Allow me to take you through these latter, languid days;
the so-called Age of Evening Calm.
Let us sit on the warm concrete before Night falls.
Written and illustrated by Hitoshi Ashinano, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Record of a Yokohama Shopping Trip) is a slow, quiet vision of the peaceful decline of humanity.
At an unspecified point in the future, humanity is slowly winding down due to a global climate shift and drastically-risen oceans which have submerged coastal cities everywhere. Amidst this is a small café south of Yokohama, run by a Robot Girl named Alpha Hatsuseno. While she's cheerful and friendly, her owner left her alone to travel the world, she rarely sees customers, and her nearest neighbors are kilometers away, so her life is usually lonely and quiet. That is, until another robot shows up to give her a camera, beginning a journey of self-discovery and new awareness of herself and the world around her.
Despite taking place After the End, the tone of the series is decidedly calm and low-key, and it's really a Slice of Life tale about Alpha, the people she interacts with, and the friends she makes. Entire chapters can go by with little to no dialogue, and much is given to simply portraying this future world and the mysteries it contains.
The manga was serialized from 1994 to 2006 in the Seinen magazine Afternoon. It was also adapted into four OVA episodes by Ajia-Do; the first two were released in 1998, and the second two (subtitled as Quiet Country Café) were released in December 2002 and March 2003. A French publisher, Meian, is releasing the volumes in French under the name Escale à Yokohama (Stop at Yokohama). After many years with no official English translation, Seven Seas Entertainment picked up the license, and is releasing the manga as five omnibus volumes, with the first released in August 2022.
Occasionally compared to ARIA, which it predates by some six years, for ARIA's similar Science Fiction setting, heavy use of Scenery Porn, and clear parallels and similarities between the cast of characters and their relationships.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou contains examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: In ch. 3, Alpha gets embarrassed when some customers snicker at the ribbons she wrapped around the watermelons Uncle gave her. However, as she's sitting and enjoying her tea at the end of the chapter, she glances over at the melons and can't help but laugh at seeing them.
- Age-Gap Romance: Subverted; Alpha and Takahiro have an obvious romantic connection, but neither of them pursue their mutual feelings because Takahiro will eventually age and die and Alpha will not. Alpha also sees Takahiro as a brother figure, and refers to him as such several times.
- Arcadia: The setting mostly consists of quiet countryside; while there are areas that are more or less urban, such as Yokohama and the area where Kokone works, they're heavily encroached upon by nature. The people are generally good-hearted and life is generally peaceful and easy. This is especially significant with the knowledge that the world is as it is due to some sort of catastrophe and that humanity is winding down like a clock.
- After the End: The story is taking place long after some kind of unspecified upheaval that has basically undone human civilization. All the violence and noise that typically signifies "The End" has long since passed, but the story's not done yet.
- Art Evolution: Character designs change noticeably throughout the volumes.
- Artifact Title: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou translates to "Record of a Yokohama Shopping Trip". The first chapter is about just that — a shopping trip to Yokohama — but the place is only visited occasionally through the rest of the series. Like as not, the "first chapter" was actually produced as a one-shot stand-alone which was then optioned into a series, carrying along its now mostly vestigial title.
- Beach Episode: One chapter, a swimming trip with Alpha, Kokone, Maruko, and Makki. It's the closest the entire series comes to Fanservice, but as with all the other chapters, character interaction is the overwhelming focus.
- Beautiful Void: The beauty of the setting contrasts heavily with how human contact is infrequent, and how many places once inhabited have been abandoned. The underwater city Alpha encounters exemplifies this.
- Big Storm Episode: Ch. 62 revolves around a typhoon bearing down on the coastal area near where Alpha's house is located. She holes up with Uncle, listening to radio broadcasts from a meteorological plane and fretting about Uncle (who was out in the storm) and her house. She returns home once the storm's blown through, only to find that the section of her house that had been turned into Café Alpha has been destroyed.
- Bittersweet Ending: Alpha is doing just fine, and is even living together with Kokone, but most of the other people she loves either moved away or died, and the world around her is still gradually deteriorating.
- Book Ends: The first and last chapters are shopping trips to Yokohama.
- Brain/Computer Interface: The robots not only transmit information to each other through their tongues, they can interact with and control machines via connection cords they hold in their mouths. Director Alpha uses such a connection to tap into the Tarpon's sensors and feel as though she's flying. In ch. 38, Alpha uses a similar connection to work the remote control for Sensei's flying craft, but the interface goes far deeper than Sensei was expecting, as Alpha seems to bond to the machine and is traumatized somewhat when she's disconnected. She has a similar experience in ch. 70 when Nai has her connect to his plane and she feels as if she's flying on her own.
- Character Development: Over the years, Maruko's attitude towards Alpha changes from hostile to neutral to friendly.
- Compressed Adaptation: The four OVA episodes cover 18 of the manga's 141 chapters.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Sort of. The tone is often philosophical, but no actual philosophy is ever mentioned outright. It's just sort of... implied.
- Cosy Catastrophe: Despite the common knowledge that humanity is on the decline, the general attitude of everyone is to just live out their lives and accept things as they are. The past is generally treated with some wistfulness, but no one is in significant angst.
- Cryptic Background Reference: By the truckload. See the Wild Mass Guessing page for just a few.
- The Cutie: Each of the robots display this when they're first introduced, and Alpha and Kokone occasionally lapse back into this trope.
- Decompressed Comic: Long stretches of the manga go without any dialogue, relying purely upon the graphic elements.
- Did They or Didn't They?: In one of the last chapters, a now-teenaged Takahiro is heavily implied to have spent the night in Alpha's company just before leaving town for good. Whether this even happened, and whether anything happened if it did, is just one more mystery.
- Distant Finale: Throughout the last volume, there's a couple years between chapters, with the final chapter taking place at least a decade after the one before and an epilogue whose placement on the timeline can only be guessed.
- Dramatic High Perching: At one point, Alpha spends some time sitting on a power pole that's just above the water's surface and playing her moon guitar as Uncle and Takahiro watch and listen.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: "Uncle" and "Sensei", major characters for most of the series, vanish without fanfare midway through the final volume. Even Alpha doesn't seem to notice, which didn't sit well with some readers. Although, since this happens right after a Time Skip, and we're shown his gas station overgrown with two unmarked graves beside it, it's likely that they both died of old age quite some time ago and she had already had enough time to grieve for them.
- Uncle and Sensei each got an Obi-Wan Moment chapter before the final chapters happen as well, knowing that they haven't gotten much longer to live.
- Downer Beginning: The first chapter immediately introduces some of the more melancholic aspects of the story, namely the environmental damage caused by the rising ocean waters, and Alpha being isolated and apparently abandoned by her owner.
- Fanservice: Almost completed averted, despite the prominently cute, female cast. The OVAs cut loose a bit, but are still notably restrained.
- Fantastic Arousal:
- In ch. 16, Alpha discovers that Konone's electric scooter gives a little jolt through the seat when the ignition is started, which leaves her blushing.Alpha: It kind of feels good...
Kokone: I think so too.
- Later, Kokone takes the scooter to a mechanic who mentions off-hand that her android body shares some parts with that model... and then immediately apologizes for getting "too personal".
- In ch. 16, Alpha discovers that Konone's electric scooter gives a little jolt through the seat when the ignition is started, which leaves her blushing.
- Flight: A recurring theme in the story. Nai's plane, the model engine plane that Alpha repairs, the Tarpon (the gigantic airship that endlessly flies overhead), and Alpha's dream-like visions of flying which she may or may not actually be doing... yet another unanswered question.
- Flooded Future World: Due to an environmental shift whose details are largely unrevealed, sea levels have risen dramatically, submerging a great many coastal cities completely and rendering many roads and highways partially to completely impassible. In ch. 44, Director Alpha remarks to her assistant that this process is still ongoing, noting that towns and cities sometimes suddenly disappear and there's nothing they can do about it from their position on the Tarpon.
- Flying Dutchman: The Tarpon, an orbital craft stuck circling the Earth because everywhere it could have landed has either been destroyed or swallowed by the rising sea levels. It circles the globe, switching north-south hemispheres every 6 years. Its overall purpose has either been lost to time or classified to only a few certain people still alive.
- Forceful Kiss: The imagery is invoked in ch. 74, which starts with Kokone doing the usual tongue-to-tongue data transfer to Maruko, but she's sitting on the floor with Maruko over her in a way that looks like it could go a lot further. When it's done, Kokone is blushing and asks Maruko to be more gentle in the future.Maruko: Ohhhh... It's just been so long, you know? You just can't contain an old man like me!
Kokone: "Old man"?
- Foreshadowing: In ch. 4, Alpha has a short stay in hospital. The doctor (known as Sensei in later appearances) says that it has been a long time since she had a robot patient, and that Alpha is like a daughter to her. We find out later that Sensei was involved in the early days of the robot development program.
- Furo Scene:
- In ch. 31, Alpha and Takahiro share Alpha's furo after both get soaked in a storm. Alpha is fairly nonchalant about it, remarking "No secrets between friends, right?", although after Takahiro leaves she does wonder if it was inappropriate. Takahiro, on the other hand, has a Luminescent Blush the entire time.
- In a later chapter, Alpha enjoys a nice, relaxing bath after a few days wandering in the wild.
- Gaia's Lament: Played with. Starvation isn't an issue for anyone, and fruits and fish are plentiful, but grain-based agriculture seems to be very sparse due to a lack of available land for farming caused by the rising oceans. In one chapter, Ayase meets up with another barracuda keeper who shares some rice with him for a meal. Ayase is shocked to see actual rice, saying it's been so long that he can't remember what it tastes like. He repays the other keeper by giving him some vials of soy sauce, and the other keeper's astonished reaction implies that soybeans are just as rare as rice.
- Giant Food: Downplayed. While not truly giant, certain foods grow to sizes far beyond how they are in the real world. While on her year-long walkabout, Alpha at one point is given a persimmon as big as her head, and someone else offers to roast her a chestnut that's almost as big.
- Gift-Giving Gaffe: Ch. 54 ends with Alpha receiving a present from Konoke: a crate labeled "Alcohol", presumably containing bottles of some form of alcoholic beverage, which Alpha has very little tolerance for.
- Girls Stare at Scenery, Boys Stare at Girls: In ch. 56, Takahiro stays overnight with Alpha rather than try to walk back home since it's wintertime and very cold. In the morning, Alpha eagerly wakes him up so he can see the frosted-over lawn. As she twirls around in the lawn and marvels at the beauty of what's outside, Takahiro, who's now 13, is focused on her, and it's clear from his stare and blush that he's seeing her in a way that he never has before.
- Glomp: In ch. 81, Alpha gives Uncle a flying hug the first time she sees him after returning from her year-long travel...and ends up popping his neck out of joint. Fortunately, it just means he spends most of the chapter with his head tilted at an angle, and is back to normal by the end, shrugging off the pain as he's used to something hurting pretty much daily.
- Gone Horribly Right: Downplayed in chs. 37 and 38. Sensei recruits Alpha to be the pilot, via remote control, for a rebuilt version of the flying craft she piloted in her youth. It starts off fine, but Alpha's connection to the machine goes far deeper than Sensei was thinking it would, to the point that she feels as though she and the machine are one as they're flying. Fearing for Alpha's safety, Sensei unplugs her from the remote, which traumatizes Alpha enough that she starts crying, although she recovers and is happy for the experience.
- Green-Eyed Monster:
- Maruko is jealous of Alpha and Kokone's relationship and is rather catty to Alpha when they first meet.
- Until she gets to know Alpha, Makki is jealous of Alpha and Takahiro's relationship.
- Harmless Electrocution: Subverted. While Alpha ultimately ends up okay, she still needs medical treatment and gets skin and hair replacement where the lightning bolt burned it off.
- Intimate Healing: Near the end of chapter 2, Takahiro gets caught in a thunderstorm and is soaked by the rain. He takes shelter in a barn and is still extremely cold even after shucking his sodden clothes, but is suddenly embraced by the Osprey, and falls asleep in her arms, finding her smile not as scary as he did when he first saw her. When he wakes up, Alpha finds him dressed and dry.
- Jump Scare: In ch. 60, Maruko spots Kokone making a delivery, sneaks up behind her, and yells out. Kokone isn't just scared, she pulls the gun she's carrying and almost shoots Maruko, but breaks down crying when she realizes who it is. Maruko is equally startled but realizes that it's part of Kokone's training as a courier and doesn't hold it against her.
- Just Before the End: This is as equally valid an interpretation of the setting and story as After the End; while human civilization hasn't been completely erased, it is definitely on the downward slide.
- The Magic Comes Back: As human civilization recedes, hints of the supernatural appear in the world — although (as befits the story) none of them are flashy or overly dramatic.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: Alpha and the other robots seem to be artificial lifeforms rather than mere human-shaped machines. They sleep and dream, they need the same food as humans, and they may even need to breathe, as Kokone comes up for air at one point while she and Alpha are swimming in the ocean. That said, they're suggested to be much lower maintenance than normal humans—Maruko points out that a human person wouldn't be able to make a living out of Alpha's little business.
- Memento MacGuffin: Café Alpha serves as both Alpha's day job and a treasured reminder of her connection to her owner, both for the anticipation of waiting for whatever customers might appear and the nights they'd spend sitting together there and talking. Its loss rattles her deeply, although she is able to pull herself together and use it as a catalyst to go on an adventure.
- Messy Hair: Inflicted on Alpha in ch. 4. After getting struck by lightning, she needs to have her hair and sections of her skin replaced. The fixes work, but the new hair stands up on her head and refuses to lay down, which embarrasses Alpha to no end. Making it even worse is the doctor telling Alpha it'll take a week for the new hair to settle down.
- Middle-of-Nowhere Street: The story takes place principally in a town so desolated and isolated that its population consists of a mere handful of people, and even traveling a limited distance towards or away from town is considered a major endeavor. Furthermore, most lines of communication don't work, requiring either air drops or a personal courier for mail delivery, and for the latter option humanoid robots are preferred as they're better able to cope with the conditions.
- Mono no Aware: One of the most notable examples of this aesthetic in manga. The reason why things are fading away is generally left unaddressed because it is unimportant. All things fade away. What is important is that we appreciate the beauty of the impermanent world and that is remembered when it has passed.
- Monumental Damage: One of the many unexplained story elements is that at some point in the past, Mount Fuji erupted with enough force to remove part of its peak.
- Mood Whiplash: Most of the stories are light-hearted or gently melancholic, but there are exceptions:
- Maruko is really jealous and spiteful toward Alpha at first, due to jealousy over Kokone's friendship with her and her being in a picture Nai took, which was the first contact she'd had from him in some time.
- There are some bleak moments when the older human characters talk about their impending deaths.
- Motorcycle on the Coast Road: One of Alpha's favorite pastimes is to tour the countryside on her scooter, and several chapters, some of them with no dialogue, simply show Alpha driving and the sights she sees along her journeys.
- Oh, Crap!: At the start of ch. 4, as Alpha realizes a storm's coming and she won't be able to avoid it, a static discharge comes out of her mouth. She gets one panel's worth of a scared look at the sky before she's struck by lightning.
- One-Gender Race: Subverted—there were male androids, but almost all of them died out due to an unidentified design flaw. Throughout the series, we only ever even hear of one survivor.
- OVA: Adapted not as a television series but as a pair of two-episode video releases with the title Quiet Country Café.
- Pastoral Science Fiction: A Slice of Life science fiction story set in the countryside.
- P.O.V. Cam: Chapter 30 puts the reader into the place of a customer who's returning to Café Alpha after a long time, seeing their perspective as Alpha greets them, serves them a café au lait, and talks with them off and on into the evening before the "customer" departs. This customer is familiar enough with Alpha to know that she can't drink a café au lait herself, that she has quite the sweet tooth, and that she always makes her customers feel like they're right at home.[as the customer is leaving] It doesn't get more middle-of-nowhere than this. But I think I'll be back, even if it's a day far in the future. It's a place where you can be a regular no matter how long it's been.
- Ragnarök Proofing: The deserted town of Yokosuka still lights up every night, even though it is now underwater.
- Real-Place Background: A lot of places Alpha visits exist for real, even though they are now largely reclaimed by the sea or otherwise highly run-down. Special mention goes to Yokohama (of course), Miura and Kamakura.
- Recurring Dreams: Alpha has a recurring dream in which she is flying, her arms transformed into wings. One of the manga's many mysteries is whether or not she actually is flying and doesn't realize it, as the first time this is shown, it's after she's tried a drink made from milk and Kahloa (a double whammy since she's a lightweight with booze and animal proteins make her sick to her stomach) and she somehow travels from the café to Uncle's gas station a few kilometers away. This ambiguity shows up again in ch. 55, which starts with her "flying" and even seeing Takahiro walking, then transitions to her sitting in the cafe, apparently having dozed off. However, when she and Takahiro are walking together later on, he mentions that he saw something odd flying in the air at the exact spot where Alpha saw him in her "dream".
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Alpha and her kind are basically human, except for the fact that they never age — and probably can't reproduce either, although they seem to have the necessary equipment. It's possible that the only reason they can't reproduce is because there's only one male robot left and he just isn't interested. Just another one of the series' many Epileptic Trees.
- Robosexual: A consequence of the above. Kokone and Alpha both have their fair share of admirers. The owner of the tea shop, in particular, has a really obvious unrequited crush on Kokone. Everyone treats this as a perfectly normal thing; even Kokone's coworker is merely jealous that Kokone is more popular with the guys than she is.
- Scenery Porn: Entire chapters may go by with hardly a word spoken.
- Schizo Tech: On the one hand you've got some sort of giant orbital airplane-thingy and Ridiculously Human Robots and direct-to-brain cameras, and on the other you have standard mid-to-late 20th-century fare. Even two-way radios, cellphones and landline telephones, which should exist, are never shown; all other forms of communication (other than in-person) are by surface mail or radio broadcasts.
- Shown Their Work: For the most part the geography is very well researched (not surprising since Ashinano is from Yokohama) right down to the specific building identified as Café Alpha having been located in real life, right where the manga said it would be (it's currently a private home).
- Silent Scenery Panel: A large part of the manga, which helps the atmosphere tremendously. There is at least an entire chapter of the manga without a single line of dialogue.
- Sleep Cute:
- Ch. 29 has two instances with Takahiro and Makki that are exaggerated for humor. In both, Takahiro has a weird dream that ends with a huge pillbug laying on top of him, which is revealed to be Makki awkwardly sprawled across him snoozing.
- Ch. 49 features a more straightforward instance between them as Alpha is returning them from their swimming trip, with Takahiro leaning against the door of the truck and Makki slumped against him.
- Slice of Life: Despite the post-apocalyptic setting and the various mysteries, at its heart the story is just Alpha and the people around her living out their lives, with each chapter focusing on a particular way that they pass their days and interact with one another.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly on the Idealism side of the scale, despite being After the End and all.
- Static Stun Gun: Kokone has a pistol which fires "9mm electroshock rounds". She understands that they leave a scar, but we never see her fire it. It's not that sort of series.
- Sunken City: A great many due to the rising oceans, but Yokosuka is particularly prominent in the story.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Averted. Alpha (and, one assumes, the other robot people) don't have super strength or built-in weapons. (In one chapter, Alpha has all she can do to lift a large snowball while building a snowman, implying she has no more strength than an average adult human woman.) Being able to interface with electronics by sticking a cable in your mouth is a neat trick, though.
- Tears of Awe: Ch. 22 revolves around Alpha traveling to a point where she can look over Yokosuka, something she did once before many years earlier with her owner. Sensei joins her, and as night falls the entire bay lights up, including the city lights underwater. Alpha is so awestruck by the sight that she can only stare and gently cry, with Sensei affectionately holding her head with one hand.
- Time Skip: For most of the series time passes at about the same rate as the real-time of initial serialization, but during the final volume, more time passes between chapters, sometimes years between. Each skip is another sucker punch in the gut as human "ships" pass on, leaving Alpha behind — just as she warned they would all through the series.
- Unspecified Apocalypse: Throughout the entirety of the manga, only hints and tidbits of information about what happened to start the Age of the Calm Evening are given. The characters themselves don't ponder much in what caused it as much as the effects it has on their lives, and this is hinted to have been going on for years now and the main setting is a faraway settlement where such things are hardly talked about.
- Unusual Pets for Unusual People: The barracuda carriers are essentially homeless wanderers who travel wherever the urge takes them, taking odd jobs here and there to earn money and using the barracudas to hunt for fish as their main food source. Said barracudas are a new species that are the size of an eagle with large wings like flying fish, insect-like legs, a visor-like covering over their eyes, and no difficulty living out of water.
- Walking the Earth:
- At some point prior to the start of the story, Alpha's owner took off to explore the world, leaving Alpha in charge of the café.
- Alpha experiences some wanderlust herself, and since business at the café is so slow, she often has plenty of time on her hands to travel wherever the whim takes her. This becomes a major story arc running from chs. 62 to 78: a typhoon destroys the part of her house that was the café, and she decides to go on a long walkabout, partly because she has nothing else to do and partly to see if she can earn enough money working odd jobs to try to rebuild. She ends up traveling for a full year.
- Wham Shot: The last page of ch. 62, showing the wreckage of Café Alpha after it's hit by the typhoon.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Admittedly, this is a big reason why the manga even works in the first place.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Largely averted, but hinted at in chapters 45 and 93 as the obvious reason why robots wouldn't want any romantic involvement with humans. Which, together with the fact that nearly all surviving robots are female, makes for a rather limited range of options...
- Whole Episode Flashback: Ch. 53, in which Sensei reminisces about a day in her teen years where, with Uncle there to chat with her, she paints a flower-like symbol on her motorbike, which has already been seen on the charm Director Alpha wears around her neck.Sensei: This is someone happily wandering and looking around. So, what I just painted is...how do I put it...the common eye between me and the bike.
Uncle: Hunh. I thought it was....uh...the "ko" in "koumishi" or something.
Sensei: Oh. It does kind of look like it. Yeah...it can be that too.
- World of Technicolor Hair: Human characters have normal hair colors, but robots have hair in more unusual shades. Alpha has green hair and Kokone's is light purple; Maruko's is reddish brown, which wouldn't be out of place elsewhere but stands out in Japan. It's implied to be an in-universe case of Colour-Coded for Your Convenience, as it's highly likely that robots were designed like that on purpose to distinguish them from humans. Another case that stands out is the Osprey, whose hair is a slightly deeper purple than Kokone's.