Tag Archives: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Monk and Robot and the Spirit of Iyashikei

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations


It has been a while since I properly rambled about a niche topic…well, actually, no it has not, since that happens two times every week. Rather, it has been a while since doing so in a purely opinion piece/essay style format. Call it a lack of motivation or maybe even a moderation of my stronger, more out there opinions, but I have not had that much to say.

However, today is different. After recently finishing both halves of Becky Chamber’s Monk and Robot series “A Psalm for the Wild Built” and “A Prayer for the Crown Shy,” a lot of things ran through my mind. Most of them were about how damn good the novella actually was. Which is true, definitely go read it. However, a few of those thoughts drifted towards series like Yokohama Shopping Trip and one I started recently: Aria the animation.

The sub genre of Iyashikei is not one that gets talked particularly often, usually drowned out by discussion of the latest one piece arc or whatever seasonal powerhouse has ahold of people’s attention. This is not to say these conversations cannot exist simultaneously, only that they usually do not. Which, in my eyes, is a real shame.

For those unaware, Iyashikei (literally “healing type” or “healing”) refers more specifically to shows intended to have a calming effect on its audience. This is usually done with more laidback storylines, either by focusing on characters’ individual journeys, their connection with their immediate environment, or a combination of both. This often results in less overarching story and more of a focus on episodic or segmented story beats.

In anime and manga, Iyashikei tends to overlap quite a bit with the concept of slice of life, since many stories focus on one or just a few characters. Additionally, there is often a sense of intimacy within that focus, both from the characters’ previously mentioned connections with their environment, but also in their self-discovery-oriented journeys, regardless of whether they realize that is happening.

Pretty much all of what I have just described as Iyashikei is represented and celebrated within Monk and Robot, a series about a traveling tea monk who gets bored of their everyday routine, only to travel off-road into woods set aside for the Robots that gained consciousness and left society several generations ago. Said tea monk Dex then meets Mosscap, a robot who’s mission involves reconnecting with human society and finding out what it is people “need.”

It’s a big question for what feels like a relatively short series. Still, despite the sci-fi, solar-punk aesthetic that frames a large portion of the story’s setting, Monk and Robot is arguably one of the most Iyashikei stories to be released in a long time. This is because, rather than turning into some kind of big action adventure story about a society that rejects and becomes afraid of technology that has “turned against them,” the premise is very much taken at face value.

We are instead dropped into a much more understanding society. Humans in Monk and Robot, while clearly having some differences in opinion on the nature of the robot awakening, as well as on matters of ethics and religious philosophy, seem to by and large accept the idea that their abuse and exploitation of these now sentient creatures was and is wrong.

This is even true of Dex. Despite being well-traveled and seemingly enlightened, their knowledge of how Robots work is basically zero. This is probably true of most others in modern human society (the novellas are less focused on “expert scientific opinion” than it is on the nature and implications of human and robot sentience) but, of course, the main focus is Dex’s relationship with Mosscap.


Speaking of, Mosscap comes across as a classic non-human mannerism adjusted robot, an entity whose curiosity directs them just as much as their stereotypically logic infused personality. As such, they serve as a great foil to the occasionally hot-headed and distraught Dex, who finds the robot right around the time they begin asking the same question Mosscap hopes to answer.

What starts as an incredibly awkward meeting with Dex naked in a forest quickly turns into a mutually enjoyable journey in which the two find purpose in each other. Every chapter lends itself a new adventure worth pursuing, even at the expense of some immediate comfort, which is saying a lot considering Dex’s entire religion basically revolves around small comforts like the tea they serve.

Regardless of whatever town or long stretch of road they happen to be arriving at or treading through, Mosscap manages to find something worth appreciating in a way Dex never could, at least not in their current mental state. The teachings of Allalae say that, as long it is not hurting the land or any people, that engaging in comforts is ok. However, it seems that lost in those teachings were the idea that the land and people themselves could also be those comforts.

The end of their journey feels representative of this. During the final chapter of book two, rather than going back towards the city where Dex trained to be a monk, the two instead take a detour to the beach. They eat, sleep, play, until the weight of their final journey forces them to have a candid conversation. The two ultimately conclude that, while everyone might have a purpose or something they feel like they need to do, that purpose is not something that needs to be figured out right away.

The story of Monk and Robot certainly is not always immediately feel good. It does throw out a lot of big questions with very little in the way of warning. Questions about what it means for things other than humans to be as intelligent as them. Questions about the nature of belief and its effects on our lives as people. Questions especially about human purpose.

However, most Iyashikei stories, even most stories period, operate on this principle of self-reflection before significant change or decisions. Yokohama Shopping Trip, set in the distance future and with a considerably lower human population, sees Alpha deal with extreme loneliness before she sets off on her trip in search of her boss. Though I have not seen it myself, one of the more popular anime that draws on ideas of Iyashikei is Yuru Camp. The series revolves around four teens who go camping in various locations around Japan. Despite the difficulty involved in said process, there is a joy at the end when they can wake up the next day to a beautiful sunrise.

There are certainly elements of the story that someone could nit pick at and find problems in. The beginning does border on being a little bit info-dumpy, especially when it comes to lore that feels less consequential than it really should. On top of that, while the non-binary representation is greatly appreciated, there is some really awkward sentence construction around gender neutral pronouns which could have been done a bit better.

However, none of these minor problems really take away from the point of Monk and Robot. It is a story about a transformational journey, sure, but it is also a story about enjoying life’s comfort and finding one’s place. Peace in the truest sense is hard to come by nowadays, especially in a post pandemic landscape where the general social attitude feels continually pessimistic in a way that’s hard to escape. This is not to say the correct response is throwing hands up at social ills and ignoring real problems. However, in between these battles for equality and better living conditions, there should be time for finding moments of real happiness and relaxation.

This turned out…ok. In all seriousness, I had the idea for this post a month ago when I started reading Monk and Robot’s first book. However, I also read The Afictionado’s post about cozy sci-fi during the pandemic and that inspired it even more, so shout out to them. Have you all ready this series? What do you think? Let me know down the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!


The Observation Deck: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations


Wow, I really forgot just how much fun it can be to watch things with other people. As an introvert, I generally prefer to watch things alone and absorb them in a space free from any immediate distraction. However, sometimes it is nice to take a break from that and just hang out with other people. Not like my last group watch was that far removed, but watching Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou with others was an incredibly relaxing experience.

For those who are unaware of this critically acclaimed manga turned two-time OVA series, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is set at the end of the world…kind of. An unnamed disaster has left humans a dwindling artifact of planet earth. Meanwhile, androids like Alpha are fairly common. Alpha is told to manage her owner’s coffee shop after he is called away on business indefinitely. With nothing else to do aside from managing a mostly empty store, Alpha decides to spend her days exploring the landscapes and people around her.

98′ vs 02′

Despite the critical acclaim of the original manga, the series only managed to amass a series of OVAs, or rather two series of OVAs. The first aired in 1998 and the second four years later in 2002. Interestingly enough, this period also roughly coincides with the transition period during which many studios underwent a major transition from traditional cell animation to digital.

The change in animation style is definitely noticeable. While the studio that adapted the series stayed the same between both OVAs, the watercolor backgrounds of the original are noticeably absent in the later series. Both styles are certainly unique, and the digital animation has a charm that is unique to itself. However, it would have been nice to see the series continued in that original style.

Outside of that minute difference, there honestly is not a lot to say about the series’ animation other than that it is well done. Character movement is fairly limited, but the movement that does happen is expressive and displays a ton of personality, like the way Ojisan is always delighted to see Alpha when she walks/drives by.


Who is Alpha?

YKK is as episodic as it is relaxing. Each episode is fairly self-contained, and though there is an overarching story, it is ultimately built around the main character Alpha. Each episode is focused on either her internal thought process in running the shop or the external struggles of having to deal with a broken body or house.

While the appeal of the show, and of other Iyashikei stories at large, is that they are inviting and peaceful, there is a lot about our main heroine that is left undetermined, at least in the story for anime. Questions about the identity of Alpha’s owner and the nature of his “business trip” still hang around, giving the series an almost melancholic vibe.

I do mean almost though, as none of this really ruins the mood of the series. The vast majority of Alpha’s narrative conflict is centered around nature in some way, whether that be its beauty or its capacity for destruction, or sometimes even both at the same time. The ending scene of episode two of the first season manages to find beauty in a sunken seaside town, and if you don’t take anything else away from this series honestly just watch this scene:

The World is Over, I Guess…

Another massive Elephant that seemingly is never addressed, I suppose for fear of killing the mood, is the setting, because, in the universe of YKK, everyone is living through the apocalypse.

Ok, that is a little inaccurate. Technically, the Apocolypse that wiped out a large chunk of humanity is a couple hundred years removed from the events of the series. Still, it feels like when it is addressed at all, it is done in a way that feels incredibly calm and detached.

Part of this is probably due to the previously mentioned time separation, but a large chunk of it also seems to stem from the fact that Alpha is a robot. While she certainly acts the part of a young woman running a coffee shop, her perception of time seems to be significantly different than that of a normal person.

Again, this stems from multiple reasons, but rather than feeling weird and out of place, this lack of a consistent temporal grounding serves to aid YKK in creating its more relaxed atmosphere. More focus on what caused the end of the world or how it has affected other places would likely take away from the feeling that it has so meticulously crafted.


Weirdly enough, there is not much more to be said about the series. In fact, its brevity may arguably be one of its strengths. It is by no means a series that is going to appeal to everyone (people who primarily enjoy shounen are not likely to find much value in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou). However, those who tend to enjoy a more monotonal, slice-of-life atmosphere will definitely get a kick out of it.


Have you all seen Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

As always, special thanks to Jenn for being an amazing Patron.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!