Michiko & Hatchin Collection Two (Episodes 12-22) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 239 minutes approx.
It’s back to the sunny climes of South America for this second instalment of this comic adventure featuring the journey by escaped prisoner Michiko Malandro and her estranged ten year-old daughter Hana “Hatchin” Morenos, as they search the length and breadth of the land for Hana’s elusive father Hiroshi Morenos.
After hitting the ground running with an exhilarating opening volume this second part admittedly takes a while to find its groove, kicking off with a couple of standalone episodes that have little bearing on the main plot. While the first volume was also guilty of this, they served as a way to explore the characters with a bit more depth; here they are pretty much filler.
The first sees the usually tough-as-nails Michiko fall ill but refuses to see a legit doctor, what with her being a wanted criminal and all, so Hatchin is forced to work (she’s ten remember) to pay for an unlicensed quack to treat poor Mummy. As it happens, the doctor in question seems to possess some kind of supernatural voodoo power and his method of operating is more a psychedelic trip!
Elsewhere young Hatchin captures the heart of a slightly older boy working in a bookshop (again, she’s only ten!) while Michiko ends up in a drag race with a group of assassins all out to kill each other! Meanwhile police detective Atsuko Jackson, she of the mammoth afro, is demoted after failing to bring Michiko in and gets an episode of her own in which she meets a young troublemaker who reminds Atsuko of her youthful self. Cue reflective soul searching.
Anyone who is long time anime fan will already be aware that many full season shows tend to dip in quality in the middle of their run, indicating the writers had a beginning and an end but didn’t plan so much for the middle, which is traditionally the meat of the whole story. While for Michiko & Hatchin these episodes aren’t that bad, they do exhibit this feeling of padding, again a side effect of a great idea being eked out beyond its usefulness.
But they prove to be a minor distraction as the second half picks up steam when it is finally remembered why our yin and yang mother and daughter combo are on the road. With the information of Hiroshi’s whereabouts bringing this intrepid pair closer to him, the story takes some interesting, if often ludicrous turns. one episode involves a factory for genetically modified tomatoes and a close encounter of the Sapphic kind for Michiko, while another sees the yummy mummy defy all laws of gravity and physics in a life or death situation at the hands of dangerous gangsters. We all know anime requires suspension of disbelief and god knows we’ve afforded this show plenty, but this one extracts the Michael!
However this again is a minor blip as it proves to be a congruent catalyst for Michiko’s latent maternal instincts to surface and she begins to pay more attention to Hatchin than ever before. Unfortunately for them, gangster Satoshi Batista, who is also after Hiroshi, is double crossed by his subordinates and on the run while he plots his revenge, gets caught up in the girls’ capers leading to a dramatic climax of flying bullets, dead bodies and numerous wrecked police cars!
The scope for the crazy humour is limited in the final set of episodes with the tone darkening considerably and the violence to near Black Lagoon levels – perhaps not as explicit but certainly in intensity and verve. This unfortunately isn’t restricted to the male cast members with the hitherto indestructible Michiko taken some very severe blows and physical damage, but true to form, she gives as good as she gets.
We could argue it is a little too late but the underdeveloped facet of Michiko and Hatchin bonding as mother and daughter finally finds itself as an integral concern heading into the final stretch. Even with Hiroshi in their sights, the latest separation at the hands of Satoshi drives Michiko like never before to reclaim her daughter, and if that meant taking on the entire police force then so be it.
This is the needling feeling that one gets about this relationship – whether the writers were too subtle and exponential in its growth or whether it should have been a more prominent plot feature. Conversely, had the whole show centred solely on this we would have had a twee and anodyne viewing experience that I doubt would have been as enjoyable and nourishing as it ultimately is.
Obviously Michiko’s criminal status ensures that she won’t win any Mother Of The Year awards and despite her instigating this reunion, her attempts at bonding with Hatchin have been perfunctory and largely on her terms. Hatchin is equally lost when it comes to sharing and accepting parental love since she never had it as a foster child, this independence being another stumbling block in building this relationship.
This does make for a fascinating dynamic and two of the more interesting leads found in anime for quite a while, so while the narrative is a little uneven, the strength of the characters compensates for this in keeping the audience entertained. Michiko is arguably the more difficult of the two to read; we enjoy her kick ass heroics while her parenting skills are often disgraceful but she is a charismatic anti-heroine a’la Revy from Black Lagoon. Hatchin meanwhile, despite her forced maturity, is still a little girl lost at heart.
With some crazy and violent action, good natured humour, infectious Latin beats and vibrant, eye catching artwork under the direction of Sayo Yamamoto, Michiko & Hatchin is a veritable pot pourri of all the fun elements that make up a great anime series. After a slow start this second volume brings things nicely to a close with a touching coda that is delightfully in keeping with everything that preceded it.
A runaway hit, no question!
English Language 5.1
Japanese Language 2.0
Disc 2 Only:
Episode 20 Commentary
Episode 22 Commentary
Hatchin: The Girl We All Love
English Language Trailer
Rating – ****
Man In Black