Feb 222012

I finally got around to finishing Michiko e Hatchin over the past couple of nights. I lost track of the series back when it was first airing. I think the subs fell behind a bit or something, and by the time they caught up I’d lost interest in the series. It wasn’t that it was bad or anything, it’s just that those first few episodes didn’t really grab my attention enough to keep it on my mind for such long breaks between episodes.

Now that I’ve gone back and finished it, yeah, it’s a little better than I remember. Just not significantly so.

The main problem with the series is that there isn’t a lot going on despite it lasting 22 episodes. It isn’t even a matter of “OMG FILLER” or some asinine faux-criticism like that. The actual storyline is “chick grabs daughter of ex-boyfriend, runs from cops so she can find ex-boyfriend.” There’s some stuff in there about a cop that’s also an old friend of Michiko’s and some gang dudes that know her as well, but it’s a pretty damn simple plot.

This’d be fine if the series were a movie. It’d probably be a pretty badass movie if it were forced to condense the story into a two-hour thing. Even if it was trimmed down to 12 or 13 episodes it’d probably be a bit tighter and more cohesive and the leaps in logic and coincidences wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

But as a 22 episode series, it starts to suffer from a good deal of sameness. Atsuko can only let Michiko go so many times before it starts to feel like a lame, humorless riff on Lupin the 3rd. Like, I really dig that aspect of it, but since this series wants us to take its personal drama pretty seriously I just can’t buy into “I want to arrest you/I want to help you” happening with such frequency. It started to feel like it was an obstacle, writing-wise, rather than an actual plot device. Like, the writers regretted ever having Atsuko be chasing Michiko and had to write themselves out of that corner whenever her poorly conceived character required her to pull that act.

And the whole gang thing kinda felt tacked on. Satoshi is a pretty cool villain in his own right, since he’s a genuinely rotten guy whose motivations never seem really clear. He’s one of those “what the fuck is he playing at” sort of guys. Not nearly Anton Chigurh level, but along those lines kinda. But he’s just sorta tossed into the mix. His presence just doesn’t mesh with everything else that’s going down in the series, as if they felt they needed a villain and had to write on in halfway through the series.

And that’s kinda how the whole series plays out. It’s a lot of cool concepts loosely strung together that never quite gel into an actual experience. It’s spiritual predecessors, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, had a similar make-up, but they both managed to attain that sort of cohesiveness despite being proverbial melting pots. Michiko e Hatchin has a cool world (a fusion of Latin American culture and 70s exploitation movies). The characters, by themselves, are pretty interesting and divergent from current trends (Gasp! Hatchin is a little girl and she’s more than moe bait?). The music is awesome. There’s some genuinely good action scenes (although they tend to end too soon). It just can’t bring all that greatness together.

There’s one particular episode that sold me on the whole experience, though. It played like some sort of “lost” Bebop script. Satoshi hires some bounty hunters to take down his enemies. The primary assassin was a little old man who looked like Spike Lee if he were 80 years old or some shit. He was one of those “so badass I can taunt you and toy with you” types who enjoys his job way more than any human should. The games he plays with Michiko, and the resulting showdown between the two of them and the other assassin (a guy who looks like he could be Machete’s grandson), was probably the best thing to come out of the series. It had the pulpy, American action movie vibe I initially expected when I heard about the series. Shame the series didn’t have more bits on that scale, but it was awesome while it lasted.

So I’m glad I went back and finished up the series. It ain’t great, but I’ll take it over most stuff currently airing.

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