Japanese Original Video Animation (OVA), based on the 1994-2006 Manga by Hitoshi Ashinano, which won the 2007 Seiun Award for best Comic of the year. Ajia-do Animation Works. Voice cast includes Akiko Nakagawa, Hekiru Shiina, Ikuko Sugita and Mikio Terashima.
1. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō (1998; vt Yokohama Shopping Trip). Directed by Takashi Annō. Written by Hitoshi Ashinano. Two 29-minute episodes. Colour.
Alpha (Shiina) is left in charge of a rural cafe after its owner "went away somewhere": years later Kokone (Nakagawa) arrives with a message from him, saying he will not be coming home for some time and encouraging Alpha to explore the world by gifting her with a camera. Thereafter Alpha occasionally travels on her moped looking for subjects to photograph: though she rarely actually takes a picture, she finds the contemplation enriches her appreciation of the scenes. This conveniently allows the viewer to appreciate the idyllic landscape.
The production is set in the Near Future. Alpha and Kokone are female Androids and rising sea levels (see Climate Change) have flooded some of the nearby City of Yokohama. Other areas are deserted and returning to nature, an unspecified Disaster having led to population collapse (customers to the cafe seem rare at best). The setting is thus more a Pastoral Ruined Earth than a Post-Holocaust one.
The second episode begins with Alpha being struck by lightning: Oji-san (Terashima), the old man who lives nearby, takes her to see a doctor (Sugita). However, aside from having her hair and some skin replaced, she is relatively unaffected. There follows a long scene of her making a cup of coffee and sitting down with it, enjoying the smell and becoming lost in thought for hours. Later, going at dusk to a viewpoint overlooking the city, the street lights come on, including those underwater. Joined by the doctor, Alpha is filled with wonder and melancholy.
This is a beautiful, calm anime where nothing much happens, but memorably so.
2. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō: Quiet Country Cafe (2002; vt Yokohama Shopping Journal: Quiet Country Cafe). Directed and written by Tomomi Mochizuki. Two 33-minute episodes. Colour.
When the cafe is badly damaged by a typhoon, Alpha decides to go on a walking tour before she repairs it. During this we learn that Japan has split into several nations, whilst Mount Fuji has erupted. Alpha is surprised to meet a male Robot, as she has previously only met female ones. He explains that males are apparently weaker: "They all died early on."
This sequel is less effective than its predecessor – the sentimentality is less understated and the art, though nice enough, is not as rich. Alpha has lost a sense of being slightly other, coming across now as a fairly normal young woman. But it is still good, particularly the second episode and the opening segment of the first: the latter is set further in the future, with Alpha and Kokone happily together; humanity now appears to be absent, though a strange craft can be seen at high altitude. As in the first series, much is left unsaid. [SP]