Jul 2, 2010
Detective (All reviews)
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.

Story: 9/10
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.

Art: 10/10
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.

Sound: 9/10
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.

Character: 10/10
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.

Enjoyment: 10/10
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.

Overall: 10/10
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?