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Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei aka Tatami Galaxy



Our nameless protagonist (Watashi) is a student newly enrolled to a college in Kyoto as he picks a club to enter in, looking forward to a rose-coloured college life, filled with romance with a raven-haired beauty and other exciting accomplishments. Fast forward 2 years and he feels that his college life has been an utter waste of his precious youth. If only he hadn't been led astray by his best friend, the trickster-like and demonic-faced Ozu! If only he had picked a different club when he entered! So time rewinds to let him make another choice, and again, and again, and again. Always to a disappointing result. Yet opportunity is always hanging over him, waiting for him to pick it up.

Adapted from a novel (as in a serious, literary novel, not a light novel), Tatami Galaxy is a brilliant, inventive, quirky and resonant study of the unrealistic dreams and foiled expectations typical of young adults as they start their life in earnest. Served by a wildly imaginative visual style and a quick fire running commentary by Watashi; it produces an ironic atmosphere perfectly suited to its subject.

The visual is the most creative and interesting aspect of the series with some always entertaining, creative and surrealist ways of rendering the events, it is strikingly original and fluid. With Watashi's narration going on so fast, though, it is easy to miss details of the animation, but I wager the series bears several re-watch easily, especially given how many little details correlate with one another from one rewind to the other.

At first I feared the repetitive nature of the plot, with a feeling of little progression during the middle of the story, but that's when shit started kicking in a more interesting direction, building up to the truly amazing and exciting ending. Descending into greater magical realism it gave us a wonderful apotheosis of the thematics of the series.

The comedy works on a dark humour, surrealism and satire basis - and of course repetition gags - and while it's not really the kind that'll make you laugh out loudly, it's certainly efficient at creating the right atmosphere.



My biggest disappointment with the story was Watashi himself, who is the pretty typical socially awkward, kind of idealist, kind of cynical, mostly wishy-washy male loser character type you see in too many stories (both anime and others). I ran out of interest into those kinds of characters a long time ago. However since the narrative is especially there to criticise his hesitation, responsibility-fleeing, others-blaming and contradictions in order to build him up from there, I shall excuse this series (though it did take a while before it got there, due to the nature of the time-rewinding plot).

Thankfully, the rest of the cast is much more interesting. Ozu, the demonic best friend is remarkably entertaining, always up to untold mischiefs of various kinds that dynamise the story in a very trickster fashion (and not always unkindly though Watashi fails to notice it, of course). Akachi the love interest is also pretty damn awesome, a very cool-headed, intelligent and no-nonsense girl, member of the engineering club and with a phobia for moths. I wish we had spent more time exploring her character actually. The rest of the cast appear bits by bits, and is fairly high in colour and interesting as well. Despite all the rewinds, they remain true to themselves, though Watashi's always changing perspective on them depending on where he is gives them some surprising depth.

Thematically, Tatami Galaxy works really well, it puts us face to all the contradictions we have between what we dreamed of and what we accomplish, the little hypocrisies and cowardice; while capturing a sense of whimsy of college life and Kyoto's region evocatively. And for all the sardonic tone, it is strongly humanistic and optimistic to its core. It really makes the best use of of the motif of repetition and variation to highlight characters in both their failings and qualities.

An awesome and unique anime overall.
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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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