This is not so much a story as it is a slice of life. Or rather, it is a look into portions of the life of a girl named Alpha, together with the people around her. Alpha runs a little cafe on the outskirts of Yokohama. There are almost no customers, but Alpha does not mind at all since she has the occasional company of the old man who runs the gasoline stand down the road, as well as that of his grandson Takahiro. This is a Yokohama of the future, when the sea covers most of the land and roads have disappeared under sand or water. Alpha is in fact a robot, looking after the cafe during her owner's indefinite leave of absence.
I\'ve been a long time fan of the manga so I decided to finally check out the anime as well. This OVA is not everyone\'s cup of tea, or should I say coffee?
After watching, I prefer the manga. This is probably due to the fact that it\'s in colour and to me, they\'re ill suited. Also the art in the OVA looks dated by now, yet the manga manages to avoid that.
It\'s not easy to rate, never mind describe the story, to give it justice. And perhaps that was the idea, to make you feel things rather than tell you a story? It is
not unlike sitting and looking at a sunset or watching a field of grass swaying in the wind. The slow pace, simple story line and gentle music help reinforce a feeling of relaxation and watching the world go by. If you\'re a person who can\'t appreciate things like that, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou may not be for you.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is a two-episode OVA based on the manga of the same name (please read my review of the manga for more details). Specifically, it is based on a few early chapters in the manga. After reading over some other reviews, it seems that the transition from still images to animation has been somewhat of a hit-or-miss kind of thing with many people, but for me, I think it weathers the transition very well; the OVA takes advantage of the medium to showcase the world and characters, but in some ways doesn't go far enough.
Story: 9 (Great)
The story concerns Alpha Hatsusueno, an android
(or gynoid, to be gender-specific) who lives on the outskirts of what's left of Yokohama, Japan after rising sea levels destroyed most of the city. She spends her days running a cafe and waiting for the return of her owner, who has left for reasons and parts unknown. One day, she receives a visitor - a young woman named Kokone, who is here to drop off a special package for her along with a message. When Alpha asks for the contents of the message, she discovers something special about Kokone - she, too, is a robot!
Alpha and Kokone quickly become friends, and the two begin to explore the world around them, aided by the gift sent by Alpha's owner - a camera that can directly interface with robots. Kokone returns to her delivery service, leaving Alpha feeling lonely again. She then decides to head out on her own to discover for herself what the world offers for her to photograph and preserve.
After going out to pick up a new rake, the skies above Alpha's little scooter start to darken; before long, a heavy rain sets in. Suddenly, a lightning strike out of nowhere! Alpha will now have to cope with trying to survive and the changes she'll face after her recovery.
Alpha decides to try out her new camera and becomes greatly dissatisfied with some of the shots she takes. She searches for the perfect shot, but is suddenly overtaken by a faint memory she barely remembers, one that goes back to the very day she was first activated.
The corresponding manga chapters covered by the OVA's two episodes are, in order,Chapter 7 Afternoon February 2, Chapter 8 1 by 1, Chapter 9 300 Image Capacity,Chapter 4 Rain and After, Chapter 12 Navi and Chapter 22 Yokosuka Cruise - note that Chapters 8 and 9 and Chapters 12 and 22 have been combined into a single half-episode each.
The story faithfully reproduces the ones told in the original manga chapters, but adds special touches as well. We see the dynamics of the wonderous splendor of Alpha's world, as well as the dynamics of her special relationship with Kokone (special in more ways than one :). Many of the subtleties of Alpha's character that can only be told through movement are revealed to us as well. We also see a little more backstory and a few changes here and there between the OVA and the manga - Alpha remembers or at least admits a little bit about what it was like being around before robots were common. Overall, the execution is great and it's clear that the animators and producers were careful to preserve and enhance the environment and characters of the manga, though I wish we could've seen the world through the perspective of Alpha's camera more often.
Art: 9 (Great)
The art is terrific and faithfully reproduces or even enhances the art style of the manga, but sadly the colors come off as a little washed-out, especially in regards to Alpha and Kokone.With that said, the animation takes us one step closer towards experiencing this futuristic world of Yokohama for ourselves, and brings Alpha and Kokone one step closer to our world.
Sound: 10 (Outstanding)
The music sets a benchmark for anime of this genre and is performed by Choro Club who also gave us the soundtrack for ARIA; much of it is performed with a gekkin, the same type of stringed musical instrument Alpha plays in the manga and seen in the OVA. Background an incidental music factor in heavily, much more so than other works. The music very much correlates to the imagery on-screen and tells us through audio the type of laid-back world Alpha sees, despite the many hardships she and her friends have to put up with.
Character: 10 (Outstanding)
In many ways the characterization of Alpha, Kokone, and the others exceeds that of the manga, since we're treated to many nuances the manga is simply not able to show. We see in Alpha a certain kind of endearing naivety as she begins to see things for the first time from differing perspectives, yet at the same time, we see a strong-willed young woman who is not only capable of taking care of herself but highly values the bonds she has with what has become her human family. The animation does much to bring these characters alive through these nuances and interactions with others and their environment, bringing these characters one step closer to reality.
Enjoyment: 9 (Great)
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is almost as much of a masterpiece as its source material but is not without its flaws that detracts from its enjoyment. The washed-out colors are distracting, especially when I was expecting the vibrant green and purple of Alpha's and Kokone's hair to be carried over from the manga. Despite that, the OVA still does a magnificent job of breathing life into Hitoshi Ashinano's still images and ephemeral snapshots, and for this alone it is a highly recommended and regarded piece.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is given a final score of:
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou covers a few days in the life of an android named "Alpha". This short, OVA series doesn't really have a story, but covers several minuscule events of Alpha's life. The main focus isn't that, however, but Alpha's mental state the viewers watch to witness how she appreciates her existence and the world around her. This OVA shouldn't be picked out for a viewing if one's intentions isn't to watch something relaxing, as that's clearly the main goal of what's presented in this visual piece from the manga.
The visuals for Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou are wonderful and done with a great deal of care,
having precision colors and hues throughout the two episodes. There's a good amount of really solid animation and the detail of the art is kept at a consistently high level all the way through. The color scheme varies drastically, having sent out a rainbow of colors by the time it's all over.
The sound of this OVA is phenomenal. While there isn't much music in place, the sound effects offer a consistently amazing atmosphere that, added alongside with the wonderful visuals, is what brings out the main goal of this mini-series. The audio and sound creates a calm and soothing environment, and it may even bring out nostalgic feelings from being at vacation beach homes or the like. The opening and ending are also very soothing, but might not be extremely memorable in the long run. In the basic budget category Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou was already doing great, but with the direction in place, the potential of this budget peaks to the maximum.
The manga not being relevant to this enclosed review, this OVA series doesn't really display much detail or background information of its characters and setting. It could be that the story takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, as there are many shots of a grand city submerged underneath water, or there could've just been a natural disaster that took place. Either way, the sensation when looking upon the submerged city always seems to collide with the calmness and peacefulness of the main character's gaze. That isn't a negative, as it just displays the emotional directing taking place that is done extraordinarily well. I would almost recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion to those who like this specific OVA as the direction in both series are very similar, suddenly not being surprising when taking note that the art director of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou just so happens to be the same person who worked on all of the Evangelion franchise. There's also some similar symbolism to Evangelion, which could likely not be symbolism to be honest. The lens on Alpha's camera along with the emotion of the submerged city just creates the impression of a message attempting to be sent.
The characters aren't really developed in their details, but they are all interesting and pleasureful to watch. The main character, in particular, is still not given much of a detailed background, but the moments the OVA places her pondering the world around her makes the audience feel as though they form a connection to what she's like. Alpha, along with the several other characters, all share the trait of being innocent and living in an innocent habitat. The characters ice the cake of the relaxation this series creates as it shows a slice-of-life presentation of these character's lives.
While this show seems to clearly have a goal from how it was carried out, and in that goal it marks off the charts, there are still elements lacking to evolve Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou into a fully-fledged experience. I don't doubt that the manga meets some of those aspects that would put it above this animated section of it, but what's being presented and critiqued here is something that doesn't feel whole. That's in no way required to be able to enjoy something and be satisfied, but I don't see having a more detailed experience creating any new negatives.
When in the mood to feel relaxed, maybe before going to sleep, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou shouldn't be an option to pass up. With its superb visual style and sound effects, the OVA series is able to mold a consistently calm and charming atmosphere. The characters also help in that process by living out their roles in utter peace and euphoria. Dialogue is kept to a minimum and the majority of emotion is sent out by dynamic, visual cues from characters and in the show's environment. That wonderful direction, done by the man who worked on all of the Evangelion franchise's art direction, carries the show. That might be enough for many people, but that might also not be enough for many others. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is an experience, and a good one, but it's lacking in story elements, world-building, and character information. The show simply focuses on its atmosphere and tuning it to perfection. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is not for everyone and for one to truly enjoy it they must know what kind of show this is before diving in.
~ Story ~
Yokohoama Kaidashi Kikou is a "slice of life" series. Like many of the genre, there really isn't much of a story to speak of. The series is about Alpha, a humanoid robot living in one of the coastal regions of Japan. Her owner had gone on a journey and left her there to tend a coffee shop (aptly named Cafe Alpha). It takes place in Earth's future, during a time when global warming has caused the polar ice caps to melt. Human society is on the decline and the pace of life has slowed to a crawl.
The oceans have risen, causing the world's coastal cities to lay underwater. What is left of humanity has moved to the higher regions where they live out somewhat primitive lives. Most of the roads are in a state of disrepair, but life goes on in a calm manner. Humanity's last achievement, so it seems, was the creation of human shaped robots (like Alpha). There have been many iterations of these robots, but Alpha seems to be one of the first (and only) of her kind. All the others we see are more advanced models (like Kokone, for example).
~ Art ~
Initially released in 1998, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou was two episodes. The image quality and animation was on par with other work at the time. Somehow, the whole series had an 80's feel. I think this may have had something to do with the size of Alpha's sunglasses.
~ Sound ~
The soundtrack for Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou was written and performed by GONTITI, a Japanese folk duo. They claim to make the "most comfortable music on earth." In this sense, I wholeheartedly agree. The soundtrack was not overwhelming and worked well with the imagery. In terms of dialog, the voice actors were perfect for their roles.
~ Overall ~
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is one of the most calming series I've ever seen and read. The artwork, music, and story work extremely well together to create a beautiful work of art. At first glance, most people will probably not enjoy this work since it obviously lacks any coherent story. Even watching the series to completion leaves the viewer feel unfulfilled. It doesn't leave much of an impression and may be quickly forgotten. However, a change in mindset may boost the way a person looks at this work.
I would recommend this series for those who want something calming to watch. The soundtrack stands alone as well, and makes extremely good background music. It also makes very good (if not horribly inappropriate) fragging music for Unreal Tournament. If you seek something that goes against the grain of the norm or a mood piece, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is for you.
If you're a fan of action, romance, harem, slapstick comedy, brain hurting, or lots of shinys, then I would recommend against watching this. Chances are, you'll be bored to death and end up falling asleep before the end of the opening sequence.
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