Welcome everyone, to another week of Michiko & Hatchin! Last week was our introduction, so this week is our chance to see what the show is really like. Is it a buddy cop? A think piece? Some kind of tragedy? Lets dive in and find out!
Starting off though, I just want to once again praise Michiko & Hatchin’s backgrounds. These are, without question, the most impressive part of the production. Not just in their details, those are incredible, but in their variety and number as well. Even something as small as the Chinese noodle shop had, at least, 5 different backgrounds portraying it’s interior from various different angles. Each one covered in minute details like slightly discolored tiles, dents in the wall, rusted pipes, and chipped surfaces. Not to mention different colorings for day/night, lights on/off, etc. Now consider how many repeated locations we had across these two episodes, and multiply all of these backgrounds by that many locations. You begin to understand why I’m so impressed, right? While the animation isn’t perfect, and Hatchin’s design is a tad unappealing, the backgrounds carry the visuals on their back.
Getting into the episodes, first up is episode 3, “Like a Frantic Pinball”. This one felt like a bonding episode to me. One that wasn’t particularly important narratively, but is very useful for fleshing out character dynamics. And we can see that in the episodes structure, showing us how each of them get what they want. Michiko just doesn’t give a shit. She takes what she wants, from who she wants, and really isn’t bothered by stealing, shoving paper in peoples faces, and kicking kids. In a lot ways, this is good, it prepares her to handle herself on the streets well while Hatchin… can’t, like we see. On the other hand, this clashes with Hatchin’s much more straight laced personality. Going so far as to get a job to pay for the shoes Michiko stole for her.
That isn’t the only place where they differ either. Michiko is, surprisingly enough, spiritually gullible! She believes every word out of a phony fortune tellers mouth, spending large sums of money on absolute bullshit, when you think she would be wise to these kinds of scams. At the same time, Hatchin sees through it immediately but falls for another scam in the noodle shop where she is enticed into virtual slave labor as he cuts wages and demands free days for the most ludicrous of reasons, yet still goes along with it. All of this culminating in the two learning from each other, connecting, and eventually completely switching sides on whether or not they believe in fortune telling. It’s all rather humorous, if a tad unimportant. And all the while it reinforces what their main goal is: Finding Hatchin’s father, Hitoshi.
Speaking of Hiroshi, the ending of this episode was a bit of a tease huh? Not in a bad way, it’s only episode 3, I never actually believed they would find him this early. More that he is in fact rather important. This red herring does raise the question though: What will they do after they find him? If they find him at all? Will they live happily ever after? Will he be dead? Is this one of those “Journey before destination” they will become a real family by the end of their journey sort of things? I don’t know! But I’m looking forward to finding out. I think all of these can work well so long as Michiko & Hatchin executes them properly. I just need it to pick a direction and stick with it, don’t try to do all of them at once. You hear me?
Outside the main plot, this episode also continues to build up the world of Michiko & Hatchin as well. This time through the use of… Child street gangs? With guns, ready to shoot someone? Damn. Seriously though, I like how the show presents them initially as just children. Like this is just a light hearted chase where Hatchin will get her shoes back at the end. Only for it to quickly escalate and show us that, no, for all the abuse Hatchin suffered before she still wasn’t living on the street. She isn’t the only one with a shitty life in this country. In fact, we can guess that Michiko probably grew up on streets just like this, judging by how little she cared and how ready she was to deal with some punk with a gun. These are small things, but relevant ones.
Moving on to episode 4, “Stray Cat Milky Way”, this was a really weird episode. At it’s core, I think I really liked the idea of it. This story of two sisters struggling to survive in a harsh world, resorting to sex work and theft, the way they parallel Michiko and Hatchin. It was all great! I especially liked the representation for other body types as well with the younger sister, Lulu. All the ingredients for a fantastic story about being trapped in a cycle of violence and criminality because of the circumstances of their birth and the actions of those around them are there! They even have this nebulous beautiful city to dream about on the TV! But if all of that’s great, if it has all of the ingredients… why do I call it weird? Why do I preface all of this with “I think”?
The reason is simple: The last quarter takes… a turn. So much so that it feels like I skipped half the episode getting to it. After stealing the money from Rico, Pepe comes to Machiko asking her to help save her sister, Lulu, who was caught. But nowhere along the way did I ever get the impression they had the kind of relationship where this could happen. In fact, they seemed very antagonistic of each other across their entire acquaintance. So why did Pepe ever, in a million years, think that Michiko would help her? And why does Michiko feel bad for not helping her when she’s been shown to be very self centered up until this point? It feels like Michiko & Hatchin have a lot of expectations here that it just didn’t properly build up.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like what this does to Michiko, in theory. This push to make her a better person, to make her care about other people, is good. I like seeing her make a decision, regret it, and not be able to fix it. It’s heavily implied these two girls are dead after all, with Lulu being left behind and Pepe being shot in the street by children. A very dark, morbid ending to what was largely a carefree, dare I say even hopeful, episode. I think it does a great job of reinforcing just how bad a place to live this country is, and it makes us, the audience, have to acknowledge that Michiko & Hatchin is not a happy show. I just wish it could have executed on it all a tad better. Because the shift into that finale just did not work for me.
All in all I think these were 2 pretty good episodes that, despite their own confusion, held some really interesting stories and ended in a way that absolutely hooked me into this world. I’m really curious what kind of story Michiko & Hatchin will tell as these true traipse across the land looking for Hiroshi, as well as what kind of terrible things they will witness and what small acts of kindness keep their hope alive. Now that I know this isn’t going to just be shock-abuse but a genuinely tragic, in places at least, story, I’m a lot more invested. Maybe it’s just me being weird, but I love tragedies. So this kind of darkness is right up my alley. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of it!