Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Michiko to Hatchin

It's an anime... depending on what you expect when you hear "anime."
Michiko is a reckless, self-centered (but not self-serving) romantic who drags the fair-minded, more grounded young Hana along on her path of destruction. Such juxtapositions are common in literature, especially in the outlaw movies this anime largely emulates. You can watch the series primarily as a buddy-flick, though such reductionism would not do it justice - and its flat refusal to reduce itself to the tropes common to its own medium has unfortunately likely ensured that this excellent piece of work goes overlooked by the public at large. You'll find no giant robots here, nor any fifteen-minute first-kiss scenes under rains of cherry blossoms, no fireball-slinging mages or demonslaying bishonen heroes with white hair down to their ankles.

Instead, contrasting interpersonal central themes with locales which most of the world would consider exotic, Michiko, Hatchin and their transient acquaintances manage to convey real emotion in the sort of "gritty" environment in which children grow up both too quickly and not at all. It is in many ways too human to appeal to my more grandiose transhumanist tastes but within its own focus the series achieves wonderful portraits of individualism struggling through the animalistic baseline of human affairs.

It is not feminist. Though it avoids pigeonholing in most every other way, Michiko and Hatchin is yet in danger of co-optation by chauvinistic interests, given its mostly female core cast. Yet perhaps the reason it has not been claimed by the female supremacist crowd is that it quite decidedly fails to promote that agenda. Feminism is the promotion of women at the expense of any other sexes (of which there mostly happens to be one) and feminist tropes have become easily recognizable over the decades. We too easily swallow the sort of stories in which female characters are pristine, morally unassailable earth goddesses and every male character is a cackling, moustache-twirling embodiment of exploitation belching factory exhaust.

Michicko e Hatchin instead portrays individuality. It tells the story of flawed and admirable, complex characters and the interplay between personal desire and personal growth, inertia, ethics and ambition. That the story is told from a female point of view is ultimately inconsequential and every bit as fitting as it would have been from a male one. The events of the story are shared between male and female characters and at any point we could have switched to viewing them from the Satoshi / Hiroshi plot's standpoint without diminishing the storytelling experience in the slightest. It does not confuse viewpoint with entitlement, right down to the title characters' final confrontation with the object of their obsession. The simple equanimity of Hana's monologue provides a masterful denouement.

Feminism defines women in terms of their moral entitlement over men, indoctrinating both male and female into a culture of victimization, guilt and powermongering, and in truth does nothing to combat gender roles. This series never stoops so low. Call it egalitarian, call it individualist, call it humanist. It is a tale of purposeful, independent individuals who merely happen to be female, and the world would be a better place if more young girls grew up watching Princess Mononoke, Haibane Renmei and Michiko and Hatchin than the manipulative, abusive and ultimately codependent feminist archetypes.

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