Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou anime review

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou anime review
Set in a post-apocalyptic Japan of the near future where the sea level has risen and flooded much of the coastal areas and Mt. Fuji has erupted within living memory. The population has been considerably reduced and political and technological institutions have broken-down. Local communities have become nations and telephone and television no longer exist (although coffee vending machines and streetlights stubbornly continue to work). There are strange new animals and plants (like flying fish and glowing streetlight trees). The remaining people have adopted a slower-paced, simpler way of life and rely more on each other. Along with the human population are some intelligent, humanoid robots. One of the robots, a female named Alpha, runs a cafe by the same name in the country outside of what remains of Yokohama. With her trusty motorscooter and her camera she travels around the area making friends with the humans and robots, having new experiences and observing the passage of time.

If Legend of the Galactic Heroes is widely regarded as one of the best Space Opera anime that have never gotten an official English release, it would be the same for the manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, written and drawn by Hitoshi Ashinano. Though with a fan base that keeps growing in the west and widespread critical acclaims coming from every corner, not once since its debut, 18 years ago, the manga received an official translation from a publisher.  In general, it shouldn’t be so sad since we benefit from the fan translation community that did an excellent job with YKK. However, it actually is very sad because this series deserves much more than being a hidden gem that can only be found in the depth of the internet. What I’m trying to say here is nothing more than: this manga is fantastic.


It looks like the twilight of this age has finally arrived.


And the actual word fantastic was actually not the first one that came in mind when I finished reading it. On the outside, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is a slice of life with a series of short chapters that are quite easy to read. It is a light manga that you can either rush on a winter night, or keep it at a slow pace on summer days. To put it simply, I was quite oblivious since I actually missed the most important aspect of the manga. Working as a time bomb, I actually thought about the manga few weeks later and actually found it to be very sad, a lot more depressing than a manga that tries to be. Surely, the correct word here would be nostalgic, but the sense of time in YKK is so present that what was supposed to be nostalgia for most became a tragedy for me.


Where the progression of time in manga is merely a plot device to accelerate the story or to conclude it, such as 10 years later, what happened to the main cast, YKK uses it in a progressive manner. The reason for this is because YK is based on a Japanese term called “Mono no aware”. In translation, it would mean the awareness of impermanence or the acknowledgment that things don’t last forever. In the course of 141 chapters, characters grow up, they come and go, the environment change, and the overall feeling is also different over time.


And the concept of “Mono no aware” wouldn’t have worked so well if Hitoshi didn’t have the intelligence of creating his manga in post-apocalyptic setting. And of course, the setting itself divert itself from the typical ones you would find in a Nihei’s manga or a Romero’s zombie apocalypse film. Instead, his vision of a post-apocalyptic world is rather bittersweet in gentle. While the sea level as rised and destroyed most of coastal cities and the population have severely decreased, small communities still persist and all have adopted a slower pace of life. In other terms, the human race simply learned to let go and get back to the basics of life.  For the basics of the manga, this setting goes extremely well with the slice of life style, and at the same time, with the awareness of impermanence. However, it was not because of the setting alone, but because of the central character of the show, the iris of the manga, Alpha.


Not drawn as a sex symbol, Alpha is though certainly drawn as a beautiful woman and it is dully noted in the manga. Being an android herself, Alpha neither has a definitive age nor does she grow older in the course of the series. This way, being a character that doesn’t change, it puts more emphasize around her surrounding that does change.  In characteristic, she is the calm character who will always welcome customers to her café even though they come very rarely.  And of course, one of her signature attribute is the camera that her owner gave her before leaving on a journey. And the camera itself holds a great importance in the manga because the pictures taken can only be seen by Alpha, though making it a tool that creates memories.

If you read my most memorable chapters, you would certainly recognize a quote I have used:

This camera really feels like a time machine to me.


Other characters in the manga certainly have the purposes, but I don’t feel too much inspired. Of course, they have the quality of actually growing older trough the manga, which can be observed from Alpha’s point of view. So yeah, they’re well-made side characters and complement the style of the manga.


Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou follows a very distinctive art style. Being a tad sketchy, it is clear that Hitoshi can not only draw beautiful sceneries, but can also flow a story within it. Just like how the panoramic drawings from Aria were depicting an utopian world, the art of YKK will tend to show the beauty of this world. Though, it doesn’t show it by emphasizing a landscape, but moments happening to the characters. Whether it is a festivity, a night at the pub, a cup of coffee at Café Alpha or a walk on the mountain roads, with his art, Hitoshi will make sure that the reader will understand the importance of, again, acknowledging that moments are quite short.


To go in pair, the character design is also an aspect that is very well made. Alpha character design is not only very unique, but very distinctive from the other characters who are all made to look like normal peoples. Alas, this is all I have to say about it.

Anyway,  Nic always knew that Yokohoma Kaidashi Kikou was perhaps one of my favourite manga. Yet, I always felt ashamed that I never gave a good explanation as to why. For a simple reason I would say it is because it is a slice of life that is simply perfect. However, it is actually because YKK actually went beyond being a simple manga and actually proved to me that the medium can use a literate style. Obviously, this manga deserves a perfect score.

Better than review, is a Trailer video of: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Watch it now:
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