Recently I decided to rewatch the first two episodes of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, also known as Yokohama Shopping Log, YKK, or the anime that kickstarted my desire for slice of life that I’ve had since. Initially watching it back in 2004 with one of my friends during a fall break at Cornell, it’s one of the few pieces of entertainment overall that I could say that I enjoyed while it made me sleepy (of course watching it at night didn’t help :P). Watching it again now, I was again charmed by the animation, the cinematography, the backgrounds, Alpha’s monologues or interactions with others, and especially the overall pace of it all. It was so… laid-back, even situations that didn’t lend themselves to that sort of slow speed. I wondered why I enjoyed that so much about everything else, so much so that I’m writing something about it now to you all. 😛
YKK is set in something that seems to be like a post-apocalyptic world. Water levels keep on rising to the point where we can see streetlights underwater, roads are unpaved as nature is given free course to roam everywhere, and an inner calm suffuses the world. As Alpha put it (sub paraphrasing of course), “The festival-like world… has slowly settled to a leisurely pace. To think that an era came to its twilight so pleasantly.” We seem to be nearing the end of society as it was known before them, yet any mentions of how the current situation happened aren’t answered. But then again, the point seems to be focusing more on the here and now of the situation, so wondering about the past isn’t too important.
So that being the case, there’s a feeling that things have become less stressful, people have become less frenzied and everyone is relaxing as there doesn’t seem to be a need to hurry around. Things like taking a day to make coffee or just watching the day go by while doing nothing aren’t bad here or lazy. While the people we mainly see enjoying this time are people nearing the ends of their lives, people too young for responsibility to push them into the hectic life, and robots who can live for a long time and can afford to do things at their own pace, a peaceful life seems to be a reasonable thing. That might be why I take pleasure in watching it so much. The reason is not so much escapism, but an admiration for seeing how the characters accept how things are, and just be.
In the society we have today, not many people have the means to do what Alpha can do. Even if no one comes to the café she runs, she doesn’t really have to wonder when the next person will come other than just for having someone to talk to, or she can close up shop to go pursue things that she wants to do most of the time. I wonder how many people would say that she’s being too laid back, too lazy, unwisely not worrying about her future. For me, even while I’m taking a break or out enjoying myself, I still have to think about how to prepare for the next day in medical school, or go even further then that in thinking about how to attain a future as a doctor, much less what I’m actually going to do if I get there (for nothing is certain in life). In both cases, it’s a matter of just living and making the most of what is there to offer; one world just offers a lot more “free time” than the other.
I also wonder how I would act if I happened to be in a situation like that. I do wonder how people in the world of YKK could be so calm, or rather, how they could do that considering what seems like grim prospects for humanity in the future. Is it a resignation to the inevitable, and so the idea is just to take it one day at a time, and live life as much as you can? Did people finally realize that just living is enjoyable as compared to not living, and thus there was no need for hustling and bustling about? If so, I would wonder how long it would take before those feelings became the standard. I would like to think that I would fight my “fate” if it seemed inescapably grim, but I don’t know. The resolve of the people to decide to live as they are while it seems like water levels are still rising and areas become more inhospitable for human life is commendable to me. That is, the fact that worrying about the future doesn’t seem to factor into daily lives anymore would be something I’d like to experience in my life.
I’m envious of Alpha in the fact that she’s able to remain in what visibly is an age range between that of the age ranges that are seen to have the most free time available in comparison to other ages. At age 21 with several more years of “strenuous” work ahead of me, I can look at the world that Alpha’s experiencing now and wish that I could be able to just spend time like she can, and like Akari and Co. can in Aria. But as I have no idea what awaits me in the future, so you can just disregard these as ramblings of a young adult who has not the foresight to see what he’s missing. That being said, I enjoy Alpha’s travels and encounters, and when she says “I think I will continue… watching this twilight world… as long as time flows”, I hope that she does too. :3