Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 06: the battle of virtue against vice

Every single one of us, single or otherwise, has faced a crossroads on love. The forking paths may not be as iridescent as what one can see in TV dramas; they may not be as much of a struggle, but they remain to be a struggle within everyone who calls himself human. I do not brag of my conquests in love: to summarize, I may have failed more than succeeded for the most part. But I have been there despite myself and my shortcomings, and I have been in love. It may not have been a romance with a raven-haired maiden, but I can say I have had my share of loving my family and (abnormally,) vintage video games as what my previous readers have seen. With my luck (or misfortune, perhaps, however one looks at it), I have never the problem of loving more than one woman: I have not even experienced the querities of loving a woman yet, and while I will cross the bridge when I get there, I am in no rush.

He is my friend and my enemy.

He is my friend and my enemy.

Nevertheless, I am sympathetic to people suffering from this plight: to the people I know afflicted with this, there is no easy way out. Someone always gets hurt at the end of the affair, and it always ends up in a mess. The sixth installment of this series begins with this question bothering our beloved Watashi. He is torn among three women: Hanuki, who was introduced in the first episode, expanded upon in the fourth episode, is reintroduced as a love interest to our hapless protagonist. She is the existence that is grounded in reality: she has her problems, and there is an idiosyncrasy found in her that lends her humanity. I assume this is the reason that she is neither faceless or immobile: she is just as human as Watashi is.

Contrasting her are the two ‘women’ in Watashi’s life: Kaori, who appeared as the apple of Jougasaki’s eye in episode two. She is but a doll: lifeless and material. She has no soul: like my video games, she does not comprehend the concept of love or return it. She is also laconic, uncomplaining, silent: she can accept all the love that is directed towards her because she is not human. There is no element of self within her; that is the reason she is just merely a doll. Ozu talked about Jougasaki’s love for his doll in the second episode as an ‘extremely sophisticated love’ and Watashi says a similar thing during this episode. It is a love most people fail to comprehend, but it is a kind of love relatively familiar with me: I think of it as similar to my passion regarding the Palmtex Super Micro, which was the primary reason I sought to have an alternate revenue stream. I cannot say I understand, but I can sympathize with him as regards his affection for Kaori.

I can similarly comprehend his pursuit of and affection towards Keiko, as this is the part within every man that is uncorrupted by reality: some part of everyone, even the blackest and most wicked of men, pursues an ideal in their lives, and Watashi is no different. Keiko is to the everyman who is the ‘ideal girl’ in each and every man’s life. For some anime fans it may be a character they deem as moe; for others it may be the actress that is just downright beautiful or simply a girl they know they will have a difficulty of leveling with. Like Kohinata, Keiko is portrayed to be faceless because oftentimes our ‘ideal girl’ is but a snapshot of her real character. She may have a mean edge in real life; she may be selfish and coquettish; but we fail to see that because all we see is a simulacrum of her and not her totality. All we see is an image. It is also dubious that Keiko’s surname is the same as Ozu’s master, Higuchi.

Keiko

Keiko

Fernando Pessoa wrote an entry in his ‘Book of Disquiet‘ accurately describing this affection: he wrote of seeing a beautiful lady walking in a street akin to observing a sublime work of art: she is only beautiful so long as one does not get close to her, because if one gets to know her he will be privy to her weakness and idiosyncrasy as a human. The image does not get destroyed as long as one observes from a distance, but at the same time it is a skewed and inaccurate perception. I think this is what Watashi suffered in regard to Keiko.

Upon his re-entry into college life, Watashi has figured out two essential ideas: first, he has figured out early on that he is not unwilling to love; second, he has figured out that it was folly to concentrate his time into one group alone. He responded from the five previous fiascoes by deciding to diverge: he joined three different groups instead of just one, and is more open to the idea of loving another (girl).

In his participation within the English Group he gets to know Hanuki, an extremely attractive and kind girl. He befriends her easily, and with her unique way of treating the English language she became quite popular within the club. She and him share a common acquaintance: he is Ozu. Watashi and Ozu got to know each other because Ozu offered Watashi help that he needed in his busy campus life; Watashi, after all, belonged to three different clubs. He also got closer to Hanuki because of Ozu’s existence. His soliloquy about Ozu seemed to remain the same refrain as during the show’s beginning: there is, however, one most notable difference: Watashi recognizes Ozu as a friend, something he has never done explicitly, even with the events of the fifth episode.

His affections gradually increased for her, until he finally asked her about her boyfriend in one of their cafe outings together. It is pretty obvious that her boyfriend was Higuchi (at least, that was how he was known in the fourth episode). There have been more than a few connections between this episode and the fourth episode: aside from the fact that Higuchi was a significant character in both episodes, there is also the ‘mystery hotpot’ that Higuchi alludes to marking the beginning of the fourth episode. It must also not be forgotten that the fourth episode was the one featuring Watashi as a disciple.

[In a post of his, Vendredi noted of the seemingly cyclical nature of the four-and-a-half tatami mat. I think the imagery proves itself this episode, seemingly as if Watashi and his room is the pivot where his love rotates.]

The spiral theory of Vendredi

The spiral theory of Vendredi

In one of their English Club meetings, Higuchi surprised everyone by speaking grammatically correct English: Watashi surmised that something was clearly wrong. Her invitation to Watashi to drink with her seemed to all but corroborate this initial though of Watashi. He was, however, torn. He was torn among his faceless ideal, non-life, and a problematic girl with realistic problems. He desired to help Hanuki, but he feared he was going to cheat on the other ‘women’ of his life. Like a man in love, he was truly concerned for her: but he was also a man trapped among three ‘women,’ and his accounts were all to be settled at the same time.

A troubled face

A troubled face

Further reminders of the fourth episode appear a little after the drinking game between Watashi and Jougasaki. In the end of the Proxy-Proxy battle between Jougasaki and Higuchi, Jougasaki and Hanuki seemingly ended up with one another. The dialogue between Watashi and Hanuki is quite supportive of this: one must also recall that Watashi was not fond of Hanuki in that universe because she was fond of licking people’s faces when she was drunk and leaving Watashi at unfamiliar places after her sprees. Anyway, her anger finally comes out at the drinking spree in this episode before he attempts to bring her home.

All of us viewers know that the protagonist is essentially nameless: the ‘Watashi’ we utilize to represent him is merely our namesake for him. He is ‘Watashi’ because we do not recognize him; in the United States and in other parts of the world, someone unknown and unnamed is recognized to be a John Doe – or a Johnny, which is aptly the name of Watashi’s alter-ego (id) this episode. In the same time that we recognize Watashi to be everyman we recognize his alter-ego to be an everyman as well but from another place. As Watashi is Eastern in both his namesake and identity, the divergence and bifurcation of his self is illustrated by antipodean description: Johnny is Western in namesake and identity, for he is a cowboy. Most of us are familiar with the basic tenets of psychoanalysis: all that is seen by others is just the tip of the iceberg. We have a much different and much sunken within that most of us keep to ourselves.

img6.4: The phallic imagery is highly reminiscent of the candle in James Joyce's 'Boarding House.'

img6.4: The phallic imagery is highly reminiscent of the candle in James Joyce's 'Boarding House.'

It can be easily assumed that the emergence of Johnny is the expression of Watashi’s id: it is the avatar of his selfish and sexual desires according to Freudian psychoanalytic theory. Quite aptly, the symbolic phallus at the background appears upon his introduction: Hanuki invited Watashi to spend the night with her in her apartment as well as the innuendos that come along with it. Johnny is also a euphemism for a penis in the United States: the name is a beautiful double-entendre. It is also during this time that Watashi’s integrity of character must be praised. Despite all the fire of Johnny, and his horse (ha!), he manages to rein himself in just as Johnny remains sequestered in his thoughts.

Nashikuzushi means 'to pay back in installments;' I do not know what 'succum' means.

Nashikuzushi means 'to pay back in installments;' I do not know what 'succum' means.

Yuasa once again shows his genius in the illustration of the struggle between his id and his superego, the part of the mind that Freud describes as the one that controls the animal desires of the id and holds up the virtues and values of the person. It is the part of the mind that prevents one’s immorality and baseness from taking over the man. I also admire the metaphor of the kettle that Yuasa implements. The amygdala is a structure of the brain that manages emotional reactions and is highly involved with fear. It is notable that the amygdala is also shaped like a phallus in this rendition: it is perhaps the state of his current emotions. The rest are notable divisions of the brain that have a unified task to perform. His ultimate battle in this episode is the battle between his honor and his desire: while quite a few modern people have been more or less unscrupulous regarding this there is a traditionality that can be found within Watashi. While his self-control was seemingly decimated with her gum massage, his honor triumphed over his sexual desires, and he escaped to the bathroom.

'It's inexcusable to partner with someone you don't have a burning passion for based on purely desire just because you're lonely!'

'It's inexcusable to partner with someone you don't have a burning passion for based on purely desire just because you're lonely!'

‘Can I keep my pride taking advantage of a woman falling over from too much alcohol?’ It is then he realized that he has muttered regarding his idea of love and women in the past. This recollection is highly reminiscent of the first episode, in the Tennis Circle Cupid. In the end, Watashi remained true to himself and upheld his values. While it is a tragedy of his loins, it is a triumph of his mind and his virtue. He delayed his idea of systematic docking so that he could sober up and then proceed from there. I think it was a very wise decision; it was highly in contrast with his previous actions and choices in the episodes preceding this one because he thought things through before acting, and it was the morally right thing to do.

Despite the seriousness of this post, I must say that this was the funniest episode of the Tatami Galaxy. The neon colors of Jougasaki and Watashi’s drinking game reminded me of certain scenes from Mind Game.

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17 Responses to “Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 06: the battle of virtue against vice”

  1. Quarkboy Says:

    Let me explain “Succum”… It’s a highly non-trivial translation.

    I had no idea when nashikuzushi jiru meant either, so I asked a Japanese friend of mine. It’s not some slang, googling for it will turn up basically nothing.

    What it is is a pun on the Japanese slang for “precum”, which is “gaman jiru”, literally “endurance/self-control juice”. Nashikuzushi literally means “to break down bit by bit”, which is like the opposite of “gaman”. Hence, my translation as “Succum” as opposed to “Precum”, where it’s referring to his self-control.

  2. Michael Says:

    Thank you very much! I was having trouble wrapping my head around the concept and the imagery myself.

    So that was why the different parts were washed away by a thick, white liquid. Haha!

  3. dm Says:

    This is a lovely post — I’m impressed that you could be so coherent and thoughtful after watching this episode, as I was reduced to artless, inarticulate awe by the manic technique on display in this episode.

  4. Michael Says:

    I was actually wordless the first time I watched it. All I could do was clap my hands in happiness with the episode. It was just that awesome.

    Of course, after I cooled down a bit I re-watched the episode. It remained to be funny, but in traditional Yuasa style it was brimming with intelligence. I mean no disrespect to Blackadder or to the Tatami Galaxy, but I do believe this evokes Blackadder Goes Forth emotions in me: the kind that makes one so angry at the director for being so damn funny, so damn smart, and yet so damn intellectual.

    Thanks for the compliment!

  5. Celeste Says:

    … the imagery proves itself this episode, seemingly as if Watashi and his room is the pivot where his love rotates.

    It proves a secondary point as well, one well noted by Vendredi in his posts: Watashi thinks everything revolves around himself. Note his outrage when he finds Jougasaki drinking with Hanuki – Watashi yells “why are you here?!” in reaction to his presence. The idea that the women in his life (Akashi included) are more than planets-in-orbit is unacceptable to Watashi; the idea that upon his initial refusal of Hanuki’s offer, she might go see someone else sends him flying into a foolish drinking match with Jougasaki.

    Another note on his alter ego. In addition to the Johnny = penis double-entendre, the visual design is one as well. As a good friend of mine pointed out to me over dinner, Johnny’s design is essentially that of Woody from Toy Story. Woody = Wood = i don’t think I need to explain myself further.

  6. Angelus Says:

    The last time I came to a fork in the path of love, I went down both routes. Having a dissociative disorder (and a job that involved a lot of travelling) makes that kind of thing relatively easy, but with hindsight it probably wasn’t a good idea as the aftermath left me in therapy for 2 years.

    Anyway, I’m really looking forward to being able to catch up on this series because, from what I’m reading about it, it’s sounding more and more like the work of a certain fictional novelist (forking paths, indeed).

  7. Michael Says:

    Angelus:

    I’m glad someone finally got the allusion! I hope you’ve moved on from that ordeal, and I hope you’re doing well. 🙂

    Celeste:

    Thanks. He does look like Woody, so it’s multiple suggestion of sorts. I also recognize your point that he is somewhat autistic because of this: one of his foibles is his selfishness, and it is something he has to overcome if he is to progress as a person.

  8. Elineas Says:

    If we want to continue with the literary allusions, Keiko and any other ideal girl evokes the image of Eugenia from Miguel de Unamuno’s “Mist”, which also often unfurls into the protagonist Augusto Perez’s monologues quite often. Watching Tatami Galaxy also reminds me how careless I’ve gotten when watching anime; I’m missing details that I would have pounced on if I were reading a book. Thanks for pointing out a lot of these. But this episode was a marvel to behold.

    And yeah, I want to kick myself for missing the Borges connection. Something like that should be well engraved in my memory whenever I hear or see anything similar to the concept in Garden of Forking Paths.

  9. Michael Says:

    Elineas:

    I have not read of that novel: has it been written recently?

    I couldn’t have written this entry if it weren’t. It did not merely appeal to my sense of sight, but it also appealed to my thinking. I am also usually careless when I watch anime, but when a series piques me and I know there’s more to it than just its pictures (it’s not just a pandering show, or an ecchi one), I always can’t help but think about it. In fact, I haven’t written two posts in a single day for a long time, but I’ve just done it with The Tatami Galaxy. Other works of Masaaki Yuasa deserve this treatment as well, but I’m just besotted with the non-linear mode of storytelling he affects with this series.

    Viva Borges!

  10. qwert1424 Says:

    This is quite a fantastic show. I hate comedies, but intelligent, satirical comedy I love. I still think your over-analytical approach to this show is a little misguided but I guess I can’t fault your enthusiasm for it.

  11. Michael Says:

    qwert1424:

    It is a fantastic show. But I don’t write stuff like these for traditional or casual anime: I’ve seen a lot of Daimaou episodes yet it doesn’t really invite itself to being thought on. There are some shows where analysis helps the progression of my enjoyment for it, and this is one of them.

    Thanks for the reply.

  12. Elineas Says:

    Michael:

    Hardly. Miguel de Unamuno is one of the giants of Spanish literature and one of the predecessors of existentialism. Mist is, I believe, his most famous work. One of the critical scenes in the book, or at least the one that might have passed into popular culture, is a confrontation between the main character and the author. The scene is more or less equivalent to Borges’ parable “Everything and Nothing.”

    The more I think about it, the more fitting the story becomes with Tatami Galaxy, even if they’re focuses are quite different. The name “Mist” is indicative of the uncertainty of life, as is the way events go on to obscure Augusto’s image of his love and maintain its idyllic state. He becomes confused over his love when he stumbles upon another girl, but remains resolved toward his devotion to Eugenia. Most of all, the story tries to set itself up as a stream of dialogues, with all monologues done by Augusto really being one sided discussions with his dog. Watashi is constantly obscuring reality through his own interpretation, fights between passions and love interests, and more or less projects himself upon the numerous characters throughout Tatami Galaxy. I think I’ve spoiled too much of the book, but it certainly is a most intriguing parallel…

  13. Michael Says:

    Elineas:

    There’s something new one learns everyday. I have not read of him as yet, but you’ve intrigued me of his work. I shall hope to find ‘Mist’ someday and read it.

    So you’re arguing that both the main character of Mist and Watashi are autistic beings: that is, they obscure everything because they solely think of others’ existences from their point of view?

    I look forward to reading that book. Thanks for the heads-up!

  14. Angelus Says:

    Well, I’m catching up now, but since when did the library of babel have police???

  15. The Tatami Galaxy 6: English Conversation Circle « FungaFuFu Says:

    […] goes into a lot of detail with the symbolism in episode 6; as the race goes to the swift, I’ll not re-iterate here and instead urge you to check out […]

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