Archive for June, 2010

[Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei] Escaping the Tatami Galaxy: a fearless forecast

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Over a meaningful discussion of The Tatami Galaxy in 4chan, ahr re-introduced the cover image of the Tatami Galaxy’s novel to me. I was just thinking how fecund of meaning the picture was, and I think it suggests the reason why Watashi has to grasp the opportunity in front of him (which is to turn off the light by grabbing the Mochiguman).

ttgnovelpicture

In a blueprint, the opening of the door is denoted by a quarter-circle. It can be seen in the image that this opening (the escape from the tatami galaxy) is actually signified by the moths and Ozu. I remember in the tenth episode that the moths themselves come and go as they please from room to room: I think it will be Watashi’s method of escape in the final episode.

Watashi himself notes in the tenth episode, before it ends:

Anyway, it seems like these fellows can cross through the parallel worlds and gather in them one after another.

If he turned off the light, the moths will actually go somewhere else, and one of them will be a path to his escape.

Chromatology in the Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei)

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

The Masque of the Red Death was one of the earliest literary short stories I have ever read. I was in the fourth grade back then, enjoying reading primarily with Goosebumps, when my father exhorted me to read stories that were more literary because it would allow my English to progress and improve. I listened reluctantly, but I was glad I did.

I think the last time I read that short story was about five years ago, but it has never failed to make an impression on me, seeing as it was one of my first true explorations of allegory (notwithstanding what Poe said about it). Aside from the idea that the Red Death was the personification of the bubonic plague, I was struck by Poe’s evident use of colors to paint meaning into the story: in the story, Prince Prospero saunters through seven rooms of different colors before finally meeting the Red Death face-to-face (and then dying in the process). Each room had a different color and signified something different: I was turning the idea over in my head since the last episode represented the different choices made by Watashi with different colors. I cannot say I am totally convinced with the signification myself, but I personally think that the colors the rooms possess certainly give definite impressions that can be recognized with the individual color’s social and cultural significance, whether universal or not. (more…)

Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei – 10: The Tatami Galaxy

Friday, June 25th, 2010

This episode was the cumulation, culmination, and fulmination of Watashi’s cowardice: while the previous episodes featured important circumstances that Watashi shied away from because of his indecision and fear, this was the apotheosis of his cowardice: upon the recognition of the reality that a rose-colored life can never be in this world, he refrained from selecting a group altogether and was instead content with secluding himself from the rest of the world. As a recluse, he argued upon the merits and the perfection of the 4.5 tatami room compared to rooms with a lesser or greater number of tatamis. He first describes the existence of certain rooms made up of one, two, and three tatamis, although this was done with apathy and even subtle derogation: the one who resided in the three-tatami room could be assumed to be another hikkikomori, and those who resided in the one tatami room disappeared mysteriously.

These rooms are contrasted with the perfection of the 4.5 tatami room: it was a beautiful square and it was spacious; however, it was not as spacious as the seven, eight, or ten tatami rooms, but Watashi questions man’s ability to rule over these spaces. He believes that humanity only has the ability to rule 4.5 tatami rooms and smaller spaces. I personally believe it was just his cowardice taking over him once more: sour graping was but a mask to dissimulate the reality of the situation, as the intricacies of his excuses could not hide his present discontent. At the end of this introductory montage, after all, Watashi asks: ‘where is the one responsible?’

Look inside.

Look inside.

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Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei): Higuchi Seitarou’s role

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Higuchi Seitarou is an anachronism.

Dressed in a yukata, he introduced himself as a god of matchmaking the first time we (the viewers) saw him. Quite a few immediately deduced that he was of dubious scruples when he made a mistake in the repetition of his name: instead of Kamotaketsunominokami, he repeats it as Kamotaketsunominokamo. From a recognized Shinto god, Kamo Take-tsunomi no Kami (Mikoto), he became an uncertainty. Kamo in Japanese elicits an uncertainty from the person speaking it: it’s akin to the English ‘maybe,’ more or less. The dubiousness of his character further persists with his comprehensive information regarding Watashi’s life. There seemed to be an aura of omnipotence around him. Maybe he was a god, after all?

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Future episodes have served to debunk this belief: he was neither a respected god of Kyoto or the Yatagarasu who led Jimmu in the union of Japan. He was just another human being with ways of obtaining vast amounts of information, as the ninth episode explicated. I recognize that a lot of viewers (myself included) looked upon Higuchi with derogation until the previous episode: he seemed to be a loafer, a dilettante, and an indolent.

Nothing much really changed in our perceptions through the next seven episodes: it seemed that our preconceptions were confirmed, even, especially with Higuchi’s presence as Master in the Disciple Club. There’s something I recently noted, however, after revisiting the first episode: in his own way, he was already trying to help Watashi (even before his cerebral speech in the ninth episode) and was wise. He asked Watashi in the first episode:

And why have you spent these two years in such a timid state? […] But that’s not all, is it?

A more visible example is the fact that it was Higuchi who exhorted Watashi to talk to Akashi during the Obon festival, but he dismissed her in his cowardice. (One can assume Ozu was also heavily involved with this and may have been the mastermind behind the plan, but it doesn’t change the fact that Higuchi helped Watashi recognize his feelings for Akashi.

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More of his personality was revealed in the most recent episode, and it was illuminating, to say the least. Aside from the fact that he challenges Watashi to face reality and live in the present, the entirety of his personality was also encapsulated with this short statement of his:

Speaking of which, a few days ago, when I left the university I ran into an old friend. They [sic] were not looking so comfortable at all, and hurried off somewhere. […] Why would they be embarrassed? It’s not them who had to repeat classes.

He simply takes life with its vicissitudes in stride. He takes life as it is: he has dreams, but they’re not impossible to achieve; he even has a beautiful girlfriend (Hanuki). He does not feel envy towards those who have succeeded before him, or anger that he’s been in university for a long time.

What’s the matter? Are you asleep?

He asked Watashi that when he was mumbling about his ideals, before he went on his philosophical and intelligent speech that was purposeful and direct. In contrast to the lofty idealism of Watashi, he is the pinnacle of grounded realism. Take life as it comes and as it is, and enjoy it to the fullest, because no one ever gets out alive. I hope Watashi listens to him, because he’s a very sensible man, come to think of it, despite everything.

Comparative and comprehensive interpretations of The Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei)’s timeline through the first nine episodes

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

The more one is intimately connected with a series, the more information one can glean from it. Take Quarkboy, for example. He was the one who proposed the four-and-a-half mat hypothesis, but in light of the recent episodes it seems apocryphal at at times incoherent with the flux of the series. Leave it to him, however, to propose an alternative solution that attempts to answer these statements I made in my post about the episode. I said:

Nine is twice of four-and-a-half. While that hypothesis seems pretty difficult to substantiate now, there is still credence in the fact that things have been quite cyclical, although they have interacted with one another a lot more than what I initially thought. This [the ninth episode] seemed to be the episode that tied together the first five episodes: it seemed as if it really was the 4.5 episode, and not the Honwaka one. Everything is now interwoven and interconnected with everything else, and the presence of the different characters now have coalesced: it’s as if their basic characteristics are known by us. It is the episode that ties everything together. The previous arc seemed to be a diversion from the original path which were the first five episodes, and this was its connection.

I was thinking of a uniform path for the first five episodes, with Watashi’s divergent choices among the women in the sixth, seventh, and eighth episode. At the time, it made a whole lot of sense to me. The first five episodes were tied with one another, with the previous arc the divergence, once again resolving in the ninth episode. (I’ll be using Paint, so pardon the ugliness.)

Put into an image, this was my initial interpretation of the Tatami Galaxy’s timeline:

There are some instances that would support my interpretation: the sixth and the eighth episode always culminated differently, and Akashi would never meet Watashi as Keiko if he chose either of the two choices left.

There are some instances that would support my interpretation: the sixth and the eighth episode always culminated differently, and Akashi would never meet Watashi as Keiko if he chose either of the two choices left.

It still makes a lot of sense to me.

In contrast, this is Quarkboy’s interpretation:

In my interpretation: Everything that happens always happens in each timeline.

The only difference is the role of Watashi in the events (and sometimes the roles of the other people filling in for him).

Akashi is always in the cycling club and movie club, then changes to birdman and disciple in her second year.

Ozu always meets Kohinata-san in his first year in the tennis club and then joins the secret society to get close to her (as Honwaka is one of their branches). He also always does the fireworks to get revenge on the tennis club (or perhaps as part of a plot for the secret society). Ozu’s greatest loyalty always seems to be with the Master, however.
Higuchi always reads 20,000 leagues way past its due date and then decides to go on a journey after his generation of the proxy proxy war is finished.

Ozu and Higuchi always create the film on Jougasaki’s private life using the hidden camera footage captured by Aijima which was made in order to discredit Jougasaki so Aijima could impress Akashi, but ends up being used by Ozu as an attack of the proxy proxy war.

Hanuki always goes out drinking with Jougasaki after hearing that her boyfriend, Higuchi, has decided to go on a journey after the proxy proxy war is over, attempting to drown her sorrows, and is helped home by Ozu.

Ozu always infiltrates Honwaka the night of Gozan, steals the blimp intending to take away Kohinata to fly over the mountains and see all 5 giant pictures/letters at once, is always brought down by Aijima, then chased all the way to the bridge in the first episode, where a furious Aijima and Jougasaki (who thinks it was Ozu that stole Kaori, I think) are trying to get him.

Each of these parts of the story (and probably many others I’m forgetting) are basically constant… Although sometimes Watashi would be involved or replace one of the character’s roles (like being Higuchi’s successor instead of Akashi, or being the CCCC’s leader instead of Ozu, etc…)

It’s a more comprehensive interpretation than mine, indeed, and it does answer quite a few questions that the series proposes. Put into an image, the timeline of the first nine episodes are linear, with changes only occurring upon Watashi’s intrusion into the picture with his different choices. It’s a very brilliant one.

This is Quarkboy's interpretation.

This is Quarkboy's interpretation.

In fact, it was through this interpretation that I discovered that Watashi’s entire oeuvre of films in the second episode acted as foreshadowing for the entirety of things to come. The first suggests his transcendent and endearing battle with Ozu no matter what choice he made; the second is his predicament in the previous arc: he was King Lear; and finally, as I’ve accurately predicted, the third film really reflected himself in the future: in the next episode he entraps himself in the tatami galaxy of his room. It’s wonderful stuff, although there are some pertinent questions with this interpretation especially in the previous arc: Akashi would have never been saved by Watashi if he wasn’t in the Hero Show Circle, and the events of the previous two episodes suggest this. I cannot think of someone else who would save her except Watashi. Other than that, however, I can’t find any criticism for his interpretation and I even think it’s more consistent than mine for the most part: everything is indeed interconnected.

The brilliance of this show presents itself in the ever-changing point of view we have of people. It was something I and others noted as early as the second episode with the Movie Club, but the ninth episode lends gravity to this perception: Higuchi is not only an aloof dilettante; Akashi is not just a cold maiden; Ozu is not just a fool; Aijima is not just a blind follower; Hanuki is not just a drunkard. Everyone is given depth through the evolution of the show and it is done in such a novel way.

Thank you, Quarkboy!

Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 09: the limits of possibility

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The previous incarnations of Watashi, while being mordantly cynical, were never really evil. All of them chased for the elusive rose-colored campus life, and all of them failed. As the incarnations evolved, however, they’ve slowly learnt that love is the answer: that was the purpose of the past three episodes, after all. Despite their indecision, however, most of these incarnations have never been short of virtue: it was often a self-conscious set of values that plagued and ultimately doomed these incarnations.

This was not so, at least in the current incarnation of Watashi. Whereas the past Watashis all have a small vestige of virtue, this Watashi was determined to go the other way: he was determined to do everything necessary, even evil, to achieve his goals of a rose-colored life. The leader of the bicycle thief that ultimately doomed Watashi’s efforts in the third episode now turned out to be himself: he has become the avatar of evil and corruption that he was trying so hard to avoid in the third episode. The viewer is also reminded of the first episode in the introduction, where Akashi called Watashi an idiot (this time, however, she slapped him). Even in his fiendish behavior and his evil, his heart still felt a pang when Akashi told him that.

He has turned back from what endeared him to her.

He has turned back from what endeared him to her.

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The value of anime to us

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I have never had any problem with people and the hobbies of their choosing, from kite-flying to skydiving to model creation. I can only admire people’s dedication and passion for what they like. Besides, I personally don’t think my avocations are socially accepted compared to other methods of whiling away time: I love anime, and I love obtaining unique and antique video games. They’re not exactly basketball, women-watching, or cars (although I also love basketball). I thus wasn’t the least bit surprised when my friends (all men, of course), joked about my wastage of money: I did buy an expensive video game, and to most people it’s just considered as such, and nothing more. History, the appreciation of the past, and the role of the Super Micro in the evolution of video games to them seems like flatus vocis – empty air. They told me that I could play Othello practically anywhere, and their argument to my spending was rational and justifiable: there is no way around the fact that I saved 250 dollars and asked help for 100 more. For that amount I could have bought the newest version of the PSP, or the Nintendo DS: why would I even spend my money earned through thrift and miserliness in that manner?

avoid1 (more…)

Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 08: the novel’s importance

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I have not seen much of Masaaki Yuasa, but from what I have seen of his works he is not fond of shallow eclat: he does not mention or involve things and events in his plot if they are ultimately to be of no consequence. I have always perceived of him as an auteur to be a follower of Chekhov’s gun: what may appear to be incidental is actually deliberate; sooner or later, what seems insignificant or innocuous is actually pivotal to the progression of the plot and the characters. The Mochiguman is one of the more obvious examples, but certain symbols like the subtlety of the moths’ appearances or of the episodic interconnections will be bypassed by most casual viewers.

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The novel that Ozu lent, or gave, to Watashi certainly coalesces this belief of mine that Ozu actually tries to act as a true friend for Watashi despite Ozu’s idiosyncrasies and faults as a person. Among others, I initially believed that the novel was merely a humorous implement for Masaaki Yuasa, a red herring, perhaps just his own brand of praise through the insertion of the writer of the original novel from which the anime series was derived. There is little information that a Google search initially gives: I thought initially that it was of no consequence.

Upon a re-watch, however, I tracked back and reflected: why not other novels? Why was another work by Tomihiko Morimi mentioned specifically as a plot device by Ozu?

I searched deeper and I came up with a connection near the terminal end of the results. It was a rough translation of a Japanese blog (at least, that’s what I inferred) and it said that

[…] “after finishing his club at his university, a boy (main character) fell in love with Otome, a girl who is younger than the boy […]

Otome may be a proper name in Japanese, but as a common noun it means ‘maiden.’ Doesn’t the story sound familiar? That’s not all, however.

A city in Kyoto has some troubles because of him! It’s a comical love fantasy!

Remember where the story of The Tatami Galaxy is taking place? Isn’t the story funny? Doesn’t this sound all too familiar? In contrast to the indecision and unfathomable idealism that Watashi enacts, however, the protagonist of this novel

tries hard to attract Otome’s attention every single day. […] He follows the girl like a stalker; he comes and goes most unexpectedly.

He is altogether a different entity from our Watashi. I believe Ozu giving him the novel is actually Ozu exhorting him to do something with his life and with Akashi. The end of the novel, I can only assume, is Otome getting together with the dogged protagonist. We have always perceived Ozu as shrewd and mischievous: perhaps this is his own way of helping Watashi realize that opportunity dangling in front of him?

[Quite notable as well is the contrast between the cool wisdom of Akashi and the stark stupidity of Otome, but that’s for another post if I get more information on the matter.]

What’s the first handheld console with color? It’s not what you think.

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

So, what’s the first color handheld console?

This is my Palmtex Super Micro.

This is my Palmtex Super Micro.

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Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 08: I begins again

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Watashi’s position in the ‘game of love’ is once again at the position the previous two episodes started with: it is once again alluded to by a move he has to make in love’s board game. Only this time, he chooses the faceless ideal: he chose Keiko-san, and the Reading Circle Sea is the circle featured among the three he has chosen.

In the post-introduction montage, Watashi alluded to his journey with books as if he were sailing in the sea, and Keiko-san was a solitary boat he’d have found. Reading, indeed, is a solitary journey to knowledge and an imagined world. Most people are not fond of it, however, because it takes a lot of patience, and even impatient readers like me (I think this is brought about by technology’s ubiquity) have more than enough patience than most people nowadays because we have the focus to finish books that we’ve started, and read with consistency. It can be easily seen that Watashi is impatient: it is not a solitary journey to knowledge that he pursues, but a journey looking for love and acceptance, and that is the reason thus that he, in contrast to the other people of the club, impatiently tapped his feet while reading.

Self-insertion

Self-insertion

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