Kaiba vs. Tatami Galaxy: why Tatami Galaxy is better

After the end of Tatami Galaxy, I thought it was high time to re-watch Kaiba, because people could posit that I only like it as a series because it just ended. Re-watching Kaiba would address both of that, as it won’t be the most recent series I watched, and it’s also a work by Masaaki Yuasa so the two are open to interpretation, comparison, and contrast.

kaiba-anime

Whether before or after the re-watch, however, my heart remains the same: I think Tatami Galaxy is better than Kaiba. I’ll accede to the fact that Kaiba is more brilliant thematically, but that is all I will give Kaiba. For the most part, Tatami Galaxy is equal to or better than Kaiba from my perception.

1) Tatami Galaxy’s ending is better than Kaiba, without question.

This cannot be questioned. Whereas Tatami Galaxy did dawdle a bit during episodes seven and eight, it quickly picked itself up and delivered one of the best endings in any anime series. On the other hand, Kaiba somewhat fizzled out during its ending. I even wonder what people saw in the journey (yes, I also re-watched the series, but that was one of the big reasons I didn’t write about it).

2) Tatami Galaxy was more coherent than Kaiba.

This is extremely clear. The viewer was certainly initiated that it was akin to the seminal Groundhog Day film, but throughout the different temporal iterations one slowly figured out that these were pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of the protagonist and his friends. The ending coalesced all this information into beauty and epiphany, and it’s just a consequence of the coherence that the ending was as awesome as it was.

3) Tatami Galaxy’s execution was more beautiful than Kaiba.

When the director has prepared for the ending in as early as the first and second episodes, the ending is bound to be great because it has been meticulously planned: if the director himself thought of the ending that early on, most of the story will contribute to the build-up during the ending, which Tatami Galaxy had. The little pieces and images that a re-watch exposes are merely more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle emerging and giving a more complete picture of the series.

Kaiba had its themes and its inventive journey going for it. But its execution was poorer than Tatami Galaxy’s, and this is evidenced by the ending.

4) Kaiba is just as original as Tatami Galaxy. Don’t let the Groundhog Day similarities let you think otherwise.

Was Groundhog Day totally similar to Tatami Galaxy? No. They were not the same; they only shared distinct similarities. There are also a lot of movies that deal with memories. One of the best ones I can recall is Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Another one is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Even Inception, the newest creation of Christopher Nolan, seems to reflect the themes of Kaiba. Amnesia and the pursuit of truth are some of its similarities with the series. Does that make it Kaiba? It doesn’t, just as Groundhog Day doesn’t make Tatami Galaxy.

5) Tatami Galaxy’s music is better than Kaiba. (This is all a matter of taste, however.)

I love Kamisama no Iutoori. I love it to death. I love it more than the OP and ED of Seira combined, and the whole music of Kaiba. But that’s not all, however. The BGM of Tatami Galaxy was just so beautiful and more evocative personally that it was one of the reasons why I cried during the final episode of Tatami Galaxy. This is all a matter of taste, however.

I think the art and animation are moot. One can like the free-wheeling motion of Kaiba, or Yusuke Nakamura’s structured designs in Tatami Galaxy. That’s up to the person. I personally prefer overall structure, coherence, and execution in anime, because I believe in what Heidegger believes: the closer one really is about something original, the more far back in time one has to be to find it, and the more information one has to dig about it. I am paraphrasing, but I think both series are just as original as one another. I’m not fooled by the more avant-garde approach of Kaiba: both series are just as original to me.

But what really made me choose Tatami Galaxy remained to be personal (as it is with all top anime and all anime lists): the very first episode of the series was just a beautiful simulacrum of me back then during college. I wasn’t someone who destroyed other people’s loves; I wasn’t part of the tennis club. But there was Watashi’s reply towards Ozu that struck me as eerily similar:

I’d much rather have a beautiful raven-haired maiden that makes you go ‘whoa …’ than someone who is able to comprehend a person such as myself.

Who would I be able to relate more to: a college student struggling with coping with his insecurities, or a king of memories in a journey to reclaim his past? I’ll choose the former all the time. I wasn’t a loser like Watashi, but I still could understand his struggles: it’s so easy to escape to yourself than face the music, which is why the catharses of the eleventh episode was practically better than any of Kaiba’s episodes, whether it was episode five or episode seven. The ending episode was clearly better than Kaiba’s ending episode.

The third episode of Tatami Galaxy was far beautiful than any of the Kaiba episodes, as well. I recently sought a rare brand of alcohol in different places here, only to find that when I was ready to buy it, it was phased out. I found one small bottle of it, and that’s all that’s left with me. There are some things one tries to be passionate about but fail at it a lot. The third episode was an avatar of that. After seeing that episode, I knew there was no longer anything that could keep that series from being good. No episodes from Kaiba reached out to me like that episode.

Kaiba may be philosophically sound, thematically brilliant, and intelligent. It is great. But it is not a masterpiece.

Kaiba also doesn't have Akashi. :)

Kaiba also doesn't have Akashi. 🙂

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11 Responses to “Kaiba vs. Tatami Galaxy: why Tatami Galaxy is better”

  1. Josephus Says:

    Frankly, I watched Kaiba since it was made by the same director after the Tatami Galaxy, and I can’t understand why some people think of it as better than Kaiba. I agree that it had slow episodes at the middle of it, but even those slow episodes contributed much to the storyline, for example with episode seven and the thingy of Akashi, and episode eight with Akashi as Keiko. I’d say that the themes both deal with are just as heavy. It may not be memory that Tatami Galaxy deals with, but I think fate and the acceptance of reality against idealism are just as grave ideas and themes.

    Kaiba’s ending was ugh.

  2. gaguri Says:

    I don’t have the energy to type a rebuttal long enough to justify my stance, but I’ll just say only 1,2,4 is right and the rest is wrong. And you say the third episode of Tatami was greater than any episode of Kaiba…but I say Kaiba’s brilliant episode 3 was greater than any episdoe of Tatami.

  3. Michael Says:

    @gaguri

    That’s why I didn’t say it was crystal clear for three and even said that five was really a matter of taste.

    @Joesphus

    ‘Kaiba’s ending was ugh.’

    I didn’t … yeah.

    I think the theme of fate and reality are pretty much themes with gravitas in them, too.

  4. dm00 Says:

    This isn’t even apples and oranges, it’s apples and marzipan.

    Kaiba doesn’t have Akashi, but it does have Chroniko.

    Kaiba deals with deeper questions, and is more “serious”, in a man’s-inhumanity-to-man sort of way. Tatami Galaxy is, in comparison, fluff. But Kaiba leaves one feeling powerless to change the world, while Tatami Galaxy is more immediate, and its potential impact on one’s life is more direct. Or: Tatami Galaxy is relevant, Kaiba isn’t.

    They’re both brilliant bits of animation.

  5. Michael Says:

    dm00:

    But Akashi is cuter!

    More seriously, however, ‘Tatami Galaxy is more immediate, and its potential impact on one’s life is more direct. Or: Tatami Galaxy is relevant, Kaiba isn’t’ is the reason why I think Tatami Galaxy is better. One may talk about temporality in phenomenology but if the viewer doesn’t find it relevant then what is the use?

    (They are both brilliant bits of animation, I agree.)

  6. Taka Says:

    I like the quiet contemplation in Kaiba a little better than the mile-a-minute ranting Watashi. Thematically and tonally they are completely different which for me makes them difficult to compare. Like dm00 said I view this as apples and marzipan as well. I think Tatami Galaxy is a more solid, coherent, and complete series than Kaiba is. It comes together, I won’t deny it, but even the final episode for me couldn’t capture the same level emotional reaction from me that the quiet and bleak world of Kaiba could evoke in near every episode. I actually kind of thought the swelling orchestra was amusing in the last episode of Tatami Galaxy. It’s sort of like when it’s used in the last episode of Arakawa. When you have a show that has a completely subdued or subtle or even underutilized soundtrack the entire way through and then has one moment of swelling orchestra it has the opposite emotional effect on me. It seemed absurd. Tatami Galaxy is more relevant to my current situation even but for some reason I can’t let go of the emotional and philosophical resonance of Kaiba.

    I think Tatami Galaxy is the better executed, more coherent series. However given the choice to watch any episode of Kaiba and any episode of Tatami Galaxy. I think I would go with Kaiba. It just has a greater hold on my contemplations and emotions.

  7. Michael Says:

    Taka:

    It’s still left up to the person and his tastes. But I do see where you come from. 🙂

  8. isidor-x Says:

    First of all, thank you for the blog. I’ve been enjoying your Tatami analyses.

    As for the comparison: I find both of them to be masterpieces (I am a sucker for Yuasa, I know). Tatami does leave a rather brilliant impression given its polish, but I think it’s unfair to make direct comparisons between the two.

    The themes encountered in Kaiba are more abstract and on the hypothetical side, while TG, when it comes down to it, is after all a feel good, coming of age (yes, they are in uni, but watashi is just a clever variation on your generic anime schoolboy) story.

    Nothing wrong with it, it’s a matter of genres, themes and moods. Kaiba on the other hand is infinitely more melancholic. It has many uncertainties and rough edges, and I don’t think it could be otherwise.
    TG is snappy, compact and self-contained, just like watashi’s room. A landscape and an interior.

    Also, I find that we all overestimate endings.
    If you’ve seen “adaptation.”, you’ll remember the bogus screenplay lessons: make a shitty story, no matter what, attach a brilliant ending to it, and that’s it. They will remember the ending that sent them home with a smile (or a tear) on their face.
    Now, I’m not saying we should hope for a shitty ending, or that good endings are easy to craft (on the contrary).
    It’s just that sometimes we put too much emphasis on it. While TG presents a situation and a solution, Kaiba doesn’t. Personally, the latter is more akin to my personality. Yes, I’ve cried when TG endend, not so with Kaiba.
    Both are reflections on life, yet there is a huge difference in scope.
    Both have their place and importance in life, at least that’s what I like to think.

    And that’s why I could never pick between TG and Kaiba. And I want Yuasa’s babbies or something

  9. Michael Says:

    isidor-x:

    Thank you for visiting this blog.

    I understand your opinion. But the reason why TG is more awesome for me is the sole fact that the ending complements the entirety of the story. It is the catharsis of the story, and it was cleanly done, and well-executed. There are series that start strong but finish weak; there are series that finish strong but start weak. This is a series that may have dawdled a little bit on the middle, but both started and finished strong. That is why I put the advantage over Kaiba. Kaiba was unbalanced as a whole, unlike Tatami Galaxy. Thematically, however, Kaiba’s more grave.

  10. darknagas Says:

    I strongly agree to you! I love both tatami galaxy and kaiba but ending of kaiba became weird out of the blue so for me, tatami galaxy is better a little 🙂 Well what can I say? Both are deserving to be watched more than once compare to other worthless overhyped series 😀

  11. Kanon Says:

    Like previous posters, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two. They are just too different. In fact, if both hadn’t been made by the same director, I doubt anyone would have ever thought about comparing them.

    Also, I don’t like how you ended the post by stating Kaiba isn’t a masterpiece, as opposed to Tatami Galaxy. Most of your reasons for liking Tatami Galaxy over Kaiba are entirely subjective/personal, as you said it yourself.

    As for your actual comparisons:

    1) Tatami Galaxy’s ending is better than Kaiba, without question.

    Ok, I can only agree here, although I don’t think Kaiba’s ending was that bad.

    2) Tatami Galaxy was more coherent than Kaiba.

    I disagree. Kaiba was just as coherent as Tatami Galaxy, everything fit together perfectly in the end. The biggest difference between the two is that Kaiba’s story was not as simple as Tatami galaxy, and its execution was not as straightforward.

    3) Tatami Galaxy’s execution was more beautiful than Kaiba.

    I guess I agree here, although I wouldn’t use the term “more beautiful”

    4) Kaiba is just as original as Tatami Galaxy. Don’t let the Groundhog Day similarities let you think otherwise.

    Agreed.

    5) Tatami Galaxy’s music is better than Kaiba. (This is all a matter of taste, however.)

    I couldn’t disagree more. You’re right, that one is entirely a matter of taste, and for me, Kaiba’s music was miles better than Tatami Galaxy’s. After two years, I can still remember some musical pieces from Kaiba quite clearly, while I’ve already forgotten about most of the music in Tatami galaxy (except for the OP and ED). God, the music in Kaiba was so powerful and melancholic… that alone was enough to bring tears to my eyes when watching the series.

    Kaiba also doesn’t have Akashi. 🙂

    That’s a very good point.

    In my opinion, Kaiba is a smarter and more powerful work than Tatami Galaxy, despite whatever flaws it may have. Tatami Galaxy may be better executed, but it didn’t fascinate me as much. Even so, I consider both shows to be masterpieces, and I’m eagerly looking forward to Mr. Yuasa’s next work.

    And finally, I’d like to thank you for blogging Tatami Galaxy. Your posts were very interesting to read, even if I think you sometimes overanalzyed things a bit too much :p

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