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Usagi Drop: Passivity in Selfless Love

Usagi Drop

Usagi Drop has sparked some of the most interesting discussion this season, and it’s no surprise. Based on the versatile blend of storytelling and characterization, it is the most well-rounded series to come out of the Summer premieres. I had previously found light identification throughout the previous seven episodes, yet Masako’s development in episode eight brought about a more tangible connection, and to some extent, I’ve known those shoes.

Disclaimer: feel free to skip the Diary section, it’s mildly embarrassing when presented this way.

Diary

I fell in love with a girl during my childhood…no. In truth, I fell in love with many girls during my childhood, but there was one particular girl who possessed a kind of ethereal magic over my soul. We lived in the same vicinity, a secluded development in a more rural part of the county, which made it easy to talk and become friends. In time, we became closer, confident in our friendship, and eventually began dating. We dated on and off through school, usually dating others in-between, but as time went on, it seemed our hearts were meant to drift apart; visibly. After a few years, I expressed myself for the last time, that I wanted to be with her; she was single and I was single, but our desires differed. Despite our differences, we somehow managed to maintain our strange intimacy developed over the years. And after some rather hectic romantic times with others, we found each other again in the rough.

We were never together again, but we lifted all restraints for one month; it was our secret from the world, covered up by her breakup and casual dates with new guys, and my own breakup. I was such a fool, wanting to mend my breakup, my temperament towards her was nonchalant. I wasn’t ready to invest in this love, and my passion faded the day she made a decision. In the sunlight over breakfast, she informed me of her intention to mend things with the boyfriend. But our stipulation was something she expressed desire in maintaining; I don’t want this to end. She kissed me and knew I was cold. With my foolish heart being caught in another war, I refused to assert my desire to be with her beyond best friends.

She married that gent a few years later, and I was settled. Love from a distance, but I knew she had a happy life, stable and slightly adventurous, and because of a selfless heart, I was thoroughly content with the turnout. It is my sincere belief that had we continued, our relationship would have devolved, for I did not possess the ambition or responsibility to establish and maintain the role in a serious relationship [1]. In the cruelty of hindsight, it was for the better, but it was not until one New Year’s, when fate had us meet in our world once more, that I realized how beautifully grey my [in]action was; she had found happiness, and I had no right or reason to complain [2].

Masako

Usagi Drop

I feel sympathy and sadness towards Masako, but unlike myself, I see action in her ways regardless of the overall passivity of her inaction. Some might consider Masako’s [in]action a path leading towards loss or failure, but I sense the need to separate Masako’s potential loss as a parent and the toil caused by her reluctance to assert herself as Rin’s mother.

Usagi Drop

The passive nature of Masako’s love would see it selfish to force Rin into an environment void of the necessary support and attention required of a young girl, especially when Rin is clearly enjoying a full and happy life with Daikichi. But it appears a fire was lit in Masako’s heart upon seeing Rin, and instead of clarity in hindsight, it is the present which spirits her. In many ways Masako has already accepted her absence, but I want to believe she is struggling against a feeling of helplessness.

Usagi Drop

Masako is not simply irresponsible, but being unable to provide Rin with the same level of care and attention as Papa Kenji or Daikichi leaves her disheartened and wanting. There is an egotistical strive in her line of work, but I wonder if Masako wishes for a more stable lifestyle through success, a lifestyle that would allow her to be Rin’s mother beyond the biology. Regardless, we have seen flashes of ambition in Masako, and unlike my own ability to settle, she is showing signs of stirring emotion. We might say too little, too late, and I believe her stirring may not drive her to become the ideal mother, but ideally, Rin’s mother.

Notes

[1] – Serious as in post-education, career work, living together, exclusivity, shared bills and purchases; the fairly standard procession people take before jumping straight into a juvenile marriage.
[2] – There is more behind the scenes to this story, of course, but hopefully this conveys enough surface tension. I cannot go further into it, but things between her and I are ongoing, with recent developments [that didn't need to happen, and maybe I wish they didn't] in the past year. She knows I loved her, but she’s never known how I was in love with her after our last tango. Also, I cannot say I am romantically in love with this person now, but the magic is irrefutable.

Categories: Meditation, Summer.

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13 Responses

  1. Masako ‘feels’ love in that there’s this vague set of feelings related to wanting what’s best for Rin, and be with Rin. It is questionable whether she ‘does’ love.

    What’s obvious is that there’s a lot of guilt.

    • Excellent. There is a lot of guilt, and I might think the guilt is something related to, but independent from the maternal instincts. Primarily, guilt in knowing she’s not being responsible for her child.

      It’s more complicated for Masako than I’ve expressed. And I’m not sure what would be driving her at this point, my guess is a frenzy in trying to make sense of her life, or make herself capable of being a parent, but it could very well be that she’s frantically justifying her absenteeism through “success.” Guilt and justification seem fitting.

      Her love is questionable indeed (more like a maternal love/drive), and I’m thinking back to the flashbacks where we’ve seen her, Kenji, and Rin. It’s not like Masako has been completely absent, but it’s still unclear how much she was around Kenji and Rin.

  2. Somehow I have never really cared about Masako much, even though I could understand her feelings of guilt. But the idea of not actively loving your own child is something completely incomprehensible for me, unfortunately. If I had a child, I would fight for it no matter what. I wouldn’t judge the character for that, and she certainly is portrayed very realistically, but I guess I just can’t relate to Masako at all.
    I also think the portrayal of her being not mature enough to have a child makes sense. It also blows my mind how she came about to sleep with Rin’s father/Daikichi’s grandfather.

    The actual reason why I wanted to comment was not Masako though; more importantly, I thought your ‘mildly embarrassing’ story was very lovely, deep and well-written. (It actually made me wonder how old you are? O.o)

    • I never cared about her much either, but I saw this sort of helplessness and discontent, which does appear to be more guilt-based in thinking about it. What I find more concerning is her action or change in ambition. I’m more curious and speculative about “why” she reacted the way she did, regarding her professional life.

      Yeah, it’s difficult for me to understand this mother-daughter neglect, especially considering that this woman held Rin in her womb for nine months. I mean… that’s completely wild. I cannot understand how she isn’t drawn to Rin, like a massive gravity. And I’m basically just filling in blanks about why Masako has been so passive about her daughter; partially maturity, career, but there has to be something I feel Masako has been fighting off, even if it is something instinctual.

      And, ah that’s embarrassing, but thank you, and thanks for commenting. I actually removed about half of the story before finishing Masako’s part; figured trying to exhaustively delve into the “bond” or subtle events which have occurred over the years wouldn’t make it any more understood (for the relation to Usagi at least).

      I am twenty-eight, and that story began ~17-18 years ago.

  3. It sounds like your situation was/ is a complicated one, but calling yourself a fool for not being over your break up and not being able to invest in the current relationship seems like you’re being a bit hard on yourself, especially given the fact that she was also caught between her feelings of wanting to patch things up with her boyfriend versus wanting to still be with you. What you go on to say about love from a distance and feeling like your relationship might’ve devolved anyway, clearly makes the connection with Masako, well, clearer, but, as Ghosty suggests above, I’m not sure that Masako was being quite as selfless as you might’ve been…

    Now to pour the haterade on Masako… just kidding. Actually, as Sasa also mentions, most people might find it unfathomable for Masako not to love Rin after at least nine months of carrying her around in her own body and then, not forgetting, staying on at Kenji’s house all those years while he also looks after Rin (it’s only been a year since the funeral and Masako’s flight, after all). However, the pregnancy was clearly unplanned and, in the face of such a glittering, consuming career about to take off for Masako… well, I guess there are some people who would be willing to sacrifice a baby for their dream job. Aside from her not feeling ready for the responsibilty etc., being a mangaka was simply more important.

    Those shots of Masako watching Rin at Kenji’s grave are still interesting, though. The similarity Masako sees between Daikichi and Kenji both shows that Daikichi and Rin ‘fit’ together and that he will love her in a similar way to how Kenji did, and it also indicates how much Masako must miss Kenji, as is symbolised by the flowers that she had just left at his grave before Daikichi and Rin arrive there. Ultimately, again, Masako does not reach out to Rin and ends up walking away, but this is arguably for the best (currently for Rin, at least). In contrast, Daikichi’s (rather comic) return to Rin after leaving her alone at the grave, and her untroubled smiles (as opposed to how upset she looked when she thought he wasn’t coming back for her after her first/ second day at nursery when he’s late to pick her up, a couple of episodes back) show that she is happy to now be with him and accepts him as her new father figure. This is also fitting given the location; as if the late Kenji, whose body lies merely a few feet away, is also giving them his blessing. And hopefully, as Daikichi has literally allowed Masako do in this episode, Masako will also get to ‘see’ Rin again in the future and, as you say, still be Rin’s, if not the ideal, mother…

    Finally, while it feels like we could all go on further about this show and its subtleties (I particularly love how warm and yet how real it feels), I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your own connections, Ryan, and for focussing on a character that might not otherwise get as much attention as the others in this show.

    • I think it sounds like I was more critical on myself that I really am (possibly because the time is condensed into a few paragraphs). And it would be considerably less stressful than the weight Masako is bearing. I do see the guilt side of Masako’s situation, but I think it’s a hazy mixture of feelings. Oh, and I believe I was the one who mentioned the womb (the comment formatting is strange).

      Yes, Masako doesn’t reach out for Rin, which I think is the most interesting but confusing bit. It seems as though she wants to, and I think that’s where I draw on her wish to be in Rin’s life, but doesn’t feel she has the right to do so. Strange really. It could just be that she’s longing for that previous life she had when Kenji was alive, but guilt is the most apparent and likely stimulus.

      I’m glad to have found a good drive to write through Masako, even if it did bring out this personal aspect (quite happy to share I suppose ^^). She is a complex character, maybe black and white at first glance, but worth re-examining. One could probably dig a little further based on Maaya Sakamoto voicing Masako and the roles she chooses, but we’ll see how it goes.

  4. After episode 8, I gained so much more sympathy and respect for Masako. After her first appearance early on, I had thought she was rather cold, even if she did do the mature thing. However, with this recent episode, I felt like she was only putting on a front. She does want what’s best for Rin, and she thinks her involvement would only complicate things for Rin, so she makes the painful decision to stay away… Stay detached. And in doing so, she must deal with her own sense of loss by pretending like she doesn’t care, as impossible as that may be. It is a very passive yet powerful act. Perhaps too powerful emotionally–I almost feel like Masako can’t reconcile with what she has to do. She feels super guilty about what she must do, (even though it is for the best of Rin); her overworking and not caring for herself properly are her punishments for herself.

    Anyway, I want to also say… That was a very emotional read. I can’t claim to understand your feelings, but I found your sharing your experiences very touching. Thanks, and cheers, Ry. ^ ^

    • Beautiful way to shine a light on Masako’s decision and guilt. I think you really get at the core of what I was trying to express.

      She does want what’s best for Rin, and she thinks her involvement would only complicate things for Rin, so she makes the painful decision to stay away… Stay detached.

      Exactly. One of the most significant points to this is that she has made the decision, and it’s not one she can simply reverse. Yet I believe Masako is still in the process of letting her decision settle emotionally, and it’s painful, regretful, but maybe not altogether “wrong.” Rin is in great hands, this she understands, and it only becomes more difficult for Masako to make an effort with passing time. Similar to our own reality, there is more grey than black and white, and surely that is one of Usagi Drop’s strengths.

      To be honest, i think the emotion was possibly more somber than realized. Five years ago it felt like smiling through a light sunshower of sadness rather than the tenacity of heartbreak. In fact, my heart was never broken or cold, quite the opposite, if you can believe it. ^ ^ Thanks for reading.

  5. If I have to choose whether Masako is a bad parent or not, like a plain yes or no question, then I would say that she’s not. Knowing that she lacks all of the resources that will make her a good mother is already sufficient enough for her to justify her actions. Indeed, I feel sorry, but I don’t sympathise her; not because she left Rin, but because she disowned her regardless of whatever reason.

    As far as I remember, Masako chose to remain as a maid rather than as Rin’s mom. Rin also has some bad memories of her. Sure, Masako doesn’t want Rin to acknowledge her as a mother, but I find it so cruel that she injected Rin some bad memories of her, giving Rin some trauma and nightmare. And most of all, I find it so unfair that she didn’t reveal to Rin that’s she is her mom. I don’t really know Masako’s exact motive for doing that. Whether it is a sign of bravery or cowardice, I felt that she just did that for her own personal gain and to escape her responsibility.

    Also, I admire how she perseveres, but a child can only be a child once, the moment you lost that time it’s gone forever. Personally, I find it so hard to picture her as a mother…but, maybe Rin is more forgiving than I am. ^^

    Btw, I apologize for the long reply and for being opinionated.

    • No no, it’s great. You have a strong position on this, and I like it.

      I don’t really know Masako’s exact motive for doing that. Whether it is a sign of bravery or cowardice, I felt that she just did that for her own personal gain and to escape her responsibility.

      I believe this is what makes her character so sketchy, and intriguing. Between personal gain and responsibility, I’d lean more toward responsibility, at first. It’s difficult to know the life she’s been leading since Rin was born and where being a mangaka played into the timeline. It’s much more feasible to believe that Masako has avoided being Rin’s mother out of not wanting the responsibility or being incapable of it altogether (or both). What complicates matters is that she had a third option, and that was Kenji. Maybe Rin and Masako are both blessed for such an option, it’s not easy to say. She wasn’t ready either way, but I feel the decision Masako made is something she thinks about and will think about forever.

      Thanks for the reply Snippett. ^ ^

  6. i guess in one way i’m glad that people can’t relate enough to masako to understand why she might behave in this way. but i promise you, not every person is born with parenting/maternal instincts; people are different. not all humans were meant to be parents, not all of us will make good parents, ever. it’s taking for granted the skills and patience and time that people who choose (traditional) parenthood and do well at it to think this way. and it is also what results in some real miserable sadness in some households: this assumption that loving and wanting to care for your child is “natural” for human beings. people assume that they’ve got it because they made a baby, and others don’t question them, because… they made a baby. but sometimes people who biologically create a child just lack the skills and traits necessarily to raise a child in a way that is healthy and happy. i keep saying it, but i am honestly really glad that masako was mature enough to see within herself that she lacked these attributes. it is only because of this that rin now has a happy and stable home – you can thank HER for that.

    people keep citing masako’s nine month pregnancy as if it is some sort of meaningful proof of something. again, i imagine that this is mostly people relating to themselves and how they feel they might potentially feel about such an experience, but i’ve got to ask (because i’m not sure): what exactly is it that you think that this nine months the zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus that would eventually become rin spent in her uterus means? there are LOTS of people who carry a child to term without developing the kinds of close feelings we are assuming masako should have. it’s a romantic notion to think that carrying this potential human being inside your body for the better part of a year will automatically bond you to it, but these are some pretty busted assumptions. what about bad parents who abuse their bio kids? what about folks whose pregnancy was traumatic and tenuous (a good, personal read on one such case by jessica valenti: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/18/baby-pregnancy-premature-birth )… there are LOTS of possibilities.

    and let’s not forget that, though she spent nine months inside masako’s body, rin’s been alive outside of it for seven years since (at this point in the story).

    i have a question for Hana: you mentioned something about masako staying at kenji’s house. did she really live there? honest question, because i could have sworn that it was explained that she came there to work as a maid – implying that she lived somewhere else, but i feel like maybe my memory is fuzzy and confused. could you maybe refresh my memory or remind me of what you are talking about?

    anyway, regardless of all this, i wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your personal story. that was really lovely of you.

    treeofjessieSeptember 4, 11 @ 10:04 pmReply
    • sometimes people who biologically create a child just lack the skills and traits necessarily to raise a child in a way that is healthy and happy

      It’s interesting how this works, because I think it varies as people grow and learn; someone who would be a terrible parent at age seventeen may be a wonderful parent ten or fifteen years later (after gaining some general life experience)… and I think it works for being a partner as well. My father was a good dad, terrible husband, but maybe he’s learned 30 years later and his current marriage might work out because he’s not the same person he was when I was born. Of course, there will still be some who, no matter how much life experience they gain, will never be a decent parent (my aunt for instance), but I do wonder how much of that is based on a person’s failure to mature in the ways that allow “caring and raising” a child.

      Masako lacks the maturity for sure, but it’s a harsh fate to say she’ll never be a good mother in the future. As for what those nine months “mean” I would say they don’t mean much in an objective sense, and it does make sense that “instant love” isn’t as common as it would seem, due to life-threatening complications, the general feeling of “being real” about pregnancy, or many of the other variations. But what I find striking is that for nine months, a pregnant mother isn’t [generally] looking out for herself (yes, there are some mothers who may neglect the unborn or not want to give birth to the child altogether). The considerate mother (or person), whether she turns out to be a qualified/good parent or not, becomes accustomed to thinking about the baby’s well-being (and her own), and though the feeling of needing to protect shouldn’t be called love, I think it’s a sign of caring.

      So maybe Masako didn’t have that romantic and nurturing love, but it’s really difficult for me to believe that Masako was completely indifferent about Rin when she was born. Of course, it wasn’t part of the story so who knows. I’m simply interpolating based what we do see, that Masako is affected by even seeing how well Rin is turning out.

      Thanks much for the comment, and that was a really intense (scary) read.

      Also, I don’t know if Masako lived with Kenji, she was a housemaid, but it’s unclear how much time she spent with Kenji and Rin.



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