~Multilingual review, English & Español: The Tatami Galaxy~.
Life wouldn't be less than a simple and plain matter of choices, wherever our life is right now is due to the choices we've made in the past, we're doing and we'll probably make in the future, considering everything said "Life" would just be an abbreviation of the sum of choices we've made up until now.
Have you ever thought about them?, the choices you've made I mean, I’m pretty sure everyone have dedicated, at least a little moment of their time, to muse about the choices we've made so far in our lives, important or mundane
ones, it matters not. The best moment would be maybe while we're spacing out during a boring lesson in our classroom or when we're just slacking off a bit at our working place, or if our personality is that of the "pensive" type we already have a space in our schedule to muse about the little events in our lives, leaving aside the type of personality we've, I'm pretty sure we do all have asked ourselves the unavoidable question "What if..." didn't we?.
"Maybe I should have seated next to that pretty girl in the bus, but instead I’ve decided to stand up".
Just an example, how can my life change due to that mundane and maybe insignificant event?, impossible to know it and for that I question myself now "What if I’ve seated with that girl?", a quick reply to that question could be, even if it’s a little creative, that I could have talked with her a little during the ridesharing, I could have found that she's a wonderful girl and she thinks nice of me, next day she could have reserved the sit for me and again we start to talk, this could have lead me to ask her out, to fall in love, get engaged and when I didn't even realize it I've already married that girl. What was the triggering event for that?, "a stupid and mundane choice when I was young" would be the answer of an older version of myself, or maybe, a more realistic scenery would be that the girl gets off of that bus and it was the last time I saw her, anyway it wouldn't be completely wrong to say that we're the product of our choices, but not only, since also the people we meet have the power to change us considerably; maybe you're asking "what does all this things have to do with the review and with this anime?" to that I reply "quite everything", since "we're the product of our Choices" is the main theme of the anime I'm now going to introduce you, The Tatami Galaxy.
(Since our protagonist is nameless I shall now refer to him, from now on, as "The Protagonist")
Throughout the development of the story, we can see how different can be the life of The Protagonist based on the choices he had made and the people he had meet during his first year of University. The premise of this anime is to show us how different could be our lives due to a choice, in our protagonist's case, the choice of a Club to join. How can the choice of joining a certain Club be considered as something important, something that could change completely our lives?, at a first gaze I would say “it’s quite improbable" but I couldn't be more wrong and for our protagonist that couldn't be more true. The Cinema Club?, Tennis Club?, Softball Club?, English Club?, it doesn't matter; all of this show is about The Protagonist's pursuit of his “rose-colored campus life” and what would be that? well it's Everyone's dream: being popular, a lot of friends and a cute girlfriend but that's something that reveals to be a particulary difficult goal to reach for our timid protagonist and lucky isn't even by his side since someone is obstructing him and that obstruction it's represented by a physical person, another character of this anime, Ozu. The relation between Ozu and The Protagonist is a bit weird but I totally loved it, Ozu could be or your best friend or you worst enemy, depending how you approach him. So through many of the clubs The Protagonist joins we're the audience of what would happen to his life if he had only joined a different club in his first year.
The story telling of this anime is unique, incredible unique if I must say it. We need to think of it as a puzzle, a puzzle with 11 parts (11 as the episodes of this anime), so little by little we need to fill the missing parts until it gets finished, at that moment we can actually gaze the wonderfully picture that have been created.
The first thing that strike us are the characters, they're unique in their own way, all of them have a characteristic that would lead them to being crafted into our minds, starting from The Protagonist to the Fortune Teller (you'll love that old baba!) since they are made of a simplicity and yet they're so unique that you'll have a hard time trying to get them off your head (admitted if you want to). First we have The Protagonist, he's a first year University student, quite shy and easily manipulated by the other characters of this show, especially Ozu, whose failing to obtain his precious rose colored life consider his life a total waste. Ozu, whose The Protagonist usually describe his first meet with him as "the first as well as worst", he's a devil like little guy but not only because of his behavior which is indeed evil ("He eats people's unhappiness with three helpings of rice" - The Protagonist's words) but also because of his appearance, he's also the best and only friend of our protagonist. These two are the most important characters in the show, I won't talk about each of them since Tatami Galaxy's really offer a large and above all, original and interesting cast of characters, otherwise this review could get really long. Even if the story revolves around The Protagonist, the other characters aren't less important, I would say actually they're more important than him for the development since our protagonist is a passive character; Remember?...not only the choices are important but also the people we meet could lead our lives to an unexpected turn. This anime goes that far too actually made us understand that not experiencing something is actually an experience itself, and we won't understand that until we finish this anime. The ending is something special; it gives the whole meaning for this show. Comedy isn't missing neither, this show stands out also for its comedy scenes, and every character will make you laugh in a different way, their own way. Johnny' scenes, a character's show, are memorable.
The art is quite particular too, even if you may find it weird at the first sight, we get used to it quite fast and maybe we ask ourselves "Why there aren't more shows like this?”, The animation is Madhouse Studio, so we can count with an incredible high level animation, characteristic trademark of this studio. The OST suited perfectly every scene, from those more " lively" ones to those passives, but for one strange reason we don't give the deserved attention to them, that’s because The Protagonist's speed light monologues will take most of our concentration, leaving the OST in the background, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Both OP/ED are amazing too, I especially liked more the OP single.
Unless you're able to read very quickly you won't be able to leave the Pause button aside, since The Protagonist usually talks in a very speedy way that sometimes we aren't able to read the subtitles in time but that won't be the only thing to interrupt us during the vision of this anime, there are also those The Protagonist's monologues which are so filled with meaning and extremely well written that we could actually feel the urgent of going back to rewatch them, an action I actually repeat many times. It’s incredible but every single phrase pronounced in this show has its own charming and filled with meaning, Wikiquote would have a lot of pages filled with our characters phrases, and I'm not referring to those cliché ones we find everywhere, Tatami Galaxy's ones are all original.
There are anime with meaning and moral, there are anime with funny characters, there are anime with an incredible story and unique storytelling, but I need to say that The Tatami Galaxy was composed by all of them. I would recommend (personal experience) to rewatch this anime after some time, because its incredible the amount of particulars that could be missed the first time, after all, re-watching an anime to us dear let us appreciate those little particulars we could have missed the first time, and in The Tatami Galaxy's case I can assure you'll be surprised.
I've expressed myself the best I could, I hope this review moves someone into watching this anime because it’s really worth. I'm going to leave you, the readers, to visualize the whole bocón of things said in this review, don't hesitate and jump into it you won’t regret it, in that case I’ve realized my main point for this review, otherwise I apologize for being unable to send my feelings towards this incredible anime to you since it's only my fault as a novice reviewer as I'm.
In any case, thanks you for spending time for reading it
La Vida se reduce a las decisiones tomadas. Cualquiera sea el modo en que esté nuestra vida ahora, se debe exclusivamente a las decisiones que hemos hecho en el pasado. Lo que nos lleva a decir que no estaríamos del todo en error al decir que la Vida no es nada más que la suma de nuestras decisiones. Personalmente soy una persona que no cree en el Destino, pues me gusta pensar que tenemos el control total de nuestras vidas, el control de las decisiones que tendremos que afrontar. Me gusta pensar que tenemos frente a nosotros una cantidad infinita de puertas en vez de una sola.
¿Alguna vez has pensado en ellas, las decisiones que has tomado? Estoy seguro que cualquiera ha dedicado, aunque sea un poco de tiempo, para meditar sobre ellas. Importantes o no, el mejor momento para ello podría ser cuando estamos ociando durante una lección aburrida en la escuela, o mientras ociamos un poco en el trabajo o, si somos del tipo pensativo, no necesitamos estar aburridos para dedicar un poco de nuestro tiempo a meditar sobre todo. Estoy seguro que al menos una vez nos hemos preguntado "¿Cómo sería si..?".
"Tal vez debería haberme sentado al lado de esa chica, pero decidí quedarme de pie"
Es sólo un ejemplo, ¿cómo cambiaría mi vida debido a ese evento tan común y corriente?. No soy capaz de saberlo y por eso si me pregunto "¿y si me hubiese sentado con ella?" una respuesta veloz, aunque un poco creativa, sería que habría comenzado a charlar con ella y me daría cuenta que es una chica estupenda y de que, sorprendentement,e ella piensa lo mismo sobre mí. Al día siguiente me la encuentro de nuevo y comenzamos a charlar otra vez, y esto me lleva a pedirle un día de salir conmigo, a enamorarme de ella y así sucesivamente al matrimonio. ¿Cuál sería el evento que me llevó a todo eso? "Una decisión común y corriente cuando era joven" sería la respuesta de mi Yo anciano o, siendo más realista, la chica se baja del tren y esa fue la última vez que la vi. No estaríamos del todo errados al decir que nosotros somos el producto de decisiones, pero no solamente nuestras decisiones, pues las personas que encontramos a lo largo de nuestro camino tienen el increíble poder de cambiarnos…Tal vez os estés preguntado "¿Qué tiene que ver todo esto con la review o con el anime?" y a eso le respondo: "prácticamente todo", porque "Somos el producto de nuestras decisiones" es el tema principal de la serie que ahora les voy a presentar, The Tatami Galaxy.
(Siendo nuestro protagonista un sin nombre, lo llamaré, a partir de ahora, El Protagonista)
A lo largo del desarrollo de la historia, podremos ver como sería la vida de nuestro protagonista en base a las decisiones que escoge el primer año de universidad y a las personas que encuentra en ella. La premisa de esta historia es mostrarnos cuan diferente pueden ser nuestras vidas debido a una decisión que tomamos. En el caso de nuestro protagonista, la decisión de un Club al cual unirse. ¿Cómo podría revelarse ser una decisión que cambiaría nuestras vidas el escoger a cuál club pertenecer? Es algo que consideré imposible a una primera impresión, algo que se puede considerar una deducción completamente errónea después. ¿El Club de Cine? ¿Club de Tenis?, ¿Football Club? ¿El Club de Ingles? No tendría importancia de verdad pues el objetivo de nuestro protagonista es encontrar lo que él considera "La vida color rosa". ¿De qué se trata esta? Pues eso sería el sueño de todo el mundo: Ser popular, muchos amigos y una bella novia, algo que, claramente, para nuestro tímido protagonista se revela ser una misión imposible. Ni siquiera la buena suerte lo acompaña, pues se encuentra siempre siendo obstaculizado. El obstáculo en este caso es una persona física, otro personaje de este anime, mi favorito, Ozu. La relación entre Ozu y El Protagonista es una de las más geniales que he visto. Fuera de lo normal, pero algo que completamente amé. Ozu o podría ser tu mejor amigo o tu peor enemigo, depende de cómo te le acerques en vuestro primer encuentro. Entonces, a lo largo de este anime, nosotros seremos los espectadores de cómo seria la vida de nuestro pobre protagonista, y cómo esta sería diferente si sólo se hubiera unido a otro club su primer año.
La narración de esta historia es única, increíblemente única si tengo que precisar. Si queremos podemos pensar de esta como un rompecabezas: un rompecabezas de 11 piezas (11 como los episodios de este anime) que poco a poco va cogiendo forma, sólo colocando la última pieza es que podremos apreciar la imagen completa y admirarla es todo su esplendor.
La primera cosa que nos impactará en esta serie serían sus personajes, los cuales son únicos en su forma de ser, hasta dejar una huella en nuestras mentes que difícilmente desaparecerá. Comenzando por El Protagonista hasta la Vieja Adivina (¡Adorarás a esa vieja!), todos son tan simples, pero a la vez son tan únicos que difícilmente los encontrarás aburridos. Primero que todo tenemos a nuestro protagonista, un chico bastante tímido y reservado fácilmente manipulable por otros, especialmente Ozu, el cual al haber fallado en su búsqueda por la "vida color rosa" siente que su vida hasta ahora ha sido un completo desperdicio. Después tenemos a Ozu, sl cual el protagonista suele describir su primer encuentro con el como "el primero al igual que el peor".
Él es un chicho malévolo, y no sólo por su comportamiento ("Él se come la infelicidad de la gente con un contorno de arroz" palabras de nuestro protagonista), sino también por su apariencia que, es de hecho, demoníaca. Estos dos son los personajes más importantes del show. No me pondré a hablar sobre los demás porque Tatami Galaxy ofrece un cast de personajes muy amplio, pero, sobre todo, interesante y original, lo cual me tomaría mucho tiempo y esta review se pondría muy larga. Si bien la historia gira entorno a El Protagonista, los otros personajes no son menos notables. Yo diría que son hasta más importantes para el desarrollo de la historia que el propio protagonista, debido a que este último es un personaje pasivo, ¿Recuerdas?... No sólo las decisiones son importantes, porque también están las personajes las cuales le pueden dar un gran giro inesperado a nuestras vidas. Este anime llega tan lejos tanto da mostrarnos que no experimentar algo es una experiencia en sí y eso no lo llegaremos a comprender hasta el final de este anime. El final es algo especial, algo que le da todo un significado a la experiencia que hemos visto. La comedia no falta, de hecho este anime resalta sobretodo por su comedia, cada personaje te hará reír en un modo diferente, el modo de cada uno de ellos. Las partes de Johnny, un personaje del show, son memorables.
Los diseños son bastantes particulares también. Aunque se pueden encontrar extravagantes en principio, nos acostumbramos de una manera veloz a ellos, a tal modo que nos preguntamos "¿Por qué no hay más como estos?". La animación está hecha por el estudio Madhouse, famoso por la atención y la extrema precisión en sus trabajos. Es de verdad muy fluida y perfecta. El OST encaja perfectamente en cada escena de la serie, desde las más pasivas hasta las más activas. , un particular extraño es que por la mayor parte el OST pasa desapercibido, debido a que los monólogos a la velocidad de la luz de nuestro protagonista se llevan la mayor parte de nuestra atención, dejando el OST en un plano fuera de nuestra percepción, lo cual no es necesariamente algo malo. OP/ED fueron muy buenos, a mí me gustó mucho más el OP single.
Si tu capacidad de lectura no es lo suficientemente veloz estarás pegado al botón de pausa. Eso es porque El Protagonista habla de una manera tan veloz que es casi imposible seguirlo, haciendo la comprensión algo difícil. Pero esa no será la única vez que echaremos el video para atrás, porque también los monólogos de nuestro protagonista están tan llenos de significado que los querremos leer de nuevo. Puede ser increíble, pero cada frase dicha en esta serie es tan llena de significado y resplandece con tanta luz propia que Wikiquote tendría páginas enteras sólo con los diálogos de nuestros personajes… Y no estoy hablando de esas frases baratas que se consiguen en todas las series, las de Tatami Galaxy son todas originales.
Hay animes con significado y moral, los hay con personajes divertidos, hay animes con una increíble narración y desarrollo de la historia, pero tengo que decir que The Tatami Galaxy tiene todo esto y más. Yo recomendaría (experiencia personal) ver de nuevo esta serie después de un tiempo. De eso modo nos podemos dar cuenta de la increíble cantidad de particulares que se dejan atrás mientras los estamos viendo por primera vez. Porque, después de todo, mirar de nuevo un anime que nos gustó nos da la posibilidad de apreciar esos pequeños detalles que nos pudimos haber saltado, y en este caso hay bastantes.
Me exprese lo mejor que he podido, espero que esta review les ayude a decidiros a dedicar vuestro tiempo en este anime, porque de verdad lo vale. Ahora voy a dejar a ustedes, los lectores, el tiempo de visualizar todo lo que se dijo hasta ahora. Si acaso encuentran a este un poco interesante, les digo que no lo duden y denle una oportunidad, ese es el objetivo principal de esta review. Si no es así, pues no logré trasmitir mis emociones sobre esta gran serie con éxito al ser aún un principiante.
I don't mean to get deep and definitely not right off the bat, but it's pretty true that small events can change the course of your life whether you're aware or not and that is what Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei (or the 4.5 Tatami Mat Galaxy) is all about. Sure it's also about pleasing your Johnny, hijacking blimps, engaging in prank wars, being ripped off by fortune tellers, joining the local power ranger squad, and eating cats and castella, but that's all trivial. Brought to you by the same guy who brought you Mind Game, Cat Soup, and Kaiba, Masaaki Yuasa, brings you what I would
like to refer to as his best work yet.
A nameless protagonist, referred to as Watashi ('I') by himself, has just entered college, and the story more or less follows his many lives and many misfortunes. Each episode starts with Watashi pursuing something inane or stupid - like a "rose-colored campus life" or "raven-haired maidens" and in each episode his friend Ozu, manages to somehow screw everything up. I say friend in the lightest sense of the term, because Ozu isn't really anyone's friend. He's a backstabbing punk who just loves to terrorize people, and he always manages to infect Watashi in one way or another, usually ending up driving him away from his goal. Along Watashi's trip across the Tatami Galaxy you're introduced to many different people, and in each life, a different story unfolds. Each story is unrelated other than by starting the same way at first glance, but you'll start noticing some patterns, and eventually it brings you to one of the most impressive endings I have ever seen. If I were to tag a genre to this anime I'd first have to say it's a slice-of-life comedy, then mystery, but it's also a really great psychological anime. It's incredibly dialogue heavy, and the first three minutes of episode one has the most text I've ever seen in an anime. That being said it can be very easy to lose track of what is going on, but if you're on your feet then you shouldn't get lost too easily.
Yojou-han is brought to you by MadHouse, which is known for it's diverse art style and in this anime's case it is either defined as pretentious or glorious. I would like to call it the latter. It's non-traditional and is unlike any other anime in existence, seriously. It's like Mononoke when Mononoke was new, it can amaze people, or turn people the heck away. It's a very vibrant anime, and everything is so fluid - movement looks just splendid. For those faint of eyes, be wary, Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei may not be the anime for you.
Well, there's a song about shapes in an early episode. That was like, totally freaking awesome. How many anime have songs about shapes? Unless Fullmetal Alchemist the Musical is coming out anytime soon, I think that's about a zero other than Yojou-han. The opening is amazing, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation does a great job (It's called "Maigo Inu to Ame no Beat"). I believe it's their first opening for a non-shonen show. The ending is amazingly well positioned (you'll see what I mean) and the first time you hear it I promise you'll get a small shiver. The singer is the same who sang the Arakawa Under the Bridge opening, Etsuko Yakushimaru. The voice acting for every character is of course, awesome as well. Watashi does most of the talking and I was considering favoriting his voice actor (Shintaro Asanuma) just because I liked to hear him talk. The background music is the only flaw sound-wise. There really isn't much to listen to, and even if their is, I probably didn't notice, because between following the dialogue and looking at the art, it's pretty hard to manage a third element.
I've already explained who Watashi is, but let me tell you a little more. Watashi likes shortcuts and doesn't like working, and almost can be seen as a lazy Ozu. Ozu is our antagonist most of the time. He's the downright rotten scoundrel who always leads our poor Watashi astray, and usually ends up profiting off of it. I called Watashi a "lazy Ozu" a moment ago because Watashi isn't an innocent little bird, he's just too lazy to put his efforts into anything other than his hobbies. Akashi, the somewhat romantic interest, is a girl who loathes moths and is bluntly cold to everyone around her. Kind of like Senjogahara (from Bakemonogatari), but easier to cope with. She's pretty funny herself, but all the characters are. We have the doll-fanatic Jougasaki, the drunk and elder Hanuki who likes to speak broken engrish, the Master Higuchi, who is an 8th year graduate who plans to travel the world, and multitudes of others (like Watashi's Johnny (see Eden of the East)). The character development is insanely good too. This anime is about Watashi's little foray of self realization, thusly he gets the most character development, but never have I seen it done so well.
An anime that can create a macrocosm within itself is an anime to be trifled with. It sets the stage with brilliant characters and visuals, brings hilarious moments throughout, and manages to deliver numerous meaningful messages. Is there a perfect world? Will I be happier with more money and women? Will I be happier doing what people say I should? Yeah. It's pretty damn complex. It's as thought provoking as Kaiba while bringing the comedy of Gintama. I think it's safe to leave it at that.
No fanservice, no lolis, no moe, no ultra-violence, no regrets. It's intelligent without being snobby, it's stupid without being idiotic, and it's appealing without being inappropriate.
To sum it up, I think you should just try it out. It's only 11 episodes, and I think for the one season range of anime, this is one of the best out there.
Destiny is always dangling right in front of you, so why not reach out and grab this anime?
Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (or The Tatami Galaxy) is an anime about a university student stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop. In the span of each episode, our nameless main character (he is referred to as Watashi, basically meaning "myself") goes over the same two years of university, unaware of the loop, each time joining a different club, in search of a "rose-coloured campus life".
Yojouhan is a rare example of a series with time loops where the loops themselves are actually played with. Throughout the 11 episodes, there are several different stories, but many of the episodes focus on the same stories as others. What
makes these episodes work is that we see the stories from different angles. In some episodes, we see segments of the story that aren't entirely clear, though at the time are not distracting. In later episodes, these plot points are often explained when Watashi's perspective changes and we see what actually happened. The best part of this, though, is that every episode lends pieces to a larger story. While the series is episodic, what we see effectively falls into place like a jigsaw puzzle, all coming to fruition in the final episode making for one of the most satisfying conclusions I've ever seen.
As a result of this, the first few episodes of the series don't make complete sense. They come off as being more abstract than part of an actual plot, but as the series goes on the beginning is referred to in a way that makes this start a vital piece of the puzzle. However, the start is hardly a throwaway. While not as strong as the rest of the series upon viewing, the bizarre and abstract style make the beginning an enjoyable watch anyway.
On that note, the way the series is presented is part of the genius. Upon starting the show, the first thing that will strike you is undoubtedly the art. The characters are drawn in an oddly cartoony way, using only one-tone colours for the art and having a rubbery kind of movement to them. This seems like an odd choice, but it does help to draw you into the unique world of Yojouhan, and later in the story it even gets used for plot purposes. This is also combined with a lot of black and white live-action shots, wherein the characters are sometimes drawn over the actors.
The strange presentation doesn't stop there, though. One strange feature of Yojouhan is that Watashi is very fond of monologuing, in a way very reminiscent of Kyon (from the Haruhi Suzumiya series, in case you've been living under a rock). He does so, however, at a very high speed. If the show has a fault, it is this, but it's more of a double-edged sword than a flaw outright. For people who aren't great at reading, the high speed of the subtitles can often make the things Watashi says hard to keep up with, but it's rarely overwhelming. On the plus side of it, it helps to keep the pacing of Yojouhan fast, which keeps the series interesting, an important factor in a series that is driven with an abundance of dialogue (excellent though the dialogue may be).
For a show that could have easily been dull or just weird if it had been handled wrongly, it only makes sense that even more precautions are made to make sure that there isn't a dull second in Yojouhan, as evidenced by the motormouthed narration. What helps with this is that rather than being thrown into an entirely new plot every time, there are a few elements that remain the same throughout every story. The beginning and end of each episode are usually the same, as well as Watashi's meeting with a fortune teller. This helps the viewer to keep a pace with the series, which may have been otherwise hard to do.
The characters of Yojouhan aren't really the focus point, but they aren't an afterthought by any means. While each member of the cast is a vibrant and distinctive individual in of themselves, the actual characterisation isn't really the strong point of the characters, but rather how they are used. Just like the story, each character and their actions throughout the two years are explained slightly more with each new perspective. This ends with more or less every character coming out good, but one character in particular sticks out as being an excellent example of defied expectations, showing their nature as a 3-dimensional character as we see their story from each side fall into place. I won't spoil who it is, but anybody who has seen the series should know who I mean. Watashi himself, while an unremarkable person, is hard not to like for his enjoyable musings and relatable situations, and as the series goes on he does develop well, if not remarkably so.
Of course, the time loops persist for as long as Watashi continues to miss the proper way to live the two years, with conclusions that have been dangling in front of his eyes the whole time. Some of the conclusions become expected after a mere few episodes, but other, more important ones (as well as the entire point of the time loops) are less obvious and yet no less excellent.
Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is an exercise in series structure unlike anything before it. The way the entire series is built comes off as nothing short of genius. I have yet to see any of acclaimed director Yuasa Masaki's previous works, but Yojouhan makes it blatantly clear that he lives up to the reputation that precedes him. I can only hope Kaiba, Kemonozume and Mind Game are nearly as good as this, because now Masaki has set an excellent example of how to make a truly great, original anime.
I think I'm not in the wrong here when I say most of us have probably thought of the best way to live life at one time or another. That can mean what you want to be when you grow up, your dreams, ambitions, goals, what path you want to take, and what you envision it ending up life.
Tatami Galaxy's unnamed protagonist is one concerned with exactly that. In seek of that ideal life, he desperately repeats the first 2 years of his college life , searching for the "rose-colored campus life", and the "raven-haired maiden" that supposedly awaits him.
In doing so, he is able
to realize the complexity of humans, himself, what he really wants, and what it means to live life. It's very clear that this show is leashed to a strong central theme from the start, as the episodes repeat themselves over and over to drive its point home, and make the cathartic end that it builds up to all the more resonant.
Art-wise, I think it's probably director Masaaki Yuasa's best piece, or at least my favorite of his. This is a show that can flash through 3 or 4 art styles in just a few seconds. Vibrant, volatile, and ever-changing with the moods, the visual direction seems to me like a reflection of the volatility of life itself. Something's always on the screen there to catch your eye. The use of real life shots is funny, as this is probably one of the wackiest yet most relatable shows I have ever found myself watching.
I see quite a few people that often say this show is "deep" or whatnot. Well, maybe. I don't really agree, actually. There's plenty of people out there that drop this show without getting to the end, and they do mark it off as a "2deep4u" show. Honestly, they might just be a little less intelligent than the rest of us, because the idea behind Tatami Galaxy seems to be something very simple to me. Stop caring about the best way to live life, because you WILL lose yourself in pursuit of that "rose-colored campus life". In fact, you may have already found that fulfilling life already, but haven't realized it. From there on, all you've got to do is enjoy the ride.
From time to time, I desire a show that will deliver a simple and grounded in reality plot in an unorthodox way with great success. Yes, you should already understand that Tatami Galaxy holds no need for superficial or amazing concepts to be successful, just a realistic story executed in a masterful way.
Story : 10 / 10 "Masterful"
Tatami Galaxy is set on a fictional universe, specifically a town, which seems pretty close to the modern Japanese towns. Our main character, Watashi, expects to find the rose colored campus life that he always dreamed of, entering a campus club. Instead, he finds mischief and disappointment in
every way possible. Every time he joins a club, everything seem to go wrong and he ends up regretting his choice, wanting to go back to the moment of choosing it and reset his life by changing his choice. The plot is following his different choices and the different lifes he lived after them. Watashi begins a journey of self-discovery, where the weight of his choices matters the most, becoming a matured young man who lives his life with unlimited freedom but also respect on every choice.
Art : 9.1 / 10 "Great"
The show uses a minimalistic style that combines cartoonish graphics with no shading with a lot of live action film segments used in for quick depiction of areas with lots of background detail. Seen as poor by many, the art of Tatami Galaxy is gravely underrated. It effectively depicts the themes of the show, taking a realistic approach on many problems that college students face in Japan. Furthermore, it becomes very interesting when adding the psychological symbolisms included in the show.
Sound : 9 / 10 "Great"
A testament to the superb voice acting could be that, even though Watashi's speech is faster than a bullet train, he still manages to keep the viewer in his toes with his smart (and funny) take on many different subjects and make him feel whatever emotion he emits. As for the soundtrack, it fits great with the theme and mood of the series, succesfully representing the constant changes in atmosphere, from the melancholic "Youjou han to Castella to Watashi" to the mysterious "Kamotaketsunuminogami" and powerfully liberating "Yojouhan Ki Owari" or "Takasegawa".
Characters : 9.3 / 10 "Great"
From the bullet-speed monologues of Watashi to the stoic and spiritual presence of Higuchi, the cast is the recipe for instant success. Watashi is a young college dropout who never seizes to amaze with his sarcastic and dark but witty dialogues on everything he analyzes. He is the source of the dialogues and monologues in Tatami Galaxy, and his themes vary from social commentary to self - sarcasm of the highest caliber. Ozu is another college student, dark and devilish character, who constantly drags Watashi to troubles. However, he has some hidden aspects which make him intriguing and three-dimensional. Akashi, a college student in the engineering department, is an adorable female character, and Watashi's biggest love interest. Higuchi is a stoic, and full with dreams on exploring the globe, character who is still a college student, even though he ,by far, had exceeded the minimum years of studying there. He also has many hidden sides, which made him mysterious, spiritual and occasionally wise. There are more characters that are also very interesting, but doesn't quite measure up to the other mentioned above. However, there is not a single character that is not likeable in this series, because of his quirks and personality.
Enjoyment : 10 / 10 "Masterful"
I fully enjoyed every minute of Watashi's attempts to reach a rose-colored campus life, his moments of self-discovery and liberation scenes.
Verdict : 9.5 / 10 "Masterpiece"
When simple but meaningful premises meets innovative and unique storytelling methods, a show like Tatami Galaxy is born. Excluding or changing only one component of the Tatami Galaxy's recipe would result in losing it's eternal glowing.
There's nothing more boring than reading a review, so give yourself the chance to watch this exquisite show. You will not regret it.
J. D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" despite being a novel intended for adults, in many ways laid the groundworks for the typical young adult story, where an above average intelligent teen tells about their life and problems, in a very self-conscious, humorously wanna-be literate way. Examples range from the now aging Adrian Mole books, to mostly anything by John Green, and the recent British film "Submarine". Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei, or Tatami Galaxy, is also a rendition of this trope, though seemingly with a pinch of some hallucinogenic drug.
The never named main character's story of university level loneliness, as it happens, is told with
abnormally badly drawn characters, weird color use and bits of live action. Which might have been interesting under some circumstances, but only comes across as obnoxious combined with the vapid story carrying it all. Already from the first episode it's quite clear how Tatami Galaxy is going to end. The main character yearns for some imagined, idealized version of his university days while ignoring the attractive, very cool girl who is obviously into him, and depreciating the friends he does have. In other words, not something unhappy people can actually relate to, but an excuse for pretty much 10 episodes of the main character trying out different social environments, before he finally realizes his own stupidity. Of course, perhaps I'm wrong in taking it seriously, and all this might instead be an excuse for fun, but the humor is very repetitive. Not only because it's mostly the main character's constant, manic narration which really stops being amusing after an episode, never being particularly funny in the first place, but also because most of the silly situations and their two-dimensional characters are repeated in different ways, often leaving little room in each short episode for new things. Perhaps this is the reason it takes the main character so long to see the truth of his situation.
There is a single word, I believe, which describes this anime perfectly, and sufficiently, though I'm a bit reluctant to use it because a lot of people tend to bring it up whenever something is ambitious at all. This is fairly ungood, because I love animes, or pieces of any kind of media that try to do something out of the ordinary. Tatami Galaxy on the other hand, truly is "pretentious". With its fancy animation, aimless literary references, crazy symbolism, purposeful yet irritating repetitions, and what have you, it certainly presumes a lot about itself, wants to be seen as different and smart, only to end the banal way it was obvious it would from the beginning, having done nothing sensible in the meantime. Tatami Galaxy is truly a case of much style and no substance.
It is a given that choices are very important for all of us, for just a minute of thought or two can change the outcome of many things in our lives, that be a relationship, that be a friendship, that be our well-being, anything I dare say. Before going to sleep, I personally reminisce of my actions, coming from my choices, which in turn come from my thoughts, and make a conclusion as of whether these actions were the right thing to do for myself. Ever thought of how much of a toll a choice can take in your life? Additionally, have you
ever thought of something depicting that matter of fact in a way that is both gripping, personal and goosebumps-inducing? That is what The Tatami Galaxy did to me. It touched me so much, I could relate to it in such a manner, that I now consider it my favorite anime series of all time, something that is irreplaceable for me. Coming from the hands of an insanely experienced director in Japanimation, who specialises in style over substance shows, Masaaki Yuasa, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is an expectional coming-of-age show like no other, which takes such an everyday, simple, common concept that everyone of us has given a glimpse of thought on, and unravels it through some of the most ingenious executions I have ever encountered in any work of fiction.
The Tatami Galaxy is about a college student without a name (shall be referred to as Watashi from now on), who is lonely and considers himself as one of the most unlucky people in the world. As he eats in a ramen stand named Neko Ramen, he stumbles upon a self-proclaimed god of martimony, who decides the pairings between men and women during the Kannazuki Festival in Izumo, his name being Higuchi Seitarou (or Kamotaketsunominokamo duh). Through a conversation he has with him, Watashi starts reminiscing of his past two years in college, through his misadventures with his only friend Ozu, with whom he spends time trying to break up couples in the college in the first episode, because he has nothing else to do, blaming Ozu for coming close to him and for ruining his life. By the way, Ozu looks like a ghoul, and that is of importance. Amongst the chaos, a love interest of Watashi's appears, Akashi, who is cold and introverted, yet shows some interest when it comes to Watashi. He tries confessing to her quite a lot of times throughout the series, all of them failing because of reasons. Other side characters are present as well, including an english-loving perverted dentist, a dude who has a doll fetish, the doll itself, a god of martimony as said earlier, the leader of the Secret Society Chinese Restaurant, the Cleanup Corps, a girl that Watashi exchanges letter with, etc. After Watashi fails on doing something, or even when he himself thinks that he did not leave up to his own expectations (due to not himself as he says, but due to other people and mainly Ozu), he goes back to the start of his college years, that indicated with the backdrop of a clock or, well, many clocks, and starts his college years with a different club, interchangeable events yet mostly the same people and him remembering some things from the other timelines as he experiences them in the timeline he is in, kinda like deja-vu.
Before moving on, I would like to clarify something. Please do not take the time travel plot device literally and in a realistic manner, because it is meant to be played with. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is after all a surrealistic unorthodox anime series, so the plot device exists for a different reason than expected, and that is to present a really important message. Consequently, each episode serves as a piece of the puzzle, all of them creating an allegory which is one of a kind. Yes, the entirety of The Tatami Galaxy serves as an allegory through the different timelines, which I would call metaphors, each of them including some basic and easy to understand symbols, examples being the mochiguman and the moths, which are utilized to the fullest. All that to answer a very simple concept, the one of life choices and their outcome. That is what this anime series does perfectly, it plays with its devices and creates a two-episode wrap up which is nothing short of a miracle for me personally, really. Simple metaphors, simple allegory, perfect everything.
To get on with the characters, Watashi shall be first. Watashi is that dude who has many expectations of his life and is very optimistic, him being the embodiment of before-coming-of-age idealism, and once he finds out that life is not that rose-coloured and that raven-haired maidens will not swarm before him, he starts blaming others and does not accept that he himself is looking too far ahead and that the world is not full of butterflies and flowers. It takes him quite some time to understand that he is the one at fault, and that he does not grab opportunities in order to be single-handedly happy. The most interesting part of Watashi would be his name indeed. Why is his name Watashi, which means "I"? That is because Watashi is open for self-insert. He is a character that us watchers can relate with really easily, not for just what he lives through, not by just understanding him and his flaws, but by adding ourselves in the story, with our own flaws, with our own character, with our own problems. After all, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is not a story itself, it tells a story, a story of Watashi and his coming-of-age, so why not adding yourself in turn and making it more relatable, productive and interesting?
Ozu is undoubtedly the most enigmatic figure of the whole series, presented as a black cupid, as the character who's connected with Watashi through the black thread of fate, as a curse in Watashi's eyes, as a ghoul. He indeed is a clever and troublesome creature, but he is one who admittedly would accept Watashi and who would always be close to him and help him, making his life adventurous in turn. Ozu is the person that Watashi must accept in order for him to come to terms with himself and try out a different approach in life, completely different from what he was trying to do all the time. An interesting thing about Ozu is his face. Why is he like a ghoul? The reasons might be plenty, but I somehow narrowed it out. Ozu might like that because that is how Watashi perceives him to be. Watashi believes that Ozu has an ugly soul, that he is a bad person that wants to make him suffer just to have fun, though of course that is not the case. To put it bluntly, Ozu's face is a personification of how Watashi feels about him in the start. That can be justified due to them swapping faces in the last seconds of the series, meaning that Ozu viewed Watashi as a black cupid then.
Akashi is yet another interesting character in the Tatami Galaxy. She has a cold demeanor and does not express herself most of the times, but she seems more open when it comes to Watashi. Another reason is the thing that she is Watashi's love interest. Despite not appearing a lot in the series, as it mostly revolves around Watashi, it can be observed that she does care about him, and quite a lot at that. She is the observant type, and takes action in episode 8 as well, where she is asked to be the one Watashi exchanges letters with. Therefore, she is one that wants Watashi to develop and understand more things about what a happy life is and where it might lead. It is heavily hinted that by the end, Akashi ends up with Watashi, them going to Neko Ramen as he had promised in previous episodes, and him returning the Mochiguman to her.
The side characters by all means defy certain archetypes, as they all are quite unique to say the least. A fellow with a doll fetish is always fun to watch, the three episode arc with Watashi and the three women being the most hilarious thing I have ever watched in animated form. The side characters mostly serve as means for Watashi to develop, as well as comedic elements, and successful ones at that. After all, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei has a large portion of dark comedy through Watashi's fast-paced monologues, which also serve as great social commentary and which, for the lack of a better term, are funny as heck. Many kinds of comedy are included in the story, including slapstick, which is successful as well, despite slapstick not working out in other series and being a complete miss. Johnny's usage throughout some episodes is also of significance as well, him being a metaphor to Watashi's sexual urges and worries. The scenes including Johnny teh Cowboi and his horse always were really funny, to the point of finding myself bursting out laughing without second notice.
In each different timeline, Watashi joins different clubs. In some others, the series does not focus on the clubs he has entered, but on his romance anxieties and interests. In episodes 1-3, he enters the Tennis, Film and Cycling associations, episode 4 is about the proxy wars and Watashi and Ozu's place in them, episode 5 goes back to the way episodes 1-3 were done with a Softball circle, and episodes 6-8 are about him joining some circles, but mostly about him and the three love interests of his, apart from Akashi (though Akashi is one of them in disguise but that is another matter). Episode 9 is about the mysterious Chinese Restaurant circle, and episodes 10-11 serve as the wrap-up of each and every episode of the series, Watashi coming into conclusions and realizations and completing his development and coming-of-age. With that being the case, you might think that the first 9 episodes are pointless, but that is in no way true. Letting alone that each and every episode has underlying and self-sufficient themes, examples being unrequited love, consumerism and the use of personality masks, what the first 9 episodes manage to do is building raw connection between the viewer and the main character, as well as something really fun and wacky to follow. It is a matter of fact that it is the journey that matters and that leads things into a conclusion which is not of as much importance as the journey itself after all. Trials and tribulations are made, but the conclusion is happy plus cathartic plus ambitious.
The production values work greatly, in a way that I can not imagine the series working out in another way when it comes to how it looks. The artstyle is really unique, really unorthodox, changes depending on the moods, is extremely detailed, vibrant and variable. It also adds to the comedy, because of the dumb faces and the funny reactions of our main character because of what he is going through. It is natural that it might turn someone off by its start, because it is an artstyle that is not that dominant in the medium, especially for the newcomers, but it is easy to get used to after one or two episodes, and it is even easier to realise how unique it is in a great way afterwards. The animation is also detailed, includes live-action shots and scenes to add to the realism of the concept, the movements feel natural and it is generally something great to watch and behold.
The soundtrack is really strong as well, and about my favorite part in all the show is included here, that being the opening. The opening is so fun to listen to, it has some of the greatest background music I have ever set my ears on and, most importantly, the lyrics are godly. And they spoil the whole show. Such connection with lyrics of a song have I never shown aside from the Tatami Galaxy's opening. Its title is "Maigoinu no Ame to Beat", a title that fits incredibly well to the theme of the series, by Asian Kung-fu Generation, who never disappoint me with their work in opening songs. Their songs also include Boku Dake ga Inai Machi's opening, Re:Re:, which is the best part of the whole show. The ending song of Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is tremendously good as well, sang by one of my favorite and most unique singers in the japanimation medium, Etsuko Yakushimaru, who also sang the first opening of Mawaru Penguindrum, which is also godly. Fun and unique to listen to, her songs always impress. The OST is, by all means, goosebumps-inducing. I am amazed at how each song fits the scene it represents, and also going to give a round of applause to sound director plus the creator of the OST of the series, for making it as strongly present as it is throughout the series.
Undoubtedly did I enjoy The Tatami Galaxy to the fullest. Having watched it many times, it is the piece that I feel is the one that was meant for me, it is like fate had its hand into my connection between me and the series, a masterpiece. It is nothing short of a masterpiece in my opinion. I laughed a lot, I cried a whole lot, I felt a connection I have never felt in any other kind of series, in any other kind of medium, it is nothing short of a miracle for me, this series. Thank you Yuasa, thank you for bestowing the anime industry and especially myself with such a present. Amazing, spectacular, cathartic, ambitious, goosebumps-inducing, emotional, hilarious, genuine.
Letting my bias aside, The Tatami Galaxy is a series that everyone should check out. Right off the bat, I am gonna decline it being called "deep". What is deep is the execution, not the anime itself in heart. On the inside, the Tatami Galaxy is human, it is so true that it hurts, it is so simple that everyone can understand it if he or her focuses on it just a bit. Simple yet complex. Over-the-top yet down-to-the-earth in its true form. That is what the Tatami Galaxy is. And it is nothing short of a work that should be considered a masterpiece.
Note: Sorry for being biased. This review comes from the bottom of my heart, I hope you will understand where I am coming from. Thanks a lot for reading, it means much.
The idea of perfection is something that, I believe, not any piece of media has been able to attain, and that makes sense. Nothing is 'truly perfect' and every piece of media, no matter how great that product actually is, will still have flaws in one way or another and this philosophy also applies when I give tens to shows. When I do so, I don't reward an anime a ten because I believe it is perfect. I reward a ten to an anime that does the most good, or is a shining example of what the medium is capable of. The Tatami Galaxy is
one such example of this. A show that perfectly conveys the power of the medium and all of the limitless possibilities it contains, this show, despite the medium's tropes and cliches, still remains an anime unbound by genre convention and is oozing with so much creativity, charm and great writing that it has become my personal favorite anime of all time! A such, I apologise in advance if I sound like I'm being a little too biased throughout this review, but I absolutely adore this show! Everything from the characters to the narrative is handled with such care that it's hard to for me to even articulate properly into words, but, alas, I will god damn try! This, ladies and gentlemen, is The Tatami Galaxy in a 4.5 tatami mat nutshell: (pssst, only those who have seen the show will get the reference!)
The Tatami Galaxy has a rather unconventional narrative structure, which, at first, did put me off from even watching the show. The show stars a nameless protagonist, who attends college for the first time hoping, as he himself puts it, for a rose-coloured campus life. At the end of each episode, the clock goes back once again and essentially resets the whole episode, back to when the main character starts college once again. Each episode pretty much starts out in the same fashion but in every story, the main character joins a brand new club, meets new people and each episode is just a small segment in a much larger picture and narrative. In one episode, the show may begin one story thread which will be connected later on in another episode while, at the same time, systematically resolving older narrative threads established in previous episodes. Now, I'll admit, that it did take me time to accept this fact and structure, but thankfully each episode is vibrant enough and distinct enough to work by itself and the constant juxtaposition of endings and resolutions to each episode felt fresh, original and the entire show has a very addicting and fast paced nature about it. There is always this lingering sense of desire to know what happens next and to fully understand this crazy world we have been pushed into and this is part of the fun of The Tatami Galaxy.
Much of the appeal of this anime is trying to figure everything out as we watch more and more of the show leading up to the most satisfying conclusion I have ever seen in which everything gets brought together in such a neat and tidy way while also making complete sense at the same time. This sense of satisfaction is only enhanced on my repeated viewings of the show. The more and more times I watch The Tatami Galaxy, the more I am able to pick up on small details and thus, I appreciate the ending even more than I did the first time around. Not only that, but the show's pace, as mentioned before, is crazy. If you've ever seen the Bakemonogatari franchise in which its characters speak about five hundred lines a minute, then you already have an idea about the pace at which the Tatami Galaxy goes. The characters speak so fast in this show and dish out so much comedy and wit that it can be hard at times to keep up, but I believe this is one of its strengths. The insane pace and nature of the show mirrors real life too, and, in particular, how fast your college life will zoom by. As someone who has only two weeks of college left myself, this theme in particular, and the way the show is structured, speaks volumes to me personally and is one of my favorite things about this show.
Part of the anime's charm is in its wit, metaphorical line delivery and meaning. The entire script is loaded to the brim with clever jokes, play on words and the character interactions is by far the most entertaining aspect of this show. The internal monologues the main character has are both so funny and relatable to anybody wanting to fit in while attending school, that it's genuninly charming. The comedy is easily the strongest part of this show, and I believe it's a show that gets funnier the more you age and the more cynical you become. It invites you to laugh at the ridiculous situations everyone encounters in their day to day life and all of the clubs the main character joins each bring something new to the table and each have their own unique gags and jokes which never made the show feel as if it were repetitive. Complementing this story is a varied and likeable cast of characters, all of which are unique in terms of designs and personality. My personal favorite being Ozu, the main character's, sort of, friend out of circumstance who seems to be out just to make our protagonist's life a living nightmare. The fact that we never even learn the name of our protagonist just goes to show how well written this anime is since he is still so endearing and entertaining to watch on account of how relatable he is.
Describing The Tatami Galaxy is a rather difficult thing to do considering how experimental everything is and how it combines so many different genres together into one blender; it's a show that's best to be experienced by the viewer on their own. It has elements of being a love story, but not really. At the same time, it is also a coming of age story but presented through surrealism and comedy. What's great about the show is how all of these elements and genre staples never feel forced or intrusive on any other areas of the show. The show combines them all together and presents them in such a colourfully, creative way that it comes across as so charming and lovable while allowing each respective element time to develop. For example, the love story, despite being fragmented due to the nature of the show, has a genuine sense of progression during its run while also never feeling too over bearing or soppy. Adding onto the wacky nature of the show, is one of the most unique and vibrant art styles in the medium. Everything pops out at you and the visuals are wonderful, conveying the emotions of the characters in interesting ways. My favorite being the scenes in which the main character speaks to his penis, who he calls 'Johnny'. 'Johnny' is presented as a cowboy on a horse and this makes for some very creative and very funny comedy, and the whole show is like this! The music is also superb, and I LOVE the ending and opening tracks! Two of my favorite pieces of music in the entire medium. The show has a very distinct art style which is oozing with style, creativity and colour, and much of it feels very much like a pop-art piece of art. The animation and art style is endless imaginative which brings this vibrant world to life; it feels very postmodern and experimental, but, in a good way.
Now, as I said in the opening paragraph, nothing is truly perfect, and this also applies to The Tatami Galaxy. There were a few moments that I felt were kind of weak and some moments that were just straight out boring, in particular episode ten. In addition, watching the show can also be highly tiring due to the fast nature of the show, but these elements were few and far in between and everything I have praised makes up for it. The Tatami Galaxy is a strange show but one brimming with personality, fantastic dialogue and a great cast of characters. It fully shows us what the medium is capable of and is by far, one of the greatest anime out there. It also goes to show that an anime doesn't have to have a complicated narrative or be buried underneath deep and thought provoking themes. If anything, this series plays it rather safe with its themes and narrative thematics. It's a series that, while certainly not everyone will like, anyone can understand after their initial watch of the series. And that, is one of the reasons why I love this show so much. Madhouse proves once again why they're one of the best anime studios out there and I wish them all the luck on future projects in the future. I would highly recommend this show (if it weren't obvious at this point). As a final side note as well, the series has finally been licensed and as such I decided to go ahead and purchase the collector's edition, which has a shit ton of awesome posters, making-of books and title cards. If you're a big fan of the series yourself, I would highly recommend buying this too!
There’s no such thing as a perfect anime; everybody knows that. Due to the fact that different human beings value very different things across all mediums of art, it is impossible to create a work that everybody will agree is flawless. However, there IS such a thing as an anime that could not possibly be more effective in the delivery of its narrative, characters, animation, themes, and soundtrack under the given circumstances; an anime that is as close to perfect as you can possibly get. That anime is called The Tatami Galaxy. There is little debate among those who have indulged in this
brilliant creation that The Tatami Galaxy is an absolute masterpiece. It’s the hardest anime to criticize simply because it’s thematically bulletproof; the only possible criticisms that can be made of it boil down to personal preference and what YOU may or may not be partial to on a subjective level. Now, if all that is true, why has barely anyone seen this show? If it was THAT great, why isn’t it overwhelmingly popular? Well, the answer to that question supremely unjust, but unfortunately true: The Tatami Galaxy is very experimental. The reason you may not have even heard of this little gem before is because not everyone is going to be into its one-of-a-kind style or use of literary devices. However, even if you aren’t fond of its art direction or narrative presentation, it’s hard to refute that this is one of the greatest anime ever made. It accomplishes everything it ever set out to do with the utmost of ease and grace. It sets ambitious and perhaps unreasonable goals and then proceeds to effortlessly meet them. Presenting the most horrifyingly under-watched anime in history: The Tatami Galaxy.
Synopsis: A college dropout stops for a late night meal at his favorite ramen stand. There, he crosses paths with the self-proclaimed “god of matrimony”. This bizarre meeting sends the young man hurtling through a horrifying flashback to his not-so-glorious college days as he is forced to reflect upon where it all went wrong for him.
The Tatami Galaxy’s plot is essentially a far better written and much artsier version the movie Groundhog Day; the protagonist is forced to relive his college days over and over and over again, with each iteration ending in his complete and utter misery. However, in addition to providing the same level of comedy, this anime also manages to be overwhelmingly meaningful, brutally thought provoking, and nihilistically sobering. The Tatami Galaxy may seem like an innocent comedy with a fancy art style up until the last couple episodes, but make no mistake; this anime has so much explicit detail to it that it’s almost scary. It can only be described an absolute bombardment of symbols, themes, motifs, and imagery that you likely didn’t even notice until the final episodes, if you noticed it at all. For that reason, it is essentially mandatory to rewatch this show in order to truly get everything out of it, because you WILL be overwhelmed. It’s supposed to feel that way.
But what EXACTLY is this show about? Well, it’s about a lot of things. Namely, it’s about having respect for the choices you have made in your life and understanding the you need to take the good with the bad; there is no perfect, fairy-tale life style out there waiting for you. The message of this show is relatable to virtually everyone, but especially so for college students, considering that a university campus is the setting of The Tatami Galaxy. There are so many people out there who feel like they have lost their way or don’t know what they are doing with their life, stressing out over every single situation, agonizing over the fact that they can never achieve the “rose-colored” life they are so desperate to experience. Put simply, this is the story of man who is finding his way in life and discovering what it truly is to be happy. It’s both a charming, heart-warming tale and a realist’s harsh reality complete with the ups and downs that everyone can relate to. That’s why everyone should watch it.
If you HAD to put The Tatami Galaxy into a genre, it’s honestly closest to a comedy. Now, with that in mind, everybody knows that the most important aspect of a comedy (besides, well… the comedy) is the cast of characters. This puts The Tatami Galaxy in an interesting predicament, because its characters don’t serve nearly the same roles that they might serve in a more traditional comedy. Rather, the characters in this show are all symbols. Our protagonist, for example, doesn’t even have a name. The novel that this anime is based on (as in a REAL novel, not a light or visual novel) simply refers to him as “Watashi”, which makes the symbolism quite obvious. The rest of the cast, including Watashi’s love interest Akashi and his best friend Ozu are also allegorical, but I won’t go into detail on the subject for the sake of time and spoilers.
What makes The Tatami Galaxy’s characters so masterful is that not only do they execute their symbolic roles so masterfully, they also manage to have likable, charming personalities and add a lot of comedy to the show. While Watashi is without a doubt the most prominent and dynamic character, the side characters serve a purpose that is just as important: an emotional anchor. From episode to episode, seemingly everything around Watashi (i.e the eyes of the viewer) changes. His environment, his mental state, his hobbies, his pastimes, etc. all fluctuate superfluously, which can get chaotic. The only things we have as an audience to anchor us to reality, as in the only things that seem to NOT change episodically, are the side characters. Jougasaki’s eccentricities, Akashi’s hilarious fear of moths, and of course: Johnny. All of them serve as the only constants in an ever-changing world, and this technique was executed to perfection. By the end of the show, you feel like you personally know each and every character, particularly Watashi. Dare I say that you may feel as if you know him as well as you know yourself? In short, everything about this cast amazing; I can’t picture them being done any better.
The last wave of praise that I must pile upon this masterpiece is in regards to its one of a kind presentation. In terms of animation, there is NOTHING out there that’s even remotely comparable to The Tatami Galaxy. Not only does it use a wide variety of techniques, (including rotoscoping, which is seldom scene in the medium), it gets the absolute most out of them and creates a visually stunning product that you will never forget. Masaaki Yuasa is an absolute GENIUS. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING about this show’s visuals are flawlessly executed. Not only does it look good, it’s extremely fluent and meaningful. The Tatami Galaxy is perhaps the best example we’ve ever seen of visual storytelling and using animation to convey meaning without words, and that’s saying quite a lot. As for the soundtrack, I couldn’t have asked for anything more fitting. From jazz to soft rock to tracks that simply transcend genres, the OST never fails to set the mood, whether it be depression, hope, happiness, or anything else. Have I mentioned that both the OP and ED sequences are superbly directed and consist of fantastic songs in general? On a final note, I must point out that Shintaro Asanuma delivered what I consider to be one of the most impressive voice acting performances of all time as the character of Watashi. The speed, clarity, and tone in which he speaks is so alluring and impressive, which merely contributes to this show’s overall top-notch ability to present its story.
In conclusion, watch the Tatami Galaxy. You owe it to yourself as a fan of anime to witness arguably the premiere model of what the medium is truly capable of. It’s not for everyone, you might not love the art style, and you may not understand it the first time you watch it, but make no mistake: Those who are able and willing to digest the Tatami Galaxy will never forget it. The anime industry has never seen anything like it and it will never see anything like it again. This is without a doubt the finest example of how quality does not correlate with popularity. In case you take nothing else out of this review: WATCH. THIS. SHOW.
From the critically acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa comes an anime that defies the definition of conventional: The Tatami Galaxy provides a ride full of twists and turns, rewinds and jumps through time. Beautifully crafted and imbued with a comedic touch, The Tatami Galaxy explodes with energy, ultimately forming a dense and complex narrative that serves as the embodiment of good directing. Indeed, The Tatami Galaxy proves that animation is a viable medium in terms of both storytelling and visual appeal.
Upon first glance, what do you notice? Chances are it’s the art style. Similar to Yuasa’s previous works, The Tatami Galaxy features a unique, anomalous, but
yet simple art style that never fails to evoke a sort of anger towards Yuasa among some anime fans, for many claim that they watch anime to get away from this very style; however, The Tatami Galaxy’s art style reasserts the classic saying that less is indeed more. The style itself is brimming with simplicity; characters are bestowed with one shading at all times, only the most dominant features are depicted, while chins, ears, adam’s apples, collarbones and other aspects of the body are forgotten, leaving the characters themselves appearing very flimsy, curvy and far from dynamic.
How, you may ask, does this advocate the fact that less is more? For those of you unaware of the mechanics behind the animation process, animators must draw a character numerous times, bearing the same proportions and details as the previous sketch. As a result of this, many animators spend their time copying over details from the preceding drawing rather than creating a sense of flow between them. On the contrary, The Tatami Galaxy’s simple style allows the animators to portray actions more fluidly and regularly than other shows. The condensed style is much faster to draw, and so the animators are given a chance to work without restraint, and that is absolutely what they do. Characters ricochet across the screen, a plethora of objects move at once, still frames are very limited, and unlike many other anime, budget does not act as a confinement for imagination.
I would also like to point out that, from a cinematic standpoint, this anime is incredibly well put together. Transitions between scenes flow brilliantly and scene composition is done with great expertise. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that The Tatami Galaxy is easily one of the most visually appealing works of animation that have ever graced this earth.
Does the theme of less being greater than more desist after moving away from the topic of art and animation? Well, not entirely. As the story progresses, or rather regresses, the characters are shown in varying situations that range from sad, hilarious to downright over the top. Rather than taking the time to elaborate as to what the character’s roots are, the show uses its recursive nature to build the character’s personalities and give them a good portion of depth. The characters themselves are all very likable and are drawn very smoothly. I especially enjoyed Ozu’s antithetical antics and Akashi’s icy yet affectionate attitude.
The stunning visuals are not the only thing The Tatami Galaxy has going for it; the voice actors pack great amounts of effort, emotion, and in some cases, speed, into their roles. The background music is also similar to the previously analysed categories in the sense that it follows the ‘less is more’ rule of the show. The Tatami Galaxy is at times silent, while at others calmingly quiet, but the rare fast-paced ensembles never fail to produce a sense of excitement and urgency in the viewer. The composer and sound directors working on this show deserve a great amount of kudos for their excellent work.
Lastly, I will assess the plot of The Tatami Galaxy. Ordinarily, I would deconstruct the plot of an anime first and foremost, but coincidentally, this is far from an ordinary anime.
The story follows its nameless protagonist as he searches for love. In an attempt to find his raven-haired goddess and attain the rose-colored campus life he had been dreaming of, he joins a multitude of extra-curricular activities, but the majority of his efforts are for naught. He denies the reality that has been set out before him, and time rewinds back to the day he first joined college, only giving him yet another opportunity to follow one of the endless contingencies awaiting him.
The plot gives the viewer room to guess what’s going on – it allows them to speculate why time resets, how each individual episode correlate with one another, and the nature of the protagonist’s recursive campus life, or to even ponder the possibility of no recursion at all. Rather than taking the viewer for a ride, The Tatami Galaxy lets the viewer create their own ride, then continues to enhance said ride into a rollercoaster.
Overall, The Tatami Galaxy is a brilliantly put together anime brimming with creativity and originality. Like its predecessors, The Tatami Galaxy is filled with Yuasa’s postmodern madness and humor, giving the viewer food for thought and a good laugh at the same time. I’m usually very hesitant to give an anime, or anything in particular, the title of a masterpiece, but I believe that this show deserves no less than that. It is for that reason that I give The Tatami Galaxy all 10s across the board.
This analytical review of The Tatami Galaxy spoils the entirety of the series and is thus advised for those who have completed the series.
-The protagonist shall be referred to as Watashi.
-The Tatami Galaxy shall be abbreviated as TTG.
Episode numbers will be referenced frequently in this review, so for the sake of easy reference, the episodes will be described briefly
Episode 1: Parallel world setup, romance setup, Mochiguman setup, suspense of why Ozu was chased by a mob at the end of the episode.
Episode 2: Watashi's movies; sabotaging Jogasaki; Akashi asking that Watashi make his dream movie about true love between those tied by
fate, unbounded by even gender come true.
Episode 3: Watashi training for the birdman, how it contributed to his downfall, Icarus allusion, Higuchi winning with Watashi's bike.
Episode 4: Prank episode between Jogasaki and Higuchi, money that Watashi obtained to buy the tortoise toothbrush placed by the final Watashi from the tatami room.
Episode 5: Watashi's pitfall in seeking health food and it actually making him more unhealthy, tie to Ozu stealing the blimp, final Watashi appearing in front of current Watashi at the end.
Episode 6-8: Choosing between three women arc.
Episode 9: Ozu's romantic desires revealed, Watashi's slump in pursuing absolute pleasure.
Episode 10: Tatami Room; parallel worlds reveal.
Episode 11: final message and conclusion.
Mochiguman: Akashi's plush toy constantly dangling as an opportunity for Watashi.
Castella: The cake Watashi is seen eating on his own various times.
The beauty of a great, simple story lies in the technicalities: symbolism, subtleties, narrative ties and novel storytelling methods. As a great story is one that requires effort to craft, paying heed to all the little details is the push a simple story needs to match a well-done story with more complexity. The Tatami Galaxy (TTG) is a great example of a simple story done quite well, with symbolism to pick apart, narratives ties to sort through, and well handling of its ideas.
TTG's story is built upon contrivances, namely a time loop format, every episode a discrete loop serving for the sake of the final message. For some, these contrivances could be accused of either being inappropriate or lazy for such a simple story. However, to dismiss the series for its approach would be erroneously dogmatic when investigating the story's execution. We must instead examine how well it lived up to the type of story it tried to be.
For Tatami Galaxy's premise to reach its potential, I propose that it would need to do the following:
1. Showcase the various facets through which the rose-colored campus life can be sought and the pitfalls of these approaches.
2. Provide a concluding message regarding the pursuit of the rose-colored campus life.
3. Reveal more about the characters by examining them through different scenarios, sides, angles.
4. Display how the various scenarios are related together, since the parallel universes are different sides of the same reality.
5. Remain engaging, fresh, and varied despite the repetitive nature
6. Establish foreshadowing and suspense to reveal the mechanics of the "resets" and its final message.
After this analysis, we shall conclude how well TTG fits into these criteria.
Firstly, the presentation is done well: the character designs are varied and expressive, Watashi's lightning fast monologues help give the show identity, and the visuals are pleasing. Most importantly, it effectively utilizes symbolism and recurring elements. The changing and varied colors help signify how each of the different worlds has its own color, though none are rose-colored. The repetition of the fortune-teller gag provides the viewer with something to anticipate; one will always be wondering when and how the fortune-teller is brought up. The clock symbolism is an effective motif to wrap up an episode and to maintain interest for the next one. Seeing the various ways Ozu is portrayed or introduced, and the visual representation he's given (being portrayed as a devil to mirror Watashi's perception of him) is a nice touch for engagement. The Mochiguman serves as consistent build-up to the climax. Even something minor such as the song Higuchi sings in episode 5 leads to the overall message of the story, through the line "Search for the circle, to learn how to not become a circle." The castella is meant to be shared, yet Watashi always eats it, portraying his isolation; poignant when Watashi consumes it excessively in the final episodes.
An interesting motif of note is the moth. At first glance, it would seem the moths serve only to characterize Akashi, but their presence in Watashi's room suggests greater relevance. Moths are an antithetical motif to butterflies—diametrically opposed to the butterfly effect is the eminent idea that vastly different events lead yet to one end. Throughout the different episodes, we get those various recurring elements, and Watashi's faliure to achieve the rose-colored campus life is present in each of them. Higuchi claiming victory in the episode 3 and 4 bike races regardless of Watashi's presence further supports this reverse butterfly effect. One can also read the moths as representing pitiful creatures, trapped by their tendency to flock to a light source, thus meeting a tragic fate akin to Icarus, whom the series references in episode 3. One can further read how their connection to metamorphosis is intertwined with their role in freeing Watashi from the Tatami Room. But I shall not dwell upon these routes of analysis, as I cannot do them justice.
Now, let us examine the structure of TTG, and how it's used for both foreshadowing and narrative ties.
Episode 1 introduces us to the initiation of the alternate scenarios and of Watashi's promise to Akashi. It also builds suspense through the peculiarity of what happens to Ozu at the end of the episode, especially notable in how it ties to what's revealed about Ozu at the end of the series. Episode 2 uses Watashi's film failures to foreshadow events in future episodes: the first movie to the episode 4 prank battle, the second to the wavering between three women arc, the third to the tatami room trap and the final to Watashi and Ozu's pseudo-romantic scene—never narratively integral but always welcome as foreshadowing.
Other foreshadowing aspects include the fortune-teller's statement that opportunity is dangling in front of Watashi, referring to the dangling Mochiguman that he's unable to take hold of until the very end. The opening and ending also hint at being trapped in the tatami rooms. There's always a sense of mystery and suspense regarding the nature of the alternate scenarios. Parallel reality is foreshadowed cleverly when the episodes 9 to 11 Watashi enters the episode 5 ending.
The series utilizes far more of these narrative ties, to a level few shows do:
-How Ozu's circumstance in the ending of episode 1 ties to Ozu's stealing the blimp in episode 5, and to Ozu's true intentions revealed in episode 9. In the final episode, these narrative ties serve to grant context to what exactly happened in the ending of the first episode.
-How the final Watashi's gathering money in the tatami galaxy provided an explanation for how the Watashi in episode 4 obtained the money for the tortoise toothbrush.
-How episode 4 hinted at Hanuki learning English, how we learn aspects of her relationship with Higuchi throughout the episodes, and how episode 4 hints at Higuchi's desire to depart.
-How episode 2 introduces us to the love doll interest of Jogasaki for the three women arc.
-How Watashi's dream movie in episode 2 (about true love escaping position, age, and even gender) hints at Watashi and Ozu appearing in a pseudo-romantic scenario at the climax of the final episode.
Yet another touch worth noting is that the reversing of orders for the opening and ending themes in the final episode parallels the role reversal between Watashi and Ozu at the very end of the series; Watashi becomes the dominant one while Ozu becomes hesitant.
Now we shall move onto how the series conveys its themes. While episodes 1 and 2 serve as the introduction and episodes 10 and 11 serve as the conclusion, the middle of the series aims to explore different approaches of the rose-colored campus life. Episode 3 demonstrates the pitfall of Watashi working too hard to fly the birdman. He seeks happiness, but as the Icarus allusion suggests, he fails by soaring too high; to work too hard to seek the rose-colored campus life is itself a folly. This is the most effective commentary of the middle episodes because it ties directly to the ending that suggests one must embrace the life one has rather than trying too hard to look for something greater. Episode 4 serves as a reflection moment of Watashi simply goofing around, and how even that can contribute to a satisfying life. Episode 5 demonstrates how the pursuit of convenience can lead to a burden, through the health food story. Episode 6-8 comment on the pitfall of focusing on too many pursuits at the same time. Episode 9 displays Watashi's attempts to fully embrace hedonism and disobey moral standards in an attempt to gain satisfaction.
All these approaches are proven to be ineffective, and the true solution the series posits is to embrace the life one currently has. None of the realities may be rose-colored, but each at least has a color, each has value that can be appreciated.
The final episode also accomplishes two more things of note. Firstly, it provides catharsis as Watashi runs over to Ozu. We see glimpses of all the Watashis from the various realities call out to Ozu, and coupled with the soundtrack makes for quite a satisfying scene. Secondly, it raises the idea that individuals can appear more multi-faceted when approached from different angles. The quirks we see of the characters throughout the different parallel worlds scenarios provide us more context into who the characters truly are, rather than what they seem to be at a first glance.
From an entertainment standpoint, TTG manages to keep the series engaging despite the repetitive nature of repeating the same scenarios. Although the motifs are recurring, they serve the purpose of interest and familiarity. TTG maintains freshness through different scenarios, commenting on various ideas while disclosing different information.Even the three episode women arc which directly repeated the same scenario three times knew how to spread out information for variety. For example, we didn't see the context for Jogasaki's and Watashi's drinking contest in the first episode of the arc, but it was revealed in the second. We also didn't get context into the pen pal woman until the final episode. Each of those three episodes revealed new information and different angles to that same scenario, thus preventing complete repetition.
Despite all these elements of praise for the Tatami Galaxy, there certainly is room for criticism. Firstly, although the middle episodes each had at least decent commentary, only the thematic commentary of episode 3 was particularly great. Episode 4's commentary on reflecting over doing nothing of value could have been interchanged with any other scenario; it worked, but wasn't a distinct story for that idea. Episode 5's thematic commentary is of some merit, but the message of the folly of seeking trying too hard for conveinece isn't far from episode 3's message.
Episodes 6-8 presented the pitfalls of seeking too many pursuits at once, but the idea could have been better if it focused on Watashi following more concrete ambitions, such as being divided between different hobbies or interests (which was the backdrop). This is primarily favorable to prevent the need of three episodes for that matter; not to mention the comedic effect of the "Jhonny" bits doesn't last for that long. Episode 7 was questionable since Watashi's obsession with the love doll is far too exaggerated for his character, and said obsession contributes nothing thematically to the series. Episode 9's pursuit on hedonism was fine enough, but it's more of small detail and isn't as thought-provoking or relevant to the final message of the show as episode 3's Icarus allusion.
Although the characters have nice touches and quirks here and there, the concept in the final episode of "people being deep if viewed from different angles" required more fleshing out of the characters. Throughout the episodes, Watashi is exaggerated and serves whatever role or characteristic he's needed for: resolving to sabotage Jogasaki in episode 2, an extreme ambition to improve in episode 3, and a questionable obsession with the love doll in episode 7.His volatility can be in part excused by there being parallel versions, each mildly different from each other but parts of the true Watashi. Regardless, it hinders the portrayal of a coherent character who can be characterized throughout the story. Akashi is given sufficient quirks with her seclusion and her fear of moths, but her interest in Watashi throughout all the episodes is a little too contrived and questionable. Jogasaki is given the lovedoll quirk, which adds slightly to his character, but doesn't grant us much more from the arrogant individual he normally is. He's still his arrogant self; we for example don't see the nuance of given vulnerabilities given particular stimuli. Higuchi works well for his role. Though portrayed as wise, he isn't wholly responsible.
Ozu is a fan favorite mainly because he seems to just get in the way but is revealed to have motivations of his own. However, the way this portrayal was executed in the series was the issue. While Ozu is revealed to be involved in more than stifling Watashi, he is too fated and intertwined with Watashi in the middle episodes. A prime example is his stalking of Watashi with the letter inference in the three women arc. Going through such lengths would be uncharacteristic given his revealed personal interests. More questionable is Ozu's personality change into docility at the end of the show, which differs from all the other realities. This sudden dissonance can however be symbolically justified as either a consequence of his cutting his thread of fate with Watashi in episode 9 or his true nature outside of Watashi's delusions.
Another minor gripe with the series is information that suggests the incorporation of time resets when the series uses parallel realities instead. While Watashi questioning whether he had relived certain scenarios throughout the middle episodes aims for suspense, it actually implies a time reset, thus conflicting with the parallel realities reveal. The clock symbolism at the end of each episode, though it's a strong visual cue, also has the same problem. Both of these fulfill their purpose in terms of engagement, but the red-herring it results in is a problem, albeit a minor one.
Now, we may inspect those aforementioned criteria to see how well the Tatami Galaxy fulfilled its premise.
1.It did feature commentary on various approaches to the rose-colored campus life, though many of those episodes could have been handled better.
2. It did provide a fulfilling concluding message that worked well with the usage of various colors to portray the colors of different lives. This could have been a more nuanced message, but was satisfying enough.
3. It did show us characters from different angles through different scenarios, but there was room for much more with them.
4. It did a phenomenal job at narrative ties and spreading out information throughout the episodes that could be connected throughout.
5.The series almost always remained fresh and varied with all its stylistic choices and apt ability to spread out information across episodes.
6. The series also did a phenomenal job with all those foreshadowing aspects and building up suspense.
One can see that the series did an exceptional job with (4) and (6), a great job with (5), a good job with (2), and an acceptable job with (1) and (3). As such, TTG had overall great execution of the premise it set out to explore. Consequently, dismissing it based on the contrivance of the premise is unfair. In addition to meeting these criteria, the series did an exceptional job at utilizing its symbolism throughout.
Final Verdict: (Personal Rating: Very Good-to-Great)
The Tatami Galaxy is indeed an example of a simple series executed really well. Although it had certain issues with the characters or story mechanics and had room for improvement with the thematic commentary, it accomplished so much with its symbolism, foreshadowing, and narrative ties that it easily makes up for it. Through its technical mastery of the little details, TTG is a great, accessible, well-made work and is a hallmark of the medium.
I decided to watch "Tatami Galaxy" because of the overwhelming numbers of positive reviews, many giving it a perfect 10/10.
How disappointed was I when I started the series. The narrator speaks in a very very fast manner, making a lot of his narration unintelligible. Even with the subtitles on, it was very difficult to follow. I thought after a few episodes I would adapt to the pace, but unfortunately it did not happen.
My second problem with this anime was the amount of repetition. As the protagonist relives some of his days with a difference going from slight to more pronounced. But I grew tired
of this rather quickly.
The third problem was the visuals : some may like the color palette, or the character design which I can only describe as minimalist. It is a matter of personal preference, but I did not dislike it. I HATED it. To me, it felt cheap. I would not recommend it, even though I understand why some may like it.
When you look back on your life up until now, do you find yourself feeling somewhat dissatisfied with how things have turned out? Do you find yourself regretting choices you’ve made, the people you’ve met and end up wishing you could just give it another shot, knowing that this time around, everything would work out so much better for you?
If you are just such a person, then watching Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei -or The Tatami Galaxy as it has come to be known in English- is one opportunity that you simply can't afford to pass up.
The story of a nameless (referred to as 'Watashi')
young man in his third year at Kyoto University, looking back on the numerous adventures, expeditions and escapades he has experienced during his time on campus. However, rather than fond memories, he finds himself feeling rather dissatisfied with the way things have turned out, and proceeds to ask himself where things started to go wrong.
Perhaps it was the club he joined. Maybe he made a few bad decisions along the way. But in all likelihood, it was all Ozu's doing. But it doesn't really matter who is at fault. With his opportunity missed, Watashi has no choice but to harbour his bitterness and day dream about how things could have been so very different...
And then something miraculous happens, and Watashi is given something that you and I will never have; a second chance. The perfect opportunity to go back to the beginning. The opportunity to do it all again, to avoid his previous mistakes and ensure himself a life of happiness. But one simple question still remains; which path should he take? Which of the various roads, streets and avenues is the one that leads to that most glorious of gardens, the rose-coloured campus life?
Unsurprisingly for a character who's name essentially translates as 'I', Watashi is a character that is easy to identify with; after all, 'disappointment' does not discriminate based on sex, race or class, and at the end of the day we are all looking for the same thing Watashi is-- our own happiness.
But he is just one of the many interesting characters in the Yojouhan universe- there's Watashi's quote-unquote friend Ozu, who seems to be set on preventing Watashi from enjoying a care-free existence. There's Master Higuchi, a local god engaged in a bitter "war" with the leader of the film circle. Last but not least there is Watashi's underclassman Akashi, who's charmingly cute appearance, sets the hearts of men flying, shortly before her distant and fiery attitude brings them crashing back down to earth like Icarus.
But Yojouhan's most impressive achievement is its beautiful, understated visuals. Despite integrating features like stylised photography and simplified character designs, Yojouhan never feels like a Director's visual experiment, but a seamless, straightforward production; proving that looking good doesn't always mean you need to show off. Of course, the animation and directing is still top notch, as you would expect from a show that takes this much pride in its art.
The soundtrack, while certainly not below average, is the only thing about Yojouhan that can adequately be referred to as a weakness. The background music -quiet pianos and melancholic violins- certainly do their job, but fail to be impressive. This is a little disappointing when compared with other aspects of the show.
The opening and ending themes do offer some condolences though, with a particularly catchy opener 'Maigoinu to Ame no Beat' by Asian Kung-Fu Generation features grungy guitars and lyrics about the banality of everyday life yet has a subtle optimism about it which feels perfect for Yojouhan. Meanwhile, the ending sequence combines an atmospheric trance song with some mesmerising visuals.
Then there's the dialogue, set to the kind of pace one would normally expect in an auction-house. Long and complicated sentences that begin and end within the confines of a single breath. While it makes reading the subtitles a little bit of challenge at first, the extra effort is worth it, as it makes the dialogue far more interesting, and is just one of the many things that demonstrate the level of attention to detail in Yojouhan.
Offering an interesting storyline and considerably more depth than the typical 'Slice-of-Life' anime and each episode offers something new and original, without ever having to rely on tired clichés like hot spring or beach episodes. It gives the whole show a remarkable freshness, and every episode is a pleasure to watch. And best of all it, it manages to be so much more than just straight up entertainment- it actually has a point behind it all. It leaves you with something to think about, and without resorting to emotional blackmail.
Whether you're an expert or a beginner, a casual or critic, watching Tatami Galaxy is the perfect choice for a few hours of quality entertainment. Anime this good only come around once every few years, so don't hesitate. Isn't it about time you seized the opportunity that is dangling in front of your eyes?
A common misconception is that being experimental makes your work inaccessible. Too many experimental works got this reputation, and too many people now think difficulty is praiseworthy. It’s as if jumping through 50 hoops somehow increases the value of 20 dollars. It may increase perceived value, but that’s not the same. It just means your mind distorted the real value so you won’t feel bad about wasting time.
Difficulty can’t be the main aim of any piece of art. Art is a way to communicate ideas. The reason we seek these experimental/non-traditional/avant-garde methods is not because of their difficulty. These new approaches are meant to enhance
a story, to shed new light on the same ideas. Experimentation shouldn’t draw you away from an anime, it should make you curious and involved in it.
Tatami Galaxy is a perfect example of an anime that’s both experimental and, at the same accessible. It follows a non-linear narrative, whose structure has significant meaning. The characters all look weird, but that’s only makes them more lively. The characters themselves are weird, but people are weird. All their quirks aren’t there just to make them different from one another, but related directly to their personalities.
Jougaski’s love for a doll is directly related to how he’s an idol for women. Akashi is cold and intelligent, but it doesn’t help her when moths are around. Ozu is a scumbag, but even scumbags like him can love.
The way they are drawn is also important to their personality. Anyone who thinks character design isn’t important has no business watching anime, with Tatami Galaxy a strong argument for the importance of character design. The designs are expressive for their personalities – Jougaski looks perfect, Akashi is pretty in a low-key way, Higuchi looks both absent-minded and too wise to care. Look at the shut eyes and the small smile. It’s right between a wise master and an oblivious buffoon.
The designs are both cartoonish and realistic at the same, and that’s whole approach of the show. It manages to be realistic by being cartoonish. Too many times we see attempts at realism by being ‘low-key’, like in Mushishi or Texhnolyze. In order to be ‘realistic’ you first have to ask yourself what is the reality your story is about. Then you seek methods, techniques, and cues that make us believe in your reality.
Life is weird, but college life is especially weird. It’s not a matter of life and death, but it’s a constant chase after an ideal. Even outside college, the dream of a life of constant partying, joy and excitement is common.
In the age of social media, this theme of ‘rose-colored life’ is more common. People often post only the good stuff and inflate them. We follow celebrities more closely than ever. Sometimes celebrities rise out of that social media. As a satire of that desire, Tatami Galaxy is dead-on.
It’s not so much about choices, because whatever Watashi chooses the results remain fairly similar. It’s also not about some big philosophy about Destiny and Fate, because every time Watashi fails it’s in different ways. The reason he fails so much is because of his desire. This dream of the rose-colored life is his undoing.
Whether it exists or not, the anime doesn’t answer. It shouldn’t, since easy answers have no place in a great story like this. What it asks us to do look beyond our huge ambitions. The vivid, wacky art style is meant to portray a reality that’s varied, full of weirdness and ups and downs. Notice how the colors constantly change. Life can’t be ‘rose-colored’. It has too many colors.
The message is, thankfully, not just ‘enjoy your life and be thankful for it’. As I said, there’s no room for easy answers in stories that ask questions. Failure is a running theme and the anime is aware you can’t avoid failure and how painful it is. Characters who should lead ‘rose-colored life’ don’t lead them. Jougaski has plenty of things that make him ‘not a real man’. Hanuki may be a sexy, fun woman but she still falls into bad relationship. Ozu may be cunning, but he can also fall apart when loves takes over.
All the colors, weirdness, and personification of a sex drive only lead to one conclusion. Life is a mess. You can enjoy it not by stop aspiring. You don’t even need some sort of ‘mythical balance’. The world is full of things, of Ozu’s who will knock us down and Higuchi’s who will babble nonsense. It’s about trying to enjoy it despite all these things, to sort out the mess and find what fits you. You can be life-affirming without being shallow
Some have pointed out that the monologues can be too fast. At first it’s annoying, but it quickly dies down. Watashi still talks pretty fast, but the monologues become less dominant and slightly slower. It was easy getting over.
The Tatami Galaxy is worth all the hype surrounding it. It manages to be so many things at the same time, and never losing control. It’s realistic without being dry. The narrative is experimental, but in a meaningful way rather than an obscure one. The character design is weird, but it’s for expressive purposes. For all the reputation it gained as an ‘intellectual anime’, it’s so accessible I’d recommend it to anyone, even people who aren’t into anime.
Anyone may have wondered whether their past or current student life matched with their expectations, and in some cases, if not on most, they may find themselves pondering whether decisions made were correct, or if some improvement could have been made. Expectations of a rose-coloured campus life and regrets are no exception either; such is the case of Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei, also known as Tatami Galaxy, in which a nameless protagonist exactly has these issues. It is a fantastic journey into the realm of university life, mingled with time travelling.
The premise of Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei may be of simple nature at first glance, having the
nameless protagonist, often referred to as "Watashi", live a rather lackluster life in comparison with his own expectations. This is due to mainly Ozu, both his friend and enemy, as he seems to make his life as miserable as possible, besides Watashi himself being a lazy, gutless person. The protagonist finds himself one day eating together with a aubergine faced man, which makes him reflect on his past years of college that in turn hurls him through time to experience his life anew.
Time travelling - time loops in this case - is certainly of one the most interesting aspects of the anime. Watashi repeatedly lives his student life each time, though there is a gist to it: he remembers nothing each time this happens, only having vague memories of events and people around him. This may seem simple, but there is little margin for error upon executing such a narrative, as it can end in failure when handled improperly. Each episode is well done with a natural progression of events; however, as story progresses, the time travels may feel repetitive. Comedic relief is also available, presented through events and encounters with people who serve to enhance the overall atmosphere of the anime.
Each episode is treated as an independent one, yet viewers observe how in each chapter human relationships are shown and developed, as well as displaying hints that adds to the overall progression of the storyline, which in the final episode all events of the puzzle fall together with a satisfying conclusion. These afore-mentioned relationships are such, that anyone can easily relate to the main protagonist and all the events that take place, being stuck with a drunkard or any other club activity. Other aspect of the anime is the heavy monologuing that take place, which occasionally can be surprisingly fast, making it difficult to follow the story when not fully committing to the anime.
The cast of characters in Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is small, yet of great diversity, people types you can often find in university. However, the main focus of the story doesn't lie on secondary characters, being Watashi its main focus. This is not to say that these aren't well crafted; each is an interesting character on its own that contribute a great deal to the overall progression of events, which are crucial for understanding actions and relationships of the different characters.
As for character development, only Watashi is of importance. Throughout the anime viewers observe how he evolves from being indesicive and lazy, to a person he always aspired to be, straightforward and honest. Other interesting character is Ozu, who seems to be the source of ailments for Watashi. He is somewhat the "enemy" of the main protagonist, yet all his actions have purpose. I believe him to represent the way we interpret people, which doesn't necessarily reflect their genuine personality, as Watashi undergoes changes, his point of view on Ozu does as well.
~Animation and sound~
The animation of Tatami Galaxy is of high quality, character movements being fluid. The art style is another matter, as it can be a hit/miss for viewers. At first it gave the impression of being a Shaft produced anime with the visuals and heavy monologuing, yet to my surprise, it was actually produced by Madhouse. It is very unconventional, yet fits well when trying to display characters behaviour and the environment through bending character movements and environments; backgrounds are not spared either.
The voice actors performed their roles well, being Watashi's and Ozu's one certainly the most appealing to hear, followed by Akashi's voice actor. The soundtrack used fulfilled its purpose, yet is nothing outstanding. I must mention that the opening song had quite the catchy tune.
Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei was overall an enjoyable experience with a well crafted storyline and good use of the time travelling concept. Characters were well presented and were of importance to the story. I am personally no real fan of this art style, and found it rather off-putting at first. I myself found the different events an interesting watch, yet couldn't really identify myself with it, consequently not fully enjoying it. Nevertheless, I can easily see why this is so popular, so I can recommended it to anyone who has an interest in college life. After all, this a wonderful story of acceptance of yourself and embracement of the countless oportunities life has to offer.
"There are many, many, many worlds branching out at each moment you become aware of your environment and then make a choice."
The parallel universe concept is one that has existed for decades, but its freedom in entertainment space makes it just as refreshing each time I come across it. Whether there are multiple, unique universes with the same recurring character like in Black Rock Shooter or a scientist delving back into time trying to alter the present in Steins;Gate, this concept has proven to have unlimited applicability. In The Tatami Galaxy, infamous director Masaki Yuasa (Kaiba, Ping Pong- The Animation) took the idea and combined
it with elements of "Groundhog's Day" to create a visual masterpiece that transcends its own narrative.
If you could go back in time, what would you change?
The question is very subjective. Most people would expect an obligatory honorable answer like "I would stop conflict in the Middle East" or "I would end world hunger", but if answered quite honestly our answers would most likely evolve into something trivial or selfish. Our nameless main character isn't seeking to change the world, but instead lets our contemplative minds live vicariously through his parallel universe hopping. He's someone you want to root for, to do what none of us have the ability to. I've made a lot of decisions I regretted in my life, and and I've always wondered how differently things wouldve turned out if I'd have altered just a few things about my past. In The Tatami Galaxy, the question of "what if?" is continually revisited in order to achieve the best possible outcome. It does so while also keeping the viewer on alert to spot the difference in details from one episode to the next.
I came into the show with virtually no prior knowledge of its premise, so initially I was struggling to figure out its over-arcing theme or where the plot was trying to go. Then I realized the true beauty of The Tatami Galaxy. There is no clear plot or story but more so a collection of alternate anecdotes that mold their own story. It's an anime that builds off our own experiences and empathy for the main character's college life, a life perhaps similar to our own. Through his circuitous monologues, Mr. Protagonist states what we're thinking and is just as pathetic as we seemed to be in that point of our lives. Judging from my past experiences during that time, the similarities hit me hard. As if suffering from a premature "midlife crisis", he ponders about what could've been, and desires above all else to experience a "rose-colored campus life" he always dreamed of. It sounds a bit cliché but we all wanted the ideal life right?
Through watching and reviewing anime over the years I've come to realize that comedy is relatively subjective to the viewer. What I find hilarious, you might chalk up as mindless drivel. However, Yuasa's works have taught me that pure, observational comedy can be much more impactful than a well timed joke. As much as you want to feel for our protagonist, his seemingly useless involvement in situations tend to make us chuckle. This combination of humor allots more space for content, vital for a series with only 11 episodes. Most viewers who can't relate to the scenarios faced can at least laugh a bit at his misfortune. And those monologues, man they are something else. The amount of text shelled out in the first episode is daunting to say the least, but if you stay on your toes it's not too difficult to keep track of. It's yet another testament to our protagonist's personality. As the series went on, I enjoyed this aspect much more.
Imagine that friend that always seems to get you into trouble, but always has your back at the end of the day. Or perhaps that girl you admired from afar, seemingly way out of your league. The characters in The Tatami Galaxy are incredibly relatable, and no matter what universe our MC is in they seem to fit their trope quite well. That's not to say they aren't complex, in fact I had a difficult time pinpointing what sort of nefarious activity Ozu would get our MC into next, or exactly how Akashi was feeling towards him at any given point. They just seem to hold a certain piece of the puzzle in his life that only they can fill. They're very relatable and likable characters, and one (Ozu) you love to hate. Yuasa even went as far as to personify the MC's "Johnny" (who's origin you can leave to your own imagination), which created some rather hilarious situations of angel vs. devil. Undoubtedly Mr. Protagonist gets the most development, but he often appears very "unnecessary" to the world he lives in. He stumbles and perseveres through the most ridiculous events, only to rewind and do it all over again. This makes the revelation and self-realization in the ending episode all the more fulfilling from a viewing standpoint (seriously, what was in that castella that kept him nourished?).
Just like every other Yuasa installment, the art is in a league of its own. It's difficult to describe exactly how good or how bad it is because it incorporates elements of so many different styles. If one thing is clear it's that the scenery is pretty to look at. Combining actual still frame images with vivid environments and backgrounds, the artists capture a psychedelic or dreamlike feel, strengthening the parallel universe element. An art style dynamic enough to rival that of the Monogatari in sheer originality. The character models are among some of the best I've seen from Yuasa and aids in illustrating the character's personalities quite well. They even went as far as to showcase the protagonist's perception of Ozu by drawing him a demon-like face. It wasn't sloppy, nor refined. It was just, "it".
I didn't really notice the music much throughout the series, but the OP was well animated and fit the theme of the show well. Sometimes anime can get tripped up from this dissimilar OP vs show concept but Tatami nails it. The ED was really interesting, unlike any ending I've heard in awhile. Voice acting was phenomenal on behalf of Mr. Protagonist. His onslaught of verbiage was impressive and cumbersome at the same time. Like I noted previously, it's something you get used to as the series progresses. If this ever gets dubbed, the English voice actor will have some pretty big shoes to fill. I loved the "Engrish" speaking sections of some of the episodes, something that always sounds funny no matter how many times I hear it.
Understand that while I have high praise for the series, it is not perfect. The setting of a college university will make it much harder to appreciate for younger viewers or those having never gone to college. The dialogue heavy episodes can also be frustrating if you're not paying attention 100% of the time. If you're someone who tends to do other things while watching anime, this might not be the show for you.
Based on my opinion, I give The Tatami Galaxy highest honors when it comes to originality and overall enjoyment. I had an absolute blast watching the series, end it earns my highest recommendation. If you're a fan of Yuasa's other works or you're just looking for a refreshingly unique anime, give it a try. I doubt you'll regret it.
"This opportunity is always dangling in front of your eyes. You must grab this opportunity and act on it. And if you not, you will walk this life as now, ever unchanging." For starters, the opportunity would be this anime, and you shouldn't miss it, as it will impact your life, just as the quote suggests.
This starts off with a fast dialog quickly summing you up on the "world" the main characters lives in. You will quickly notice the special art that is very different from regular anime in any age. It doesn't resemble any art on any anime ever made, it might rather resemble
a little bit of a regular cartoon. It could suit your taste, or you can just live on with it, however, this kind of artstyle is very open to symbolic images. Rather then watching how the plot progresses, the animation is based around the thoughts of the character. In the same time while you're reading the subs, you could take a glimpse of the image going on, and it will force you to think at the same time while reading. So this is not for just pass time, it fills a role of a psychological activity that might change the way you think about certain situations in life.
The most amazing thing about this anime are the characters. They're well thought out and written. Watashi, the protagonist, is just a regular guy pursuing the regular "rose-colored campus life". He thinks that it is perfectly normal, that it is finally time to leave his past behind, and start anew. On his "adventures" he meets Ozu. He is a "demon" looking guy, his look resembles his personality as in he feeds on others unhappiness and sadness. Another notable character would be Akashi. She is not so sociable, doesn't like to interact with others, but she's very open to people that are close to her. There are many other characters, but telling you about them here would just spoil it.
Another unique part of this show would be it's diversity. As it offers many different perspectives throughout the episodes, featuring "new" characters, or rather remade characters. This show with its diversity makes you question is what you're doing the right choice? I mean it's the right choice to watch this, but I'm reffering to normal life. This teaches you in some way that what's done is done. You can wish, or think of what would've happened if you did or didn't do something, but that alternative way won't happen. However, you can experience how it would really end up if it did, in this show.
This also shows you that while you're going for your life goal, you're living your life, not when you reach it. When you do, many more ways to other goals open.
Some episodes serve as a purpose for later development but just going through them isn't as fun as watching the climax of the show. Most of them are actually very fun, but there are 1 or 2 that are good, but not so fulfilling. Those episodes before the climax are what tells me to not give this show a 10 because these little flaws are what keep the perfect shows from near perfect, so i settled for a 9.
Even though this appears mysterious , the message of this anime is clear as a river, so you won't have the "wtf factor" up. I repeat, you shouldn't miss this opportunity.
If there was ever a time to slow clap it out, this would be the precise time to.
This series really is why I love episodic series. The bad ones obviously suck beyond belief, but when shows like this one make optimal use of them they can really turn into something unique, and the short stories can allow for ideas that would normally not fit within a linear storyline. A lot of things have to be done right in order to get a good episodic series, though, but to me the key seems to be creativity, along with somehow finding a way to build-up: connecting the
different episodes together. I believe that if these aren’t present, you’re just better off with a linear storyline in order to get the best out of your characters. But Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei has both of them.
A man is miserable. Despite all his dreams of a “Rose-Coloured Campus Life” filled with raven-haired maidens who dote on him, his social life is going nowhere. He has no girlfriend, his only good friend keeps getting him into trouble, and the circle he joined brings him no joy. So he tries again, and again, reliving his first two years of college life ad nauseum, making different decisions each time, having no recollection that he’s already done this all before. Will the man ever be satisfied with how his life turns out?
The character designs have a stylish comic book economy that give the impression the animators completed each frame in just a few strokes. The exception is Ozu, Watashi's friend who has a frightfully amphibious face: a head like a fish's, teeth like a shark's, and unnervingly dark lips set against a pale visage. Occasionally, in his wiliest moments, they give him a wagging fox tail. Other than that, most of the artistry occurs in the background details (fractal patterns in the trees and the scenery made of eerie black-and-white live-action photography), the framing of the shots, and the precision editing, which cement Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei's patchwork aesthetic beautifully.
They tend to merge real life shots and video in with the episodes when appropriate and it doesn't seem too out of place which is kinda hard to do so that's a plus. There were no crazy battles, no artsy flips or anything out of the ordinary. However what they did need to do was done well.
The artistic style is loose and stylized, which helps purposefully misrepresent the characters and allows for the art to change at the drop of a hat. Allusions and symbolism between episodes are amusing or subtle, keeping the story creative in its connections. Most of all, the sense of humor of the series continually seeks to entertain even when the general atmosphere is introspective, maintaining the show’s levity throughout.
The music is borderline strong - the OP is a modern classic by AKFG - I rarely sit through the OP on anime, but I did throughout this series.
The ED was pretty fitting especially for the mood at the end of each episode and oddly seemed to also fit the animation sequence.
Overall the OST is just a decent compliment to the whole story but never takes on a life past background music, arguably what it's intended for and in which case would be perfect but sometimes you can't beat a crazy score overlaying a scene.
The voice-acting is very well-done, too. It takes talent to be able to speak so quickly and so level-headedly as Watashi, and Shintaro Asanuma does not disappoint. Even the more cartoonish, exaggerated characters like Ozu and Higuchi receive proper treatment.
Yuasa Masaaki’s work on Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei thrives on its ability to avoid stagnation and build a developing story even when each episode follows the exact same structure. In fact, it is this very paradox that drives the creativity. Wonderfully planned out, believable, and deep.
Yuasa’s dynamic storytelling is further bolstered by the characters, who act as the foundation of the ever-changing state of the singular story. The main character Watashi, or simply I, acts as the unreliable narrator, which drives the perspective of the show. The defeatist attitude with which he views the world skews the very nature of things. His character seems pitiful, his actions absurd. Yet it is these very actions that form his identity as he moves from episode to episode. He is not a static character that commits the same mistake again and again; rather, the choices he makes are multiform and logically or emotionally sound, even if his character flaws cause him to fail again and again.
The other characters are equally delightful in their depictions, which begin archetypical and seemingly one-dimensional. Some are malicious, others are lecherous, and a few are downright whimsical. But Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is quick to remind us of Watashi’s unreliability by providing alternate looks at these characters, creating interpretations that are hardly apparent at the beginning but still complimentary to the quirks seen in the first few episodes. The development of these characters come naturally, and their presence in the story support Watashi’s characterization immensely.
At first sight, the way in which this series keeps resetting itself after every episode may seem weird at first, but it actually was a brilliant method to flesh out its different characters. Because of its very frequent resets, this stands out even more than series that did similar things in the past, like Higurashi and Umineko. Because of this, we get to see a ton of different sides of the characters that would never have been able to been shown without these resets, and the most important part is that we see Watashi develop in many different ways throughout each episode. The different side-characters all have their own parts to play in Watashi (the lead character)’s world and everything comes together wonderfully in the final episodes.
Overall, this series is one of the most underrated, under appreciated and unknown anime. It is a hidden gem unknown to people. You will rarely see an anime that is very funny but has a very deep meaning. If you are looking for a unique, non-mainstream, non-complex and very interesting story.
This really is an amazing work. It'll make you rethink life which is rare these days. Sure an anime might awe you with an amazing character to the point you try to emulate their traits. But very few make you reconsider life from a new point of view. I highly suggest you watch it, because it really has it all.
So let us all gather around a 4.5 Tatami Room slurping on our delicious Neko Ramen.
Whatever choice you make, whatever path you take, live it to the fullest. The message is simple, the idea isn’t. Tatami Galaxy weaves a complicated string of narrative threads through a canvas that tells a humble story. How would you relive a moment in your life which you believe has gone down the wrong path? What if it wasn’t one moment, but a combination of moments. A cacophony of looping situations with slight differences that all lead to a split second in which you realize that you haven’t achieved your goal. That miserable moment where you realize the last two years was wasted. What do
you blame it on? Do you blame it on a person? An event? A choice?
Our nameless protagonist, Watashi, which translates to “I” in Japanese meets a man at a midnight ramen stand. This man explains that he is the “god of matrimony” and he’s trying to match up two people. This brings Watashi to reflect upon his last two years which he believes have been wasted. And so, a clever twist on a groundhog loop begins. We relive the past two years of Watashi’s life every episode, and we see the different choices he could’ve taken to achieve what he calls a “rose-colored campus life”. Multiple common threads and situations tie every episode together. Similar pieces of dialogue in different contexts illuminate a whole picture for the viewer as we begin to figure out the story as our protagonist does. Every choice he makes is one that is in line with his character arc and the end the final choice that leads him to true success.
This exquisitely crafted story expertly portrays a common idea. However, if you boil down any story ever told, it can be whittled down to certain, previously used elements observed in various other, older works. There are only so many stories you can tell. So the way you want to tell them is in a way which expresses your own unique ideologies. If the story is about a finding yourself, what kind of approach do you take? Expressing yourself through your drawings, your directing, your characters. A great director can express himself through the narrative and visuals. I feel like I understand Yuasa just a little bit more after Tatami Galaxy wrapped up.
The amount of effort Tatami Galaxy put into conveying its theme is what ended up selling the story so much more. The grounded, yet surrealistic approach to the narrative as well as the visuals lined up perfectly with what you could view this dreamlike experience. Yet unlike so many anime which I’ve seen, this fantastical and surreal story is rooted in some of the most human emotion I’ve ever watched.
I want to treat this review more as just a dump of my feelings, rather than some in-depth analysis or overly-structured points. This is because I don’t think a show like this favors that. The story it tells is to be experienced and analyzing it, while mandatory, is something that you yourself, as a viewer, should do. It is that kind of narrative. One which you can siphon your own thoughts from based on your own experiences. However, it’s three-prong narrative, which explains the foreground, background, and meta nature that is accessible to every viewer. The story succeeds on three levels, which is three times more than most.
A common complaint I hear is that something can be too focused on a style and neglect to add this pesky thing called “substance”. Much like the various other buzzwords I’ve deconstructed over the course of my reviews, substance is yet another word which bothers me beyond belief. Not because it is wholly and unarguably subjective what substance in entertainment can be, but because it is often used as a criticism by people who can’t explain their point. If they disliked something it “lacked substance”, and if they loved it “had bountiful substance”. Yet what they never explain is what that substance means to them.
Substance, as I’ve gathered in a colloquial sense, means story, character, narrative, structure, and visuals. It means it all. More importantly, though, it means a balance of it all. If the focus is uniformly on creating an effects reel of beautifully composed shots that lack intriguing characters, then that project “lacks substance”. Personally, I believe substance is everything that is decided by the viewer. It is what you value. If that’s poorly constructed romance with overly corny dialogue and cloying emotional resonance? Then so be it. That is your substance. That is the metaphoric matter that makes up the piece of entertainment which you enjoy.
The idea that substance in any way is separate from style is preposterous. It is what makes up the project and if the director intends it to be wholly stylistic then so be it. However, when you can blend incredible style and an impressive narrative then you are creating a project that is successful on two fronts. It isn’t stylistic and full of substance; it is simply a stylistic story. Something that makes your jaw drop both visually and narratively.
Tatami utilizes a unique kind of pervasive animation where it not only blends photo-imagery with animated characters but also filters real-life video so it fits the animation. It’s an incredible blend of self-indulgent stylization and surrealistic substance. It fits the kind of illusory narrative being unraveled. There are also various smaller animated ideas utilized throughout. A few rotoscoped scenes looked particularly captivating.
The biggest boon that this astonishing visual flair adds is that it gives Yuasa the opportunity to craft scenes that speak through their visuals. Metaphoric representations of common concepts are rife in this series, specifically within the sexuality of this series. The symbolism that is shown isn’t subtle, but it doesn’t have to be. The visual style supplements the lack of subtle symbolism because the style itself is wholly abrasive. It only makes sense for the rest of the show to be that way. That isn’t to say there aren’t subtle themes and motifs, there are. Particularly in how various objects or creatures are incorporated to portray a certain character’s entire being. Whether they be love dolls, moths, or the devil himself.
Tatami Galaxy is masterfully constructed by Masaaki Yuasa, who has always been a director and creator I admired due to his unique eye for visual storytelling. How certain stylistic choices can set an atmosphere that tells a more compelling narrative than the exposited narrative. My first encounter with Yuasa was in an episode of Adventure Time which he storyboarded and directed. For those who don’t know, Adventure Time is a wonderful cartoon that airs in the west. Later on in its run it began to incorporated various guest animators in the same vein that Space Dandy did. This guest animator would come in and completely take over an episode, crafting a story with previously established characters in a completely new visual assembly. Yuasa fashioned this eleven-minute episode of Adventure Time so memorably that it is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series to this day. His art style, but specifically the way he draws was so captivating that I honestly blame him as one of the many reasons I’m so into the animated medium.
[Characters Living in a Room with a Meta-Narrative]
The Tatami Galaxy maintains a static list of characters throughout its run time. Each one has established traits that get elaborated on as the series progresses. Your preconceived notions of these characters are challenged as every episode rounds to a close because each episode portrays them similarly, but with new background information that helps color your perception of the story. This is the kind of fractured narrative which I adore. There are only a few shows out there that utilize the idea of a fractured narrative well, and I can say that The Tatami Galaxy uses it perfectly.
Our protagonist meets this trouble-making devil-boy, Ozu, who seems to be attached to him through every timeline we see in the series. It is if the cosmic string of fate drags these characters together. Ozu plays the contrast to Watashi. He helps paint the conclusion to the narrative before the conclusion even begins. The story tells itself so well that you begin to understand with the characters, which is a marvel. The ability to express an idea with enough complexity to stay mysterious, but with enough honesty and established elements to maintain realism is not something to ignore. This is only an element of some of the best mysteries ever created.
So many lesser-mysteries often include elements that were never previously established to wrap a story up. While this isn’t necessarily a bad way to write, it is a way that ultimately doesn’t feel cathartic. These characters are attempting to unravel a mystery but unfortunately, a certain element is kept just off-sight that you can’t unravel it with them. All you can do is throw a few pot-shots at the conclusion and maybe you might get it right by sheer chance. What Tatami does is lay out a foundation and continually build on it. This foundation is shown through Watashi’s choice of clubs, each choice signifying a different route he wanted to take in that life.
Furthermore, what draws this interesting twist on the groundhog loop is that no character is fully aware that they are experiencing the same events because these events are all occurring at the same time. Much like parallel timelines, these aren’t events that happen one after the other. Watashi’s timelines all create a different character by the end, however, this different character is still dealing with similar issues that lead him to regret his life choices due to similar beliefs. This occurs to almost every character. While this story is Watashi’s, every other character has similar notions of the past and present, as in, there are lingering relations that they seem to have even though they just met each other. This conscious decision is made to keep these characters attached through a thread of fate, which is later explained as a feeling of “nostalgia” towards one another. It’s a very metaphysical way of approaching life. The idea that your relationship to someone grew through perhaps a meeting in another timeline where you met each other through different means.
That’s where the interesting structure comes to play further. While these events may be happening at the same time for the characters, they aren’t happening at the same time for the viewer. The story has a foreground narrative, a background narrative, and a meta-narrative, which all come together by the end to create one of the most satisfying and cathartic finales I’ve ever seen in television.
The reversal that’s experienced by our protagonist is one that can only be described as “thematically relate-able”. A term I reserve for moments where the character progression is both in line with the story, and in line with the way I’d logically understand our character’s motivations. Watashi’s final goal being that of a “rose-colored campus life” is, in itself, a rose-tinted thought. A thought plagued by preconceived notions of what a college experience “should” be like, rather than what you make of it. This can be drawn, in a meta way, to the idea of what a story should be. What substance should be. What you should expect from your experience with a television show. This narrative is wholly meta since the entire thing is being exposited to us by Watashi, the nameless protagonist. He speaks to us, and his ability to is never fully explained. This one-sided conversation is only supplemented by his conversation with his other conscious, his lust. This relate-able, realistic take on a choice, any choice, continues to impress with the narratives ability to keep similar moments feel interesting by injecting new facts and connecting these universes together. When the truth is revealed and the story begins to make sense, everything slowly starts falling into place. As the description of a 4.5 Tatami mat is exposited, you understand that the story is about breaking an undesirable loop and begin to understand that the life you are living is one that you ultimately cannot change. Watashi’s happiness is his own. When he wanders meaninglessly through thousands of same, yet semi-different Tatami rooms he begins to crave the life he’s lived throughout the rest of the show. That same life which he felt that he ultimately ruined.
The experience is realistic. In the same sense that any story can be realistic, regardless of the setting. You can tell a high-fantasy story that has more realistic characters than a cop drama set in urban Detroit. That’s simply because a character is only likable if you can logically understand them. That understanding can either be logical or through relating to them. An often-misunderstood aspect of character writing is that you must make your characters relatable to everyone. Obviously, that’s impossible, so instead, you need to make them rational. If put into the kind of situation they are in, regardless of what it is they need to act logically to be related to. Because regardless of who they are, you can still place yourself in their shoes.
From what I’ve seen, anime has problems with this. Perhaps it is simply cultural and I’m just some westerner who doesn’t understand. However, so many anime avoids writing nuanced characters in favor of attempting to make them fully self-insert-able. Not relatable, but completely fantastical. The line between relate-able and non-relate-able is much closer than you may think. One misstep and they turn into someone that is just there to appeal to everyone, which comes off as fake, or someone there to be used as wish-fulfillment, which is also fake and obnoxious. The unfortunate thing is, this goes for so many anime. Not even just the trashy harems or the bombastic shounen, but so many anime fall in line with creating characters that aren’t real, as much as their traits are over-exaggerated to fit in line with what may sell.
This may be due to multiple reasons, either my cynicism or the kind of demographic the majority of anime is aimed at; Teenagers. Miyazaki said that it is because the otaku has become the producer, and creates products based on his own interest in the medium. He believes that since the otaku is incapable of observing humans, they reference manga or anime that relates to them and draw conclusions on how people act from that, which obviously isn’t representative of real people. This detracts from human storytelling because the way you capture a real person is not just through characterization, but through the way they speak, the imperfections that lay with how they look or how they behave.
These imperfections are paramount to create realistic characters. These imperfections are virtually non-existent in a medium where every girl needs to be colorful, sexy, and purely marketable. This completely unnatural and idolized view on someone causes these characters to be inherently unlikeable to me. They are just toys to be looked at and rated on all these stupid “best girl” lists and conversations; They are objects of affection, goalposts, non-existent and completely illogical hunks of figurative meat. This whole industry is full of that shit and it’s saddening because animation is such an expressive medium being held down by whatever is creating this putrid need to create non-challenging boring childish entertainment. Where everything sexual is played as a cliché and treated like a thirteen-year-old would treat a course on the human body. Maybe it’s just how cynical I’ve become so quickly.
Tatami isn’t that though. Tatami is completely different. Not only because it feels like one of the pieces of work completely un-reliant on the kind of marketing perpetuated in Japan. But because it is trying to tell a completely different kind of story. Instead of the eventual love-interest being some overly-cute and completely unbelievable piece of meat, she is instead her own person which, through the previously established thread of fate is bound to at least interacting with our protagonist. Now, don’t get the word “interacting” mixed in with “falling in love with.” It isn’t that kind of story.
By the end, the conclusion isn’t that they admit their love for one another after knowing each other for a little bit. It isn’t that she promises to marry him after three days of speaking. It isn’t any of that. It is simply one character asking another character out after they’ve done something nice for them. Yet this seemingly basic conclusion is infinitely more cathartic to me than all the sappy fantasy-fulfillment shlock that I’ve seen before this. For once, I felt like this character is someone I understood. In anime, that is a pretty rare experience for me.
If I’m staying vague here, I’m sorry. I must skirt the line between overt analysis and review which I often dislike. Reviewing something is so hollow since every detail that would explain your love or hate of something needs to be obscured by double-meanings and insipid hints. I always try to balance on that threshold because that’s what this is called, a review. I inject a personal analysis because that’s more interesting. Without that, this whole process would feel as though I’m meandering and repeating the same parochial bullshit that you can read anywhere else.
What you should know is that The Tatami Galaxy is a special show. It is short, tightly constructed, and extraordinary beyond belief. Not because of its style or its “substance”, but because it blends the two to create something you don’t just see, but something you feel. You can laugh, relate, and sympathize, but you can ultimately learn about someone. As I’ve said, there are only so many stories that can be told. It is up to you to tell them in ways which someone can siphon a unique context from.
“The crossroads” is a common theme in storytelling. A moment in which you choose left or right, up or down, yes or no. The change which engulfs the rest of your own story. That is ultimately what Watashi, and no doubt the rest of us end up experiencing. A crossroad. What kind of choice you make, though, eventually becomes irrelevant because once it is made there is no way to rewind what you experience. At the end, these alternate lives that Watashi lives through are all his own lives with different choices leading to different events unfolding even past the two-year timeframe we get to observe. Yet each one has what you learn to call a moment in which you decide to live exactly how you want to.
I mentioned a “reversal” earlier on in this review. The reversal of not only two characters, but the acceptance of one idea over another. Yuasa’s belief that regardless of which choice you make you must live with it, and live you must, live happily. Regrets are something to weigh you down. The conclusion, as Watashi bursts forth and sheds the weight that has been burdening him all this time, is that simple. It is a combination of elements shown through every timeline which he’s lived in and deciding choices that he made.
The Tatami Galaxy is a masterpiece due to its ability to maintain surrealistic elements with an ultimately grounded narrative. But in a more metaphoric and esoteric way, it is a masterpiece because it tells a simple, well-used narrative in a way that conveys the feelings of one person at that time. Whether those feelings are from experience or from fantasy, they are feelings that permeate through the show and tell you what makes someone who they are. The Tatami Galaxy finishes with its opening and begins with its credits. The notion that a story is ending, but another is beginning. This show is just short enough that I can't point out a single misstep in its run-time. The biggest problem with rating television is that you have to judge every single episode. A single misstep in a show, regardless its length can sometimes be detrimental to its rating. Tatami is short though, which gives it enough room to explore its themes but not enough room to lose its story. Which is so spectacular to watch. A love story that doesn't play like a love story, but instead like a mystery. As Watashi wonderfully tells the viewer, “Nothing else is as boring to tell as a story of successful love.”
We all carry regrets throughout our lives and experiences we feel have been a detriment to us. They can range from the seemingly smallest things to those events which we feel turn our world upside down for the worst. But what if we spend more time thinking about how those experiences shape us and help us benefit in the future?
The Tatami Galaxy sets out to explore this and it manages to do so through marvellous storytelling, vivid art, expressive dialogue and meaningful characters. It is, in short, a truly memorable experience.
The Tatami Galaxy is a story about life and how we choose to live
it. We often set expectations for how we want things to unfold but we either don't have the courage to make these things take place. To help carry such an important message it's vital that your main character be a well written one. Thankfully that's the case here. Our protagonist Watashi is your average student dealing with these problems of trying to construct a positive future. When he sets out to achieve his dream 'rosy' campus life he soon finds there are many hurdles to overcome. Our protagonist is easy enough to relate to in some form. Whether it may be his ambitious, caring, evil, envious or loving side it's always very believable and quite real. His experiences from episode to episode make you care for what conclusion may come his way. His character evolution is brilliantly handled.
It's difficult to dive into the story much further than what has already been stated in the synopsis and not ruin the experience. The main plot device used between the episodes is certainly nothing new but thankfully the mixture of colourful characters and superb dialogue, in particular from leading pair Watashi and Ozu, help carry the show through that. The talking comes quick, not a second is wasted when watching. It can range from philosophical without being overbearing through to being humorous without overdoing it. It's arguably the biggest strength of the show.
One of the biggest themes the show rolls with is seeing things from new perspectives, and just when the show has you seeing characters in a particular light it starts to shape them into something different. The supporting cast are all interesting both in their backgrounds and their design. For a show very much centred around one person it's great to see the cast around him were still very nicely fleshed out.
The art may turn some people off but to me it screams creativity. It's a blend of the abstract, exaggerated and expressive. The show jumps between prominent colours frequently but also does so with meaning, using it as a means to set a tone or express the development of our main character. The backgrounds are also gorgeous.
The Tatami Galaxy explores a sizeable portion of themes - love, sex, ambition, depression, greed - but they are all balanced out well. This balance is on display no better than in the final two, perfectly packaged final episodes.
Again, it's very difficult to tell people much about the show without spoiling anything. Just experience it. Take a plunge. You're bound to take something positive away from it.