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Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (1998) Secret Santa Thoughts January 3, 2018

Posted by navycherub in Anime, Essay, Review, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.
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(The following is a write-up about the two-episode OVA Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, part of Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa 2017 project. It’s not really a review or an essay, so I just labeled it “thoughts”. It’s also kind of late, which I’m really sorry about, but here it is!)

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Good slice of life shows, iyashikei in particular, can manage to put you in a place of security and peace for their runtime. Ideally, they can capture a particular “place” and “time” so that we as viewers can be transported, at least in spirit, to that scene – so we can embrace someone else’s “ordinary”. In many cases this is simply a reality – the countryside of Non Non Biyori, or the down-to-earth school life of Kimi to Boku. – but others opt for more fantastical settings, such as Ginko’s magical travels in Mushishi. Striking a balance between those two is hard, but the two-episode OVA Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (YKK) does a fantastic job of it with its minimal runtime.

 
The premise of this short manga adaptation is as simple as the small tales it tells. Alpha is a sweet yet assertive girl who runs a tiny cafe by herself. She lives in a Yokohama of the future, where there are few people and less customers, and the owner of the cafe left long ago. That’s the first of YKK‘s two “hooks”, the second being the more grim realization that Yokohama has long since been consumed by rising water levels. That second fact is never really talked about directly by the characters, and all for the better, because to them it’s simply a fact of life. Alpha runs her cafe with almost no patrons, making coffee that only she will drink. She waits for the owner to return, though we know he probably won’t. She has friends, like the old man who runs the gas station down the street, and they spend their time finding happiness in the small things.

 

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The key to blending the fantastic with the ordinary is finding the places where they meet, and utilizing those similarities to leverage your themes in interesting ways. YKK wastes no time finding its place in that dichotomy; early on in the first of two episodes, Alpha meets another robot, who has a gift from the cafe owner to deliver, as well as a message. The gift is a camera, which is almost disappointingly mundane, while the message, delivered through a robot-kiss instead of any conventional means, contrasts that. While Alpha is “receiving” the message, we see images of the outside – white clouds in the sky, water peacefully engulfing street signs. The melancholy of the imagery conveys to us Alpha’s emotions in that moment; in fact, Alpha doesn’t tell us what the message said, but instead what it “felt like”. He doesn’t plan on returning any time soon, but he cares about Alpha, and wants her to capture her time so that she doesn’t go on without records of her experiences – her “nostalgia”. Thus, the camera.

 
From there the show takes Alpha on a handful of other similarly lowkey “adventures” – visiting ruins of cities consumed by the sea, being hit by lightning and repaired because that’s just How Things Are, the works. Nothing really “happens” in a typical dramatic sense, yet every moment feels important and worth considering. They are all tied together by the camera she receives at the beginning, and her relationship to it and by extension her own life. Importantly, she only has 300 shots to work with. On one hand, everything seems so humdrum, making almost nothing seem worth the camera’s limited memory. On the other, Alpha is surrounded by striking imagery that she is constantly drawn to, locales that make her feel small in the grand scheme of things.

 

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It’s that conflict that gives YKK its thematic through line. The real meat of a narrative where ostensibly nothing happens is the celebration of that quiet, peaceful world. Alpha is fascinated by the world she resides in, a landscape filled with vestiges of a past that can never come back. However, it is exactly that transient nature of the world that makes the present so important, and if Alpha learns anything in these two short episodes, it’s exactly that. In a beautiful scene at the very end of these OVAs, Alpha looks over a city, watches its lights turn on – markers that no longer signify life. In her realization of the finality that image represents, we find reason to embrace the present, and the slow coffee days of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou become even more meaningful.

 
So, maybe we should all pick up a camera and snap a picture or two every once in a while. What we have now, no matter how stable it may feel, is never guaranteed, and even less permanent. Don’t forget to enjoy those sunsets, the fleeting peaceful times just relaxing with loved ones, and even the occasional lonely cup of coffee.

 

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1. Secret Santa 2017 Project Reveal – Reverse Thieves - January 4, 2018

[…] reviewed Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou as recommended by […]


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