Looking back at Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou


In the future, a cataclysmic event has changed the face of the Earth forever, and as sea levels continue to rise, humanity enters a peaceful twilight age. As the declining population reverts to a more peaceful way of life, in a quiet corner of Japan, a robot named Alpha runs her own café, catering for the few customers who come by. Blessed with curiosity and a slowly increasing desire to explore the world around her, Alpha slowly begins exploring further afield, making new friends along the way.

It’s actually been a while since I read YKK, but as one of my enduring favourites in the slice-of-life genre, and a manga that has stuck in my mind long after its last volume concluded. For a long time, I entertained the idea of writing about it, until inevitably this piece just had to be written.

Among slice-of-life fans, YKK is often spoken of with hushed and reverent tones, and indeed, this is no idle praise, for it is a title truly deserving of respect. Published over a period of twelve years, the series’ fourteen volumes weaves a captivating tale of the life of the robot Alpha, as her world slowly expands from the environs around her coffee shop to the farthest reaches of Japan. Through Alpha’s journeys, and the day to day lives of both her and her friends, the reader is inexorably drawn into the peaceful world of the series, watching our protagonists as the years go by and they inevitably grow and change. This is a reality that mixes commonplace acts such as going shopping or making coffee with weird and wonderful sights such as streetlamp shaped trees and mushrooms with human faces, and the resulting combination is both charming and addictive.

Unfortunately, superb as it is at bringing this world and its daily activities to life, one thing YKK never does is explain the circumstances of the world in which it is set. Although it is perfectly possible to enjoy it without knowing all the answers, curious readers may long for more clarification on the mysterious disaster that changed the world, the strange life forms that resulted, and even the origins of Alpha and her fellow robots. The only explanations for these are more abstract and metaphysical than they are detailed and factual, although this does at least fit in with the tone of the series.

Although Alpha is the centre of the story, YKK relies on a solid cast, some of whom our lead never actually meets. From Kokone, a fellow robot who becomes preoccupied with discovering the origins of her kind, to Takashiro, a young boy who, in contrast to the immortal Alpha, grows up over the course of the series, each character adds an extra dimension to the series, and their emotions and interactions are always a joy to see.

Visually, YKK uses a spare yet oddly attractive style, with a minimum of pen strokes used to sketch out a world that seems simple at first glance, but holds additional depth and beauty when examined more closely. In some chapters, dialogue is minimal to nonexistent, leaving the artwork to speak for itself- a move that would doom some series, but only enhances this one.

Final Thoughts
A staple entry in the slice-of-life genre, YKK’s brief anime adaptation and lack of licensing means it may have passed under the radar of many, but anyone who enjoys Aria and its brethren should immediately make the effort to promote it to the top of their reading list if they haven’t already sampled its greatness.

Essential facts
Volumes: 14 [complete]
Creator: Hitoshi Ashinano
Unlicensed

2 thoughts on “Looking back at Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

  1. I recently downloaded the (all too short) anime and the manga, and love it to bits. I only wish someone would licence the manga for an English language edition, as not only would I buy it for myself, (I really don’t care to read things off a computer screen) I’d buy copies as presents for my friends, saying “Read this, it’s really good!”

  2. >I only wish someone would licence the manga for an English language edition, as not only would I buy it for myself, (I really don’t care to read things off a computer screen) I’d buy copies as presents for my friends, saying “Read this, it’s really good!”

    A legal and official english translation would indeed be sweet. Given the recent rise in popularity of other episodic and slice of life titles (ARIA, Mushishi, etc.), let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    >Among slice-of-life fans, YKK is often spoken of with hushed and reverent tones, and indeed, this is no idle praise, for it is a title truly deserving of respect.

    Haha. Yeah, I see that all the time. It’s also pretty funny whenever some random bloke tries bashing it or calls it boring as hell. Normally commentary like that would start flame wars for other series but most YKK fans appear to be mellow folks above bickering.

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