Anime Reviews: 'Michiko & Hatchin'
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. 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. 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 the one who arrested her, sets out on the warpath to apprehend her capricious quarry once again.
The Good: Stylish roller-coaster ride, rare setting for an anime, and an eclectic cast.
The Bad: Feels fleeting, somewhat repetitive, a disastrous final episode.
The Ugly: The nagging feeling that Atsuko's hair gets bigger with every episode.
- Title: Michiko & Hatchin a.k.a. Michiko to Hatchin
- Genre: Action/Drama
- Production: Studio Manglobe
- Series Length: 22 episodes
- Air Dates: 10/15/2008 to 3/18/2009
- Age Rating: 15+ (Strong language, mild violence, and some suggestive content.)
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? Whaddaya mean no?! Well, this is awkward. But this is essentially Michiko & Hatchin in a nutshell! This was a passion project comprised of the vast majority of the staff who worked on Cowboy Bebop. Many of their signature touches are littered throughout the series. There are references to songs and famous films, 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 a series featuring complex female protagonists will find this enjoyable. For the rest of you, we'll weigh the pros and cons of this anime 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 its swingin' opener, Paraiso, it's crystal clear that this series is gonna go all-out delivering its bombastic style. The same holds true throughout each episode, with shootouts, betrayals, escapes, and huge action set pieces. These all contrast with the meaningful dialogue 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 rollercoaster-like 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. We see lavish penthouses, boarded up slums, tightly-packed cities, dusty desert roads, lighthouses overlooking the sea, and limestone ruins in the dense jungle. No two episodes look anywhere remotely similar, and credit must be given to the staff at Manglobe for going the extra mile to make the locales as diverse and interesting as possible. If the show's highly dramatic style didn't win you over, its setting certainly will.
For many people, the main draw of this anime is...Michiko and Hatchin themselves! Michiko is a tremendously entertaining person. She has 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 of Michiko's age and infinitely more responsible. She serves as the beleaguered voice of reason and her frustration at dealing with the garbage she has to endure on a daily basis is absolutely relatable. Their relationship as parent and child is immensely engaging. On the sidelines, Atsuko is another fun character to watch. 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. 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. The first thing that threw me off is just how fleeting and unmemorable it felt. It's similar to Outlaw Star in that 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 storylines 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. Granted, this is the weakest complaint I have against the series.
My second biggest gripe is just how repetitive the series gets. It reaches the point of teeth-gnashing insanity! Early on, we have a major wedge driven in the relationship between Michiko and Hatchin; 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. In a story like this, it's inevitable. 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 standoff. 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' time! Are you kidding me with this?!
But my biggest gripe of all comes in the form of the 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. Again, I don't want to give it all away, but I will say who is she and what have they 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 and a beginning of a new journey. There was so much potential, and a lot of it was left buried in the ground. However, it can't be stressed enough that this is a unique anime for its focus on complex and very different female protagonists as well as its South American setting. If either of those are important to you, then ignore all my whining. 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. However, it spends too much valuable time spinning its wheels and sadly ends on a sour note.