I didn't want to give Michiko to Hatchin a chance, I can fully admit that. When I began watching it I came to the series with a mighty wariness. It wasn't fantasy. It wasn't sci-fi. It wasn't medieval. It wasn't something I generally go for--on the surface Michiko to Hatchin sells itself short; you think you're probably getting yourself just another slice-of-life anime series that will leave you with warm, fuzzy feelings about life for a while and then you'll go on about your day and forget about it.
And that's where Michiko to Hatchin sneaks up behind you, kicks at the back of your knees, takes you down and giggles off merrily daring you to follow.
And you do.
Or at the very least, this is what I found myself doing.
You have to give Michiko to Hatchin a chance and it's not something I'm usually fond of doing, but the first episode of Michiko to Hatchin isn't very afraid to lay bare the good, the bad and the ugly that the series is just as brave as exploring later on: at its own pace.
You're thrust into this setting much like a newborn baby is plopped onto a weighing table after the first few seconds of birth, with no idea how you got there--why it's so bright, who keeps poking you with things, and where, exactly, is that thermometer going to go again? But you kind of get this sense that you're going to like where everything's eventually going. You aren't given much explaination to the setting, only that it's a fictional place in a fictional world heavily influenced by Brazillian like languages and culture.
Hatchin is a young girl who has been plopped into the foster care system with two soul-sucking, monstrous human beings who are pretty much only interested in her for the money they earn for taking care of her. They and their children pretty much make Hitachin's like full of suck in every means and way possible. Now, that's not exactly a terribly original opening or plot: the quiet, determined orphan, the awful horrible parents, cue lightening, and cue bad music, cue the cries of, ‘we’ve seen this before!’
But then we learn a few interesting things. Hitachin wasn't really abandoned entirely on purpose (as the story leads us into thinking) And, that scantily clad, sawed off shot-gun wielding, somewhat marginally hot-topic accessorized smokin' chick that just drove into the side of Hitachin's demon foster parents living room is apparently her mother.
Enter Michiko, one of the craziest female leads I've met in a while in anime that doesn't eat babies or kill worlds or take over mecha's or shoot lasers out of her nostrils...But still happens to convey a sense of nuttier than a bat house and kind of fun, too.
Michiko is on a quest too, (One that I won't speak of here in order to not spoil the entire story) and she's there to take Hatchin with her, whether she likes it or not.
Without spoiling the story entirely I will say that, yes, Michiko to Hatchin at its very core, stripped away, pared down, shaved and otherwise mangled--is a slice-of-life, family-ish tale about relationships, how they form, break and the struggle to adjust as they change and about never giving up on a dream, at any cost.
But it's not presented at all in the manner I find they usually are. Few anime strive to surround such a story in such ambitious, complex plot weaving as you will find here. It's episodic, weaving in tiny, delicious Easter eggs of tales featuring the main characters, the side characters relationships with the main, a little bit of the past and--surprisingly, well done stories about the setting these characters are living in. All without it being too inexplicable. Yes, there are small bit players that are only used for one episode to tell that particular story at that moment...But it's not done in a means that defies all logic and sense. Things are tied up neatly without the aura of being rushed as quickly to the end as possible just because.
This story, while not gore-ridden and a shock fest, does tip-toe around some rather serious and interesting flaws in humanity when you aren't looking. When you least expect it while trying to figure out a certain piece or why something has happened and how it fits in with everything else--there's a very real, very dark side to life in this story and setting Michiko to Hatchin presents to the viewer on a very no-frills sort of plate for us to devour.
On top of that amazing four-layered-cake of story awesomeness, where each episode is it's own self-contained tale and the main plot arch carried through for every episode? There are other, smaller, but just as important and just as connected to the main story--smaller stories being spun out like a fine web and unraveled carefully. I found myself looking forward to each episode, not just to see what utter chaos Michiko was going to rain down on unsuspecting heads, but how the story would be progressed and how the sub-plots were going to tick forward, bit by bit.
It is a surprisingly simple and complex bit of tale weaving with a ninja like sneaking in of: no matter how bad things get, don't give up.
I'm not going to lie. I thought it was fantastic. Not just because, as you already might be able to tell--I liked the story, but because the animation movements are smooth and well done.
The action is minty-delicious. Movement is crisp and crazy, things are moving, the scenes are cut well, your eye is often following what it should and the pacing for action or character driven scenes is fantastic. There are parts to this where I have found myself pausing it just to look at a scene. How realistic, gritty a wall texture is, how a shadow falls, how an expression is so simplistic and yet conveys to me exactly what a character is feeling. Again, eyes and faces are a little simplistic but the one thing that stuck with me was that...For the most part? Almost all of the characters, major, minor, or side had distinct, separating features, hair styles, body shapes and posture. They didn't feel like a carbon stamp hurriedly drawn to fill a scene with a crowd so the animator could get back to drawing cute short skirts and pink ribbons.
Right from the get-go I found myself instantly impressed by the opening theme song. Jazz-influenced featuring the brass instruments, there aren't any catchy lyrics or screamo-guitars or tunes that fit better with the 80's to break in the episodes.
Scenes themselves are often paired with unique or very fitting songs that don't distract you from what's going on, but add to it and in some cases, amplify the emotional impact they want to depart to a viewer during a certain scene.
I cannot think of a better compliment than the above for the score chosen for a series. The sound effects had to be good--because they sounded natural enough I don't have any complaints. Usually, if you notice sound effects too much, it's generally thought that the sound department hasn't done its job right.
You get the sense immediately that Michiko is a hurricane. She comes into the lives of people who know her, picks up everything around them, shakes them up, then blows on through leaving everything exactly where it isn't supposed to be and somehow it all turns out alright. She's a strong female lead that I enjoyed watching evolve. Sure, she puts on lipstick, lines her eyes, dons mascara, shrugs into that small but questionable shirt with matching low-slung pants...She's brassy. A little thick-headed and prone to making some pretty great mistakes. But it makes her human. She's not perfect at all. In fact, she is so far from perfect she's remarkably flawed without being annoying. There's no, as I like to call it, "Guy Syndrome" with Michiko. She doesn't kick butt in one scene, but suddenly turns into a wishy-washy, swooning, trip-over-my-own-feet sort of girl when a man arrives on scene, either. She just continues to kick butt and blow things up.
Hitachin is her complete and total opposite. She's Michiko's perfect foil. She's the one picking up the mess and blindly trailing after Michiko, eyes filled with the glitter and unfortunate clutter left behind. Hitachin wants to do the right thing, and she tries to remind Michiko of this at every turn. They butt heads more than anything else, and at first you wonder if the two of them are really suited to even be in the same room together. But their dynamic truly works like two pieces of a jig-saw puzzle meant to click together.
There are many other characters that I loved and won't get a chance to cover here, because what's the fun in that? Nobody really likes knowing what's under the wrapping of gifts before opening them on Christmas day, and I don't believe in spoiling you too much before a series is watched. Besides that, as any good story goes, some of the characters become so integral to the plot that explaining them might as well be giving everything away. You'll have to watch this to meet the rest of the cast.
If you've been hesitating or talking yourself out of watching this series, now's your chance to pick it back up. Seriously, catch a few minutes of this online and then go forth and find a way to purchase it and add it to your collection.
I began the first few minutes into my forray with this anime skeptical. I walked away a fan. This is a series that cares about the story, the characters, the music and what it's showing you. It cares, because it wants you to care, too. And that sort of effort conveys itself well in a rich, if not heart-warming manner. It's funny, it's sad; it's crass, violent, loving, cute and full of bullets and explosions all at once.
If this sounds like something you go for? I whole-heartedly recommend giving it a chance. Hopefully, you won't walk away disappointed.