Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy) 1 and 2: unconventional beauty

I knew nearly nothing about Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei aside from the fact that it was going to appear in the critically-acclaimed noitaminA block. Its entry in AniDB was, at best, laconic, and it was only recently that I discovered that Masaaki Yuasa (of Kemonozume) was directing the series. Because of this shallow knowledge, I did not harbor any expectations of the series: I was intent on watching it primarily because I thought the girl in the anime poster was decently attractive, and I have been consistently pleased with what the noitaminA block had shown in the past.

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Having said that, I was entirely floored by the first episode. Although I was surprised with the lightning-fast speech of Watashi and the speed of the dialogue, I thought it was a really good first episode despite downloading the earliest rip that was an atavism to the time where RealMedia was the predominant medium and spyware was the norm.

Episode 1

The first episode started with a fast explication of the locales that Watashi is nearby to or resides in: I was wondering why there was a sexy female cry only to realize that the place Watashi talked about, Shimogamo shrine, was akin the female vagina as can be seen in the episode. It is then after one speeds through the different places at the narrator’s beckon that one perceives of the protagonist’s nature: he had failed in the procurement of love; in his bitterness, he did not want others to be happy in love as well and had spent most of two years attempting to extirpate love that has taken root and to conflagrate its blooms, making another person, Ozu, his scapegoat as to why he has acted such.

He has recognized that he has to change, but he has not done anything because he has Ozu as his scapegoat: ‘my soul would have surely stayed unblemished were it not for having met him.’ Ironically, it can be observed that Ozu is his anti-thesis: in contrast to his desire to mingle with others and become sociable, to love and be loved as a normal guy, Ozu does not mind what other people think and has decided to act even without the approval of others. He is drawn to Ozu because he is in denial of his bitterness and wants to escape his guilt by transferring it to Ozu. Ozu couldn’t care less, too.

Perhaps this is the reason that the purported god of matchmaking chose either Ozu or Watashi for Akashi-san. They have more in common than Watashi thinks. It is quite clear in the span of the first episode that Watashi desires for Akashi-san not to think ill of him: this is clearly visible when they aimed the fireworks at the people who are dating in the opposite side of the river. Ozu later expounds on this when he surmised that it was only Akashi-san aside from him who were able to understand an idiot such as Watashi. It is clear in the dinner at a restaurant that Watashi fails to see his own failings as a person and instead blames Ozu for his failures. A question that Ozu poses is also the question I sometimes ask myself: will I choose someone who attracts me physically, or someone who understands who I am? I’m hoping that there the two overlap with one another, because as it stands I cannot answer the question as fast as Watashi did, as I really don’t know and am still unsure.

One can see later on that Akashi-san is among the few people who are able to ground Watashi and treat him as a normal person, engaging in casual conversation with him and being open to him despite his foibles. It is no surprise that he had slowly fallen for her, even if he did not know it at the time. I quite think that the feeling is also mutual, as it can be seen in Watashi’s flashback that Akashi has no qualms leaning on him and being supported by him when she was pestered by a moth. They are comfortable with one another, and all Akashi asks is for him to fulfill his promise. (I thought that it was sweet that Watashi is Akashi’s fifth mochiguman. While she may have lost one, Watashi was there to support her in her times of vulnerability and also possess that which she lost.)

In the end of the first episode, he fails himself once more, and we are left wondering what will happen to him.

Episode 2

Because one is encountering the anime counterpart of Groundhog Day, one experiences a lot of the same, with subtle, nuanced changes. Watashi no longer belongs to the Tennis Circle; he has now become a member of the Movie Circle, and yet little changed. Ozu, while perhaps still devilish, is more endearing to me because he sincerely tries to help Watashi despite himself. The moths still affect Akashi; Watashi is still a recluse, but he has gained some insight to the repetition of his life.

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I found that the best insight to Watashi’s psyche could be found in his third film as well as tied with the English translation of the title: his third film was a man being trapped in a maze of 4.5 tatami rooms, a wonderful parallel to his own life and to the title. Even the ED shows the value of this, as the ED animation is a seemingly infinite opening of tatami-doors: the Tatami Galaxy is his own psyche, and unless he sees beyond the limit of 4.5 tatami he will never be able to escape.

There is still much to be said about the show: I hope that it continues its brilliance until its end.

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4 Responses to “Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy) 1 and 2: unconventional beauty”

  1. JCDRANZER Says:

    This was a very good read, it was short and somewhat concise. Please continue bloggin this anime.

    As you probably know this is set to be 11 episodes and based on novel by Morimi Tomihiko. I didn’t know that it was just a novel and not a bunch of novels. This in turn gives me ahope that the series will end conclusively at episode 11 and hopefully a happy ending. =)

  2. Michael Says:

    Thanks. I’m hoping that it will have a great and happy ending, too.

  3. coburn Says:

    I’m going to second the ‘please keep blogging this’ thing. I thought the second episode was even better than the first and am now properly hyped up for this.

    What you say about the third of Watashi’s film’s being the most telling is surely right (what with the OP/ED referencing and all), so it’s pretty telling/funny that the audience criticism of the film is that they’ve seen that idea before. For now I’m interested to see whether the show does anything more explicit with the whole symbolic-tatami thing (maybe something in the way of a revelation) or just keeps it spinning in the background.

  4. Ryan A Says:

    This is where I am. Finally catching up. I wrote a couple small blurbs on these episodes and will post later 🙂

    I wasn’t fully into the first episode, but I liked it. After the second I was much more into it. Even after two episodes one can tell the thought and composition is very well constructed. At this point, the source material is my own question.

    Will read your further posts, and yes, you should blog this one 🙂

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