It is not without some melancholy that I write this entry. By doing so I am writing the obituary of one of the finest manga series I’ve ever read – in a sense, acknowledging the passing of an old friend.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Log to English-speaking fans) is over. I know quite a few people who got all teary-eyed as they read the final chapter. I have no intention of telling you whether I am one of them or not. ^_^
For those of you unfamiliar with Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (you poor, bereft creatures you), here is the basic idea of the story. In a near future, global weather patterns have shifted slightly, and time and tide have altered the shape of the map. In a far off-section of Musashino, an android named Alpha is left behind by her owner, to make her own life. She runs a small coffee shop off the beaten track to nowhere. In the course of the next 14 volumes, Alpha meets and befriends all sorts of people, and a few other androids, as she experiences life’s many moments of joy and sadness.
As I mentioned in my overview of the series, and in my review of Volume 12, this is not a story with loads of action or loads of…well, anything really. It’s a quiet, simple, sweet, slice-of-life series about a gun totin’ lesbian android. ^_^
Of the people and androids Alpha meets, two are rather key to this above statement. In the very beginning of the series, we and Alpha meet Kokone, who works for a messenger service. Alpha and Kokone become very close and it becomes quite obvious to everyone – even Kokone’s human coworkers – that Kokone has fallen for Alpha. It is also apparent to Maruko, another android who has a thing for Kokone. Maruko loses, because Kokone’s heart is Alpha’s.
This final volume of the manga is full of good-byes. Time is spent with old friends; Maki and Takahiro are adults and out in the world, but not gone from Alpha’s life. Relaxing days are filled with doing nothing particular, and a few key special moments. Time is the only pressure we feel, as the world keeps slowing down, the shifting sands continue to obscure the roads, fewer people populate the towns, and more and more the only “people” to enjoy the world are the androids humans created to keep them company.
It is a twilight world, a world growing increasing silent and slow, but no less beautiful.
Alpha moves through life with joy, doing the things she has done since the very beginning of the series – visiting Yokohama to buy supplies for the shop, swimming, riding on her scooter. Although she cannot age, there is no doubt at all that she has changed from the first few volumes, when her owner was still a presence in her life, and a person for whose return she waited. She may not have aged, but she has most definitely matured.
Which brings me to what I think was the hardest chapter of the entire series to read. Alpha meets up with the doctor, an older woman who had originally met Alpha after she had been hit by lightning. Alpha and the sensei had become quite close through the series. In this volume they meet for what may well be the last time. The chapter, to me, expresses everything beautiful and sorrowful about the series as a whole. No matter how much we may wish to, we simply can’t stay in the same place forever.
The last chapter was, for most of the yuri fans of this series, crucial. We waited, quite breathlessly (apart from the sobs and sniffs) to see if it would end as we hoped, as we dreamed. It is my pleasure to report that…it does.
Do not expect high drama. Expect a quiet, soft moment that says everything.
And expect Kokone and Alpha to move forward into the future, together.
Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 6
Service – 1
Overall – 9