Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō (ヨコハマ買い出し紀行?) is a science fiction manga written and illustrated by Hitoshi Ashinano. The title can be translated Yokohama Shopping Log or Record of a Yokohama Shopping Trip. One tankōbon volume, the publisher's former English language website, and the second original video animation (OVA) series have the subtitle Quiet Country Cafe in English. The series is often referred to in wapuro romaji as Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, or simply abbreviated as YKK by fans outside of Japan.
The manga was serialized in Kodansha's Afternoon magazine from June 1994 to February 2006, with a concluding postscript episode in July 2006, and collected in 14 tankōbon volumes. Parts of the story were adapted as two OVA anime series of two episodes each.
The series depicts the daily life of a robot who runs a coffee shop some time after the Earth's ecology has collapsed. It is noted for its beautifully spare pen-and-ink drawing style, as well as its calm, meticulously paced stories and engaging characters. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō won the 2007 Seiun Award for best science fiction comic.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō is set in a peaceful, post-cataclysmic world where mankind is in decline after an environmental disaster. Exactly what happened is never explained, but sea levels have risen significantly, inundating coastal cities such as Yokohama, Mount Fuji erupted in living memory, and climate change has occurred. With the seasons being less pronounced, the winters are milder and the summer isn't scorching anymore. The reduced human population has reverted to a simpler life, and the reader is told this is the twilight of the human age. One scene depicts an anti-aircraft missile being used in a firework display. Instead of raging against their fate, humans are quietly accepting.
Alpha Hatsuseno is an android ("robot person") who runs an out-of-the-way coffee shop, Café Alpha, on the lonely coast of the Miura Peninsula of Japan, while her human "owner" is on a trip of indefinite length. Though she spends much of her time alone, Alpha is cheerful, gregarious, and—unlike the slowly declining humans—immortal.
Most chapters of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō are self-contained slice-of-life episodes depicting Alpha in daily activities, either alone, with customers, or on occasional trips through the countryside or into Yokohama for supplies (whence the "shopping log" of the title came). Whole chapters are devoted to brewing coffee, taking photographs, or repairing a tiny model aircraft engine, sometimes with only a few lines of dialogue. Through Alpha's experiences, the author brings out the small wonders of everyday life and makes the reader aware of their passing: the aircraft engine runs out of fuel; her scooter breaks down; the rising ocean encroaches on her coffee shop; the neighborhood children she loves grow up and move away. In evoking a nostalgia for this loss, Ashinano follows the Japanese tradition of mono no aware (sadness for the transience of things).
Though often self-contained, the stories have continuity—relationships grow and change, and seemingly insignificant details reappear later. Ashinano explains few details of Alpha's world, leaving mysteries that engage the reader as the series unfolds in a meandering progression, by turns funny, touching, and nostalgic.
- Alpha Hatsuseno (初瀬野 アルファ Hatsuseno Arufa?)
- A type A7M2 robot, one of only three production prototypes, who runs Café Alpha in the absence of her owner (whose family name is Hatsuseno). Alpha is cheerful and thoughtful. She enjoys talking with her few customers, but is initially socially awkward and sheltered—despite being her model's prototype, at the start of the series she has met only a few people and no other robots. Because of this, when her owner departed, she declined to travel with him. As the series progresses, however, she grows more confident in her social skills, enough so that she spends a year traveling herself, and becomes more attached to her human friends even as they age and depart. Alpha is not very experienced about human behavior or appearances, she uses dishwasher liquid instead of brushing her teeth and doesn't think of her eye or hair color being strange. One of her unique abilities is that she is, according to her emotions, able to induce tears in her eye moisturizers. In her spare time, Alpha plays a gekkin, carves small art objects with fish designs, and travels the local countryside on her scooter, investigating the remains of humanity's previous age and the emerging world to come. Voiced by: Hekiru Shiina
- Kokone Takatsu (鷹津 ココネ Takatsu Kokone?, sometimes romanized as Cocone)
- A type A7M3 production robot who works as a courier in what remains of Musashino, Tokyo. She is the first robot that Alpha meets, when she delivers a package (containing a camera) and a message from Alpha's owner. They soon become friends, and Kokone eventually develops romantic feelings for Alpha. Kokone is sweet, shy, and somewhat intellectual, but because of her job she has more experience with people than Alpha, and can sometimes pass for human. After meeting Alpha, her "older sister" production-wise, Kokone becomes curious about the history and nature of robots. Unlike Alpha, she is able to process animal protein. Voiced by: Akiko Nakagawa
- Ojisan (おじさん Ojisan?, "Uncle")
- A middle-aged man with a perpetual grin, he is Alpha's closest neighbor and a regular customer at her café. He runs a gas station and sells vegetables on the side. He is a grandfather-figure to Alpha and the actual grandfather of Takahiro. Ojisan refers to himself as a bum, and seems to regret not pursuing a relationship with Sensei when they were younger. His real name is never given. Voiced by: Mikio Terashima (OVA 1), Shōzō Iizuka (OVA 2)
- Sensei (せんせい?, , "Doctor")
- An older woman, she is a doctor for both humans and androids. She was involved in the creation of the A7 series of robots, and hosted Director Alpha in her home, possibly as Director Alpha's owner. When she was younger, she rode motorcycles and raced hovercraft, and was Ojisan's senpai from school. Her surname is Koumi'ishi (子海石?, , lit. "child-sea-stone"), but she is always addressed by just her title. Voiced by: Ikuko Sugita
- Takahiro (タカヒロ?)
- The grandson of Ojisan, who lives with his grandparents. He meets Alpha at age nine, and she quickly takes to him as if he were a younger brother. He is the first character in the series to meet the Misago. As he grows up, Takahiro becomes fascinated with engines of all types and eventually moves away in his mid-teens to work for Nai. Voiced by: Akio Suyama (OVA 1), Toshiyuki Toyonaga (OVA 2)
- Matsuki (真月?) usually called Makki
- A girl a few years younger than Takahiro. She likes Takahiro and is initially jealous of Alpha. Makki eventually becomes close to Alpha after learning the latter would never consider having a relationship with Takahiro because mortal humans move through time in a different way than immortal robots. She is skeptical of Takahiro's stories of the Misago until she meets the wild-woman herself. In her early teens, Makki works for a while at Alpha's café, before moving away to become a courier with Kokone's company, and then later to Hamamatsu to be with Takahiro. Voiced by: Miki Nagasawa
- Misago (ミサゴ?, , "Osprey")
- An ageless wild-woman who lives in the inlets and bays near Café Alpha. She is always naked, and eats raw fish caught with her short fangs and inhuman speed which enables her to make steps on water, she is able to jump 10 metres high quite easily. She only shows herself to young children, and shies away from contact with adults. She does not age and, according to omake material, does not understand how children grow up. According to Ayase, she existed "decades before" robots were created. Despite Misago's feral nature, she is a gentle person, and does not cause harm to anyone.
- A wanderer who travels endlessly, relying on his kamas (a large predatory flying fish) to live off the land. He likes to see the curiosities of the world, and is especially fascinated by the Misago. Because of Makki's affinity for the Misago and his kamas, he tries to convince her to travel with him as a sort of protégé.
- Director Alpha
- The A7M1 prototype of the A7 series, and thus "older sister" to the other A7 robots. Like Alpha Hatsuseno, Director Alpha acquired her given name because she is the initial model, or "alpha-type", of a robot series. She is the director of a stratospheric aircraft called Taapon that circles the Earth without landing, observing the world's changes from above. Her surname is Koumi'ishi, the same as Sensei, and she has a pendant with Sensei's logo.
- Maruko Maruko (丸子マルコ Maruko Maruko?)
- A type A7M3 robot with a prickly personality. She is an artist who lives in Yokohama and works as a waitress and then shopclerk as a day job. She is unusual among robots for having changed her surname to one of her own choosing rather than adopting her owner's. Her given name is pronounced the same as her surname, but spelled in katakana. She likes Kokone and is jealous of Alpha for "taking" her. Nai sometimes sends her sensory impressions, delivered by Kokone, which she uses in her art.
- An A7 robot of unknown model. He is unusual, in that for unknown reasons male robots rarely survive long. He runs a delivery service, flying a modified T-6 Texan aircraft. Nai is quiet and impassive. Voiced by: Ryo Naitou
- The young daughter of Makki and Takahiro. She is the last character to meet the Misago.
Influences and themes
Flying and flight recurs through the series. Alpha herself has repeated visions of flying. Planes that appear include Nai's airplane, the always-flying Taapon, and the model airplane engine that Alpha finds but never flies. The A7 series of robots is named after a Japanese World War II warplane Mitsubishi A7M that never saw production, and the character Saetta's name may be inspired by an Italian WWII warplane built by Aeronautica Macchi. Takahiro leaves ("flies away") to work for Nai. Ayase's kamas is a kind of flying fish. In the postscript episode, the unnamed character travels by glider.
The series contains elements of Chinese culture and mythology. Alpha's gekkin guitar is of Chinese origin, and the Taapon aircraft is named after the mythological bird Peng (taapon is the Japanese transliteration of da peng).
Some character names appear in the geography of the Yokohama area. For example, there is a bus stop named Koumi'ishi to the south of Hayama, and Atsugi airfield, where Alpha meets Nai, is located in Ayase. There is a place called Maruko in Yokohama where Maruko's gallery is supposed to be.
That several details of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō are left unexplained, or have answers only hinted at, is frequently mentioned in reviews of the series as contributing to a tone of mystery. Some are mysteries to the characters, which they speculate about without reaching conclusions, while others are presented to the reader without comment. Among the most prominent are:
- What is the nature of the natural disaster that caused the world's oceans to rise?
- Who is Alpha's owner, and where did he go? Why does Ayase call him "sensei"?
- Why were robots created? Since none are slaves or servants, what is their purpose? In what sense are they, as Kokone claims, humanity's children?
- Why are the humans in Alpha's world dying out?
- Why are male robots so rare?
- Why is Alpha, unlike other robots, allergic to animal proteins?
- What are the "water gods", strangely beautiful mushrooms with human faces, that have started growing in the wilds?
- Why have trees that mimic streetlamps and fungi that mimic buildings begun growing? Are they really, as Alpha and Ayase speculate, the "recollections of people that the earth remembers"?
- When was the eruption that removed Mount Fuji's top, and was it related to the ocean rise?
- What is the Misago? Why does she only show herself to children, and why is she unable to comprehend that they become adults? If, as Ayase claims, she is not a robot, then what is she?
Comparisons have been made between Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō and Aria, noting that they are both quiet slice-of-life stories in a futuristic setting with a similar emotional effect. A reviewer at Uknighted Manganime wrote, "What the two have in common, though, is a bright look at the future and a generally optimistic view of humanity, despite our failings."
A total of 140 chapters were published in Japan by Kodansha in the seinen (aimed at younger adult men) manga magazine Afternoon between June 1994 to February 2006. The serial chapters were collected in 14 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha under the Afternoon KC imprint. In Q4 of 2009 Kodansha started a reprint of the tankōbon volumes. It is licensed in Korea under the title 카페 알파 (Café Alpha), in Indonesia by M&C Comics, and in Taiwan by Tong Li Publishing.
Original Japanese release dates: