What They Say:
Hakumei and Mikochi are two small girls who live together in a tiny house in the great big forest. In fact, their house is so tiny that it all fits inside just one tree! But that’s fine because Hakumei and Mikochi are only 3.5 inches tall, so their tree is as big to them as a skyscraper is to normal people! They’re not the only tiny people living in their community either, and when Hakumei and Mikochi aren’t out exploring, they like to spend their time visiting their neighbors, some of whom are other small folk like the inventor Sen and Konju the songstress, while others are beetles, squirrels and even a big scary owl who is definitely not friendly! For a whole new perspective on life, come look at the world from a different angle!
The audio presentation brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is like most slice of life shows where it’s very focused on the dialogue and working a fairly straightforward center stage design to it. But it has a lot of nice little moments of movement throughout because of the forest setting and some of the creatures. But it also shines very well when it comes to the incidental sounds since it is in a forest and we get a lot of wildlife speaking up and the rustle of the breeze at times as well. It’s the kind of mix that works well and it’s also one that I think works better in English than in Japanese for a lot of it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episode series is spread across two discs in a standard nine/four format. Animated by Lerche, it has a really great look to it because it works with bold colors for a lot of it and a slower animation approach since it’s a slice of life thing. This lets them work lots of smaller movements into it to make the forest come alive, especially when combined with the audio mix. There are a lot of solid color fields throughout that hold up very well but we also get a lot of earth tones that maintain a solid look to them. It’s not a show with a lot of fast action/movement but it looks great with what’s presented here in giving us a fully realized world and the encoding captures it very well.
The menu for this release is one that plays to the right elements where it gives us a good illustration style piece that fills the static screen showing off the home and the characters. It’s light and airy but with a kind of age to it that’s interesting with the weight that it gives. The navigation doesn’t quite match, unfortunately, as along the left we get the episodes broken down by number and title but it uses a garish blue and pink that reminded me of ‘80s computer color palettes that we had available. It’s functional and gets us around well but it’s just striking compared to the actual static visual as it’s like it’s from a whole other kind of series.
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Takuto Kashiki, Hakumei and Mikochi is a twelve episode TV series and OVA that aired during the winter 2018 season. The anime saw production through studio Lerche with Masaomi Ando directing it from the scripts overseen by Reiko Yoshida. The original manga itself began in 2011 and has seven volumes so far, which is pretty good for a seinen series that originates in Harta magazine. We’re so used to so many books coming out of weekly magazines that something with a low volume count feels new or not that far even though it may have been running for almost a decade. While I haven’t read the English version of the manga from Yen Press, I was keen on the series as a kind of neat unique slice of life project.
Each episode is structured with two or three “episodes” within it that keep s to similarly styled stories for the most part of branches off just enough to be its own thing but still connected. It’s very much a “small” show like the characters in many ways as we’re introduced to the human form women Hakumei and Mikochi, two good friends that came together as Hakumei was sort of rescued by Mikochi when she was homeless as she was given a place to live. The two get along very well overall but little stresses surface from time to time simply because of their personalities. But they’re not outsized personalities or anything but rather simply different approaches to things, from work to home/life aspects, and that can be a little problematic from time to time. But it never takes it to an absurd level, leaning more into something realistic in the slice of life front.
What we get is a very natural kind of world with little people that live within it and work with the other creatures they can communicate with, which are all familiar types. There’s no real drama to be had here overall or much in the way of danger because it is a slice of life show. Through our two leads, we see them making a life for themselves in the beautiful little village in different ways. Mikochi makes her existence work through some solid cooking skills that has her earning a solid reputation. She’s calm, relaxed, and patient in all the right ways. Hakumei has a lot of hands-on skills in the physical world and wants to put them to use but she often overextends her own safety while dealing with it, which has others trying to tamp down on what she can do to some degree. The two have a solid working relationship as roommates with their home life while also supporting each other well in their external endeavors.
With each episode broken out into two or three stories, some just short pieces placed after some early credits, and being a slice of life show, it’s a little hard to distill. Part of me wishes this was done originally as half-length episodes and spread out longer because it is the kind of show you do want to savor with the world that it presents. Watching as the young women build their life together with Hakumei now a part of it is delightful. I really enjoyed the arc with her going to work with the construction association and one of their big projects involving a stone wall. It takes a bit to really get to a great place but seeing what Hakumei will do to be a part of all of this and showing just how skilled she is works wonderfully. It’s also delightful with Iwashi, a weasel that recognizes her skills but knows that it’s going to take time to get her to where she needs to be. Seeing her trying to win over the association master as well, Hakumei’s earnestness is well-tempered to what it needs to be in order for the job to actually be done.
There are other characters that come into it with a lot of one-off or smaller recurring characters, including some fun with Konju, a singer who has a kind of air of importance about her but is fun and playful. But it’s all centered around the two leads who are often apart at that, which is nice to see play out. It does go silly at time with Hakumei blowing up their house early on, which sets her to working out of the house some, but they have a lot of fun together. Some of the best material is with Iwashi as they try to get him to do a few things in town later in the series but he avoids the place in general for all kinds of issues that he’s had to deal with there. I love the dynamic between the various creatures and the little people as there’s a really good sense of balance between them all that lets it function very well. There’s a lot of exploration of the village and its outlying areas and we get some new people moving in from time to time and just a good sense of community. But within it all, we get the dynamic between our two leads where they’re wonderful little roommates for each other but also just good friends that are going through a lot of things over the course of the series.
While we do get things like an obligatory hot spring story and vacation trip kind of material, it’s all done within the context of this particular world and that gives it a little bit of a different life. But it also takes on a different tone simply because of how different the visuals are being little forest creature people. I love the rounded aspects of their designs, the interactions with creatures of different sizes, and how well presented the whole natural world is here. It’s the kind of fairy tale series that you slide in front of your kids at a young age with a dub that reflects well for them. It’s a great gateway anime series for a younger age group but it’s also a delightful oasis slice of life show for adults because it does such strong world design. Sentai’s release gives us the tale of Hakumei and Mikochi in great form here with a good looking release with a great encode and a wonderful dub. Very recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 19th, 2019
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.