Well, almost two weeks have gone by since my last post, and in that time we’ve seen the release of two more episodes of Michiko to Hatchin, a strong indication that Manglobe intends to release the series weekly as often as it can. I don’t know for sure what exactly caused the delay of the second episode, but I would guess (baselessly) that it was related to delays in the production process.
That being presumed, I’m pleased that the team is seemingly willing to postpone airdates if it means they can maintain the incredibly high quality of animation and background art that puts Michiko to Hatchin up there with shows like Kamichu! and Mushishi. Then again, it’s really no surprise, coming from the studio that produced both Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy.
This episode, in fact, is even more beautiful than the previous two (though everything seems to get prettier when the ocean is involved). Michiko and Hana (who, per persistent request by the character herself, will be called Hatchin from here on out), make their way to yet another town which I have failed to locate, even with the aid of the infallible google maps. This time it’s the possibly imaginary sea side city of Sáo Cabal, a gorgeous little slice of urban paradise surrounded on all sides by mountains and surf.
Michiko and Hatchin appear to be just passing through to do some shopping (or shoplifting) as well as search for Hiroshi Morenos, Hatchin’s real father, but after an encounter with a crazy old psychic who tells Michiko, among other things, that Hiroshi is nearby, the two book a room in Hotel Venus, and the diversion turns into a few day stay.
At this point, Michiko and Hatchin’s stories for this episode split somewhat. Michiko hits the streets with an artist rendered sketch in search of Hiroshi or anyone who’s seen him (and later Hatchin, who only shows up for sleepy time), while Hatchin takes a part-time job at a Chinese restaurant to pay for a pair of Jordans that Michiko has stolen for her. She would probably just have kept wearing her old shoes and insisted that Michiko return them, but they’re soon stolen out of the window while hanging up to dry.
In this way, like a great Basho Haiku or Death Cab for Cutie song, this episode places a lot of focus on a simple inanimate object to help develop its characters with subtlety. Even though Hatchin steps in dog poop (which happens to correlate well with one of the psychic’s vague nostradamian predictions), as far as Michiko knows, Hatchin really doesn’t need new shoes. Still, she goes out of her way to steal her a brand new pair of expensive sneakers.
In only a few days time, Michiko has come to care for Hatchin quite a lot, and her attempts to win her over with clothes, shoes, and even a force field in the form of a gemstone for protection, are touching as well as a little bit sad. Judging from the way she dresses and the ride that she procures after breaking out of prison, Michiko is more than a little materialistic, (a quality that Hatchin doesn’t seem to possess in the least), and showering her with gifts seems to be the only way she can think of to show her affection. This all speaks volumes about the incompatibility of Michiko and Hatchin’s personalities.
Oh my God!!! Hatchin can remove the top of her own head!!!
Unfortunately, her efforts all fail. The pain and disappointment on Michiko’s face when Hatchin scolds her for stealing the shoes is palpable. Giving somebody you care for a gift they don’t, especially someone that doesn’t reciprocate your love (romantic or otherwise), can be one of the worst feelings in the world. So, I bet I’m not the only one cheering for Michiko to win the girl (in a platonic or maternal sense). That first moment when they succeed in relating to each other on a meaningful level, that instant when that sullen look of Hatchin’s is replaced by a smile, that first time that Michiko and Hatchin share a laugh, is going to be so sweet that I wouldn’t trade it for a hundred punches to Maria’s face.
On the other side of the shoe related character exposition we have Hatchin. In spite of her horrible upbringing, Hatchin has such strong values that she tries to earn enough money to pay off the Jordans. Her intentions don’t say much for her logic, considering that she doesn’t even know where the shoes came from exactly, but it does say a lot about her impressive ethical standards, which strike a chord with both the owner of the Chinese restaurant and emotionally inclined viewers like myself.
Overall, this episode, in addition to the two leading up to it, has brought to my attention an interesting personality dichotomy that, when considered alongside how well Michiko and Hatchin don’t get along, seems to make a lot of sense. Michiko is the more emotional of the two, sentimental even. She gets exited easily, upset easily, and is pretty open with her feelings. She goes where she wants, does what she wants, and follows a set of values that are completely at odds with societal norms. In addition, she has a highly visceral spiritualism which enables her to believe in the psychic’s babbling unconditionally, as well as in her general faith surrounding her vision of Hiroshi. Her character fits the description of the classic hero of Romanticism perfectly.
In contrast, we have Hatchin. Hatchin is calm, logical, and considerate of others’ viewpoints (in particular, society’s ethics). She is not overly emotional, nor does she have any exaggerated or bombastic personality traits. Instead, she is very much like a regular person you would encounter in real life. She does not believe in the psychic’s predictions until they become validated by her personal experience, evidence of her objective minded, scientific personality. She may not sacrifice her personal beliefs, but she does conform to her environment completely, rather than fight against it, even in a setting as bad as the Belenbauza Yamada house. All of these elements of her personality place Hatchin perfectly within the realm of Realism, the literary opponent and antithesis of Romanticism.
It is no surprise then, that the romantic and the realist don’t see eye to eye. As easily as they can be defined, neither Michiko nor Hatchin’s personal philosophy could serve as a completely healthy personality (at least from my post-positivist perspective). So it will be interesting to see how each of them develops to accommodate the other, since it’s doubtful that the series will run its course without Michiko and Hatchin’s relationship making significant progress.
But for now, Michiko and Hatchin are yin and yang, with the connotation of harmony a work in progress. A good example of their conflicting world views comes at the end of the episode. Michiko finally finds someone who recognizes her sketch of Hiroshi, and the two of them head off to meet Hatchin’s father. However, when the supposed Hiroshi appears, before Hatchin has the chance to mutter an inquisitive “Otousan”, Michiko comes to the conclusion that it isn’t him after all and drags Hatchin off, leaving “Hiroshi” and his perplexed wife and kids at the door.
Hey, I’ve seen that dog before! It was in lying next to Michiko and Hatchin’s table in episode 2! It must be working for Atsuko!!!
In what is becoming standard Michiko to Hatchin plot development, this episode throws us another ambiguous event that can be explained in at least two different ways. So, was it Hiroshi? Did Michiko and Hatchin really walk away from the man they’ll be trying to find for the rest of the series in episode three? That would be a wonderful twist, but it’s really hard to say.
On one hand we have Michiko’s reaction and the man’s failure to recognize her, judging from his face at least. It could be argued that Michiko is just upset because Hiroshi doesn’t live up to what she imagined he would be like after 12 years of separation. But, is she really so deluded that she would continue to search around the country for him just because she’s upset? Her motivation would be completely gone at that point, ending their journey. That’s just something I don’t see happening.
On the other hand, everyone is familiar with the narrative trope surrounding crazy old people and their babbling predictions. It is almost always either 100% accurate or 100% false. And in this case, nearly everything does come true, even the ridiculous force field stone averting Hatchin’s early death. So, we have to consider that, if everything else the old lady said was correct, then what’s stopping the part about Michiko finding Hiroshi soon from being true? Perhaps it will serve as foreshadowing for the series’ conclusion. Though, if Michiko to Hatchin follows the typical Shinichiro Watanabe pattern, Hiroshi will be dead at the end anyways, curbing Michiko’s chances of having a happy family with him.
Stepping away from the plot theories and character analysis, I suppose a bit should be said about the more general qualities of the episode overall. All of the technical merits Michiko to Hatchin has going for it are back in this episode, and honesty, I doubt they’ll be going anywhere. There are only so many trite adjectives I know to describe the animation, so to avoid being like Makoto Shinkai, I’m not going to keep writing the same thing over and over again. The music is still quite good but underwhelming, something that I hope changes soon, and dry humor is still speckled throughout.
In fact, in every aspect except music, the series has moved more and more in the direction that I was hoping it would. The action has been toned down once again, this time to a single, plausible chase scene, and none of the minor characters from past episodes make appearances. I sincerely hope it stays that way for a while at least. Oh yeah, and no loli panty shots, which is nice.
I haven’t watched the fourth episode yet so that I may focus on just this one. So, while I realize that any number of things I hypothesized in this post could be disproven in the next episode, as much as I love getting comments, I’d appreciate it if you would avoid mention of episode four’s content. I really wouldn’t want to spoil anybody’s experience of it here (that can wait until the next post), and getting any answers to the questions the series has posed thus far would deprive others of the opportunity to ponder them to their heart’s content.
Oh yeah, and Hatchin chops her pig tails off, putting her one step closer to the Hatchin from the OP that goes around shirtless with a holstered pistol and a strand of bullets around her waist.