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Michiko & Hatchin Complete Collection S.A.V.E. Blu-ray Anime Review

15 min read

Michiko & Hatchin Blu-ray CoverEscaping from prison to rescue a young girl and to find a man that may be dead, an intriguing little adventure brews slowly.

What They Say:
Every bend in the road hides an ambush as Michiko and Hatchin continue their mad dash to track down Hiroshi: a man from their past that could hold the key to their future. Hit men, kidnappers, and sadistic gangbangers fill their rearview mirror as these ladies on the lam burn rubber across the Latin landscape.

With the throttle wide open and their motorcycle pointed toward the ocean, Michiko and Hatchin defy fate by living freer than they’ve ever lived before. New friendships are forged, young love blooms, and the partners in crime inch ever closer to the man they seek. But just as the long-awaited reunion is about to become reality, the law closes in on them – leaving Michiko to face an agonizing decision that will change both of their lives forever.

Contains episodes 1-22.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language track in stereo and a new English language adaptation that’s done in 5.1, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The show is one that works through a couple of standard phases where there’s a lot of dialogue and back and forth among a few characters and then the bigger action sequences. They’re not huge sequences when you get down to it, but they play well and have fun with it as they race around various towns, buildings and even a little jaunt in a hot air balloon. The two sides of the coin work well, all with some music thrown in to add some extra warmth to it, and the result is a good sounding mix that covers the bases well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the opening and closing sequences are top notch here.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set contains twenty-two episodes across four discs in an eight, three, eight, three format. Animated by Manglobe, the show has a great look to it as it works the South American theme and gives it an earthy tone but one bathed in a lot of sunlight. It’s not a murky looking piece but it has that kind of dry, beaten down look that gives it a life of its own without being too oppressive. The vibrancy really comes in the fluid animation we get throughout, especially when it comes to how Michiko moves and grooves across the screen. Colors are very strong and solid in general with some gorgeous scenes throughout but it also has a lot of still moments with just characters talking that all you to take in the well designed and solid backgrounds. It may not be a flashy show but it’s a very good looking show.

Packaging:
The packaging for this SAVE Edition release is definitely tight and compact in a good way as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case with two hinges inside that have all the discs on them. The front cover uses the familiar image of Michiko on her bike midair with Hatchin holding on for dear life behind her. The cover has the kind of worn colors here that works well for it in presenting the right mood and tone for it both in the artwork and the logo. The left side is given over for the expected SAVE banner and like other ones, it’s not something that bothers me much considering the value of the release itself. That wraps around to the back but the bulk of it is done with a white background with a few nice widgets to it and some good full color images from the show itself. The layout presents the premise in a clear and solid way and the breakdown of the discs features is clear and we get a solid technical grid that lists the Blu-ray only release in an accurate and easy to figure out way. While there are no show related inserts with the release, we do get artwork on the reverse side where the right has a great stylized image of Michiko while the left breaks down the episodes by number and title as a whole as well as all the extra features.

Menu:
The menu design for the release is rather simple as it just has a basic clip playing in the background that’s put through a purple filter where we get a touch of character animation but not a lot. This dominates two thirds of the screen easily and it fits well enough, though it doesn’t exactly sell the show or set the mood in a great way. The navigation strip along the bottom is done with a purple filter that has the basic selections that we always get but it’s not really all that theme oriented and is just sort of there, which is how the clip section feels as well. Everything moves smoothly and is quick and easy to access but it’s not the most striking of menus to work with.

Extras:
The extras for this release are a bit above and beyond the norm, which is certainly welcome. For the dub fans, we get a good pair of commentary tracks on the first episode that covers the first two episodes as the team behind it talks about the, show, characters and the quirks of those first couple of episodes as well as a couple more commentaries in the back half. On the second disc, we get a lot more than just the usual with the clean opening and closing sequences. We get the anime promo for it which runs a couple of minutes and does a good job in selling the show. We also get a thirty second live action piece with a few smatterings of animation pieces that promotes the show, which is useful since some of the voice actors here are famous actresses and getting them across works well for fans. The press conference piece for the unveiling is pretty good in a similar way as it runs ten minutes and you get a different vibe from it sa you’re dealing with actresses that don’t exist just within anime but rather film stars who carry themselves very differently. The last piece is a fifteen minute piece that’s an original extra as it goes into the character of Michiko, who is played by Monica Rial here. The piece is fun as we get a good mix of clips from the show and Rial talking about Michiko and what she means and is like, which provides some nice commentary on just one character for a bit.

With the fourth disc in the set, we get another solid block of extras. The aforementioned commentaries are here for the 20th and 22nd episodes and we get the clean opening and closing, some of the commercials and the trailers. One extra that runs about 15 minutes delves into that of Hatchin herself, with the voice actress, Jad Saxton, talking about her in a video interview with lots of clips from the show to highlight various examples. The other big piece is the Japanese special interview segment that runs about seven minutes which brings in the leads for the series at one of the Japanese premiere stage events for it to talk about the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original work that aired in 2008 on Fuji TV, Michiko & Hatchin has some solid credentials behind that definitely makes it worth checking out as it steps away from some of the norms of series such as this. The series, animated by Manglobe, was directed by Sayo Yamamoto as her first work and was written by Takashi Ujita. Yamamoto went on to directly the Lupin series A Woman Named Fujiko Mine and you can see some of that style showing in here, though this one definitely feels far more like a Manglobe production than anything else. With a total of twenty-two episodes, this set gives us a lot of good things with the foundations of characters and their world before it moves us into the character growth and exploration phase as we get a woman and a young girl trying to survive and find something quite important.

It’s a little roundabout at first, but the two main characters get some solid establishing material on their own at first before they come together. And that’s definitely worthwhile since each has to stand on their own to some degree before they can stand together. As the adult of the pair, Michiko is in prison for a crime she committed, or at least took the rap for, and has been spending her days figuring out how to escape from an unescapable prison. She’s made numerous attempts as we learn but she’s the type that can find a way out of any situation given enough time. She has the basic reason for wanting to get out, but she gains a lot of added incentive when she catches a glimpse of a news report that indicates a man named Hiroshi Morenos was killed in a bus accident explosion. With a history with him, and a belief that he can’t really be dead, she makes good her escape and into the wilds of the countryside.

A the same time, we’re also introduced to Hana, a ten year old girl who has been placed in a foster home with a priest and his wife where they have a pair of other kids that are both older and younger than here. Hana is put upon by pretty much all of them, though the kids are crueler in their own way with her and she suffers through a very abusive relationship with all of them. To the adults there, she’s basically just a paycheck so they run her hard and let everyone else do to her what they can. The level of abuse definitely grows along the way and it doesn’t take long before Hana actually does fight back, but it just puts her into a more precarious position overall. What ends up saving her, naturally, is the arrival of Michiko as she’s come to find her, believing her to be Hiroshi’s child. Michiko’s arrival is certainly amusing as she rides her bike right through the window and lands on the dining room table in a way that should cause a lot of harm to everyone there. But hey, it looks cool.

With the two paired up, it shifts gears pretty easily into the road trip aspect of it as they’re on the run from the police and trying to find Hiroshi. For Michiko, it’s certainly got some difficulties as one of the officers that’s chasing her is her sister who has a longstanding grudge against her for how they acted when they were kids. She also has the trouble of trying to find the people that would know Hiroshi and where he was in the time before he supposedly died, and that means going back into a den of scum and criminality that has it out for her because of people she was involved in at the time. A lot of this eventually comes down to a man named Kiril, but there are others that knew Hiroshi that she has to contend with who only believe that Hiroshi is dead and aren’t exactly eager to help someone like her, even with the ties that they have.

For Hana, who Michiko nicknamed Hatchin as they embark on their new adventure, she’s not quite sure what to make of it all. Michiko promises to protect her and Hatchin is certainly looking for that after what happened to her, but trust is hard to come by. She’s not as wrapped up in Hiroshi as Michiko is, even after being basically told that he’s her father, but she’s glad to be out in the world and trying to adapt to it as best as she can. It’s a real struggle because of Michiko’s moodiness though, and the way she keeps putting her to the side in order to deal with the really troublesome matters that arise, but we see Hatchin truly developing a spine as it goes on here. She goes to try and find work on her own and she deals with a variety of people that come through the restaurant she spends some time in. That gets her quite the education but also some confidence, which she definitely needs considering what she has to deal with.

The show spends a good bit of time early on with some chase scenes and attempts to settle in at different places while Michiko attempts to find clues towards finding Hiroshi. The chase scenes are certainly exciting and it’s fun to watch the way Michiko works through it since it’s by the skin of her teeth. The further it goes on though, the more it loses its steam as we get Michiko dealing with the people from her past. It’s interesting as we learn more about Michiko and what she did and why she ended up in prison, but it feels more drawn out than it should be. What makes it more problematic is that as it gets closer to the end of this set, is that Michiko and Hatchin are separated and going through their own things. While Michiko tries to find Satoshi, a childhood friend of Hiroshi’s, Hatchin ends up in a carnival after making a friend near her age. A carnival where a madame that works out of it there acquires various kids and takes care of them before selling them. It does all draw back to everyone being together, but the momentum is lost for a lot of it.

Thankfully, as the second half gets underway, it does regain some of it but it never feels like it fully gels together again. Part of this is that there’s a level of distrust from Hatchin going forward towards Michiko and that’s very hard for her to get past considering what happened. Hatchin’s growing independence is a lot of fun to watch as she really does start trying to be proactive with things, though it doesn’t always work for her. Hatchin is a serious person overall considering her past, and that’s part of the appeal in watching her and Michiko together. For Michiko, she’s more intent on getting things back and track and her intensity in wanting to find Hiroshi has her going for more unorthodox methods to achieve it. Nothing truly out and out weird, but she does get caught up in some bad situations along the way just by the very nature of the various criminal syndicates in operation across the land here.

And that criminal side really does pick up in the second half, and not entirely for the best in my view. While the search for Hiroshi takes the girls to a lot of places, a secondary storyline along the way has a fight between Satoshi Batista and Shunsuke take a decent bit of focus. With Shunsuke firming up his position and becoming a bit more intense after his encounter with Michiko, he’s making deals that are pushing Satoshi out of the picture in ways that sets Satoshi off as he has a particular and sort of “clean” way of viewing how to run things. But Shunsuke, we see, is pretty much a cracked in the head kind of twisted guy with a fascinating of how to kill people. This comes out in both the present and some flashback material that helps to further establish how nuts he is.

There are interesting moments with the criminal side, especially when Hatchin ends up in Satoshi’s company for awhile and she ends up kind of running things a bit, only to get reminded that she is ten and not able to really be in charge. Satoshi’s humanized a bit more throughout this and his past with the connections to others is welcome, but in the end I didn’t feel much for him when his arc came to a close. One subplot I did like that came in for an episode or so is when a contract killer is brought in to go after Michiko and take her out, but he has an old school sense of ethics about him and makes it a real match between the two that runs across a few different areas, but mostly it has its own kind of crazy energy as others come into it as well. A lot of it is just luck when you get down to it, but I really like the way Michiko and the contract killer deal with each other.

Like a lot of anime series, and shows in general, the ending itself is something that’s kind of flat in a way as it all comes together. It does bring things to resolution, and part of the appeal is just seeing what Atsuko and Michiko are like during it, especially since Atsuko has a really good character defining episode in the second half. With so much of the show being about the chase to find Hiroshi, who is never well defined and is generally talked about only by other people and faded memories, the truth of Hiroshi is something that doesn’t work well, though it feels real and honest. So when we get the epilogue piece, the fills us in on how it all really unfolds when the media goes away and the cops are done, it’s something that works better for me than the “main” ending, because it plays to the reality of it and brings us back to what makes the show work so well with the main characters. Honestly, after the end here, it’s where I wish the series would start as I think it would be more interesting.

The fun of the show is watching the two main characters together since they’re so different. Michiko has an attitude of just doing and finding what she needs as quickly as possible, regardless of consequences or difficulty. Hatchin has had a semblance of a normal life to some degree and is unsure how to live like this, though she has an affinity for Michiko that keeps her with her. What also draws you in is the locale and design of the series. With it taking place in a South American country that has a lot of Brazilian flair to it, it has a lot of appeal by not being the normal setting and being filled with lots of cultural aspects. The design of the show is very striking with the detail of it all, the rundown nature of so much of it, and the scraping by feeling you get from how so many people live. It’s a slower pace of life overall and it’s reflected in the visuals in a great way, which makes the high impact animation scenes all the more impressive.

In Summary:
Michiko & Hatchin is a really engaging series in various bursts with what it does. It has a good buddy film when you get down to it with two interesting women that have very different situations with familiar aspects to them. The two leads have some great scenes, particularly early on, where we see them go through their struggles. Hatchin with her foster family and the way they abuse her and Michiko with her real family relations that are spread throughout. It’s not the easiest of shows to really connect with as it progresses, but it’s the kind of show that does draw you in little by little since it presents a difficult world and some passage of time to see how they search for Hiroshi and cope with so many problems. While there’s a bit of a slowdown along the way, you definitely want to see how this journey unfolds and what both Michiko and Hatchin will find as they get closer to the truth of what Michiko believes and the reality of the situation. This is a solid release and one that should really be checked out as it plays to the familiar but presents something fresh with its location and characters.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, Michiko: The Woman Behind It All, Unveiling Press Conference, Live action Promo Video, Anime Promo Video, Textless Songs

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 550 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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