The story is set in future Japan, in which the sea level has risen and flooded many 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 café by the same name in the country outside of what remains of Yokohama. With her trusty motor scooter and her camera she travels around the area making friends with the humans and robots, having new experiences and observing the passage of time.
Three drama CDs were released in 2002. In all three, Alpha is voiced by Hekiru Shiina and Kokone by Akiko Nakagawa. Both of whom voiced the same characters in the two OVA series.
A novel based on Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou called Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou Novel: Seeing, Walking, Being Glad, written by Teriha Katsuki, was published by Kodansha on 23 October 2008. Set long after the conclusion of the manga series, it tells the story of a boy robot named Omega and his search for the legendary Cafe Alpha. (Source: Wikipedia)
In 2007, the series won the Seiun Award for Best Manga.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (abbreviated to YKK outside Japan) is an example of the proverbial “diamond in the coal mine”. Written and drawn by Ashinano Hitoshi, the manga was serialized in Kodansha's [b]Afternoon[/b] magazine for almost 12 years, and has gathered a number of devoted fans around the world despite the lack of licensed English translations. This comes as no surprise since it is one of the few series which deserves to be treated as a works of literature rather than of pop culture. YKK is a testament to the true potential of manga and the series is recognized as such, having been deemed worthy of Afternoon magazine's Four Seasons Award for debut works as well as the 2007 Seiun Award for Best Science Fiction Manga.
[b]Story (9.7) & Characters (10)[/b]
YKK is a science fiction story as it is set in a future after an unspecified large-scale disaster and the main character, Alpha Hatsuseno, is a robot who looks human. However, this is where any similarity to "regular" sci-fi ends. There are no spaceships, lasers, or mecha of any sort. Instead, older technology such as scooters, radios, propeller-driven aircrafts and the like, are very much still in use. This is reflective of the rural lifestyle that humanity has adopted in the story and adds to the easygoing pace of the manga. This tranquil, almost bittersweet feeling is reflected in the art style, the characters, and even the manner in which the story is delivered.
The story is told mainly from the perspective of Alpha Hatsuseno as she meets old friends, makes new ones, and casually explores the world around her. The most unusual fact about Alpha is that she isn't human, but a type A7M2 robot who looks human and is capable of feeling emotions. The story begins with Alpha taking a trip to Yokohama to buy coffee beans. She has been alone for some time as she waits for her "owner" to return from wherever he has disappeared to and, being immortal, she has decided that she can wait as long as it takes. In the meantime, she runs Café Alpha, a small coffee shop in the middle of nowhere which her owner left in her care.
Besides Alpha, several other characters also appear throughout the series. Some are shown regularly like Oji-san and his grandson Takahiro who run the gas station near the café. Others turn up less frequently such as the anonymous café customer and the mysterious Misago, an ageless wild woman who only appears before children. Next to Alpha, the other most prominently featured character is Kokone Takatsu, a type A7M3 robot. Kokone is effectively Alpha’s younger sister (production-wise that is), and as their friendship grows, she begins to develop romantic feelings for Alpha which later stir her curiosity about the history and nature of the A7 series.
Although the other characters do not enjoy as much exposure as Alpha does, several are given sufficient development to be memorable in their own right and their experiences serve as important reference points that highlight the passage of time. Through them, the reader is shown the great expanse of the story spanning the landscape and the era.
One of the most notable achievements of YKK is the manner in which the characters enhance each other throughout the series, and how Alpha gains a new perspective on life through her encounters with them. The interactions between the characters are often laconic and unhurried. Because of this, each encounter gains a languid, almost dreamlike quality that is far more memorable than what can be found in many other slice of life manga.
The art in YKK contributes greatly to the relaxed atmosphere of the manga. Ashinano’s style is evocative of the simple yet fantastic nature of the world. In several parts of the manga, commonplace scenes are given an ethereal quality. This, together with the character designs and Ashinano’s unusual use of blank space, gives the art style a surreal characteristic that at times appears almost paradoxical. As with any long running series, the art style has evolved and improved over time.
Ashinano Hitoshi's character designs are perplexingly both spare and meticulous. Each character’s face is basic yet highly expressive; a stark contrast to their elegantly elaborate clothing and accoutrements. This unusual style is further enhanced by the picturesque backdrops and settings which the characters find themselves in. In addition to this, Ashinano has made wonderful use of blank space to emphasize the amount of detail in the characters and settings, something which is more prominently highlighted in the beautiful colored illustrations and panels that appear in the manga. This style of artwork focuses not only on the locations, but on the characters themselves and serves to enhance the reader's empathy towards each character.
From the most beautiful parts of nature to fantastic creations of Ashinano’s imagination (giant sunflowers, underwater streetlights, water gods, kamas, and many other wonders that Alpha discovers), each object and location in YKK helps to transport the reader more deeply into Alpha’s world. Not only is it easy to understand what she is feeling about her surroundings from the art alone, but the simple beauty serves as a way of deeply understanding not only the intricacies of her world, but of ours as well.
Many readers have hailed YKK as the epitome of the slice of life genre and, given the premise, this may be no exaggeration. The series makes exceptional use of “mono no aware” (a Japanese term used to express the awareness of the transient nature of things, and the bittersweet sadness at their passing), and the time period in which the story is set makes the use of this especially poignant. In Alpha's words "It looks like the twilight of this age has quietly arrived. I think I'll be around 'til these twilight years end."
Reading YKK is without doubt one of the most unique and wonderful experiences in manga. Each chapter is filled with a calm, inviting feeling that pulls the reader into the story like a lucid dream. Alpha is without doubt one of the most engaging characters ever created, combining childlike innocence with reflective maturity. The story is remarkable in both its simplicity and its complexity as the reader is taken on a journey of discovery about themselves, the world around them, and the transient nature of things, whilst the art perfectly resonates with both of these elements to produce an atmosphere like no other.
Melancholy yet hopeful, exciting yet wistful, joyful yet sad, YKK is a singular achievement in manga that is deserving of the title "Masterpiece", and should be afforded a place amongst the great works of modern literature.
[b]OVERALL - 10[/b]
This review is the final result of a review team composed of members from the [b]"Critics and Connoisseurs"[/b] club. The team members were:
[b]Anomalous[/b] - writer and editor
[b]Archaeon[/b] - writer and editor
[b]Yuunagi[/b] - writer and editor
Here are their individual scorings for the Manga:
Category - Anomalous, Archaeon, Yuunagi
Story - 9, 10, 10
Art - 10, 10, 9
Character - 10, 10, 10
Enjoyment - 10, 10, 10
Overall - 10, 10, 10
[b]In the club wide poll held for Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou it received an average overall rating of 8.83[/b]
As the sea assaults continents, slowly but surely, humanity is declining. Telecommunication is no more. Government gave way to local organisation. Quietly witnessing this apocalypse unfold, humans are living peacefully.
Among the many ways fiction depicts apocalypse, "peacefully" is uncommon. We like to think of the world ending in brutal, dramatic and lightning fast ways. Of humans against their fate struggling. But the end of the world in this manga is gradual, slow enough to give mankind the time to accept his fate, sit back, and enjoy the last hour of his age. Whatever will be will be – the die is long cast.
So unfolds the twilight of a transient humanity. And our little humans get many occasions to experience the transience of things – the transience of the world and that of themselves. Time and again, the beautiful melancholy of the dying world touches and overwhelms. The story unfolds at roughly the same pace as its monthly publication; we follow the characters as time passes, and as the curtain falls on the remnants of the world. The sea rises, and the landscapes that were dear to us disappear like smoke in the air. The machines that once served mankind meet their end too: aeroplanes, or engines, are for their last time used. Characters pass away during the series, but death is a fact of life that the living have accepted. As such, death is merely implied, and mourning but hinted at. Such is, among other understated occurrences of drama, what makes Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou a wonderful experience: the lament of its dying world, quiet yet staggering.
I think YKK is a story about a people that lost so much that it stopped taking anything for granted and started cherishing the things it has left. And, with its masterful art, atmosphere, and writing, it makes you cherish them too. It makes you cherish life, the characters' things, your own things. Here's a quote from the manga to illustrate my argument: "There isn't as much difference between the seasons as there used to be; however, I think we take greater pleasure in those differences." One common translation of "mono no aware", the manga's driving force, is "sensitivity to things". More precisely, the contemplation of things' impermanence and how it amplifies their beauty.
But YKK isn't only about treasuring what the characters have. It's about losing some of it, too. The characters' everyday life slowly changes, falters and disappears as the slow apocalypse has its way with humanity. And it's okay. The characters already accepted it, because "acknowledgement of the transience of things makes them more beautiful". Because of this peculiar way YKK handles tragedy, the dramatic parts (as well as the blissful ones) are extremely understated. And it makes them all the more powerful – even if it means that more attention and sensitivity is demanded from the reader.
Moments such as two characters' reunion after a long journey convey strong feelings like melancholy, surprise, and happiness. These moments are often handled without words, using panelling, faces and body language to convey feelings. In the saddest moments of the series, very little of Alpha's thoughts is given, trusting the readers to know our main character well enough to empathise with her sorrow, and form their own reaction to the happenings, finding their place in Alpha's journey.
The art is exceptional. Inanimate scenes are like poetry in motion. Alpha loses herself in many sumptuous landscapes, inviting the reader to follow suit. From the still functional lights of a submerged city to the view of Mount Fuji in the distance, mundane situations are made extraordinary and extraordinary ones are made otherworldly. Up the author's sleeve are countless tricks to heighten this experience; one such trick is the sparse, but wise use of colour. For example, one chapter shows Alpha enjoying a nostalgic view, and as day turns into dusk the varying colours make obvious – and beautiful – that a large amount of time passes throughout the panels.
As the characters grow, their design changes. By contrast, Alpha is an android and she doesn't change – the regular realisation that time passed before her knowing is never short of melancholy. Although stylised in design, human characters are clearly of Asian heritage. The inhabitants have black hair and share many features. The androids, thereby, stand out; their outlandish looks become a central part of their characterisation. Often replacing thoughts and speech, the characters' faces are expressive (save for Ojisan's sometimes all too subtle expression changes); anatomy is rendered in a detailed enough style to permit realistic and convincing body language.
Over the years, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou has enjoyed a small, but very enthusiastic fanbase which I am proud to be part of. It ranks among the most gratifying and memorable stories. For a great number of reasons of which a single review couldn't make a comprehensive list, I enjoyed this manga tremendously and I sincerely believe that you will.
As the sea assaults continents, as governments and telecommunications die out, humanity is declining. Before Alpha's eyes, the world, which once seemed tireless, slowly calmed down...read more
"This gentle calm and quiet is the twilight of an era.
I will probably watch the passing of this twilight age."
The stories featured in YKK are mostly light and melancholy. Readers who are used to action, sex, fanservice, violence, and/or intense drama would either be A) disappointed, or B) surprised that stories without the said elements could possibly exist and still be enjoyable.
YKK is characterized by mono no aware, a Japanese concept that describes beauty as an awareness of the transience of all things, and a gentle sadness at their passing. Entertaining old customers in a coffee shop, riding through desolate roads on a scooter, reminiscing while watching the sun set; none of these are close to being earth-shattering and yet the author somehow presents ordinary scenes in such a way that they evoke overwhelming feelings of nostalgia. Being reminded that today will be tomorrow’s yesterday, one cannot help but appreciate the present for its fleeting existence.
Ashinano’s style of writing is radically different from that of other mangaka. Rather than using the typical cliches and standards of comics and animation, the author’s style is more similar to those used by writers of literary novels and short stories. Using motifs and details to imply themes, skillfully combining images of everyday life with colloquial monologues and dialogues to produce visual and verbal poetry, it is obvious that, while YKK is appropriate for readers of all ages, it requires a mature and understanding reader to fully appreciate this work of art.
In fact, his method of implying themes through details might remind some of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The characters, the plot, and the details don’t just represent themselves as components of a work of fiction, they reflect the reality of everyday living. The characters act naturally and events unfold as they would in real life: without fanfare. This makes it easier for the readers to relate with the characters and believe in them. As the characters develop, the reader may also find their revelations relevant to his/her own life. In a sense, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou may in fact be one of the few titles which are actually worthy of being called “graphic novels”.
Ashinano’s character designs are simple yet charming. The faces of the characters are very expressive, effectively bringing out the characters’ moods and personalities. As one goes through the volumes, it’s also quite interesting to see how Ashinano’s style had improved through the years (the series ran for 12 years, after all).
What really makes his art stand out, however, is his awesome ability illustrate the setting in fine detail. Gusts of wind sweep across vast fields of grass, the lights of a submerged city continue to glow beneath the ocean waves, roads and towns once bustling with life now stand derelict and abandoned; the scenes often invoke feelings of nostalgia as if the writer and the readers had been there themselves. Later on in the series, Ashinano starts using more and more of these images to enforce or sometimes even replace the dialogue to deliver his message to the audience.
Well, it looks like it’s all downhill from this point on for anime/manga because I don’t think I’ll ever find anything close to being as good as this series. Sure, I’ll probably stumble over a few other well-written stories out there, but I really doubt it if they would be as emotional and as thought provoking as Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.read more
SLICE. OF. LIFE. This might as well be the end-all be-all of the genre. The lazy countryside setting in a low-tech, post-apocalyptic future is something unique and is accentuated very well by the beautiful artwork and endearing characters.
The slice of life aspect of this series is sometimes taken to the extreme. Many chapters focus on simple conversations or mundane aspects of life out on the countryside, but manage to never be boring with the endearing characters and whimsical direction of the story. One such chapter focused solely around Alpha trying to decide where in her yard to re-set her weather vane. Many themes found in the manga revolve around flight, the importance of living your life to the fullest, how both people and the planet change over time, and even human nature is explored a bit.
One of the more endearing aspects of Yokohama is the tentative relationship between Alpha and Kokone. The friendship-and-maybe-something-more between them is very sweet and even a little fresh being that they're both very human-like androids.
There's a few supernatural and sci-fi elements mixed in to the bunch that really add a depth to the story. Featured every now and again is the character Misago, a legendary creature that only appears in front of children and never says a word, and a flying fish-like creature called Kamas that people of the day keep as pets. One of the more interesting aspects of the manga was the occasional refference to the various ways that the earth was remembering humans (I won't give the details away), hinting at some profound relationship between the two. Most of the technology side of Yokohama revolves around the androids and the various technology associated with them. One such device is a camera whos pictures can be more deeply experienced by inserting a tube into ones mouth and somehow lets the viewer relive the scenery. Some technology still exists from the past, like scooters, trucks, gas stations, cameras, and radios.
Some unexplained threads remain throughout Yokohama that rather than detract from it, manage to add to the mystery and depth of the series. Alpha's missing owner, and her strange relationship with machines are ongoing plotpoints throughout the story that never see closure.
I'd passed on series like Aria before reading this because I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to get into a pure slice-of-life story, but suprised myself by reading the entire 140 chapters in one sitting. It was literally something I couldn't tear my eyes away from. The story has a somewhat sad undertone due to various problems between the life expectancy of humans versus those of androids, which only adds a bittersweet undertone to the wonderful flavor of Yokohama. Something strange about this manga is that their is absolutely no violence, profanity, 'bad guys', or the like which was a very refreshing and innocent change of pace compared to everything else out on the market.. I recommend this to anyone that likes a more innocent storyor those that enjoy stories for the characters and how they interact. read more