How Not to Cook a Series: Michiko and Hatchin

Look, let me lay it out here: I don’t call this blog “The Overage Otaku” because I’m 19 and all my manga friends are like 16. I’m an actual, real-live grown-up closer to retirement than entry-level positions.

So, while I like anime of all sorts, given a choice I like shows that are for grown-ups. You know: Bebop. Black Lagoon. Ghost in the Shell. Perfect Blue.

And, god save me, I wanted to like Michiko and Hatchin.

It has a LOT going for it from my standpoint. It is unafraid of tough subjects: child abuse, child abandonment, drug and gang activity, political corruption, gangland executions. I stopped counting the bodies, but from a story standpoint none of them was unmotivated or gratuitous. The setting has the same kind of feel as we’d expect from someone more like Dashiell Hammett than the typical anime writer. It’s dirty. It’s ugly. It’s tough.

It’s real.

Keep your eye on that word. It’s going to matter in a moment.

And Hatchin is a GREAT character. A child abandoned by her mother (Michiko), taken in by foster parents for the income they get for doing it, abused there, she is simultaneously desperate for Michiko’s love and fearful of being cast away again. She tough not because she’s a trope but because she was made to be tough. It was beaten into her. You get to the end and you see her grown, a single mom whose baby daddy is long gone – just like her mother before her – and you hate to see her like that but you say, “Yeah, that’s how it would go for her.”

She’s real. Look, it’s that word again.

It took me a long time to figure out what my problem with Michiko and Hatchin was, but the third time through I figured it out: You take this noir film, this Sergio Leone anime, and you give the lead to Michiko.

And Michiko ain’t real. She’s a cartoon character.

Michiko (left) and Hatchin

Right? She’s like Batman in the original Batman series. There are tough women but she’s TOO tough. There are athletic women but she’s TOO athletic. There are women with attitude but she’s TOO attitude (except when the writers remember that she’s supposed to have a soft spot in her heart for her daughter).

She also acts like an idiot, and pulls stunts that would get any real character killed, as so many of the characters in the series are. Right? This isn’t a cartoon world. This is a world where people DIE when they get shot or drowned or whatever.

Like the first time we see her: She drives a motorcycle through a picture window in Hatchin’s foster home. I’d like to see that one on Mythbusters, because that shattered glass would have cut her shreds, just like the Blondie song.

Conveniently, she manages to land cleanly in the middle of a heavy dinner table and break to a stop inside of five feet. Conveniently, the table doesn’t collapse, throwing her to the floor to break her neck. Conveniently, Hatchin’s foster dad manages to miss Michiko with a shotgun at pointblank range.

She routinely makes falls of distances deadly for anyone else, deflects bullets apparently by sheer force of will. She meets Hatchin’s daddy when he and two other armed gang members break into her home where she is only wearing panties and she kicks all three of their heeled asses while managing to keep her towel over her breasts (and keeping the blond guy for her own sexual play toy).

In her last big scene … No, let me describe it in detail because it’s so ludicrous. The cops are chasing her. She’s making a getaway in a stolen police car, a Volkswagen Beetle, right? (Because they are cheap and easy to maintain. Love that air-cooled engine.)

The cops have set up a roadblock: FOUR Volkswagen Beetles.

Michiko plows right into it. Three cops walk up to within ten feet of her and empty their 9mm Glocks into her stolen car.

Stomping on the gas and burning rubber like it’s a fossil fuel, she makes her car force its way through the roadblock and escapes.

Let’s count the problems, right?

Number One: She plows right into the roadblock. Seatbelt? What seatbelt?

Now that she hasn’t been ejected through the windscreen (there’s another broken neck scenario), Number Two: The cops put something like 50 9mm rounds into a small car. It’s not like she’s a small target, either. Michiko looks to be about six feet tall.

Now that she hasn’t been perforated like both Bonnie and Clyde simultaneously, Number Three: Her one car pushes through FOUR times its weight while burning rubber. Oh, and when you are burning rubber you have NO traction, right? Because your wheels are spinning, right?

See the problem? She survives everything in a world where anyone else can die. You can’t have the gritty reality of the rest of the show while this cartoon character is the star. They just aren’t compatible.

Now, in some ways she fits in nicely. Michiko has a REALLY bad attitude, and her frustrations with being unable to understand how to be Hatchin’s mother are the most honest thing about her. Her dialog is nicely written, although I’m not quite sure about that fake Spanish accent – why would she speak accented English instead of her native Spanish when she’s in Mexico?

But that only keeps the show from being a total disaster. As much as I wanted to like it, it just doesn’t quite work, and it just doesn’t quite work because Michiko is Just Too Much.

To watch any fictional show you have to have what’s called “Willing suspension of disbelief.” You take the story/show as real even though you KNOW it’s not. It’s easy to take everything else in Michiko and Hatchin as real because it is dirty and gritty and consistent with a world we can understand, but because the rest of their world is the way it is, she just sticks out.

She’s just not – here comes that word for the last time – real. And since she’s the lead, well …

Oh, well.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

9 thoughts on “How Not to Cook a Series: Michiko and Hatchin

  1. Too often people try to excuse poor writing by saying “well it’s anime (or fantasy, sci-fi, etc.)” That ignores the limits of suspension of disbelief you point out here. It sounds like Michiko could work in an absurdist sort of show but not a realistic one like this.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This is why you can’t have your main character ignore reality, when your whole show is about reality.

    It might not be completely related, but this is why I decided not to base magic of my upcoming web serial on physics. Because physics has rules, and though magic is based on them, it also violates those rules.

    So which is it? Is it based on physics, the immutable laws of universe? Or not?

    Also, I”m interested to know your take on Bungo Stray Dogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I generally don’t go for anything involving supernaturals, because demons can do anything. Bungo Stray Dogs is better than most of those because their powers are limited and consistent, so there’s less “I win cuz I got powerz” than most

      Liked by 1 person

    2. And I think your magical system needs rules, although you’re right that they don’t have to be the rules of physics. But if you have magic without any rules, then you end up with something like Dragonball: “Look, he’s about to lose…Oh, wait, he’s just developed another new attack!” 🙂 Although I wish I could make as much money as a writer as the people who write Dragonball 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bummer. It sounds like if they had given her the same limitations as those around her this would be a can’t miss anime. But if a character has so much plot armor that it distracts from everything else, it’s too much plot armor. If the story you want to tell is supposed to reflect the real world when it comes to gritty consequences and terrible situations, you can’t be afraid to let your lead character fall into that pitfall. Otherwise it just comes across as fantasy fulfillment both for the main character and for the audience.

    Liked by 1 person

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