Shhhhhh... Listen........... No, shut the fuck up and LISTEN.... Unless you have a child or a bitchy significant other screaming in your ear (or if you live next to some train tracks or an airport), what you're hearing is "quiet." Isn't it nice?... Ahhhhhhh.
Hopefully I'm not turning you off to this fantasti-orgasmical manga, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (also known as YKK, Café Alpha, and Yokohama Shopping Trip/Log), when I tell you that it's all about enjoying the quiet things in life. Yes, yes, I know, it sounds hokey when put to words, but you have to trust me on this one, it's like a futuristic, roboty Ah! My Goddess -- it's not about any tournament fighting or alien invasion, it's about small, daily things, that in any other author's hands would probably be a whole big fucking mess of boring. But Ashinano Hitoshi pulls it off like a champ. (As a side note, Ashinano was once an assistant to the great Kosuke Fujishima, aka Belldandy's daddy.)
So right now, I'm throwing it down: If you liked Ah! My Goddess, you WILL like YKK. If you didn't like Ah! My Goddess, then my God, man, you are one fucked up camper! What, did it not have enough Super Sayajins in it? Not enough big, gay, blonde, monkey aliens powering up for 4-5 issues at a time? Faggot.
Okay, so what's YKK all about, you ask? Well, it's about the gentle twilight of humanity, and it takes place in a post-apocalyptic Japan (on the out of the way coastal Peninsula of Miura, just South of Yokohama). It features our perky, green-haired lead character, Alpha -- an immortal robot in a world where the population is scarce and children seem to be born less and less frequently. I don't believe it's never outright stated, but it is hinted that this is the end of the world as we know it... But Alpha's feelin' fine. See, despite the fact that she runs a little cafe on a corroding seaside cliff (just above the rising ocean), and that she maybe gets one or two customers a day, Alpha's doing alright for herself. Even though she's a robot, she looks and acts very human, and she has very close relationships to a bunch of the villagers who live nearby. Alpha's "owner" has left on an extended journey before the story begins, and now Alpha's in charge of his coffee shop, and all we do is bear witness to her infrequent clients, her time off with her friends, and a journey or two of her own when she feels the need to stretch her legs and see what's left of the world outside her little bubble. (Not that I want to become a shut-in or a hermit or anything, but quite honestly I found myself quite envious of her unobtrusive and unbothered life... I hate people.)
What's left of the world is a wonder to behold (Jesus, did I just write that?! Ugh, I'm turning into a poofter). There are new creatures all around (like the never-aging wild girl, the Misago, and giant, flying hawk-fish) and phenomenon that defy explanation (like the humanoid fungus... thingies, and the organic streetlights). Society has pretty much broken down to its most base existence ("nations" are really just individual neighborhoods and small towns now, there is no more telephone service or television, and what appears to be the once elite are all hoarded into a single space-plane, forever circling the globe). YKK has got a very sad and melancholic sugar coating to it -- the world is dwindling away, and there is never going to be a comeback for mankind... But we are constantly with Alpha and her friends (like fellow robot, Kokone, the old and wise Ooji-san, little Makki, Takahiro, and Sensei), and they're always happy (or at the very least content), and so even though we're viewing this world from afar we can still feel some sort of hope that man will be comfortable and somewhat fulfilled when he finally closes his eyes for good. Honestly, I'd much prefer that humanity went out this way as opposed to say H.G. Wells' version in The Time Machine, where mankind evolves into either the biggest pussies in the universe, or hairy Morlock mother fuckers who EAT the biggest pussies in the universe. In YKK we just fade into the night. Almost like going to sleep. Mmmmmm, sleeeeeep.
Anyway, I LOATHE most "slice of life" series that I come upon. Almost all of them misinterpret the term "slice of life" to mean "uninteresting pile of shit" and "gey." YKK though somehow hooked me. It's so upbeat, but far from lame, even though by all definitions it should be. Like I said before, it feels like Ah! Megami-sama: no real threats or giant overlaying plot, but it's endearing and cute and fun!.... Oh shit... Now I've done completely turned into a woman. Yup, there's my vagina.... Um, excuse me for a moment.
Okay, a few hours gone, but I'm back... Where was I? Oh, not that there's nothing going on in the lives of these characters -- there's plenty of shit going down, and tons of mysteries to figure out (like why's the world like it is? Why's humanity dying out when there's tons of food and other amenities still around? And who and where is Alpha's owner?). It's just that they take a back seat to the characters and especially the atmosphere of the whole thing. Beyond Alpha herself, the world itself is the next most important character in this story. Through Alpha's ageless eyes we see it change. It is with a heavy-heart that you see characters slowly grow old around her, and know that she will outlast them all, all the while waiting patiently for her owner to return from his long journey. The last volume (of 14) is such a blow in this manner that I always get a sad, little smile on my face when I think about it. Mono no aware to the extreme.
This may be Ashinano Hitoshi's only real manga to date (it took him over 12 years to complete!), but he's already attained perfection in my mind. Fucking read this whole series NOW.
The Latte Lover DOCTOR DAVE
This whole story reminded me of when I made one of my robot wome--
OH MY GOD! I completely forgot that I left Robot "Sexy" Beta in my lab with my flux capacitor that I was charging up with all that leftover plutonium I found in that Libyan's house down the street! Oh goodness! If another robot causes another nuclear meltdown/explosion... I just know the feds'll try and close me down for good again!
What? Why there was no any sort of boy who transforms into girl, or of alien of kung-fu in this story? No dead people who try to stopping giant monsters, no sexing, and absolutely no penises or women's pee-pee holes! No punching guys fists through the faces of bad people, and nobody is flying! This one was the more homosexual manga than I have ever read! A curse on the Rossman, and may his genital organs wither into very small, dryinged up raisins! How dare he forces Kuni read such books! Not even one demon in the whole thing with more than two penises either! How can this be?!