Some of you eagle eyes out there may have already noticed that I’m new to THAT. So new in fact, that this is my first post! I was recently selected to help maintain the surplus of writers here on the blog, and to fulfill that purpose, I’ve gone ahead and picked up Michiko to Hatchin for this season.
I apologize for posting a review of an episode for which there is already another, but I wrote this as my sample entry and I didn’t want it to go to waste! I’m not really one for self introductions, so if you want to know more about me you can just hop on over to the “About the Team” section of the site and check out my profile. In addition, we have updated the “Fall Series blogging page“, so you can use that page to navigate the series that are blogged currently.
Well then, without further adieu, let’s get to the anime! Oh wait, excuse me. It appears that there is a bit more adieu on the agenda. Sorry. During the excruciating limbo that was the waiting period after applying for a position at THAT, a number of other prospective bloggers and I banded together and vowed, as a way to remedy the pang of inevitable rejection that most of us would be feeling, to form a new team anime blog amongst those of us who didn’t make the cut. I won’t be a part of that endeavor sadly, but Douglas of otakucrave.com and many of the other THAT applicants are in the process of converting the site into their new team blog. Not much is up at the moment, but you can expect lots of fresh articles by a team of zealous bloggers in the near future! So check it out! Here’s another link in case you glazed over the first one. You can’t miss it!
Michiko to Hatchin [Episode 1] Second Opinion
After having seen the 2 minute preview trailer for Michiko to Hatchin streamed on the series’ official website, www.michikotohatchin.com, I was certain that the show would be one of the best of the season, if only for its technical merits, but not being much of a fan of action series in general, I didn’t expect it to carry the kind of emotional impact or story depth that makes me truly excited to go looking for torrents week after week. And in one of those respects I was right, up to this point at least. One episode in and I know virtually no more about the story than what had already been introduced to me in the trailer.
Michiko, one of our titular characters, breaks out of a supposedly break-proof penitentiary and teams up with Hatchin, a young girl who’s always wished that someone would come and take her away from her abusive foster family, and the two of them cruise around a beautifully animated Brazil while fending off equally animated pursuers. That being said, I expected to be entertained by the events on screen and impressed by the animation, but not particularly invested emotionally in the work as a whole. I am pleased to say, however, that any description of my overall viewing experience would be incomplete without the inclusion of all three of these, among others.
While it may be true that not much can be said about the main plot of Michiko to Hatchin from the first episode, I noticed something during the opening credits that set my mind at ease. Shinichiro Watanabe of Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop, and Samurai Champloo fame is credited, no, not as director, that honor is being filled by newbie Sayo Yamamoto, but as music producer. This becomes obvious as soon as you hear either of the excellent theme songs, the first of which could pass for a slightly less dynamic version of “Tank!”, and the second, which I could swear was by the same group that produced the ending theme for the last episode of Samurai Champloo. The music is top notch all around I might add, though still, conventional wisdom tells me that being the music producer can’t have that big of an impact on the overall quality of the series.
But, if you’ll allow me to indulge my ridiculous presumptions for a moment, I can’t help but feel like the production process may have been permeable enough to allow Shinichiro Watanabe’s genius essence to spill over into other areas of key importance. And honestly, even without him at the helm, I think the show is already set up to become another one of his classics. Here we have two characters of completely different, likely incompatible backgrounds, united by a common goal, and teaming up for a largely episodic journey with a simple, near nonexistent plot which is downplayed almost to the point of being forgotten to make room for complex and hugely compelling characterizations. Okay okay, a bit unfounded I know, but I’ve got a hunch!
After all, that’s what made Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo so great! So, that’s what’s most likely probably nearly without a doubt going to make Michiko to Hatchin great too! And it couldn’t be more welcome frankly. To think before this I was willing to come to terms with a season where Toradora! was my favorite new series. To misquote Hedonism Bot himself, this is shaping up to be “the sole diversion in what has (thus far) been a pale and unamusing season”. But enough with my predictions, let’s get to the meat of the episode itself.
Michiko to Hatchin opens as many series do, with a totally banal action scene. Diamandra penitentiary is said to be nearly impossible to escape from, though to be honest, I’m not so sure. Prison security is pretty decent inside the facilities, with the guards blasting their submachine guns at anything that makes a noise, but once Michiko makes her way outside, the hot pursuit boils down to a single helicopter that crashes itself into a windmill.
I see the windmill…Do you see the windmill?
Ummmm…apparently he didn’t see the windmill…
Outside of prison Michiko occupies herself with a variety of criminal activities, such as robbing banks, stealing hot pockets, and driving her motorcycle through windows, but the focus of this episode isn’t really on her, rather, on the going ons of the Belenbauza Yamada family.
Consisting of father Pedro, mother Joanna, older sister Maria, younger brother Gabriel, and of course main character adopted foster child Hana (a.k.a. Hatchin), the Belenbauza Yamadas are a “family” in name only. Well over half of the episode is put to the use of conveying to the viewer exactly how awful Hana’s family members are and how much she suffers from their abuse. Honestly, the kind of tortures and hazing Hana is put through would make Dr. Zimbardo’s surliest prison guards blush. But as sadistic as it may sound, this aspect of the first episode, more than any other, is what really won me over.
Each member has their own unique way of making Hana’s daily life a living hell, and the individual abuses they inflict fluctuate rapidly between jaw-droppingly shocking, bizarre, hilarious, rage inducing, and in at least one case, genuinely disturbing. Pedro constantly holds his façade of religious piety and moral superiority above Hana to chastise her and justify forcing her to do such things as cook him another omelet because his first was slightly burned. Joanna, in addition to running the draconian household alongside Pedro, uses Hana for all kinds of chores and even her dirty work only to turn around and frame her later. Little brother Gabriel constantly subjects Hana to a mixture of odd teasing and pseudo-sexual harassment accentuated with occasional violence and humiliation. And then there’s Maria. Oh God Maria! My skin crawls just thinking about her. Maria’s offenses are many, but to put things into perspective without ruining too much, at one point she tries to iron Hana’s face!
“Towels are for drying not for wearing!”…The Hell they aren’t!
Each of the Belenbauza Yamadas, Hana included, is more developed and more interesting after just 23 minutes of airtime than many lesser series’ main cast of characters during their entire run. By the time Hana finally lashes out against Maria near the end of the episode, I was bouncing up and down in my chair, muffling screams of joy, and pumping my fists. That’s how much I hate them. And bearing in mind the distinct possibility that none of them will be appearing in future episodes makes the accomplishment all that more impressive. If Michiko to Hatchin can produce episodic characters of this caliber week after week, we’re all in for a treat.
I know she called in advance, but it’s still kind of rude to bust through the window like that…
Aside from the excellent writing, the other production values are all equally high. The animation is detailed and consistent, the backgrounds are truly beautiful, especially the inside of the Belenbauza Yamadas’ house/church, and the seiyuu work is both appropriate and well done. I especially love Pedro’s unbelievably hollow voice, befitting of his weak character. Michiko and Hana are actually both voiced by screen actresses, Yoko Maki of Memoirs of a Geisha and Suzuka Ougo of The Princess Blade and Battle Royale II respectively.
And the journey begins…
There’s not really much of anything I didn’t like about this episode and I expect great things from this series in the future. With amazing production values and characters that are more than just anime archetypes with a twist, things sure look promising. I am worried, though, that once Michiko and Hana are out on the road, that the series could make a dramatic shift towards the kind of banal action found in the prison break scene. Hopefully any future gun slinging will pack an equally resounding plot. Oh yes, and there is one little plot related device hinted at…
A total of 3 characters with this cryptic tattoo make an appearance: Michiko, Hana, and a mysterious man who appears in Hana’s wishful daydream. What is the connection between the three of them? Well for starters, Michiko claims at one point to be Hana’s mother, but according to Pedro Hana’s mother is dead, so that point is contentious for now…
Hana imagines this man coming to take her away. Who is he? Her real father? An older brother? I’m sure we’ll find out. Maybe, and this is a stretch, he’ll be a Julia/Sunflower Samurai analogue…If my theory of Shinichiro Watanabe commandeering the project holds up that is…
What kind of an ASS-HOLE would tattoo an infant?!?!