Rest in peace Manglobe Inc. The animation studio responsible for Deadman Wonderland and The Sacred Blacksmith is no longer with us, after being declared bankrupt during the tail end of September 2015. Let us pay homage to the insolvent filmmakers by critiquing one of their earliest works – Michiko & Hatchin. This twenty-two episode series is presently available to buy in the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment, who have packaged the show across two DVD collections. Anyone fond of either Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo should consider checking out this release, as the legendary Shinichiro Watanabe produced it (his influence can be felt from the offset, when the jazzy Tank like opening theme trumpets its way into your ears.)
Michiko & Hatchin takes place in the fictional nation of Diamandra – a Latin country made up of Cuban styled dilapidated towns, separated by a vast barren desert. The titular Michiko is a dark skinned fugitive who has recently fled from prison (much bloodshed could have been avoided had the warden accepted her Monopoly “get out of jail free” card.) Now on the outside, Michiko is determined to reunite with former lover Hiroshi Morenos. Unfortunately for her Hiroshi’s whereabouts are presently unknown. Desperate for clues, which may point to the current location of her ex, Michiko decides to kidnap Morenos’s young daughter Hana (aka Hatchin.)
Hatchin’s abduction feels almost like a liberation, especially when you consider that the religious foster family tasked with raising her treated Hana like a slave. With Michiko proving to be the lesser of two evils Hatchin reluctantly agrees to join the sassy convict in the search for her estranged dad.
The manhunt won’t be easy however, as the elusive Hiroshi is a slippery customer who switches aliases whenever he migrates to a new address. Further complicating matters is the small issue of Michiko being pursued by both sides of the law. Satoshi Batista, the sadistic head of the Monstro Preto crime syndicate, has an axe to grind with the ebony protagonist. On the flip side police officer Atsuko Jackson, who grew up in the same orphanage as Michiko, is on the case to apprehend her former pal. Atsuko is not someone to be trifled with – I haven’t seen someone pull off such a fuzzy Afro since the days when Sam Jackson voiced a samurai.
My rating for Michiko & Hatchin is four stars. If the series had a stronger narrative I might have awarded it full marks. As it stands “Deadbeat Dad Hiroshi” is a McGuffin used to justify the nationwide trek our heroines go on. Much like Cowboy Bebop, M&H’s episodes are mostly standalone affairs. Each tale can range from action to comedy to drama. My favourite moments included Michiko trading bullets with assassins and speeding away on a scooter, with a fleet of law enforcement Herbie Love Bugs on her trail. It’s a shame that the writers didn’t focus exclusively on action because I found the more emotional episodes to be lacking. Michiko’s motel based bout of adultery and the romance between Hatchin and a lovesick bibliophile tugged more on my boredom receptors than my heartstrings.
For the most part however Michiko & Hatchin hits more than it misses. The dynamic between the two polar opposites results in plenty of entertaining banter. When strapped for cash Michiko is the kind of gal that has no qualms about resorting to robbery, whilst Hatchin would favour finding a job to pay the bills. Despite her age Hatchin comes across as the more mature of the two, although when you consider how Diamandra’s denizens prey on the naive one can begin to sympathize with Michiko’s uncharitable outlook on life. That’s not to say that Michiko is completely heartless though. The bond that forms between her and Hatchin reveals that she possesses some tender maternal qualities.
It’s a crying shame that Manglobe went bust. Michiko & Hatchin prove that the studio had some very talented employees. Alas when financial hardship strikes lowly artists can’t command the obscene bailouts that bankers do. I still can’t believe that the general public allowed gambling investors to ruin the economy with no repercussions. I guess when it comes to banking topics it doesn’t take much for people to lose “interest.”