Michiko & Hatchin is something a bit different from the normal fare on Toonami. Dramedy isn’t new for the block, but the South American setting and semi-episodic structure make for something… interesting.
After I give my score in the review, I go into depth about the ending, so be mindful of spoilers.
Anybody going should understand that theme is an important aspect to the show and that it often carries the feel of something like Cowboy Bebop, where there’s a sense of an overarching plot, but where the character interactions and episode-by-episode journies construct a complete character story.
Bebop had an element of experimentalism to it, though. Genre shifts, callbacks, and references to Western media compressed into a thirty-minute tightly packed story and using those roots it takes to display a meaningful message about one of the main characters. This is where M&H falters.
It doesn’t have that sense of referential brilliance that adds depth to the series. It often feels like the writers came up with an interesting idea and threw it out there for an episode while putting in some character conflict to make it seem substantive. The longer the series goes on, the less substantive the conflict feels, until it finally takes a step forward towards the very end.
This results in a show that has a strong beginning and a decent end, but one with a mediocre center with a few genuinely good episodes in here and there. The show rarely isn’t entertaining, mind you, but I think the show too frequently falls back on Michiko and Hatchin fighting and resolving their conflicts by the end of the episode.
Essentially, I don’t get the impression that the show allows either character to let the “road trip” theme of the show affect them as much as it should by the time the show is 10-12 episode in. It feels increasingly less organic and increasingly more like filler, thematically and by its interactions until you reach the last few episodes where it takes their conflict and resolves it in a somewhat satisfying way.
I think more effort could’ve gone into developing Michiko’s character. While I think she learns a bit as the show goes on, she’s still an oddly reckless and surprisingly idiotic character by the end of the show, resulting in a decision that occurs towards the end of the show that damages the credibility of the themes it has.
On a brighter side to the near-vapidness the show can have at times, it’s a technical feat. The setting is detailed, the music is great, and it feels like its own world without having to bog everything down in exposition. The characters can interact in environments and the end result feels natural.
As much as I hate to say it, the show has a lot of style with minimal substance that drew itself out. I can’t deny the charm or how entertaining it is, but when the show is asking for me to feel emotional? I start to really think about the character interactions. It keeps going back to that one repeated scene where Hatchin and Michiko hug, apologize, and move on.
I think this would’ve been a stronger show if it stuck to being 12-13 episodes, and while we would lose a few comedic bits here and there, I think the emotional core of the show would’ve been more hard-hitting and poignant.
There’s a lot of good to be found in this show, but it has a lot of issues in its depth and often feels repetitive or downright lazy.
Final Score: (Spoilers below the number, I discuss the ending!)
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to talk in some depth about the finale to the show. Spoiler warning for those reading.
To give some context to my issues, Hiroshi didn’t matter by the time Michiko and Hatchin met him. Their journey had so long ago become about the two of them that Hiroshi as a character and his very predictable nature ceased to matter.
It didn’t make Hatchin stronger, she was already strong. It only reflects poorly on Michiko by exposing how naive she still is, robbing her of some emotionally impactful epiphany about who Hiroshi really is.
I can accept that Michiko’s nature is being a kind-hearted but hot-headed idiot, but I think that one moment where she has the opportunity to realize the truth was necessary. There were, at least, two (seemingly) very important episodes on the subject of infidelity and relationships. It thematically makes sense with Hiroshi’s character, but the people who experience those moments are Michiko and Hatchin.
This results in an extremely bizarre disconnect where the show speaks to the audience about the nature of Hiroshi’s inconsequential character whilst never giving that realization to the main characters.
That whole thing about “the journey being more important than the destination” is true, but the destination still needs to make sense if you’re going to load your show with foreshadowing about the outcome. I think that’s why the ending is frustrating. A lot of work went into making Hiroshi’s nature as a cheating scumbag obvious, but it meant absolutely nothing at all by the end.
While the epilogue is good, I think the two pre-finale episodes were far stronger in terms of consistent characterization than the first 2/3rds of the finale.