moe stereotypes other, constructed simply to please the audience with their appearance and quirks. The kids also have depth to their characters, showing off more than one detail over and over and even change over time. You could almost say they’re actually growing. And for an anime about growing up, raising a family, and living a new life, having realistic character are essential. And the cast of Usagi Drop fits that description perfectly.
While watching this episode, I couldn’t help feel I made a fatal mistake in judging Reina earlier in the anime. I saw her as a problem child. Uncontrollable, selfish, and prone to throw temper-tantrums are the first three things that would come to mind when I would think about Reina. But in this episode, she was shockingly mature, especially compared to her previous scenes. She behaved very well before Daikichi and Rin and in public places like the supermarket. I would’ve guessed it was a new child from her outward behavior except that she and Rin were so well acquainted, it had to be Reina. Her boundless energy, too, was another sign it was the same child we saw running around and making a fuss at the funeral in episode one. Very surprising to see such a transformation in such a short period of time. And there was another side of Reina that practically blew me away.
As you can guess, I never had any positive thoughts about Reina as a character. I had quickly assumed that she would be unintelligent or unaware of adult problems over the course of the anime, unlike Rin. Her improper behavior at the funeral and when Haruko was on the phone gave me the idea that she would never grasp what situations were going on around her. But she revealed to Rin that her parents are constantly fighting in the middle of the episode. Reina realized what they’re doing is not surprising but talking about it with Rin should be. She’s opening herself up to Rin in a much greater way than I anticipated. Even though both children cannot comprehend what’s going on in those fights, Reina has no one else to turn to when she needs to talk about it. She can’t discuss it with her parents since they assume she’s sleeping and don’t want her to know about it. But she does and listens to her family struggle every night. She was hiding the fact that she knew what was happening and it saddened her. She could’ve easily kept it a secret from Rin, too, because she was keeping it a secret from everyone. But no. Reina called Rin into her room and told her about her family’s problems. I’m sure it must’ve felt like a weight being lifted off her, finally telling someone about what’s been bothering her. And with that burden being removed, she was able to return to her normal self and play with Rin under the covers of the futon. It was a scene that caught me by surprise, especially since I was reevaluating Reina as a character. Seeing that simple scene where Reina and Rin bond like that showed how wrong I was in judging Reina early on in the series. I hope to see more intelligent and meaningful development with Haruko and Reina in future episodes since they are much more complicated than I initially thought.