iSugio

Bunny Drop – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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27-year-old Daikichi is a single young man who is trusted by his peers at work. Daikichi then attends his grandfather’s funeral. At the funeral the attendees learn that Daikichi’s grandfather bore an illegitimate daughter with an unknown mother. The girl’s name is Rin and she is just six years old. Everybody in Daikichi’s family looks at the girl as an embarrassment and wants no part of her. Daikichi, annoyed by his family’s attitude, decides to raise Rin by himself. Daikichi has no experience in raising a child. He soon learns the difficulties in raising a child as a single parent.

Based on the manga by author Yumi Unita, Bunny Drop offers a heartwarming tale from director Sabu, one of Japan’s most stylistic contemporary filmmakers. Those familiar with Sabu’s previous works will perhaps find Bunny Drop quite the departure from his hard-edged and often times darkly comedic films, with his latest offering being his most accessible film to date considering its rather innocent premise. Similar to director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s 2004 film Nobody Knows, Bunny Drop too deals with the element of abandoned children, although not as quite somber or despairing as Hirokazu’s work. Instead, we see Bunny Drop play around with this element with earnest charm, all the while establishing a look into what it truly means to be a parent in a society that places special emphasis on the workplace over family. Building upon the social commentary offered on the aspects of parenthood explored within the manga, the film brings about a great observation into what truly constitutes a loving and caring parent—and the social ramifications that come with it.

This commentary is expressed throughout various scenes within the film, showcasing the often times cruel social pressures that transpire on both a familial level as well as societal. Whether this stems from Daikichi’s family members not wanting to take responsibility for Rin, even going as far as suggesting she be placed in an orphanage, to Daikichi being somewhat ostracized by other members as he steps up to become Rin’s guardian, the film explores the many issues that arise when such a life changing dilemma occurs within a family. On a more personal level, the film even looks at the effects of how taking care of a child can influence one’s career, with Daikichi’s desk job being shifted to that a packaging laborer in order to accommodate Rin’s nursery school schedule. The film emphasizes the emotional and physical toll it takes to raise a child amidst a work-heavy society, with social classes expressing the complex nature between valuing family or work. For example, once Daikichi switches to his new job, we see that his fellow co-workers speak enthusiastically about their children, humorously bickering about which one is the cutest by showcasing pictures of them on their cell phones. We can see stark contrasting differences to this when compared to his previous, hour-heavy managerial position, in which having children is viewed as one of the primary reasons to resign.

It’s these scenes within the film that play a particularly important part in transforming Daikichi from a single, work intensive individual, to that of a man willing to focus his entire attention upon taking care of Rin. The film adequately reflects and continuously returns to the notion of sacrificing aspects of one’s own life in order to provide care towards another. Kenichi Matsuyama does a fabulous job in conveying this subtle change, showing his emotional perseverance as an actor in an effective fashion. His aptitude for being able to handle a variety of diverse roles is even more present within Bunny Drop, where his role as father figure to Rin is quite convincing. But the real star of the show is most definitely that of the young Mana Ashida. Here she shines as the initially timid but caring Rin, bringing about a great sense of charisma and authenticity to her role. While most child actors often times seem forceful in their acting, Ashida seems quite comfortable in playing Rin, displaying the character’s childish mannerisms with aplomb. Her quest to understand her role as a child without true parents is most heartfelt, bringing about the confusion and loneliness that comes with it. Both Matsuyama and Ashida share considerable chemistry as well, with each reflecting upon the different personalities of their respective characters. The film’s more ordinary moments—as in Daikichi’s relentless attempts to get Rin to nursery school on time or his first experience with Rin unfortunately wetting the bed—brings a delightful approach to film, and one that certainly makes it enjoyable to watch as their relationship continuously develops.

But for all the cute and rambunctiousness that the film offers through the part of its two characters, the script does unfortunately falter as it nears its conclusion. The film works best when its focuses on the everyday normalcy that takes place within the characters lives, and loses some of its strength when it decides to implement some rather bizarre circumstances that are seemingly in place only to advance the plot in a rather forceful manner. This is where the film detracts from its rather interesting premise, being one of showcasing the difficult nature of being a working parent. These events, although meaningful in many respects, don’t do much besides appearing rather sensational and clearly implemented to derive some sort contrived emotional reaction from the viewer. The narrative of the film would’ve flowed much better if these segments were removed, as they just seem totally out of place and rather cliché in their execution. The narrative is very unconventional in many ways, but it would seem that Sabu and screenwriter Tamio Hayashi were attempting to figure out how to implement some sense of urgency within the film, when just continuing to subscribe to day-to-day activities of the characters would’ve worked out fine.

And while some of these hindrances within the narrative are unfortunate, Bunny Drop is still a pleasant family centered film that offers a substantial look into parenthood, and more specifically, that of being a working, single parent. Kenichi Matsuyama and Mana Ashida are essentially what make the film as enjoyable to watch as it is, presenting a cute and humorous relationship that is certainly believable given their strong performances. The parent and child pairing is certainly not an original premise, but the film does an excellent job in showcasing both their growth as characters and confrontation of real issues from the perspective of child and parent. While the film does differ from the ending of the manga—an ending even I found somewhat peculiar given its direction—the film seemingly ends in a less rushed fashion, providing an ending that is more genuine considering the relationship between the characters of Daikichi and Rin. With the small moments of Daikichi learning what it is to be a father, the film is appreciable of such moments without being too overly melodramatic, as is its handling of Rin’s growth from a naïve child to emotionally keen individual. It’s these small moments that culminate in Bunny Drop being an enjoyable film for one of any age, and establishes an authentic look into the trials and tribulations of single parenting.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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Comments

  • http://alualuna.wordpress.com alua

    I haven’t watched this, but only saw the trailer recently – which seemed to hint at what you conclude here as well. I always thought the manga had a great premises and much of it was wonderful, until Rin becomes an adolescent and they force in that twist at the end which just messes up the whole thing. It seems the film stuck with that to some degree, although I’m curious now that you say that the exact ending differs.

    My only other impression from the trailer was that Daikichi doesn’t look as nearly as a mess as in the manga – which always made me feel like he never brushed his hair, only had one sock on, etc. Matsuyama looks much ‘cleaner’ than that. But, as I said, I have only seen the trailer.

  • Miguel Douglas

    @alua: The ending is different from the manga, but luckily it avoids “that” twist. The ending is much more appropriate and logical, which I found to be much better.

  • Ali

    Oh man, I did not know they made a live-action show of this manga. Now, I’ve got to add this to my watch list. I’ve read the manga and seen the anime and found the ending strange that came from left field. Glad to hear that they didn’t end this like in the manga. I for one like to see more of these type of stories show up more because of how relaxing they are and how close it hits home.

  • http://paroissien.free.fr/mov/mov.htm Eric Paroissien

    my subs for this movie are here
    paroissien.free.fr/mov/mov.htm
    Erci Paroissien

  • MeryllB

    I fully agree with you.
    I saw that movie yesterday and felt the same.
    The little girl is truly amazing.
    And yes, the part near the end where much shouting, crying and ineffective running around takes place is the weakest part of the film, it is trying too hard to spell out the message that Rin is now a part of all of these people’s lives and that they care for her. The movie was displaying this already in more subtle ways. However the touching scene where the two children are wailing, not crying in the attractive fashion you see in most movies but wailing like real children, made up for that part.
    Also I found great that the romance that was in the air did not develop in what felt like the obligatory way, that was one of the things that made this movie refreshing and showed again how Daikichi’s character has grown up.

  • http://paroissien.free.fr/mov/mov.htm Eric Paroissien

    Excellent review; of all the movies I have subbed this one is the most successful and for good reasons :)
    my subs are here:
    http://paroissien.free.fr/mov/mov.htm
    Check there my other Japanese movies and keep giving us good reviews 😉
    Eric Paroissien