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Anime Reviews: Michiko & Hatchin
Weaker than its pedigree would imply, Michiko & Hatchin is still a roller-coaster ride of an anime with a unique setting, even if it repeats itself at times.
Title: Michiko & Hatchin a.k.a. Michiko to Hatchin
Production: Studio Manglobe
Series Length: 22 episodes
Air Dates: 10/15/2008 to 3/18/2009
Age Rating: 15+ (strong language, mild violence, some suggestive content)
Summary: Michiko Malandro, an infamous criminal with gang ties, has escaped from Diamandra's highest security prison once again, but this time she's on a mission: Her former lover, Hiroshi, was reported to have died in a horrific accident 12 years ago, but, inexplicably, he also has a 10-year-old daughter named Hana Morenos, who's forced to live in an abusive household so that her guardians can collect a check every month. And so, in no time at all, Michiko bursts onto the scene and collects Hana, and now, a new goal lies ahead of them: Find Hiroshi and get some answers. Meanwhile, Atsuko Jackson, a no-nonsense cop who grew up with Michiko and, as fate would have it, was the one who arrested her, sets out on the warpath to apprehend her capricious quarry once again and settle the score once and for all!
The Good: Stylish roller-coaster ride; rare setting for an anime; eclectic cast
The Bad: Feels fleeting; somewhat repetitive; disastrous final episode
The Ugly: The nagging feeling that Atsuko's hair gets bigger with every episode...
Hey, boys and girls! Did you like Cowboy Bebop? Of course you did! Now, do you want to watch it again, but with half the cast, weaker writing, no Shinichiro Watanabe, and no Yoko Kanno? Er, whaddaya mean "no"?! Uhhh...well, this is awkward, but umm...that's Michiko & Hatchin in a nutshell! This was a passion project comprised of the vast majority of the staff who worked on Cowboy Bebop, and to be perfectly fair, many of the signature touches to prove it are littered all throughout--references to songs and famous films and all that kinda thing--but this time, the magic just wasn't there. At least, not enough of it to make this series a classic. I mean, there's still plenty to like here, and anyone looking for road trip anime or anime featuring complex female protagonists is a shoe-in for this, so if you're one of those people, watch it already! For the rest of you, we'll do as normal and weigh the series' pros and cons and you can then decide for yourself:
First of all, Michiko & Hatchin is never content to sit idly and do nothing (for better or worse)--right from the swingin' opener, "Paraiso," it's crystal clear that this series is gonna go all-out delivering bombastic style. The same holds true throughout each episode, with shoot-outs and betrayals and escapes and huge action set-pieces contrasted with meaningful dialogues and somber musings of what it means to share your life with someone who's utterly and completely different from you. No matter which episode you happen to be on, there's going to be something exciting or profound happening.
Adding to the roller-coaster feel of the show is the vibrant and colorful South American-influenced setting. This is an aesthetic that is basically nonexistent in anime, and to see it at last without ever knowing I wanted it is a breath of fresh air. From lavish penthouses to boarded-up slums, tightly-packed cities to dusty desert roads, lighthouses overlooking the sea to limestone ruins in the dense jungle, no two episodes look anywhere remotely similar in their setting, and credit must be given to the staff at Manglobe for going the extra mile to make the setting as diverse and interesting as possible. If the show's highly dramatic style didn't win you over, its setting certainly will.
Finally, for many people, the main draw of Michiko & Hatchin is...Michiko and Hatchin themselves! Michiko is a tremendously entertaining person, with a hair-trigger temper and absolutely zero self-control. She is 100% id, and 100% crazy. Hatchin, on the other hand, is less than half Michiko's age and infinitely more responsible, being Michiko's beleaguered voice of reason, and her frustration at dealing with the garbage she has to endure on the daily basis is absolutely relatable. Their relationship as "parent" and "child" is immensely engaging, and it's no wonder that they're the show's star attraction. On the sidelines, Atsuko is another supremely fun character to watch, as her vindictiveness seems to know no bounds and watching her go through hell and back to get even with Michiko is a real treat. The other chief antagonists, brutal gang leader Satoshi and twitchy hitman Shinsuke, are no slouches, either--the former exudes an intense presence that carries the threat of death pretty much at all times, and the latter is so unhinged and casually callous that it becomes hard to tell what he's up to. If I had to point to a single facet where the series shines brightest, its cast would be it.
But now the time has come to point out where the series falls short, because I am a jerk like that. The first thing that threw me off about Michiko & Hatchin is just how fleeting and unmemorable it felt as a whole--like Outlaw Star, the action was fast and furious and I was having a good time all the while, but after I stopped watching, not a whole lot stuck with me. The story lines are engaging but not memorable; the settings are immersive, but not iconic; the incidental characters are likable, but not impactful. Of course, this is my own personal opinion, so it's possible that your experience will vary--you may very well find the story lines to be memorable, the settings iconic, and the one-shot characters impactful--and that's why this is the weakest complaint I have against the series. But wait! It gets better!
My second-biggest gripe with Michiko & Hatchin is just how repetitive the series gets, to the point of teeth-gnashing insanity! Early on, we have a major wedge driven in Michiko and Hatchin's relationship, and they part ways because of mutual frustration. Of course, in due time, the problem is solved and they both see the error in their ways and they reconcile. It's predictable, but it comes early and, in a story like this, it's inevitable. Okay. That's fine. But they then proceed to carry out this exact same scenario no less than three more times. Good Lord, somebody help me. And of course, there's a major dramatic point where Atsuko catches up to Michiko and they have a dramatic stand-off. Again, inevitable. And Michiko manages to convince Atsuko to let her go just this once, because plot. It's cool. It's a thing that needed to happen. BUT NOT FOUR FRIGGIN' TIMES ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS SJNQQSJKQSJKAXMKLVJNQWD
But my biggest gripe of all comes in the form of the series' final episode. Obviously, I don't want to give too much away, but it's beyond infuriating when everything the story is building up to turns out to just be an inconsequential wet fart. None of our questions are answered at all. And then we get a time skip as we follow Hatchin in her later teenage years, and you've gotta be kidding me. Again, I don't want to give it all away, but who are you and what have you done with Hatchin?! I was howling betrayal at my TV all throughout this finale, and I won't be surprised if others do as well.
All in all, Michiko & Hatchin is a bit of a mixed bag, but still far from a waste of time. The fleeting feeling of the show bothers me because I wanted to love it. The repetitiveness of the narrative bothers me because I wanted to see the characters encounter new situations and handle them differently. The finale bothered me because I wanted a more satisfying conclusion/beginning of a new journey. There was so much potential, and a lot of it was left buried in the ground, unexcavated. However, it cannot be stressed enough that this is a unique anime in its focus on complex, very different female protagonists and its South American setting. If either of those are important to you, then ignore all my whinging--you need this anime in your life, like, right now--but for everybody else, I can only offer a very mild recommendation.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10. Michiko & Hatchin is a vibrant and action-packed series with a colorful cast and a non-traditional setting for anime, but it spends too much valuable time spinning its wheels and, sadly, ends on a sour note.