It was immediate from the get go that Michiko to Hatchin was not standard affair. Throughout its 22 episode length, not once did it adhere to anything stereotypical, whether it be its characterisation, music or setting; everything was approached with originality and style. There was an ingenuity that distinguished it from the rest, which is something I embrace and applaud. Courtesy of studio Manglobe, responsible for the equally distinctive Samurai Champloo, and a directorial debut from Sayo Yamamoto, known for her story-boarding on the likes of Death Note, it comes as little surprise that Michiko to Hatchin would deliver something different.
First off, the character cast are multicultural, coming from a wide range of ethnicities, not the predominate native Japanese typically found in anime, and in keeping with this, the setting of Brazil was depicted well. Having visited the country myself, specifically Sao Paulo, it was apparent that the studio went to great length to reflect Latin America. Although Japanese-esque in approach, mainly in part to the voice cast, the scenery and styling was near enough accurate. To further clarify, while I don’t necessarily mind the typical setting of domestic Japan (it’s easier to portray accurately, seeing as the entire production team can obviously relate to their own country), or some fantasy world (which is all too common), as an avid traveler, it’s always nice to watch an anime that ventures afield to other countries and cultures that I can possibly reference to, especially when they do so successfully. Extending from this, the character design and their subsequent mannerisms are somewhat different from the norm too; nothing fan-pandering. In fact, while somewhat exaggerated, there is an arguable sense of realism.
In terms of characterisation, the focus was mainly on the protagonists Michiko and Hatchin, save Atsuko and Satoshi who received marginal screen time along the way. The chemistry between Michiko and Hatchin was highly entertaining; their bickering and obvious differences were oddly complimentary, working to great effect. Their relationship from beginning to end, and its subsequent development, was enjoyable to watch. Michiko was an absolute bad-ass, surpassing, in my opinion, that of Revy from Black Lagoon. Her sheer vulgarity and recklessness gave perfect weighting to her sensuality and style, which was portrayed in such a liberal way that I couldn’t help but like the character. Likewise, Hatchin was passionate and righteous, with a level of maturity and common sense that contrasted from her modest years. Her character design was really adorable, particularly her hairstyle, which helped to remind us that she’s still a young girl. In this regard, their relationship was almost role reversal, and yet, Michiko’s experience of life, with Hatchin’s impressionable mindset, helped to maintain some balance.
The story is rather linear and episodic, following the protagonists during their travels with the ultimate aim of finding Hatchin’s father (the overarching story line). However, in a similar vein to Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo, this format worked well due to its presentation and portrayal. With each new scenario Michiko and Hatchin stumbled upon, their character and mutual relationship received development. That said, the pacing did suffer from this, seeming slow and choppy, but I’m merely nitpicking. My only gripe, without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen the anime series, is that the ending could have been handled better. Furthermore, I wasn’t too happy with how everything played out at the end.
The production was near faultless. As mentioned in my opening paragraph, Manglobe did a stellar job depicting Brazil with all of its intricacies. Everything was smoothly animated and the accompanying soundtrack was satisfactory (I can’t remember who was responsible offhand). Yoko Maki as Michiko and Suzuka Ohgo as Hatchin both portrayed their respective characters well, no complaints. The remaining cast also gave good performances.
So, for anyone who enjoyed Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, both of which I’ve frequently cited throughout this review, due to their similar approaches, I’m confident you’ll at least enjoy Michiko to Hatchin for its stylish and original take.