Hana Morenos is a jaded nine-year-old living with her sanctimonious and abusive foster family until one day, freedom comes crashing through the roof on a presumably stolen scooter. The wild and reckless Michiko Malandro takes Hana on a crazy road trip to find Hiroshi Morenos, Hana’s biological father and the love of Michiko’s life; the three of them share a mysterious tattoo of two crossed feathers and the letters L.B.D.D. As Michiko and Hana—now dubbed Hatchin—bicker their way across a brilliant Latin American landscape in search of the ever-elusive Hiroshi, they forge a relationship and also grow as human beings… possibly.
Michiko & Hatchin is beautiful and brilliant. In other reviews, it has been compared to Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop as it was produced by Manglobe with Shinichiro Watanabe as the music producer. Consider that it was also the directorial debut of Sayo Yamamoto, the director of Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and you’ll get a sense of the look, sound, and texture of this work: lovely animation, stylish cinematography, great acting, excellent music, and memorable characters delivered in a well-paced episodic format wherein the main story unfolds without much explicit explanation. It is an exciting series to watch, with a satisfying ending.
So far, Michiko & Hatchin is the only anime I can think of with a realistic Latin American setting—realistic in the sense that the setting is “real life” as opposed to, say, fantasy or science fiction—that feels vibrant and well-researched. The setting is almost a character in its own right: you can feel the heat and practically smell the food. As the work takes place in a fictional country, authenticity might be a moot point here, but the basis for the visuals is obviously Latin American and some of the language used is Portuguese. Characters, whether the main actors in an episode or just the folks walking across the street in the background, are multicultural in a non-stereotypical way; their names are an intriguing mix of Japanese first names with other-language last names that do not correlate to their physical features. Never have I seen so many people casually depicted in varied shades of brown, both dark and light. In addition, I haven’t seen a brown female protagonist whose skin color is never mentioned during the whole plot since Larry/Rally Vincent of Gun Smith Cats. I emphasize this because in anime, the default is usually pale-skinned characters in a medieval or urban European-ish setting; if their facial features or skin color are different, it’s usually a plot point and usually something to do with race. Being somewhere else and seeing other folks is refreshing.
Characters are also unique and well-written. The brash, vulgar, yet trusting Michiko and the wary, principled, but cynical Hatchin make an explosive buddy pair that is just right for keeping the classic road trip from becoming predictable. I like how Michiko can be more immature than Hatchin, and Hatchin is neither a whiny child nor a wholesome, sweet kid. Atsuko is a particularly interesting supporting actor, and Hiroshi is depicted perfectly for who he is. Altogether, they make for idiotic scenes; cruel scenes; funny scenes; and poignant scenes without ever seeming fake.
This title would be a good selection for anime clubs for adults, especially if the adults also like road trip and buddy movies, i.e. “Thelma and Louise, except more colorful and with no cliff ending!” There are lots of extra features included in this DVD/Blu-Ray combo set: commentaries for each episode, a press conference, interviews with both the Japanese and English voice actors, and promo videos, as well as the usual textless songs and trailers. Notes for child abuse, violence, crime, guns, and alcohol.
Michiko & Hatchin
Directed by Sayo Yamamoto
320 minutes, Number of Discs: 8, DVD/Blu-ray Combo Set
Company Age Rating: TV-MA