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Michiko & Hatchin (2008)

What would you do if every day your confidence was beaten down, you were treated like a domestic servant, and you were kept only because you were a source of income to your “family” from local authorities? What would you do if someone crashed through your window on a scooter and offered their hand out to rescue you? This is beginning of the story of Michiko and Hatchin.

Actually, this rescue is the end of the first episode in this crime-based caper. The story opens with one of our main characters, Michiko Molandro, escaping (again) from a high-security prison in style. There is obviously something very important to her that she would risk yet another escape attempt. Michiko is bold, determined, fearless and pretty much single-minded in everything she does. Next, we are introduced to Hana Morenos, an orphan living with an abusive foster family who treat her appallingly, almost to breaking point. Hana is the complete opposite of Michiko. She is quiet, shy, considerate and principled. After announcing her impending arrival via telephone, Michiko crashes through a stained-glass window onto the kitchen table and into Hana’s life. Hana thought that someday someone would come and rescue her, she just had no idea it would be like that and from someone she didn’t recognise.

Michiko and Hatchin is the series directorial debut of Sayo Yamamoto (later to direct Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine). She has directed episodes from series such as Samurai Champloo and Space Dandy. It is fair to say that she is one of the few current successful female directors in anime, a profession dominated by men in many of the senior production roles. Yamamoto has directed a show with two strong, independent female leads that are not sexualised, not there to be leered at or exploited for the viewer. It’s quite refreshing.

The series follows Michiko and Hana (nicknamed early on in the show “Hatchin” by Michiko, much to Hana’s annoyance) on the trail of Hiroshi Morenos, Hana’s father and the love of Michiko’s life. The story really revolves around Michiko and Hatchin’s “relationship”. It is a very strange relationship – not quite mother and daughter, more like squabbling siblings. Michiko is definitely the emotionally younger of the 2 in many ways. She is very quick to lash out verbally and physically at Hana, and I was not comfortable with that. It happens far too frequently and becomes a throwaway comment from Hana in the series. Hana, while younger is definitely the adult and spends much of her time looking after Michiko and trying to do the right thing.

There are four main story arcs within the show where the leads develop the most. It goes from “who are you?” to taking responsibility and care of each other. Each episode is paced well and, when considered as part of the longer arc, fits in nicely. As a result, it’s not a show that you can dip in to and out of; you need to watch it from the start right to the end. Throughout the story we cross paths with gangsters searching for Hiroshi, the police hunting Michiko and a variety of characters that help to round off our two protagonists so they feel more real. Some of the gangster-based content was a bit gross for me and I think it was there for shock value. It certainly could have been toned down and not had a detrimental impact on the story.

The character designs are fine. All of the female characters are distinct. My favourite was Atsuko (above), a member of the police force tasked to bring in Michiko. As for Michiko, she’s a bit of a diva so has an exaggerated design in places to fit her personality. Hatchin has a neutral design (to the point where she is even mistaken for a boy) and as she is young in the show, is designed and dressed in an age appropriate fashion. Refreshingly, the clothing worn by each of the main characters changes to reflect how their personalities are changing. As Hatchin gains confidence through the episodes her wardrobe changes to reflect, I hope, the person she will grow up to be. Michiko has a wardrobe that is more... varied. Some of her costumes early in the series are typical anime (leaving nothing to the imagination). As the series progresses she grows, becomes more mature and responsible and this is reflected in how she is portrayed. 

The world in which they inhabit is a cross between South America and Japan. It works well and creates quite a distinct environment. The colour palette for the show can only be described as “full-colour with its edge taken off”. It is almost like the film has aged (if it had been on film) or that the colours were bleached in the sun a bit. This gives the show a slightly grimy, earthy look which suits the tone well. We visit unsavoury neighbourhoods, motels, hotels and towns.

The opening credits to this show are colourful and stylish, set to a groovy piece of Latin Jazz. All of the music is great and is from Alexandre Kassin. This style and feel carries through into the show. I like Latin jazz and it certainly adds to the atmosphere of each place they visit.

Michiko & Hatchin is an enjoyable crime caper to watch with some solid animation and designs. On the box art it tells us that it’s brought to us by the creators of Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop, but is nowhere near these shows. Michiko & Hatchin generally has a light breezy feel that involves and engages you enough to want to watch the next episode. The parent-child violence and some of the gangster-based activities do weigh it down though. In its favour the main characters are not typical anime women which is refreshing and is perhaps its biggest strength.

Michiko & Hatchin is available on DVD in 2 parts from MVM in the UK or Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming from Funimation in the US.