It’s about the journey, not about the destination.
Story/Art: Takuto Kashiki
Translation/Adaptation: Taylor Engel
What They Say
For Hakumei and Mikochi, life in the woods is often busy, sometimes scary, regularly exciting, and never dull. But they’re not the only ones around! The pair’s lush surroundings teem with life, and the fauna-whether they’re cats, monkeys, foxes, tanuki, wolves, or lovable neighborhood stag beetles-have jobs and social lives and worries of their own!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The previous volume of Hakumei & Mikochi ended with a train journey to go fishing, and this volume begins with that day of fishing. I honestly wasn’t expecting that bit of continuity. Hakumei is perfectly happy sitting in the rain all day not catching anything, but Mikochi can’t hide her boredom and discomfort. Mikochi eventually learns that even she can eventually catch the fishing bug, given the right circumstances.
I am constantly delighted by the tiny bits of world-building in this series. It would be easy to hand-wave away how a society of mixed animals and tiny folk would work, but Kashiki has considered every little detail. I didn’t think about how a city like Makinata would deal with animals of all sizes, and it turns out they have a height restriction. I never considered that there might be mixed-species marriages, but we encounter our first. It is these little details that really make their world feel possible and alive, and that extends to the cultural holiday we witness in this volume.
The Tree-Quelling Dusk festival combines Japanese aesthetic with a Halloween to create a holiday of adults scaring children and handing out candy. So often we see Halloween activities from the perspective of children, but here we get to watch the fun adults have.
My favorite chapter in this volume would probably come as a surprise to most readers. It is called “Ruin and Weeds” and it features an abandoned home that Iwashi and Hakumei are tasked with evaluating for a teardown. Abandoned buildings are fascinating, and the exploration of it thrilled the urban explorer lurking inside me. Plus, Kashiki’s artwork is so detailed and true-to-life that I could identify the weeds outside the house before they became a tasty plot point.
The highlight for most readers in this volume will likely be the two chapters where Hakumei & Mikochi act on the information that Old Greentail’s caravan is going to pass close by. It’s a race against the clock to make it to the top of a hill to witness the group and a series of last-minute dangerous actions almost results in disaster. We learn a lot about Greentail and her caravan, and even more about how their world isn’t always peaceful.
There are other stories in this volume. There’s one about a librarian which is sure to set a very specific group of manga fans a tizzy. We also check back in with the little stag beetle and her quest to be more cultured. Plus a silly story about President Narai putting himself in the doghouse for a perceived marriage faux pas.
Extras for this volume include a short author’s note comic about how he works and a page of translation notes.
This volume of Hakumei & Mikochi runs a wide gamut of wonderful vignettes of work and play. It expands on some of the machinations of how a world of animals and tiny folks operate without exposition or lore dumps. Each chapter is a gem, and we finally get to meet Old Greentail and her troop. Their world isn’t without danger, yet those dangers feel far away and peace takes priority for the comfortable lives of these forest critters. A delight as always.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A +
Packaging Grade: A –
Text/Translation Grade: B +
Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 30, 2019
MSRP: $15.00 US /$19.50 CAN