This is review number two hundred and five. This is part of the Spring 2010 lineup. This is also part of the noitaminA block for Spring 2010. This is also a requested anime review. The recommendation box closes this month so if you want an anime reviewed then click on the image of Mix at the right side of this blog. You can’t miss her. Anyways, I’ll be reviewing The Tatami Galaxy. The English version is misleading because there were no galaxies in the anime. This is a very good show though. It’s an eleven episode anime about time travel and fortune tellers asking for 5000 yen per reading. Let’s read on.
The anime is about an unnamed university student. He always wanted a “rose colored” campus life and he thought he would achieve it by joining one of the many available clubs in the university. He had the perfect game plan to nicely achieve his goal but it doesn’t always turn out as perfectly as he planned. He would put a lot of effort and time but sadly being unable to have a rose colored campus life. He realizes that he has wasted two years of his college life chasing it. At the end, he would ask for the person responsible for his situation and he would declare that things wouldn’t turn out this way if only he thought carefully of his choices back when he was a first year student in front of the giant clock tower at the entrance of the school. It’s the same clock tower that would rewind time again and again.
Taking the Pants Off
This is one of my favorite anime ever. I’m not sure how biased this review will be but The Tatami Galaxy is among the few anime to truly impress me. I’m a huge fan of a good story in anime. It’s really the reason why I’m addicted to the medium and this show really hit the spot for me. At first glance, it looks unimpressive yet the layers of complexity in this anime are wonderfully structured. I first watched this back during my first year of college. It was our finals and I was about to fail six subjects. I was planning to relieve some stress by watching anime and ended up wasting the entire day because of this anime. Needless to say, I ended up failing my subjects miserably but managed to pass three of them because of some extra credit projects. I didn’t care though because I just watched one of the best anime of my life. Tatami Galaxy doesn’t look much at first and the animation style is certainly distracting but the story of a guy unable to reach a “rose colored” college life is really intriguing. It’s a story about human experience that I’m sure most of us can relate to. The overall moral of the story is also something that hits deep within. I’ll explain that later. The wonderful thing about this anime though is that it is nicely executed despite being only eleven episodes long. I’ve seen a lot of twelve episode anime ending in disappointment yet Tatami Galaxy achieved to present an engaging story in such a short amount of time. It’s pretty impressive.
Tatami Galaxy doesn’t start off impressively though. This is one of those shows that requires a good long time to actually warm up. In fact, the first episode might very well put you off. I was certainly turned off by it. The entire presentation of the anime seems to be a bit unorthodox and certainly hard to appreciate. The first thing you’ll notice is the fast narration. The main character would often narrate some scenes in the anime. It’s usually to establish the status quo, introduce the characters and to set the scene of the story. The narration is unpleasantly fast though. You can barely catch up to it and reading the subtitle is like hell. You’ll be easily overwhelmed at first trying to follow the rhythm of the narration. The animation style would also put you off as well. It’s really hard to get used to the bright colors and the “non-anime” design of the characters. There are also the split second scenes and the out of place live action scenes that are heavily filtered that will certainly overwhelm you. To top it off, the story is a bit of a mess. There was no proper introduction, the status quo is blindly established and you’d spend the rest of the first episode basically figuring out what the hell is going on. In terms of how to tell a story, Tatami Galaxy seems to be reading a book upside down. To be fair though, the narration is a bit hypnotic because of how fast the voice actor reads the lines and the characters are instantly interesting. They don’t look that anime~ish but they are immediately as well rounded as any character can be. The show has tremendous potential judging by the first episode but it certainly takes effort to fully appreciate it. Worry not though. A little bit of patience will be heavily rewarded later on.
The first step in enjoying the anime is figuring out the story. The story is pretty complex but, after the initial shock from the anime subsides, it slowly becomes pretty clear as you progress. The premise of the anime is actually pretty simple and really ingenious. The anime begins with the main character joining a club at the start of the episode hoping for a wonderful campus life. His expectations aren’t met and he feels unhappy afterwards. At the end of the anime, he would regret the things he did the past two years and claimed that things would’ve been different if only he didn’t do so many things wrong. An episode ends with the hands of the clock tower suddenly rewinding. The rest of the episodes are usually about the main character joining a new club different from the one he chose in the previous episode. Eventually though, you can only f*ck things up so many times before you finally get it right, right? Well, that’s the premise of the anime. The main character is given several chances and exactly how many he needs after screwing up countless times is the main focus of the story.
The premise of the anime is really amazing and honestly, the biggest hurdle is the first episode. This isn’t the kind of anime that instantly clicks with the audience. This is one of those shows that require a couple of episodes for it to get interesting and the audience is required to give a little effort to realize the beauty of the show. Isn’t a story about second chances and missed opportunity something that just has a lot of potential though? Learn to appreciate the fast narration and the unusual animation style then you’re pretty much golden. The story slowly unfolds as you keep watching and you’ll soon realize that the show has a beautiful message to tell.
The story of the anime is pretty complex. It’s easy to understand though as you keep watching it. The anime is about the different clubs the main character joins. Every episode is about a different club so there are also different stories to tell. Each episode has its own story to present. The stories in the episodes are usually the things involving the clubs he joins in. He has this wonderful idea of the club he would join and the experiences he would have if he joins them. Things don’t fare out pretty well for the main character though and he would often be tangled with some crazy stuff involving the club. From simple stories of unrequited love to a freakin pyramid scheme the club partakes in, there is no shortage of interesting stories to tell in each episode. With the episodes all being unique, the anime also changes the status quo a lot. This is a bit hard to get used to since the characters aren’t introduced properly and their role isn’t determined in the first place. You’d often just go with the flow and the anime introduces a character in the episode. The flow is pretty clear though and easy to follow despite the lack of proper introduction. As you keep progressing, the roles of the characters from previous episodes are carried over and they become part of the identity of the character for later stories. At the end of each stories though, one thing is always the same, the anime ends with time rewinding.
When I first watched this anime, I was really lost. I’m not sure what exactly the show was going for but I still kept watching simply because of the individual stories for each episode. The crazy adventures the main character would be involved in are pretty fun to watch. From becoming an athlete to flying an airship, the stories always escalate in a wonderful way. The ways the characters are utilized are also pretty brilliant. One episode, a character would be an antagonist to the main character but in other episodes, they are companions until their actual role is revealed. The most impressive thing about the individual stories though is that despite the main character taking different paths, he always seems to end up in the same miserable position he is in. Despite chasing after different things in the episodes, they always end with the main character unhappy and regretting his choices. As you keep watching, you’d hope he smarten up and realize why he always fail so much. You would alsokeep watching though to see just how far he would go before he fails at his goal because it’s just fun to see him fail. There is a wonderfully human experience that the main character feels that I’m sure viewers can relate to. Failing. Deep down inside, I personally feel for the main character. He would strive for a goal that he cannot reach and the only option is failing. There is something else though because no matter how many path he takes, he always seems to end up in the same place and it really stings. I can relate to the main character and when it’s time to regret at the choices he made, I feel like I should be patting him on the back trying to sympathize with him.
I should point out though that there is a moral to the individual stories. The question of why he always fails, despite taking different paths and doing things differently than before, is something that the anime eventually raises. The answer is something I’m sure the audience can really appreciate especially if you’ve found yourself in the same position as the main character even at least once in your life.
The anime also has an overall story. The common elements found in the individual stories essentially make up the overall story. There are some things pointed out over and over again in the stories of the episodes. One of them is the main character’s relationship with the girl named Akashi. She is a first year student of the engineering department that the main character meets countless times in each episode. She always hates moths and she always loses her fifth Mochiguman key chain. The main character would always find the Mochiguman and keeps it. Another common element is that the main character is always being befriended by this dude named Ozu. He is always the only person that approaches the main character when things go wrong and he would often be included in some of the main character’s misadventures. Often times, he would instigate them. Lastly, the main character would often meet a fortune teller during the time he would feel like he wants out of his club. This fortune teller would always hint that he must seize the opportunity then ask for some payment. If you put two and two together then I’m pretty sure the overall story is pretty clear. Of course, the main character doesn’t see it himself because he is busy finding his “rose colored” campus life. Things eventually build though and certain events would make the main character see the things he always seems to miss.
The main story is eventually focused on in the later parts of the anime. The confusing and intimidating aspect of the first episode is properly made up for with clarity towards the end of the anime. The overall story is certainly intriguing because there were certainly some things that kept being overlooked by the show and I’m glad they tackled it before the anime ended. Once again, another human experience is presented by the anime in regards to the overall story. This one is pretty simple. It’s about seizing the opportunity when it’s available because the chance might never come up again. Any other story would have a main character realize this part way through the show but the main character is as human as human can be. Seizing the opportunity requires a big leap that he isn’t really prepared for and there were episodes where he put it off. He didn’t want to and you really can’t fault him because most of us have done the same way. I personally have let certain things slip by me and I have walked away to a lot of things just like the main character. He wanted something more and it is pretty normal in his position. Of course, feeling regret later on is also something normal for him in his position. Though letting the opportunity slip away countless times is something that makes his situation pretty interesting. Despite all the do overs and the time rewinds, he always seem to miss his chance and the revelation behind it is pretty fun to watch.
The anime also has some elements of time travel. The anime didn’t explain why time rewinds. It simply just did. I honestly think this was a way to mislead the audience into thinking the anime had something more hidden in its sleeves but really, this is nothing more than a plot device. The anime just happened to have time travel in it. Without it, the story is really boring but the anime also doesn’t explain why it is there. It’s just there and whether this was something overlooked to compensate for the short episode or something that was also ignored in the novel the anime was adapted from is totally up in the air. It doesn’t affect the quality of the story though so letting something crucial as time travel, which joined the individual stories of thee anime together, remain unexplained is fine by me. I did wonder if its inclusion would’ve made the story better. The anime is really more of a philosophical piece so I’m not really sure how adding Sci Fi would make it better. Though the elements of Sci Fi are already in the story so I’m think the two could’ve played well together. I think the complexity of the anime though made it impossible to truly make a Sci Fi story happen since the Philosophical one takes time to actually get interesting. Bottom line though, the time travel is just a plot device. It could’ve been replaced by a story of the main character getting his wishes granted and it would’ve been the same.
The characters really made this show special because they were hand in hand with the story. The story gave us insight to the characters and the characters made us appreciate the story more. It’s a give and take that was nicely executed. The narration helped a lot as well in terms of introducing the characters. The main character is pretty interesting because he is really just normal. His college life is something I personally relate with and his experiences are something familiar to me. His narration pretty much reveals his character and really, he is just like the rest of us. I can’t really explain beyond that. He gets jealous, mad, and lazy and dreams big just like the rest of us. His role in the anime is pretty interesting to watch simply because you want to see how much he’ll fail or when he will finally succeed.
The rest of the cast is important to the story as well. Getting to know each and every one of them is actually one of the wonderful things about the anime. The one stable character though is Akashi. She doesn’t really participate in the individual stories much and she is supporting character at best. She doesn’t do much because she is vital to the overall story. She does get some time in the individual stories but not as much as the rest. Another character to point out is Ozu, the main character’s best friend. He describes Ozu as an evil person that enjoys seeing people be miserable. Despite the villainous description though, he is pretty friendly and just a bit mischievous. In the individual stories, he often does shady things and his eventual role is revealed as the anime progresses. It is pretty interesting to see Ozu be easy going and happy when he belongs to the same club as the main character on every episode. He seems to experiences the same unfulfilling life in the club. Why is he so happy and the main character so unsatisfied when both of them are in the same boat?
There are other side characters that are important to the individual stories and add a bit of insight to the overall one. They don’t mean much at first but the anime has a strange way of making characters look really interesting. Again, the narration is one way to do that. The various bits and pieces about the characters in the individual stories, that represent their overall character, are pretty interesting to see though. While the individual stories aren’t the same, these characters give us a clear picture of the overall story and exactly how different they are.
This is one of the best anime I have ever seen and re-watching it after all this time really gave me fond memories of this show. The biggest hurdle is the first episode, to be honest. As you keep watching, there is really no downside to point out. The anime started out a bit crazy but things eventually made sense towards the second half and the beauty of the anime is still as strong back when I first saw it. When I think of the people claiming noitaminA isn’t the same as it used to be, I look back at this anime and I can’t help but agree with them.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty unique. The characters do have a stable look so I think that is a great plus considering how crazy the director can be. Despite the cartoonish look of the characters, they are nicely detailed and they stand out despite their plain design. The characters often wear the same outfit but even if they change, you can’t really see it. Well, unless it’s Ozu in drag. The rest of the characters often have some whimsy on them though. One example is this random vendor the main character talks to that have an octopus for a head. There are also characters resembling monkeys and some are just cartoonish caricatures or something. I was personally freaked out by the presentation of the characters but it does grow on you.
Masaaki Yuasa is one insane director. His style is utilizing the animation to tell the story as well. The boundaries of what animation can do are surely tested by this director. In the anime, the color scheme of the anime isn’t stable. It changes almost every time and they’re always single base colors. The simple scenes often have details to distinguish them but only enough to make them feel cartoonish. 2D and CG are often combined in some scenes and there is also the use of pictures, often cut out, in the scenes. Then there are often live action video heavily filtered and then added to the anime. At first glance, they look unappealing and needless complex but you soon realize that this director tells the story in almost every angle. From the narrator, the actual flow of the story and the animation. This is one of the things that I really admire about this director. He has this artistic sense that is so original to him but he doesn’t stop there, he also makes sure the story gets the same treatment. His style is unconventional but it does grow on you.
The animation is outstanding. You’d think it’s just simple motions but the quality of the animation for this show is unbelievably high. The movements of the characters are so precise. One example was when the main character was walking while wiping his face down with a towel. It doesn’t seem much but the transition is smooth despite the crazy style and the movement is really precise. Yuasa also takes advantage of the camera angle to tell the story along with the liberties in the animation to really make high quality animation. From stop motion to incorporating 3D and 2D, you can see how precise the whole thing is. Nothing feels awkward and it’s actually flashy in a sense.
The anime’s OP is “Maigo Inu to Ame no Beat” by Asian Kung-Fu Generation. This is one of my favorite songs. Really, this song has been in my ipod for years now. It’s a nice pop rock song. I love the brass instruments of the song and the simple rhythm. The singer’s voice is pretty awesome as well. The song is about second chances and opportunities that nicely capture the spirit of the anime. The OP is a simple live action stroll of a messy apartment with cut outs of the characters presented as the camera moves along the corridors. It does get complex when it moved through the walls and the floor. This sequence ties in with the events of the anime so it might not make sense at first.
The anime’s ED is “Kamisama no Iutoori ” by Juuji Ishiwatari & Yoshinori Sunahara + Etsuko Yakushimaru. This was sung by Etsuko and I believe Juuji and Yoshinori composed the song. It’s nice that they’re credited. The song is a nice pop song with some flashy beats. I love Etsuko’s voice because she has this unique style that is a bit cute and serious. The ED sequence features a tatami floor plan and it expands and expands. Again, related to the story so it’ll only make sense then.
8/10 “It’s a very simple story of human experience told in a pretty ingenuous time travel adventure.”
I’ll say it again: this is one of my favorite anime ever. I don’t’ get attached to a lot of anime but this one was really tailor made for me. The story is a messy at first but becomes clear as you keep watching. The characters slowly grow on you and the message of the anime is pretty amazing. If you enjoy anime with a strong story then you’ll enjoy this one. If you love time travel anime then this had the same complex style you’ll appreciate. If you enjoy some unconventional anime then you’ll enjoy this one. I highly recommend it.