(22 episodes, 2008-2009)
My previous exposure :
None, besides some low-key pimping by salinea.
What’s it about ?
A fictional version of Latin America (it looks a lot like Mexico to me), in the 60s or thereabout. One of the most disorientating aspects of the settings is that most of the major characters have Japanese first names, for some reason. It’s really jarring, and doesn’t help immersion one bit.
It’s basically a road-trip buddy movie with Michiko, a woman in her late 20s who’s just escaped from high-security jail ; and Hana (nicknamed “Hatchin”), a 10-year-old girl martyrised by her foster family. They’re both looking for Hiroshi, Michiko’s former boyfriend and Hana’s presumed father. He’s supposed to have died a long time ago, but the math about Hana’s existence doesn’t add up, which Michiko sees as a evidence he’s still alive somewhere.
Other recurring characters include Atsuko, Michiko’s former BFF who joined the police and is now tracking her down in a personal vendetta ; and Satoshi, Hiroshi’s former best pal who’s risen to the top of the underworld.
What did I think of it ?
I really wanted to love this series. It’s got a cool soundtrack, it’s very good at setting up a sense of place and atmosphere, and the action pieces are impressive. It’s got tons of gonzo energy, and I can get behind just revelling in the B-movie stylings of it all.
I even grew to love watching Michiko in action. Sure, she’s a moron, but an entertaining moron, with enough street smarts, fighting skills and guts to keep surviving despite blundering from one dodgy mishap into another. In contrast, Hana was a bit more boring, as she spent a lot of time whining about Michiko’s stupidity. With good cause, of course, but being the voice of reason doesn’t make her very entertaining by itself, and as a result I didn’t like as much the more Hana-focused episodes where Michiko is incapacitated in one way or another.
But the bigger problem is the overarching plot. We’ve given no reason at all to care about the search for Hiroshi. He doesn’t show up in flashback until the 9th episode or so, and what little we see of him doesn’t impress (and my opinion of him certainly wasn’t improved by the tomato-growing episode). It doesn’t help that Hana seems to lose interest in him very quickly and mostly keeps going to indulge Michiko. Who’s a lovestruck moron and is obviously seeing her past through rosy glasses, so her opinion had no sway with me.
The conclusion of the quest is a huge anticlimax, as our heroines randomly stumble upon him halfway through the last episode. You’d think the big reunion would be given more than five minutes of screen time and that he’d get more than a few token lines of dialogue, but no. And of course Michiko does the dumb thing and leaves Hana in his care while surrendering to the cops chasing them ; the only thing redeeming the ending is that it’s made clear ina distant epilogue that Hiroshi dumped Hana within three months, and that she’s better off without that flake anyway.
The other overarching subplots didn’t win me over either. Satoshi gets a lot of build-up as a big threat, with the charisma and the connections to pull it off ; he goes down like a chump to a few random thugs in the second-to-last episode because we’re nearing the end and the writers want to get rid of him. WTF ? Atsuko fares a little better, although her inconsistent behavior (“I’m dead on your trail !”/”But I’m letting you go just this time because of my massive issues”) gets a bit repetitive after a while and it’s a bit hard to sympathize with her because of it.
So, it doesn’t really work. Which is a shame, because the series is at its best when it embraces the lunacy of the setting and lets Michiko do what she does best : barely escape from stuff by sheer dog-mindedness. Too bad about the wider plot, then.