Turns out I was yet to take a slice of the other side of the cake. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou was a surprising watch given that I’ve thought hitherto all I needed for my iyashikei fix were Aria, Aria, and Aria. Lately, I’ve been immersing myself into numerous amount of slice of life materials. Majority of which seems to be indicative of my inclination towards experiencing the iyashikei subset of the said genre, with Aria leading the helm through every possible way — be it a cameo in a currently airing anime or a newly released rhythm game, I’ve been following anything that has Aria written in it. While comparing the entirety of Aria — a successful franchise in itself — with that of YKK‘s inconspicuous 4-episode OVA may not be a fair match up to look at in paper, I can’t help but feel that YKK can give the former a run for its money based on what I’ve seen alone. Take note, I’m referring to the OVA adaptations, not the manga which I heard is one of the best there is.
The Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou manga was adapted into a two OVA series composed of 2 episodes each. The first OVA series — which is aesthetically my favorite out of the two — was released in 1998, while the latter half around 2002. There really isn’t much difference between the two narrative-wise, but I think it’s fair to say that the 98’s overall direction was by far a better fit to YKK‘s style and sensibilities. However, regardless of the inconsistency in this department, YKK still managed to maintain a firm grasp of its ephemeral tone all throughout. Now, I’m not here to scrutinize the difference between the two OVA series (I’ll write something about this later on), as it’s better for me to talk about what I feel towards this work of art first.
YKK is damn boring. However, it will only be bland-boring if you take what you’re seeing at face value. In fact, my first sit through of this show can be broken down into 50% yawning, 30% checking Twitter, and 20% of actual watching. It’s only after I did some introspection and a rewatch that I finally got a sliver of an answer as to why and what’s the point of this anime. You see, YKK is almost literally composed of a 1:1 adaptation of the most boring parts of our life; and, take note, for a slice of life anime to be at its most effective — specially in the case of iyashikei — it has to be able to connect with the viewers at the most humane way possible. Such is why I can’t shake the idea that it was truly meant to be boring. After all, if someone animated me writing this post, or, say, an adaptation of me stumbling to the kitchen, trying to wade my way through the fridge in the dead of the night is shown on the big screen, I would probably go nuts from the sheer boredom of it unless someone throws in an alien or a bunch of cute stuff to make the film entertaining. The thing is, YKK‘s settings and characters allow for a more layered story than a simple narrative of people doing mundane, boring (but relaxing) stuff.
YKK is set in a post apocalyptic world where the water level has risen to the point of submerging cities. A once frenetic metropolis is now home to a population equal to that of a village with each residents idling their day peacefully. We find ourselves thrown into its world without so much of an explanation of what happened, but, I feel like the reasoning for that is entirely in service of one of YKK‘s message. What matters is that we’re here. We’re alive, regardless of how crappy and boring the world has become, we strive to find meaning in the shithole we’re in. The past doesn’t matter anymore; what can we do anyway? In the middle of all of this all is Alpha, a female robot, an interesting character on her own right. Funny enough, I do share the same sentiments as with others with regard to my favorite part of the OVA.
It is weird, indeed, that my favorite scene of the OVA comes from Alpha taking her time brewing a coffee — even counting how many scoops of sugar she has added — accompanied with shots occasionally fleeting to display seemingly unrelated images/scenes. That moment alone perfectly encapsulates what I feel YKK is all about. It may look boring, yes, but, given the knowledge that the world is doomed to wither, that people you know will die before you, isn’t it beautiful when someone can still exhale every ounce of life he/she can muster amidst rots and decays? What made it more evocative is that this is coming from a robot — who, presumably cannot feel human emotions — and seeing something artificial breath life’s grandeur without so much of a care for the past and the future is enchantingly ennuistic.
Suffice to say, the boring bits became more resounding by the time I learned to immerse myself into YKK‘s lukewarm tune. Time is one of YKK‘s thematic underpinnings, and time is also one aspect which we can relate to universally. I don’t blame those who find YKK boring because I believe that’s exactly what the show is about at surface level. For you who would rather watch a more engaging and fast-paced anime, it’s fine; you’re making best use of your time — you’re finding a way to enjoy your life, as much as Alpha finds comfort and enjoyment in simply taking it slowly, relishing the present with a mug of coffee in hand.
YKK‘s 1998 OVA adaptation is viscerally gorgeous to watch in comparison to its 2002 counterpart. The difference between the two doesn’t only extend from its visual style, as there are also nuances when it comes to its use of music. The second OVA series from 2002 utilizes a lot of non-diagetic music to emphasize the atmosphere and to add more movement to the scene. In comparison to its predecessor — the 1998 OVA series — non-diagetic music was entirely removed. The only music we’ll hear will come from the OP, ED, and from the diagetic music its world produces. Now, I feel like the lack of music/BGM actually added to my sense of boredom, but again, I came to understand that it may have been in service of bringing the audience as vicariously close to Alpha as possible. In this way, we get to hear what Alpha hears. We get to be in her shoes. We get to at least relive what it feels like to live in a desolate world free of the hustle and bustle of our current society. What you hear is what you get. It’s purely an unadulterated adaptation of Alpha’s life, as well as an introduction to her post-apocalyptic world, and I appreciate YKK for that. Then again, isn’t the minimal use of music a way to convey something? Perhaps YKK simply doesn’t want to divert our attention to some relaxing-sounding music. Perhaps it wanted us to relive the moment we’re in — relive Alpha’s present.
And that brings me to my last observation of my initial boring experience — the visual direction. See, it wasn’t as boring as it actually is, rather, it’s actually quite fascinating to look at. There are dozen of shots scattered around the ’98 OVA series (see above examples) wherein it will show the characters in long, low, wide angled shots, dominated by their surroundings. The characters’ dialogue are… honestly boring at times and I couldn’t care less in what they are talking about. Then again, staging them in a place devoid of life and activity — chatting about how a camera works of all thing — is in itself encouraging. This goes back to my previous statement that YKK is all about this moment. It’s all about their present — our present — experience with this world. It was boring at first, yes. Granted, I learned to love YKK at the end of the day. I guess it wasn’t boring at all. A cup of coffee, with the radio playing in the background, I sat cross-legged as I sip life’s subtlety with appreciation. Yeah, it’s not boring to be alive.
- Why are both the female robots carrying a gun? I guess it’s for protection in case someone decided to scrap them.
- The first OVA series’ visuals is obviously dated, but in a way it adds to that feeling of nostalgia.
- Alpha’s emotions feel kinda suppressed. I mean, seeing her so happy after she met a fellow robot hints that she’s bored and is craving for interaction.
- I guess it’s time to read the manga and see what the fuss is about.
- YKK also exhibits qualities of mono no aware and wabi-sabi, similar to Aria. However, I feel like the two are still inherently different.