Jul 31, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 10
by Yumi Unita

This compilation of little shorts fills in some gaps from the main series. There are several cute stories from Rin's gradeschool and middle school years; I liked those the best. Showing how she and Kouki grew up together under Daikichi's struggles to figure out parenthood. Story behind the scar on Kouki's forehead. Some of the episodes explain things regarding other characters- there's one that goes into how Masako met her assistant who would become her husband. Nice to see a bit more about her conflicted, driven character. Another has details from the time when Kouki was considered a delinquent. And the last two chapters explore a bit of how both Rin and some of her friends have moved on in their relationships since the ending of book 9. True to pattern I enjoyed most the stories about Rin's childhood and Daikichi's awkward but heartfelt attempts to be a good dad. I found the few parts set in the teen years rather uninteresting, and the final chapter where Rin is settled into married life with Daikichi irritatingly distasteful, even though nothing bad happens. I just don't like it. Hm.

Rating: 3/5                     208 pages, 2012

Jul 30, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 9
by Yumi Unita

I don't think I can help it there will be SPOILERS below.

So- this final volume wraps up the storyline with Rin finding her own way of defining a family and staying where her heart is set. I didn't like it though. For several reasons. The conclusions and reasons for making this scenario work out felt too rushed. We find out that Rin really loves Daikichi -something I don't think would ever happen among two people who had been in a father/child situation for over a decade. Daikichi to his credit is appalled at the idea and protests. So are a few of Rin's friends, although others at this point don't know and it would be rich to see what the reaction of Daikichi's own family- parents and siblings- is. The only way I can figure it is that the author wanted to show how such a relationship could be possible and could be acceptable- the point is made that Rin always saw Daikichi's grandfather as her dad, so she never felt Daikichi was in that role but I don't buy that. He acted like her father, he raised her, end of story. (Supposedly research across several cultures shows that children raised closely together when they are under five years old will never develop romantic attachments to each other- they are naturally repulsed by the idea when older. After six, this isn't always the case. So maybe that's why this story has Rin go from her grandfather's to live with Daikichi when she's already six... I still don't think it could work out that way though)

Regardless of the possible rationales, it still doesn't sit well with me. Then there's the sudden revelation that she and Daikichi aren't related at all- the grandfather never was her dad to begin with- this is found out in a sudden outburst when Rin in distress visits her mother again and Daikichi follows her- and Masako reacts by practically yelling this information at Rin - there, go be happy now! in effect- and shoving her out into the hallway to figure it out with Daikichi. There's also a two-year timeskip so that Daikichi can wait and allow Rin to reach adulthood, giving her time to see if any guy her own age will catch her eye in college. Nope. The story doesn't even show a hint of this happening. She feels nothing for anyone else, and delightedly gives her guardian a big hug when she hits that legal age- happy at last to find her peace in being allowed to marry him.

Um, ewwww? I have to say the author fit this narrative together very cleverly to make these characters so endearing to the reader, and throw in all these little twists to make their living situation and romance (barely existent, only in Rin's professions of love, nothing shown) acceptable. But it's not. Not for me. It just all feels rushed and uncomfortable in the end, even though I'd prefer to like where they end up, I can't.

So overall: books one through five were great. Six was rather boring, just because I don't relate well to all the highschool drama. Book eight started to feel weird with the hints at what was coming, and nine was a dissatisfying shocker. However there is volume ten, which fills in some of the story from the ten-year skip when Rin was in middle school, so I'll see how I like that.

Rating: 2/5                       224 pages, 2011

Jul 29, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 8
by Yumi Unita

Warning: there are SPOILERS in the second paragraph.

Rin continues to navigate highschool- making curriculum choices, looking at future career options; she seems to want to stick close to home. Her friend Reina bounces between boyfriends, while Rin still doesn't have one- there's a guy who likes her but she doesn't return his interest, and Kouki of course is still pining for her- constantly rejected. Rin meets with her mother Masako again- who is now married and has a second child (there was an odd scene where it looked like the baby was nursing but then Masako said "it's time for her milk" and gave it a bottle- so I guess it was just snuggled against her near-naked bosom?) Rin seems to have accepted who her mother is, and is delighted to be a big sister.

Now the final direction of this whole storyline becomes clear, and it doesn't make any sense. Rin can never accept Kouki's attentions because having grown up alongside him, it just feels weird- she knows him too well, can't see him as boyfriend material. Yet she appears to be developing feelings for Daikichi. Ugh no no no no no. He's been her guardian, as a father to her all these years. This isn't possible. Surely someone in that circumstance would have the same complete lack of romantic attraction to their father-figure as she does to the childhood friend who was so close they 'felt like siblings' (a phrase Rin uses frequently when referring to Kouki). So while I continue reading, really liking these people as characters, I don't at all buy the premise anymore. It just would not occur. Not to mention being distasteful and shocking.

Rating: 3/5                 208 pages, 2010

Bunny Drop

Volume 7
by Yumi Unita

This one was better again. The focus is on Rin and Daikichi, more than the high school drama stuff. Rin notices the mothering tendencies of women around her and starts to wonder about her own mother. She becomes determined to seek her out although Daikichi, having met Masako himself (and disliking her), is afraid that she will just get hurt. Then Daikichi sustains a back injury and has to depend on family and friends to tend to his needs. His brief time as an invalid makes him really wonder about the future: what will it be like when he really gets old? Who will be there to care for him? Because of course he expects the best for Rin- a good college, marriage.... and Nitani has made it clear she's not interested in a relationship. He fears he will be a bachelor again into old age.

More serious stuff, and I started enjoying the series again. I particularly liked that despite Daikichi's negative impression of Masako, when she and Rin finally meet although it is awkward, Rin's natural politeness and friendly manner smoothed things over. Having no expectations of what her mother was like, Rin didn't perceive her as an unpleasant person at all. It's refreshing to see how good some of these characters are, what decent people.

Rating: 3/5                224 pages, 2010

Jul 26, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 6
by Yumi Unita

I don't get the highschool stuff. Drama, girls vying for attention of a certain guy. Rin seems levelheaded, but has to face off with a manipulative girl who pulls a dirty trick on her friend Kouki. This volume was mostly about the kids' relationships, very little about Daikichi and Nitani, nothing at all about other adults or relatives....

And I spoiled the rest of the series for myself. Looking at some other online reviews, found out how it all ends. Haven't even got there but totally understand why a lot of people hate the ending. Wondering if I want to continue and see how it reaches that point- will I be disgusted and angry too? Curious how it fits with the idea in my head of Rin's mother, and if it's just something more acceptable in Japanese society... if I keep reading there will probably be spoilers in future posts, but I will give warning.

Rating: 2/5         224 pages, 2009

Jul 25, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 5
by Yumi Unita

The story jumped. It skips ten years; Rin is now starting highschool. Which is fine, but it's the not the same slice-of-life story I was enjoying about Rin as a child being raised by Daikichi a guy who himself had never quite grown up. There are a few flashbacks showing incidents from middle school; I think I would have liked an entire volume about that! Rin is mostly dealing with her studies, Kouki's crush on her (which she can't take seriously) and her plans for the future. It's more about her social life and a lot less about Daikichi's efforts in becoming a father figure. Which isn't nearly as interesting. Daikichi finally makes his feelings known towards Nitani- Kouki's mother- but that's about the most interesting thing that happens among the adults. There wasn't anything about Rin's mom. I was on the verge of giving this one a 2...

Rating: 3/5               224 pages, 2009

Jul 24, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 4
by Yumi Unita

I'm really liking this series so far. It continues to be pretty interesting, full of realistic characters who struggle with everyday problems- and some not-so. Daikichi has a sudden problem arrive on his very doorstep when his cousin takes her kid and leaves her husband. Daikichi can't comprehend her reasons, and there's some very awkward moments between him and Kouki's mother when Kouki assumes the cousin is in a relationship with Daikichi. The kids all get along fine, the adults sometimes have issues. For the first time Dakichi has to deal with Rin getting sick. He continues to have moments of confusion seeing how other parents around him deal with things- coming to it so late in the game, as it were. Some really amusing episodes in this book were the jump-roping competition among the schoolchildren- and the parents all got involved, too, on pretext of helping their kids practice. Also the part where Rin looses her first tooth was pretty funny- another contrast between cultures. Daikichi tells Rin of an older tradition where baby teeth are thrown on the roof, but is taken aback when a fellow parent tells him nowadays kids get cute little boxes made especially for saving baby teeth in as keepsakes. He wants to go with the current trend so scrambles to find where those tooth cases are sold before Rin looses another. Then one of her school friends pipes up with the information that when she looses a tooth the "money fairy" leaves fifty yen under her pillow (about forty-five cents)! The other parents are all hoping this American custom will not become the new fad. Haha.

I have to say, Daikichi's character is really growing on me. Even though he's a typical guy through and through he's also really kind-hearted and compassionate, cares a lot about doing what's right for Rin. It comes across in spurts of anger at how other people treat or perceive her sometimes. He's not terribly attractive (judging by the drawings- another dad he meets used to be a model for clothing catalogs) and a bit awkward, but such a decent person, someone you'd really want as a friend.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2008

Jul 23, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 3
by Yumi Unita

Rin is now in elementary school, which brings new challenges. She has new friendships to navigate. So does her caregiver Daikichi- who has to deal with a bunch of new part-time coworkers, one of whom is determined to flirt with him (which behavior he finds baffling). He discovers that some of his male coworkers are also parents, so there is more companionship there. There are more glimpses of his family- visits to his parents, his sister who wants to stay single and carefree... and also some of Rin's mother. While I don't like the choices this young woman had made, I do find her character intriguing (she's an artist), and I know there's more backstory to be revealed. There's some amusingly awkward moments when Rin invites her friend Kouki over- or he invites himself- and the parents are a bit uncomfortable with the suddenness of it. I like learning little glimpses of Japanese culture via the story- such as how some children have a "commemorative tree" planted on the day of their birth- so they grow up together. In Rin's case, Daikichi wants to buy her a young tree to memorialize the day she began school. She wants to plant a seed instead, even though it will take longer to grow. Endearing.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2007

Bunny Drop

Volume 2
by Yumi Unita

Daikichi continues to navigate life as a new parent- of a preschooler. Just as he's getting settled into the preschool routine, it's suddenly time to make preparations for elementary school- which throws him off base. Other parents are confused and sometimes angered at his lack of understanding what's expected of him- but a single mother he slowly befriends because their kids hang out together, she gets it. She points out to him that everyone assumes he is Rin's father and has raised her since birth, as they have such an obvious rapport and Rin totally trusts him. Daikichi teaches Rin some cooking skills and struggles with things like managing to do her hair up in pigtails for her. Meanwhile he's also dealing with issues at work, getting to know coworkers in his new department (a step down), and on a completely different note, following up some clues to figure out the identity of Rin's birth mother. When he actually meets her, it is a total shock- for this reader as well! Seeing Rin's mother face-to-face clears up a few questions, and raises many more.

Rating: 3/5       208 pages, 2007

Jul 20, 2017

Unlikely Loves

by Jennifer S. Holland

Sometimes when life is so busy you need a light, comforting read that's easy to dip in and out of. This book was perfect for that, cute and heartwarming. It's a collection of brief accounts featuring various animals that formed a bond with another species. A goat and a dog, great dane and a fawn, rhino and warthog, donkey and sheep, horse and dog, mother dog adopts kittens and so on. There are orphaned animals tucked into another litter- a piglet among rottweilers, for example. And others more unusual: a turtle who like to hang out with puppies. A miniature pony who befriended a capybara. A dog who liked his owner's snake. Some of the ones I found really endearing were the dalmatian who was attached to a spotted lamb, a hen who took it upon herself to babysit puppies, an otter who was rehabilitated among badger cubs, a disabled macaque who was given a rabbit and guinea pig for companions. But a few of the stories include humans- a boy who visited a field of marmots and they were friendly to him, a guy who flew a lightweight aircraft with his golden eagle, a young woman who helped nurse a moose calf, which never forgot her. And there's one about two lionesses- doesn't really fit with the theme. Overall, nice little stories. Most of which you can find online if you look- I'd seen the one of the cat and the owl before, and I looked up the one about a disfigured dolphin that appeared to be living with sperm whales.

The title is rather familiar- I think once before I picked up the precursor Unlikely Friendships but didn't find it interesting enough to really read. And I was a bit surprised to find another title in this now-apparent series with a focus on dogs, that had a tiny trademark-circled R after the title. Really? I don't know why but that irritates me.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2013

Jul 12, 2017

The Narrow Edge

A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab and an Epic Journey
by Deborah Cramer

It's about a small shorebird, the red knot. Mostly this bird feeds on small clams, but during its migration it makes a stopover on one particular beach in Delaware Bay to feed on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs. The author saw the birds and horseshoe crabs on a beach near her home and became intrigued by this close interaction of two species. The knots are dependent on the crab eggs to make it to their summer home and breed. Cramer undertook a project to follow the knots on their entire annual migration. She started in southern Chile and made stops all along two continents to observe the birds on their journey, all the way up into the Arctic. Met a wide variety of people who work with conservation efforts to save the red knots and other shorebirds, and found a vast difference in environmental conditions in each location. Like many other birds, knots are facing population decline, mostly caused by people of course. Lots of varying factors for this, most of which the general public seems unaware. After all the birds are small, and seldom seen in large, impressive numbers anymore.

Well, I really wanted to like this book. It has a lot of information, the kind I usually particularly enjoy. But something about the constant introduction of new names, places, details, scientific terms- I kept loosing attention. I think it's just me, this time. I want to come back to this one someday when I have better focus.

Borrowed from the public library.

Abandoned          293 pages, 2015

Jul 2, 2017


An Adventure into the Heart of America's Family Farms
by Richard Horan

This guy travelled around the country visiting small family farms to help with the harvesting of crops, and then wrote a book about it. I really liked the concept, and I appreciated learning a little about what goes into the production of certain crops, but overall the book left me feeling dissatisfied and a little irritated, and I skimmed some sections, especially getting near the end. The author worked with these crops in the following states: turkey red wheat in Kansas; green beans, potatoes and squash in Michigan; blueberries in New York, tomatoes and sundry in Massachusetts, raspberries and Brussels sprouts in Ohio, wild rice in Michigan, cranberries at a bog in Massachusetts, potatoes in Maine, walnuts in California. He also visited a winery in California, but didn't actually pick grapes. In each chapter, for each locale, he describes his experience, the people he met, how the operations are run, and a bit about the philosophy or history of the farm (however much the owner and/or their family would share).

I liked reading about the farms and the food they grow, but the author shares a bit too much about his personal politics and even though for the most part I agree with his stance, I didn't like it. He kept quoting books and authors and mentioning stuff in little footnotes but the way they were included here felt awkward. The chapter about visiting San Francisco was entirely unnecessary and felt uncomfortable. The way he talks about people sometimes confused me- if I was that person, I might be embarrassed let's say. There's just too much stuff on an unnecessarily personal level, or him poking fun at things and making jokes I don't find amusing at all, it just makes me want to skip the page. Disappointingly, the one chapter I was most curious to read, about harvesting wild rice, was the most unintelligible. Most of it was in an entirely different voice, as if imitating the style of a Native American storyteller, with so many Chippewa words interspersed it kept jarring me out of the narrative entirely. I didn't get it. On the whole it all felt a little bit off.

Rating: 2/5         300 pages, 2012

Jul 1, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 1
by Yumi Unita

I admit I picked this one up to make sure my twelve-year-old wasn't reading anything too objectionable, as I've noticed that manga can sometimes have very mature or explicit content, let's say. And flipping through this one I saw one illustration showing a young girl in the bath with a grown man, so I wondered and sat down to read it myself.

Turns out it was innocent, and the story is an interesting and sensitive look at the kind of unusual family structure that can easily lead to misunderstandings or judgement from others. The man in that scene is Daikichi, a thirty-year-old bachelor who works hard, enjoys his beer and considers children and women to be "the enemy" - avoid interaction at all costs kind of thing. The six-year-old girl Rin is his aunt. Daikichi finds out when he attends his grandfather's funeral that the old man had a secret love affair with a younger woman, and Rin is his child. The family is all shocked and no-one wants to take in the illegitimate child. They're going to put her in an institution but Daikichi finds himself angered at how casually and judgemental the relatives talk about her and in a fit of compassion he decides to give her a home himself.

This is a huge adjustment. Obviously Daikichi has no idea how to be a parent- what kids will eat, what she needs in everything from comfort to clothing; finding a daycare provider is such a difficult issue he even realizes he may have to reconsider his career path. He comes up with all kinds of questions and goes through internet searches, then starts to make new acquaintances just on behalf of the child. They have to deal with bedwetting and Rin's silent little deceits (he's shocked to find out she lies to him in the simple manner of avoidance all kids use I bet). Daikichi notices that Rin isn't dimwitted or shy as most adults assume when they meet her, but struggling with emotions she can't express. He realizes that no one ever helped her cope with or comprehend what happened when her father (whom she called 'grandpa') died and he has no idea what her past was like. He determines to find out more about her mother, a completely absent figure whom no one in the family has ever met.

The author hooked me pretty effectively with this unlikely pair. And now I want to read more, to see where this story is going and what happens with this child. Happily the manga series has at least ten volumes. Borrowed from the public library. There was one thing that took some getting used to- following the original style of printing in Japanese, the book reads not only back-to-front but right-to-left, which was confusing at first. You get used to it fairly quickly, though.

Rating 3/5                      208 pages, 2006

One Trick Pony

by Nathan Hale

Graphic novels are fun. The more of them I read, the more I like them. This one I picked up on a whim, browsing shelves. It's a post-apocalyptic tale, neatly told in a steady reveal through the interactions of the characters. So fair warning: there may be spoilers, especially if you want to understand the story gradually as I did, on the first read.

The world is gone to ruin, any kind of technology snatched away by dangerous aliens that have invaded and turned most of Earth into a wasteland. The survivors live in small bands, reverted to a stone-age lifestyle. Except for one group that lives in a traveling caravan, attempting to find any remnants of technology (computers, robots, films, even small things like watches) before the aliens do and saving it in a vast hoarde of precious knowledge. Which is highly risky of course, as the tech stuff attracts the aliens. Out on a scavenging trip, a group of teens finds a robot pony- something none of them have ever seen before. The girl Strata is so intrigued by the pony, she's determined to take it back with them. Which of course attracts the aliens, and lands them in a fast-paced adventure that leads to a greater understanding of what the aliens actually are and why they are there.

It was great. The worldbuilding (very well done in such a brief book), the banter between the characters, the pony especially and how its limited specialized functions (as a robot) led so very neatly to its final role in the story. I liked the artwork, although there were a few illustrations where the legs look weird (upper leg above the elbow too long).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5                   128 pages, 2017