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

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.

Episode 1 room

Episode one room

The dominant color of the first episode is a dark or forest green. It is actually a truer green than the one in the third episode, and one universal symbolism of the color is that of envy. I personally think it is apt for the episode, seeing that Watashi is ultimately jealous of other people’s happiness because his quest to obtain his romantically failed badly. The entire episode is actually just his jealousy taking hold of him, and even when he was given a chance to escape this vicious circle, he still fails because of his cowardice.

Episode two room

Episode two room

The dominant color of the second episode is violet: I write violet because it is lighter in hue as compared to the predominant color of the sixth episode’s room. It represents the color of purpose, and this is reflected by most of the show’s second half. Watashi was highly determined to expose the dirty drawers of Jougasaki, and he did so with diligence and out of pure spite. On a deeper level, the movies that Watashi created during the episode was a foreshadowing of what he would do throughout the show: the first movie reflected the Proxy-Proxy war; the second movie reflected episodes six through eight; the third movie is his current predicament; and the fourth movie is a love story that transcended time and space. The first three have already occurred.

Episode three room

Episode three room

The third episode sported a green that wasn’t quite green as it was a mixture of yellow and green. It was the chartreuse color, or neon green, and it totally screamed a pursuit of safety to me, as it’s what cyclists and traffic officials often wear during contests and work, respectively. But it is also what Watashi desperately tries to achieve throughout the episode: he chases a sense of safety against the Cheery Cycling Corps, but also pursues it in transit toward his goal of rose-colored women. He did not risk simply being himself; he instead pursued becoming muscular so that he wouldn’t look as weak to Akashi as he then was.

Episode five room

Episode five room

I thought it apt to refer to the Hinduists’ belief as regards the color orange:

The significance of orange as the colour for Hindu swamis is commonly thought to be connected to the idea that orange symbolises fire. Renunciates’ fiery ochre robes display outwardly the inner transformation that is happening – the burning of ego, their former selves, and their personal wants.

Watashi outwardly symbolizes that by being adherent to the goal of Honwaka. Deep within, however, he’s actually chasing for love and the rest is just a show. This dissonance is one of the reasons that he again failed. But a glimpse to his inner transformation can also be seen during this episode: it is the only episode where two Watashis of different universes actually meet.

Episode six room

Episode six room

In antiquity, purple was only available to the kings and the elites. The color has evolved through time to denote royalty and sophistication. Ozu and Watashi describe the appreciation of Kaori to be ‘a form of extremely sophisticated love.’ It is a kind of love and appreciation limited to only the royal and the sophisticated. This room may have been a focus of either episode seven or eight as it was an arc with highly related episodes, but allow me to peg this room as that of the sixth episode.

Episode seven room

Episode seven room

The reason for that previous statement was that Watashi acted as a Mochiguman only in the seventh episode. The color predominant in the room is white, and the universal symbolism white represents is purity and nobility. Hero shows are appeals to the purity of children’s hearts to look at life as if it were primarily in black and white. The color, however, also suggests Akashi, as a side of her never seen before was exposed this episode: she enjoyed sentai shows, and was not even afraid of expressing it to Watashi.

I also thought Watashi was noble during this episode (despite being hidden in the suit) when he saved Akashi from being hit on by ruffians. It was one of the few unselfish acts he did throughout the show, but it was a very kind thing to do for her.

Episode eight room

Episode eight room

I was trying to search for a suitable denotation of pink. I did not think the episode was homosexual by any means, but then I found out that pink also represents glamor. I do not mean glamor in terms of style; I pertain to glamor as a negative: I pertain to braggadocio and unwarranted ostentation, something that Watashi (and even Akashi, to some extent) showed during this episode. He painted himself as a renaissance man because he couldn’t accept who he was just as he was. Just as his other incarnations, it ended in failure because he did not learn to accept himself.

Episode nine room

Episode nine room

Blue is both the color of coldness and sadness. It was during this episode where he took the pursuit of the rose-colored campus life to the extreme, and truly achieved what he thought he initially desired. He was able to obtain the women he sought for and the popularity he desired in exchange for his warmth as a human person: he had to be a cold bastard. It still did not give him his happiness. It was in fact the cause for his sadness and Akashi’s sadness as well.

These are but only my thoughts and perceptions. What are your interpretations of the rooms’ colors?

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20 Responses to “Chromatology in the Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei)”

  1. ahr Says:

    If you observe the colours of what the characters wear, I think it might help shed some more light. For instance, Akashi wears a light blue almost every time Watashi is about to rewind time. Since Higuchi wears clothing that is predominantly green, would you associate Higuchi with safety? (Curiously, I have it on good authority that he wears a navy blue yukata in the novel…)

  2. Vendredi Says:

    Very useful thoughts here. Chartreuse strikes me as close to the colour of traffic lights – “go ahead” or “press forward” – Watashi certainly has a very definite, if flawed goal in Cycling Club Soleil.

  3. Tatami Galaxy: Collected Comments « FungaFuFu Says:

    […] makes some remarks on the colours in episode 10: the colors the rooms possess certainly give definite impressions that can be […]

  4. ahr Says:

    Ah, what am I saying? You might have associated the green of Higuchi with envy. My apologies for being assumptive. I note the absence of episode 4. Was it not there? I don’t have much to say on episode 5, I’m afraid. I do think you’re right about episode 8.

    I also think you’re right on the money with loyalty/sophistication–just maybe I would add ‘power’ or ‘entitlement’, which are all similar things–being associated with purple. IIRC Watashi perceived Jougasaki to be in purple, later himself (?), and then Ozu and Aijima both wore purple when they were the leader of that restaurant thingy. I can’t check this however.

    If what you say about white being purity is right (which I think it is) then since Ozu occasionally wears a mix of green and white he should be represent a mix of ‘envy’ (or is it ‘safety’? I can’t really discern the two colours well) and ‘purity’. Seems a bit of a contradiction to me, but it sort of makes sense…

  5. Michael Says:

    Hey, ahr!

    I’m not too sure about Higuchi’s green, but it’s of a darker color than the chartreuse that’s related to safety. The fourth episode was absent from the montage of dominant color images. All it showed about the fourth episode was where the money that Watashi had then came from.

    I think you have some merit with the consistent get-ups that the other characters aside from Watashi have. Akashi often dons a mix of blue and white; Jougasaki dons a pink polo shirt often; and Higuchi is just colorful as a person.

    Since we’re seeing the series from the point of view of the narrator, however, Ozu’s shirt makes sense: green and white. At times, Watashi is envious of Ozu, and also recognizes his purity during the ninth episode. Watashi even wishes someone like him would exist in his life in the tenth episode.

    @Vendredi

    Good catch with the traffic lights. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Mystlord Says:

    An interesting look at the color significance of the various rooms. I do think you’ve mixed up the purple and violet rooms though. Violet is a blueish purple, and purple is generally a dark mix of red and blue, which doesn’t provide the hues seen in the 6th room. That being said, I think it’s also extremely hard to pinpoint exactly why each color was chosen, especially because of just how different colors may be perceived in different cultures. For example, green in China is more closely tied with growth and nature, while purple is perceived as harmony, because it’s a mix between red and blue (yin and yang). Mind you, that’s just in China, and I’m not sure how people in Japan view different colors. That’s the reason why I have trouble accepting your analysis on the color orange. I’m not exactly sure if Hinduism is big in Japan or if Yuasa would have knowledge of that.

    But aside from that, the picture that you labeled “episode 6″… Wasn’t the Kaori episode number 7, and wasn’t it paired up with the Hero club too?

  7. Michael Says:

    Kaori appeared in all three episodes of the arc. Watashi as Mochiguman only appeared primarily during the seventh episode. I’ll probably look into the hues more, but in my experience the ‘brighter’ one was the second episode, so that’s why I labeled it as violet. That’s just from my personal experience, though.

    I can see why you disagree with the other colors – I was just trying to figure out the significance of the colors and for the most part it works for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    There is no universal agreement with the color use of The Masque of Red Death, too, except the final room. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. ahr Says:

    On the subject of China, the red string of fate thing is of Chinese origin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_string_of_fate The black string (of mutual self-destruction), however, seems to be an original construction. But of course, you guys probably know this already…

  9. Michael Says:

    ahr:

    I actually didn’t know that it came from China. Haha. Thank you.

    I read about it, but didn’t really know it was from China. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Adam Moore Says:

    Hinduism is a cool religion that is also oriented towards peace and prosperity..’*

  11. Brady Bryant Says:

    the religion of my grandfather is Hinduism and he says that it is a great religion.,’-

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  19. Jack Says:

    You don’t seriously believe that each color stands for something green – envy and that sort of rubbish..
    It’s bit like deforming every single object in a dream to some sort of sexual symbol…..
    If you’ve read Gogol you will find “noses” abound in every story he wrote but that doesn’t mean it stands for some other male organ and so on so forth…….

    The use of color in Tatami Galaxy has a purpose analogous to use of color in Godard’s Pierrot le Fou i.e. convergence and overlapping…..

  20. Jack Says:

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