Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
- MSRP: ¥3800
- Running time: 60
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
By Paul Grisham
August 16, 2004
Release Date: July 19, 2000
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
What They SayThe Review!
© Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
The Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
manga, by Hitoshi Ashinano, has a quite a loyal following, and I confess that it is one of my favorites as well. Though it has been running in Afternoon
for 8 years now, it is not as well known as its fellow Afternoon
serial, Oh My Goddess
. In 1998, director and screenwriter Takashi Anno (Hakkenden
, New Spirit of Wonder
, Miracle Girls
) adapted Yokohama
as a two-part OAV series, leaving us with one of the most gently beautiful ruminations on the nature of memory and the enjoyments of the little details of life.Audio:
The disc only includes the original Japanese language production. Most of the audio in this production consists of dialogue coming from the center soundstage. It is clean and clear, though for a show with such lovingly detailed environments, the sound effects are mixed a little too quietly for my tastes. Music is very important here, and the music in the opening and closing credits, as well as the two insert songs, sound marvelous.Video:
The video is decent, capturing the lovely pastel color scheme. However, the show is heavily interlaced, with a fair amount of cross-coloration and edge enhancement, so how good it looks will depend how on your system handles these.Packaging:
The disc comes in a white keepcase, and features a simply gorgeous picture of Alpha on the cover. This picture captures all that is charming and whimsical and simple about the manga and these OAVs. The back lists the chapter stops and production details as well as full DVD specs. An interview with series creator Hitoshi Ashinano is included on one side of the insert and a menu map on the other.Menus:
The menus are simple and quick. The chapter menu loses points for not allowing all chapters during the episodes to be selectable directly. Only about half the available chapter stops can be selected from the menu.Extras:
The extras are a clean Opening and Ending. As it turns out, I found myself watching them several times each after finishing the show. The music, vocal performance, and artwork are all so engaging, that I was grateful to be able to enjoy them in isolation. Video and audio quality are consistent with the main program.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Though the name Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
translates loosely to "An Account of a Yokohama Shopping Trip", the titular shopping trip is only briefly shown during the opening credits. Instead, the story focuses on Alpha, a young woman who runs an oceanfront cafe in rural Japan. The owner has left many years ago, and Alpha watches over things and entertains the few customers who drop by, awaiting the day when he will return. Though the cafe has a beautiful view of the sea, and is famous for its excellent coffee and beautiful custodian, it is simply too far out of the way for many to make the trip, leaving Alpha alone with her thoughts and the day-to-day activities of minding the cafe.
Though this type of life might drive an ordinary person crazy, Alpha can wait forever. For you see, Alpha is no ordinary woman. She is a robot ? a robot who looks almost entirely human and is capable of every human emotion, though she never ages. For her, a year is like a second, and it seems clear that she has been at the cafe for a very long time. At the time the show begins, our modern society has nearly completely crumbled. The seas have risen, and entire cities have become flooded. Though humanity lives on, the sprawling metropolises of the modern age have fallen away. The rebuilt Yokohama even feels like a small town. The vestiges of the bygone world still linger on. An old man endlessly minds a gas station. Electricity still runs, and the streetlights still turn on, like clockwork, at dusk. Ruins of great cities rest peacefully at the bottom of clear water bays.
The story begins with Alpha receiving a camera from her owner. He has instructed her to photograph her life so as to preserve her memories. Though she is a robot, it is clear that her memories are as fleeting as any human's. At first, she enjoys the camera, but soon puts it aside, for fear of wasting the exposures. Later, determined to record something, anything, she spends an entire day traveling around the lush countryside in search of the perfect photograph. Although she only takes one photo, she learns something about taking the time to look at the world around us. In a sense, the exposures in the camera are metaphors for the moments of our lives, and given the chance to enjoy them, we should never fear to use them. We should only fear to let them slip away, unused.Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
is both beautifully drawn and wonderfully acted. The lush countryside around Cafe Alpha is rendered with loving detail, and the character designs capture the flowing lines of the original manga expertly. Hekiru Shiina is pitch perfect as Alpha, wistful, optimistic and melancholy, at the same time. Her narration has an elegiac quality that renders her narration as poetry. The music is also heartfelt and intimate, with lots of acoustic guitar from popular new age artist, GONTITI. During the episodes, there are two insert songs, "A Faraway Town" and "The Wind Was Blowing", performed by Hekiru Shiina and GONTITI. Though the musical interludes work as standalone music videos, they are also extensions of the mood and themes of the story
Fans of the manga will find this pair of episodes to be a gushing love letter to the beauty of the original story. For those unfamiliar with the manga, the episodes presented here also work as a great introduction to Alpha's world, but they also stand completely alone, developing the story's themes and exploring them out to a logical conclusion. Many of the bigger questions, such as what happened to mankind's great society, are left unanswered, open questions for the viewer's imagination. Though some questions are answered in the manga, most aren't. The themes of enjoyment of the little things in life don?t really fit with a sprawling, post-apocalyptic epic.
The pace of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
may discourage some viewers who need a more immediate conflict and more direct stimulation. For those willing to flow with the gentle rhythms of the show, it offers a wealth of memorable scenes, touching moments, and a call for introspection. The extended sequence when Alpha takes an entire day to brew a cup of coffee may bore some, but for myself, I found it moving and patient, mature and sweet. From the whimsy of Alpha's scooter rides through the countryside, to the hauntingly bittersweet final scene, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
attempts to show us a side of life we often do not slow down enough to see in our own lives.
Ultimately, the theme is one of remembrance of things lost. Though we may think our lives and our way of life will continue on forever, all things must pass. As Alpha ruminates during the closing, "I never would have guessed that the twilight years of an era came and went so softly. I'll live in this twilight era for as long as time flows." (Translation: Jong Park, Oddessy)
This is one of the limited, budget titles Sony is re-releasing this summer (2002). Though the disc will almost assuredly be the same as this release, at only ¥2000 (or about US$16 at the current exchange rate), it will be a steal for any fan of thought provoking, lovingly wrought storytelling.
Japanese Language,No-Credit Opening Animation, No-Credit Closing Animation
Panasonic Panablack TV, Codefree Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)