「きのうの茜 / 舟歌の市場」 (Kinou no Akane / Funuata no Shijou)
“Yesterday’s Dark Red / Marketplace Shanty”
Imagine if J.R.R. Tolkien started writing The Hobbit, stopped after the first paragraph, and decided to do something completely different. No wizards feel like meddling. No dwarves show up at the door. There is no dragon gold, no demon-spiders, no elf-lords. Bilbo Baggins goes on with his hobbit life just doing hobbit things, and his adventuring career is restricted to only that he might naturally stumble into while hiking in the mountains or shopping in town. That, with some influence from the ghost of Kenneth Grahame, would have ended up as something like Hakumei to Mikochi.
But of course, either way, oversized birds will be staple.
When I first started researching for the preview I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Hakumei to Mikochi. But I had blogged Made in Abyss, I was watching Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryouko, and decided that I couldn’t really go wrong with more potato-people. Sure enough, Hakumei to Mikochi turned out to be much more than a fun-sized slice-of-life, and I found myself devouring chapter after chapter of the manga. When a manga has very simple character designs, that’s usually a sign of one of two things: 1) it’s a light, dialogue-driven comedy-thing and it doesn’t need any detail, or 2) it’s conserving detail to be used somewhere else. So it was with Hakumei to Mikochi, and as it was with Made in Abyss and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou: the detail was in the world. And by ‘world’ I don’t just mean backgrounds, but also in cultural artefacts like costumes and food. Hakumei to Mikochi is pure fantasy, purely about a world different from ours without any trappings. There are no heroes nor villains, no titanic struggle against evil, and no life-destroying upheaval. It is about the world as it is, which is why it is also a slice-of-life, an exploration of status quo, simply a story about Hakumei (Matsuda Risae) and Mikochi (Shimoji Shino). That is, it’s a story about people, because worlds are built upon by people, and people are shaped by the context of their world.
The end is a rather pleasant experience, comforting because of the idealistic setting, and interesting because of the fantasy elements. There is no need for a big fantasy setup, and instead we slide naturally into story from the moment the curtain rises. The anime team did a bang up job with this pilot, capturing well the gentle mood and carefree whimsey of the source, though perhaps we should have expected no less from director Andou Masaomi and his team’s mastery with sound and pacing. It’s a fairly faithful adaptation, though they have shuffled the chapters around a bit for the sake of chronology, and perhaps more importantly to create a juxtaposition between nature and civilisation, which is a motif that will play in the background of Hakumei to Mikochi throughout. Another big motif: food. Hakumei to Mikochi features a lot of food, both because food is culture and for the special kind of happiness that comes with a good meal. What did I tell you? They’re hobbits, and they’re never going to be anything more. For a show about peaceful life in Hobbiton, that’s how it should be.
ED: 「Harvest Moon Knight」by ミコチ (下地紫野)、コンジュ (悠木碧) (Mikochi (Shino Shimoji), Konju (Aoi Yuuki))