Michiko & Hatchin is a 2008 action-drama from Manglobe, who animated Samurai Champloo. Much like the hip-hop samurai classic, it’s a series that revels in the big and bombastic. The series is set in an unnamed South American country, and revolves around two ladies, from two completely different worlds that are brought together by unusual circumstances. Michiko is a street-smart, independent woman who knows the inside of a prison cell as well as most people know their living rooms. Hana, rather Hatchin, on the other hand is a quiet, insightful girl whose only home was that of her abusive foster family. Her every waking moment is filled with torment by her adopted parents, who are only interested in the monthly stipend a foster child brings, or their abusive hellspawn children that see Hana as a convenient scapegoat and pack mule.
Before I continue, I’d like to note that Hatchin’s family is an incredible example of human filth. Their duplicitous nature, combined with their gleeful mistreatment of Hatchin make Joan Crawford seem like an absolute saint. Seriously, in the span of the first episode, the poor girl is put through various forms of abuse, which range from cruel to utterly horrifying. More extreme examples include the following:
- Hatchin’s foster-brother throws rocks and oranges at her, before running over and delivering a kick square to the stomach (remember: that’s how Houdini died!)
- Hatchin’s foster-mother, upon seeing a stain caused by a previous incident, locks Hatchin in a closet, a la Stephen King’s Carrie
- Hatchin’s foster-mother hurls the family cat into a burlap sack, then demands that she “dispose of it,” though the cat in the bag is barely twitching and mewling in torment. The next day, she tells her son that Hatchin had dragged the cat into the night.
- Hatchin’s foster-brother ties a rope around her neck and rides her like a pony. Hatchin’s sister, upon seeing this, plugs in an iron, and chases Hatchin while spraying detergent in her face, in an attempt to force Hatchin to back into the steaming hot iron.
Frankly speaking, the episode is among one of the darkest I’ve seen in a show of this type. At the same time, though, it’s a fantastic piece of character drama that really builds Hatchin as a character, while delivering a plausible motivation for her to follow the mysterious woman that crashes through her window on a motorcycle.
The episodes that follow are notably lighter in tone, with an atmosphere that’s reminiscent of Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop. Michiko and Hatchin are bound by their search for a mysterious man named Hiroshi Morenos, father of Hatchin as well as the object of Michiko’s affections. Their search leads the two to Ladrao, an impoverished den of scum and villainy. It’s a place where unsolved murders are the norm, and crime lords operate with impunity. At the same time, though, the city is a vibrant community, where colorful residents eke out meager existences however they can.
It’s these colorful characters that really breathe life into the series. Whether it’s the no-nonsense owner of the Chinese restaurant or sassy stripper Pepe Lima, the cast is often genuinely likeable. They provide fabulous support to Michiko and Hatchin, who are a regular Odd Couple. The two mix like oil and water, and their differing moral compasses often boil into arguments and clashes that are sometimes touching, but usually hilarious. On their own, the two are admirable characters that easily stand on their own. Whether it’s Michiko’s street-smart bad-assery and murky definitions of “right” and “wrong”, or Hatchin’s subdued and cynical take on the world that’s tempered by a strong moral compass, the two are truly remarkable and fun to watch.
The show is tied together by a strong visual style, highlighted by attractive character designs and gorgeous landscapes. The city of Ladrao is a colorful, vibrant place that makes itself known to the viewer through top-notch cinematography. shots are meticulously planned, and make great use of mise-en-scene to give the world a truly “lived-in” feeling. At the same time, the characters that inhabit it are stylish, without being overbearing. Everybody, from Michiko and Hatchin, to no-nonsense officer Atsuko look as if they truly belong in the world, rather than as some hastily-added afterthought.
Similarly, the show’s action scenes exhibit a fantastic attention to detail. The sequences are well-shot, and painstakingly planned to have the appearance of a brutal ballet. They’re fast-paced and visceral, but never go to the levels of the absurd. Whether it’s a fist fight in the midst of a prison break, or a high-speed chase in the streets of Ladrao, the spectacle never veers too far from the realm of plausibility in the world’s context.
Michiko & Hatchin is a rare show that just pulls the viewer in and doesn’t let go. The combination of the setting and cast is impeccable, and the visual elements are a fantastic bonus. It’s a truly satisfying experience that would be a welcome addition to any fan’s collection.
Thanks to FUNimation for providing a review copy!