The Wandering Witch – Anniversary Edition!

Posted on Jul 14 2015

Wandering Witch Ann Edition

Welcome, all, again. This is a very special column for me, marking my first anniversary as a content contributor to the Fan! I’ve had great fun sharing my opinions and recommendations with you, and deeply appreciate the support I’ve received from both readers and staff. And there will be much to talk about in coming columns, with another strong viewing season starting. Non Non Biyori has finally begun its second season, while last season’s hit Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma returns. Wooser and Miss Monochrome also return with new seasons, while new shows abound. There seems to be plenty to choose from, but it is early yet to review new series. So I shall instead discuss my very favorite show, Usagi Drop.

I have been a fan of anime for years–decades, actually–and have been drawn to different animes for different reasons. Vampire Hunter D haunted me as much as Twilight of the Cockroaches amazed, both through such unconventional interpretations of their respective subject matter. Kiki’s Delivery Service convinced me of anime’s artistic breadth and scope. But it fell to Jin Roh and then Gunslinger Girl to force me to recognize anime’s potential for actual emotional resonance, its ability to strum the heartstrings even while viciously cutting them. Gunslinger Girl was the first series that I purchased complete, nor did I say the first anime series. Even now, I can instantly identify the opening strains of The Delgados’ “The Light Before We Land.” It still draws tears.


Then came Usagi Drop. I actually resisted watching this series at first, and for a variety of reasons: revulsion with the original manga’s story arc; an often unfinished look to the artwork; personal discomfort with the idea of such a young child being thrust into such calamitous circumstances. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I was ready to watch something like Usagi Drop. And I wasn’t. The first episode was so emotionally draining that I was tempted to shelve the whole endeavor. But I persevered, and was rewarded! Unlike the manga, which eventually strays into some dark and unsettling places, the anime version focuses upon the first year of its subject ad-hoc family. It deserves to be viewed as its own artistic achievement, free from the taint of its source material.

Usagi Drop begins with 30-year-old Daikichi being informed of his maternal grandfather’s death. He travels to his grandfather’s house to attend the funeral, only to discover the family in a state of strained–if quiet–panic and uproar. It seems that his grandfather, who had drifted out of most of their lives, has left behind an illegitimate 6-year-old daughter named Rin. Furthermore, it seems that Rin’s mother long ago abandoned them, leaving Rin now with no guardian. Nerves are raw and words are often bitter in the face of these revelations as the family deals with the funeral. Rin is made into a ghost in her own home, deliberately ignored by these noisy newcomers who only acknowledge her existence by discussing ways in which to remedy the embarrassment she presents. She is utterly bereft. No one offers her comfort, not even such necessities as food or a place to sleep.

No one but Daikichi, whose shock at learning about Rin’s existence turns quickly to disbelief and then anger at her treatment. As saddened as Daikichi might be by his grandfather’s death, he is heartbroken to see people whom he knows as loving and nurturing become instead so cold to the suffering of this child. Daikichi is a bachelor with absolutely no knowledge of rearing children, but he can no longer stomach his own family’s machinations once they begin debating placing Rin into an orphanage. In full view of their discussion, and likewise fully aware of their keen disapproval and disgust, he asks Rin to accept him as her new guardian. Watch closely the nuances of her reaction, the play of hope against fear. Dare she believe? Dare she trust? After all, she has only just met this man days earlier, but he is also the only one who has comforted and cared for her as her world crumbled. Then realize that this is the first time that any of these adults has called to her by name. This one moment will forever represent for me the heart-stopping beauty of this series, which offers many more.


Usagi Drop is to me the perfect show, a superlative of its genre, its medium, and its art. Such a gentle yet probing exploration of how relationships are built is reminiscent of works by Twain or Dickens. Indeed, I eventually came to interpret even the unfinished quality of the artwork as offering its own message about how a life being lived is always a little messy and unfinished. And that same artwork about which I complained was always nonetheless vibrant and warm. I just had to realize it.

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  • Bobby Henshin July 16, 2015 at 7:58 PM

    happy one year dude

  • moonhawk81 July 17, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    Thank you for the kind remarks!

  • Kayarath July 28, 2015 at 10:32 PM

    You have my respect as a writer and reviewer of anime. Let’s hope this trend continues…

  • Power Surge August 3, 2015 at 4:50 PM

    It’s really awesome (but also funny) that you talk about your one year anniversary with us because it wasn’t but a few days ago when Facebook told me that I just passed my two year anniversary here at The Fan! Time seriously flies!

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