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.
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.