Even though I watch slice of life shows religiously, Hakumei and Mikochi barely registered on my radar at first. It has a different style of character design than the usual moe shows, and, frankly, there are plenty of other shows vying for my attention every season. After watching it, I can see that it has a certain charm to it that differs from the typical slice of life anime, if only because the setting is rather unique. But it also missed the opportunities afforded by its setting.
English: Hakumei and Mikochi
Season: Winter 2018
Length: 12 ep. x 24 min.
What differs Hakumei and Mikochi from most other slice of life anime is its setting. The human/humanoid characters are all 7-10 cm tall with distinctively chibi design (big heads), and they in a fantasy land where some degree of magic exists, technology has advanced enough to produce trains, and animals can speak.
In terms of content, Hakumei and Mikochi does a good job of showing what daily life could be under such a fantasy setting. The show steadily feeds us with a cast of recurring characters, such as the tsundere Konju, who is initially a “rival” of Mikochi but later warms up to her,
and Koharu, a city-life-seeking kind of beetle that becomes their neighbor.
Hakumei and Mikochi has its share of (mildly) heartwarming stories too, such as Hakumei’s backstory and how she earns her master’s appreciation in her carpenter trade through grit and wit.
Sadly though, the show never leveraged its unique setting in a meaning way. After an episode or two, it didn’t feel as if being 7-10 cm tall was an integral component of its stories. Just as some criticized NagiAsu for “stuff[ing] a copy of a normal village on the bottom of an ocean with no change at all”, I found Hakumei and Mikochi inconsistent in its approach to its fantasy world.
Size is one such inconsistency. In one scene, bamboo is big enough for our protagonists to bathe in:
In the same scene, bamboo is also back to normal proportions, as seen in its use to pipe water to said bamboo tub.
In another episode, our protagonists take a train trip, yet the train station and trees look perfectly normal sized:
Replace 7-10 cm tall humanoids with real humans in this shot and the proportions would still make sense
In another scene, the tree is positively ginormous:
Correctly proportioned with respect to houses for 7-10 cm tall humanoids
In addition, for a yet-unexplained reason, humans, anthropomorphic animals (like a weasel that walks on two legs), and even beetles can speak, but birds can’t. They just caw or hoot. Perhaps it’s not the fault of the original creator but of the anime studio, but inconsistencies like these chip away at the freshness the setting offered.
Hakumei and Mikochi isn’t a bad show per se. If you focus on just the story, it’s a good watch for a relaxing weekend. But if you try to break down and make sense of the setting, the magic disappears, leaving behind only smoke and mirrors.