Talking animals, friendly bugs and tiny peeps living together in harmony in nature… The animated version of Hakumei and Mikochi brings us even deeper into the woods for a fill of magic, friendship and laughter.
“Let’s go on a trip to chance upon a sunset”, sings the opening track, which incidentally is the most perfect way to describe the anime adaptation of Hakumei and Mikochi (original title: Hakumei to Mikochi), the story of two teeny tiny roommates living their quaint and peaceful lives in the woods.
As a genre, the story falls into what is called the Iyashikei category which literally translated means ‘healing’ in Japanese. Watching Iyashikei is supposed to have a soothing and healing effect on the audience, showing them stories of alternative realities while emphasising on the little delights of life and nature. Bluntly put, nothing really happens but in a good way as there is usually little to no conflict or tension in the narrative.
Loyal to the original manga created by Takuto Kashiki in 2011, the anime has kept its short story format, each episode telling one or more new tale centred around the daily lives of petite roommates Hakumei and Mikochi who live together in a tiny house in a tree.
Going to the market, making jam and skilfully sharpening knives are just some of the things the two girls are up to as we accompany them through their day while witnessing what tiny little lives in the woods is really like. With two main characters being harmoniously complimentary to one another, the range of experiences shown to us in each episode never gets dull: Hakumei, a lively hands-on tomboy, always willing to help out with manual labour is constantly on the lookout for adventure while Mikochi, more of a homebody, is a wonderful cook and singer and is usually seen caring for other tiny (or large) lives.
If the narrative reminds us of a children’s book, the artwork is only there to reinforce the fairy tale feel the anime brings with its insanely cute characters and rich, vibrant colours that make for gorgeous and detailed landscapes. With each scene painted like a ready to sell watercolour print, it’s difficult to ignore the hard work and attention to detail that has been put into the project. Whether it’s a walk through the sun filled woods or a stroll in the busy marketplace, every moment is bursting with life and light made to contemplate and admire, inviting us to sit back and unwind the way a good Iyashikei does. Look out for interesting layouts, carefully designed to give out more of that storybook vibe with organised cut outs, page ornaments and embellishments without ever seeming out of place; a feast for the eyes.
The lack of conflict and action on the narrative end may be off putting when watching Hakumei and Mikochi without knowing what to expect, waiting for an antagonist or cataclysmic event that never comes; and while there is a level of repetition from one episode to the next, the sweet and peaceful slice of life format served to us throughout the series is what makes the whole charm of the anime with its kind hearted characters and warm personalities making for a nice vacation away from the real world. The story being set in a fantasy alternative universe also helps break the straightforward narrative and brings an extra dimension to what can seem like a one-way genre.
The universe of Hakumei and Mikochi is one we can easily and eagerly dive into, shrinking ourselves down to 3.5 inches tall to join the girls on their adventures. With rich visuals and a soothing storyline, who wouldn’t want to spend the day with talking animals, eating delicious foods and making fond memories with old and new friends. Healing and magical tiny little life in the woods.
Ps: For bonus points, look out for story time at the end of each episode: a short tale to read next to the ending cast and credits.