Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano – manga review

Cover of manga volume 1 of "Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou" by Hitoshi Ashinano.
Cover of manga volume 1 of “Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou” by Hitoshi Ashinano.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (literally Yokohama Shopping Travelogue) is a 14-volume “soft science fiction” series by Hitoshi Ashinano published in the manga anthology magazine Afternoon by Kodansha in Japan from 1994 to 2006.

The series won multiple awards, and unfortunately is not licensed in North America (or any other English-speaking location). I hope someone picks it up so more people can more easily find and read it. You can find translations of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou floating around out there if you’d like to read it in English.

The protagonist is a green-haired, always-cheerful, and somewhat naive gynoid named Alpha who runs a coffee shop while waiting for her owner to return. She rarely gets customers at the beginning (she gets a few regulars as the series goes along), but everyone who meets her likes her due to her outgoing and friendly personality. She’s simply a nice person, without any malice at all.

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is quite different from just about every other series I’ve read, whether manga or regular words-only science fiction. It’s set in an idyllic yet post-apocalyptic future where the human population of Earth is greatly reduced and the oceans have risen significantly.

There is very little action, no bad guys, and no real plot per se, but it’s still one of the most interesting and intriguing series I’ve read. While there are occasional science fiction elements, even Alpha—and the few other androids she meets—seem more human than robotic, and many humans don’t even know she’s a robot. It’s really a quiet slice-of-life drama set an ambiguous somewhen in the future.

There are so many questions which are left unanswered: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou never explains exactly what calamity caused the oceans to rise, or what happened to all the humans who died. The mysterious Misago, a wild human-like woman who is always naked for some reason and rarely shows herself to anyone but children, is never really explained. Strange, humanoid-faced giant mushrooms are shown and discussed, but no mention is given as to their origin. There are even hints that the human population is continuing to dwindle, but no explanation for why.

Typical idyllic scene from "Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou" by Hitoshi Ashinano.
Typical idyllic scene from “Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou” by Hitoshi Ashinano.

The scenery in the series is very beautiful (see image, above); Ashinano is a master at capturing the essence of a scene and leaving everything unnecessary out. I originally collected this series simply for the gorgeous artwork (as I couldn’t read Japanese well at the time).

Now that I’ve read it, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou has become one of my favorites. It simply clicks on every level. This is a series not to be missed, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Release Date: August 23, 1995 – May 23, 2006 (Japan)
ISBNs: vol.1 4063210502 (9784063210507)
vol.2 4063210553 (9784063210552)
vol.3 4063210618 (9784063210613)
vol.4 4063210669 (9784063210668)
vol.5 4063210812 (9784063210811)
vol.6 4063210952 (9784063210958)
vol.7 406321110X (9784063211108)
vol.8 4063211207 (9784063211207)
vol.9 4063211347 (9784063211344)
vol.10 4063211479 (9784063211474)
vol.11 4063211592 (9784063211597)
vol.12 4063211657 (9784063211658)
vol.13 4063211711 (9784063211719)
vol.14 4063211762 (9784063211764)
Publisher: Kodansha
Language: Japanese
Original Title: ヨコハマ買い出し紀行

MySF Rating: Five point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 90%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional alcohol consumption and smoking)
Language: 0 (description)
Nudity: 1 (the above-mentioned Misago)
Sexuality: 0 (description)
Violence: 0 (description)

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