After nearly 5 years, I finally decided to muster up the wherewithal to participate in the Anime Secret Santa project by the fantastic folks over at Reverse Thieves. In turn, I was suggested Gungrave, Princess Tutu, and Tatami Galaxy. The first I had been meaning to give a second chance, whereas the latter two I failed to finish as new anime seasons cropped up seemingly out of nowhere. Being a huge fan of Masaaki Yuasa I jumped at the chance at a kick-to-the-rear to finally finish another of his works. As such, I went with The Tatami Galaxy.
The plot centers around a freshman college student, “Watashi”.. He joins a campus club in search of his “Rose-Colored Campus Life”, to chase the love of raven-haired maidens, and find fulfillment in an important time in his life. He is hindered by Ozu, a young man resembling a youkai who makes it one of his missions to ruin everyone’s love lives. As Ozu brings Watashi hiss level, Watashi becomes hated to the extent that he is thrown off a bridge on the night of the Daimonji Festival. Along the way, he crosses paths with many others with whom he could have grown closer if he had only made different, better choices. In turn, he wishes he could have joined another club, and freed himself of Ozu. “And so, as a brand-spanking new freshman university student, countless doors to the mystical treasure known as that ‘rose-colored campus life’ lay open before him. And the one Watashi chose was…”
In all honesty, The Tatami Galaxy is the first cyclical show I could enjoy. Despite resetting to the same point each episode, they each branch out in vastly different ways. Each loop exemplifies different facets of the supporting characters. This helps to weave a complex set of relationships in ways that a proper timeline could not without being boring. We are treated to a smear campaign, to caring for a love doll, and to a prank war in three separate episodes. Each one sheds new light on Jougasaki and the people around him. By focusing on different facets of Watashi’s life we get a comprehensive view of Jougasaki. This all happens without being bogged down with menial day-to-day happenings. This crafts an aversion to the stagnation we often see in cyclical shows (looking at you, Endless Eight!). At the same time, they still make the effort to tie each particular story into the overarching timeline of events. This all culminates into an amazing, cathartic finale
The art is an absolute treat to behold as a fan of Masaaki Yuasa’s personal style. His trademark fluidity and experimentation with alt art forms and color are all on display here. The art alone would make The Tatami Galaxy worth watching.
Music doesn’t play as much of a role as sound does in this show, though I cannot think of one point in which it detracted from a scene. Not the strongest point, but far from being an issue. The use of Asian Kung-Fu Generation for the OP was a fantastic choice. The filtered guitar and horns nearly overpowering the vocals gave off a feeling of uneasy contentment. It is a fantastic complement to the show. The ED, however, felt a bit out of place. It is a fantastic song exuding feelings of uneasiness and regret. Had the lyrics not fit well to the show’s emotional themes I’d have surely panned its use.
In all, The Tatami Galaxy was an absolute treat, showing off exactly why I adore Masaaki Yuasa. His attention to characters and unique way of fleshing them out helps to produce some of the most believable, albeit silly, character connections. To the end, his direction and animation style ooze from every crevice, helping to bring life to what is often a tiresome plot trope.