(not yet licensed in US)
Story = C-
Video = B+
Audio = B-
Hatchin is a girl raised by strict foster parents who has long given up her dreams of freedom. Michiko is a sexy criminal who escapes from a supposedly inescapable prison. When she suddenly enters Hana's life, these two very different women set off on a journey across a lawless land in search of a missing man from both their pasts. (Source: ANN)
And here is number six in my list of anime reviews for shows that I completed months ago but am only writing about now. This time it's Michiko to Hatchin. (Or is it Michiko e Hatchin?) I have seen a lot of reviewers say that this is similiar to Cowboy Bebop, so I'm going to spend the majority of this review comparing the two. I don't usually like reviewing shows by comparing it to another show, but since a lot of people seem to insist that the two are so alike and are confused why this anime isn't more popular or license for US release, I think it might be worthwhile. Basically, I think the Bebop comparison doesn't go any further than the art style and any comparisons related to the story, themes, or mood don't last much past the first few episodes.
The beginning of the series is actually very promising. Hana -- aka Hatchin -- is a girl who was adopted by a well-respected religious family. But the family only took her in to collect the government grants, and they take pleasure in treating her as a slave and abusing her at every opportunity. Michiko -- a woman who recently escaped prison -- crashes into the family's home and kidnaps Hana. As it turns out, Michiko is Hana's mother and they both end up on a journey to find Hatchin's father, Hiroshi. But they have to stay on the move in order to avoid the police, especially the afro-sporting lady-cop Atsuko who seems to be connected to Michiko's past. This plot is mostly a set-up for Michiko and Hatchin to roam around, meet people, and get into trouble. Most episodes are stand-alone stories that don't have anything to do with finding Hiroshi.
In terms of its similarity to Bebop, the first thing you'll notice in the initial episodes is the visuals, especially the character designs and the overall "coolness" of the style. I'm not saying that these things are exactly like Cowboy Bebop or that they need to be associated with that show to be considered good. But I think that when people see the show's style -- myself included -- it will spark that memory of Bebop's characters and tone and the hope that this show will provide the same kind of experience.
Mitchiko to Hatchin is not as eclectic as Bebop; but it's characters, setting, and overall visuals do have their own unique, stylish, and exotic idiosyncrasy to them. The story takes place in a fictional Brazil-like setting. The areas that the main characters travel to range from the slums to backwater areas to the big city. All of the character designs are unique and interesting. Mitchiko is especially fun to watch, since she wears something different every episode and it's always extremely stylish. (That's especially amazing considering that she has little to no luggage during her travels.) The characters are not extremely muscular, but they are tough and threatening none-the-less. Their intimidation is mainly implied through their personality or their callousness toward violence.
But if there is one thing that separates this show from Cowboy Bebop it is its harsh violence. Bebop could be moody at times, but it's gun play and general action scenes were mostly fun and exhilarating. Michiko to Hatchin takes its violence more seriously. It isn't especially physically graphic, but the characters are so hardened to the violence as a way-of-life, and are so matter-of-fact about its execution that the overall tone makes these scenes more sobering and surprising.
So I really did enjoy the first five or six episodes, although at the time I was not sure why. It was strange because I would watch an episode and be thinking how cool it was throughout the entire thing; but then once I turned it off and thought back, I would realize that nothing really happened. It was like it was trying to create a tone instead of develop a story or characters. And the more I watched, the more shallow and pretentious it seemed to be. Each episode ended much the same as it began, with no real lessons learned and no advancement to the story. And with no substance, much of it seemed pointless.
And, like the plot itself, the characters seem to have less and less substance the further you get into the story. In particular, one character whom I was confused about is the woman cop who is constantly chasing after Mitchiko: Atsuko. They appear to be childhood friends, but exactly what their relationship was beyond that I was never sure. There were times when Atsuko would catch Hatchin, or nearly catch her only to intentionally let her go. It seemed like there was supposed to be some internal struggle that Atsuko was going through relating to whether or not she really did want to arrest Mitchiko, but I was never sure what the source of that struggle was. Was it just their friendship versus her duty as a cop that she was conflicted over? Did she have some kind of romantic feelings for Mitchiko? Was there something from their past that was caused this inner turmoil? I still don't know, and I don't even think there were any subtle clues to pick up on. And it's impossible to empathize with someone when you don't understand the source of their emotional stress. Plus, since you know that she is going to let Mitchiko go every time, there's no tension over whether she is going to get caught. So in the end it just seemed like Atsuko's only purpose was to motivate Mitchiko to keep moving, while preventing the possibility that she would actually get caught, and using an obscure personal drama as the excuse.
The show's ending -- while not satisfying or climactic -- did help to clarify the theme. In the end, the show is about reality versus perception and how people can twist their memories to in to a kind of idealistic nostalgia, even if it doesn't reflect what actually happened. Michiko perceives things idealistically and Hatchin is more realistic. And as a result Hatchin is more subject to abuse and the harsh realities of the world, while Michiko ignores that and is more interested in chasing after a dream and believes that if they can just find Hatchin's father, then they can all live as one perfect family. Once I realized that, it redeemed the show a little bit in my eyes because it means that both Michiko and Hatchin were more complex than I had been giving them credit for. But even so, I don't think that knowing that makes the show much more entertaining.