Hakumei & Mikochi: Tiny Little Life in the Woods, Vol. 1

By Takuto Kashiki. Released in Japan by Enterbrain, serialization ongoing in the magazine Harta. Released in North America by Yen Press Translated by Taylor Engel.

This was really cute and fun. I mean, I knew going in that it was going to be – that’s the premise. It’s one of those slice-of-life series starring two girls, only in this case the life is fantasy life and they’re four inches tall. But all of the things I was expecting the series to do were done well, and I enjoyed all the characters. The premise is that Hakumei (the extroverted redhead) and Mikochi (the introverted black-haired one) live together in a tree in the middle of the forest, and we follow then as they do things like go shopping, do their jobs, hang out at a bar, and hitch rides on giant birds who also happen to be old forgotten childhood pets. This isn’t aa laugh riot, and not much of anything happens. And despite the fact that the two of them live together, there’s no real yuri subtext either. It just puts a smile on your face.

I think one of the big reasons I liked this so much is that it feels like a slice-of-life with grownups, as opposed to impulsive teenage girls. Hakumei and Mikochi are like Ritsu and Mio when they both grow up, sort of. Hakumei is impulsive and loud, but not obnoxiously so, and she’s likeable and endearing. Mikochi can be fretting and stressing as well, but it too never gets to the point where it’s too much. Despite being tiny creatures, they’re both functional adults. Hakumei works for a weasel as a repair person, and we see she takes her job quite seriously, which is not somethng you’d expect given her stereotype. Mikochi makes preserves and household stuff, and she ends up having more issues with the local tsundere songstress than with Hakumei. The cast is minimal – besides said tsundere songstress and Hakumei’s boss, the only other fellow we meet is a mad scientist sort who means well, but comes off as… well, a mad scientist.

You’re never quite sure if you’re going to be getting fantasy or regular old slice-of-life. Scenes like Hakumei and Mokochi on the sunset kite (which is the first chapter, and has some gorgeous art to show off) or dealing with the lake’s skeletal denizens are definitely fantasy, but other plotlines like Mikochi losing their wallet while out shopping or hanging out at a pub playing games in a blizzard barely need fantasy context at all. And throughout the entire volume there’s a warm feeling of peace while reading it. It’s like a nice hot soup. We do meet our two heroines when they’re already in their house, and I’d like to see how they met, but that’s why this series is six-plus volumes. There are lots of places you can go from here. I’m definitely content to follow the author, as long as I keep seeing these two tiny women going about their tiny lives with aplomb.

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