Questions and answers from the Tatami Galaxy [Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei]
[This will constantly be edited with questions addressed in the commentary section of this post. I will utilize other blogs, research, and Quarkboy as references, in addition to my observations with regard to the series.]
1. From Vendredi: What is the importance of cats in the series?
When he asked the question, I was actually pondering the answer myself. This is merely a hypothesis, and may not be satisfactory to many, but even as early as the first episode the viewer is exposed to cat symbolism and cat imagery, most notably here.
This, my friends, is a manekineko. Quoting this compendium of information about cats in mythology, the site states that:
This cat, long long ago, stood in the door of the Gotoku-ji temple and raised her paw in the traditional Japanese beckoning gesture to a feudal lord who was passing by.
The feudal lord followed the cat into the temple and instantly, a lightning bolt struck the place where the lord had been standing. Thus the cat had saved his life. From then on, the manekineko was considered as an incarnation of the Goddess of Mercy.
The Gotoku-ji Temple now houses dozens of statues of this Cat, and owners of lost or sick cats stick up prayer boards with the image of the Beckoning Cat in this temple.
[…] It also welcomes in personal happiness and harmony. A black Beckoning Cat brings health, while a gold one, which is quite rare, brings in riches. Beckoning Cats are often sold as money boxes and in a house they are supposed to beckon in good friends.
This is in agreement with the Japanese title of the series: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei is roughly translated to the 4.5 Tatami Mat Myth Compendium. While the fortune teller’s (arguably the Goddess of Mercy, with how she draws in cats) involvement with Watashi was totally arbitrary, perhaps even fatalistic, the appearance of the cats is not inconsequential.
Notice that in the final episode the fortune teller takes care and even draws in cats, as illustrated by this picture:
2. One anon contends that there is only a singular reality and the clock is present so that an actual rewind of Watashi’s life could occur.
I was actually supporting this theory during the earlier episodes, but in light of episode ten and 11 it is quite difficult to defend. In the eleventh episode Akashi finds her white Mochiguma interchanged with the white-colored boxers of Watashi. During the first episode, however, Watashi finds the Mochiguma at a totally different location – he found it in the woods. The locations of the white Mochiguma differ from place to place: what is common among them is that it’s always Watashi who will get his hands on the Mochiguma.
What do I posit, then?
I believe that there are indeed separate realities occurring with the different episodes, with us viewers given the point of view in every single one. The rewind of the clock serves to transport us to a different reality where Watashi is once again beginning his university life. In the nine different incarnations, everything ended up in failure because he was unable to let go of his idealism and see reality as it is and grab hold of it.
Everything does happen within a single timeline, with the viewers given different glimpses to the personalities of those people that surround Watashi as well as Watashi himself. There are some things, however, that Watashi can do only in a certain reality (as he could only rescue Akashi from the baddies only during that reality where he chose the Hero Circle Club and made it as his primary club). This comments on the tendency of man to do the same thing all over again from his personality and ideals. It took Watashi an insight to his other incarnations before he ended that self-wrought paralysis that had haunted him through his other realities. This series is also quite fatalistic in nature with regard to the strings that bind Watashi with Ozu and with Akashi. No matter what reality Watashi suffered through these two people were always proximal to him whether he recognized them or not.
3. Vendredi once again asks: when, why, and how did Higuchi pass himself off as a kami in the very first episode?
From our belief that everything happened within a single timeline unless with the interruptions of Watashi, we can surmise that Ozu and Higuchi have been working hand-in-hand throughout the episodes. Ozu was always Higuchi’s disciple, and with that Higuchi had knowledge about the events that occurred not only within Shimogamo Yuusuisou but with the university as Ozu was wont to share his discoveries with his master.
Higuchi seemed to be omniscient during the very first episode because Ozu fed him information about Watashi. Ozu, actually trying to be a friend to Watashi, actually tried to build up Watashi and Akashi’s relationship despite Watashi’s imprecations regarding Ozu. Back in the first episode a lot of us thought that Ozu was really quite an impish man: but in light of our subsequent discoveries it was merely Ozu’s way of showing his love to Watashi.
That’s the simplest explanation I could think about: having the requisite information, one can act as a god because one of a god’s qualities is omniscience.
4. Why did the fortune teller’s nose suddenly shrink by a foot?
Vendredi offers a good answer:
If I were to hazard a guess, the lengthy nose is always a hallmark of a witch; and since the beginning of the series Watashi has attributed a keen, if not magical insight into how the fortune teller knows his situation. In much the same way as Ozu, we now see the fortune teller’s “real” face – an old woman who eavesdropped in on Akashi and Watashi’s conversation at the book sale. She’s no magical witch after all, she just was in the right place at the right time.
Although I must argue that she can hold her own in terms of her power, as she was able to transform that chance meeting between Watashi and Akashi into something fruitful. Perhaps she is indeed the Goddess of Mercy.
Watashi is an unreliable narrator. The ugliness of Ozu’s face, the transformation of Jougasaki into a king instead of just a charismatic leader, and the fortune teller’s nose are all just collateral damages.
5. Why did Watashi choose six tatami mats?
Simply put, I thought he had enough of his 4.5 tatami galaxy, but it was also physiologic in nature: he no longer needed to pee in bottles.
In this scene he was about to pick the bottle up but then remembered he now actually had a bathroom. This actually dawned on him when Higuchi went out of the country with Hanuki. All those bottle-caps that he opened stored a very human liquid in them, I think.
Onaname adds to that:
A 4.5 room leaves no space for a bathroom, though it has a perfect symmetry to it. Watashi had been striving for an ideal in life and love. He dismissed what might be considered vulgar or indecent, hence his repressed sexuality as well as evading talk of certain bodily functions. In ep 10, it was a bit unexpected when he mentioned the smell, seeing as he had not once addressed the matter before. Iâ€™ll have to double-check, but I do believe the only time we see Watashi in a bathroom is when he locked himself in Hanukiâ€™s bathroom in order to decide which of the three women to choose. I donâ€™t think it was coincidence that his Johnny was most vocal while he was trapped in a bathroomâ€”it is a physical space to represent what is vulgar to Watashi, namely lust and urination/defecation. His inclusion of a bathroom at the end may signify his acceptance of human needs, just as he finally accepted Ozuâ€™s unorthodox love and Akashiâ€™s quirks. On a related note, gestures of intimacy in the series are also manifested by base human needs: eating (Neko Ramen) and drinking (Hanuki). His balking at a relationship with Akashi directly relates to his neglect of the promise to take her to Neko Ramen.
6. What is the tatami galaxy?
The tatami galaxy was actually the observation post for Watashi’s other realities. Watashi can dabble into the other people’s realities but not really live in those realities. The closest he’s been to crossing paths with another incarnation was with his Honwaka counterpart. This is the reason why he can impart destruction on the different rooms of his other incarnations without them noticing it. He can dabble into their lives without interfering, although his procurement of funds for the Disciple Watashi and his close meeting with the Honwaka Watashi is the closest he has come to really interfering. The Honwaka Watashi can pass the final Watashi’s visage as a haunting, while the Disciple Watashi alluded the money to be from Higuchi.
7. An alternative and wonderful interpretation of the series from an /a/non:
Watashi creates alternate realities by thinking of things he could have done differently in his life. Galaxy Watashi is in a completely implausible world because Film Club Watashi dreamt it up. [… ] Watashi along with the otherworldly magic of the plot who [sic] were making the realities. The fortune teller asked for more money each time because she knew he hadn’t taken her advise each previous time. Retard tax.
It’s a very sound interpretation, although I’m leaning towards the fortune teller synthesizing the realities due to the imagery of the show.
Feel free to posit other questions. I shall try the very best of my ability to answer them.
â€œAlthough I must argue that she can hold her own in terms of her power, as she was able to transform that chance meeting between Watashi and Akashi into something fruitful. Perhaps she is indeed the Goddess of Mercy. â€
I think she was more than an old woman, but not the goddess of mercy. While true she was in the right place at the right time, one must also accept that fact that along with Watashiâ€™s various encounters with deja vu, she was the only person who seemed to be aware of everything in each life, and able to remember each life. Otherwise how could she charge more each time?
If anything, I think that as Watashi starts to enter in his final year/years at university, and the master gets ready to leave school, he sees the world changing around him and himself being largely the same in each world except the last where he gets trapped in the galaxy. This causes him to wish he could do it over and make a different choice. His new self, in the old time subconsciously understands his previous choice(s) and decides not to make them.
Another way to look at it is that it is a groundhog day situation. Maybe Watashi is essential for the future. As such he has to unknowingly repeat his life over and over again until he can end it with the girl and Ozu as his friend. I donâ€™t think that the last world he is a part of was his last chance, its that he didnâ€™t go to the critical meeting on the bridge, or wouldnâ€™t have. So he was cursed to wander the tatami galaxy until he understood how important being at the bridge in some form was. That seems to be the critical moment of the story. It might be, while not something shown every episode the reset always happened after he didnâ€™t end up doing the bridge scene the correct way. Remember the only times we see him at the bridge scenes are the two times he is closest to getting it right. The first episode, and the last. The first because he is close to confessing to the girl, but thinks he has gone just far enough, and because he inadvertently helps and shares in Ozuâ€™s fate on the bridge. Showing that he was close to seeing Ozu as his friend, and close to accepting his love for the girl. Maybe he got these chances because he showed that he was capable of small amounts of change in that one time that he was blessed with the chance to repeat and make up for his mistakes at the end.
One thing I didnâ€™t see you mention also that I think is worth note is the benevolence of the moths. A moth, in almost every world comes down and allows him to see a cuter side of the girl(im horrible with names forgive me) and builds a small attraction to her as he sees a weakness in the otherwise aloof girl. Then at the end, the moths come down in force as a benevolent instrument to make him possibly the only thing that could stand out more than Ozu. Why are the moths benevolent, and is there some reason why they are chosen? Is it because moths, like him undergo a complete metamorphosis and as such are sort of like his spirit animal? And the reason the girl is afraid of them is that she is likely aloof as a defense mechanism and thus scared of the change they represent? After all, moths undergo complete metamorphosis. Something Watashi goes through. The him before the tatami galaxy cocoon and after him are different people. One is a closed individual who sees only what is directly in front of him, the other has a broader insight into the world that surrounds his immediate personage, and a desire to know people. Something his previous selves never really seemed to have.
I answered him in the comments section. But this post itself must be read. Wonderful points were stated, and insightful ones, too.
9. Onaname asks: What is the significance of the rearrangement of the 4.5 mat room in the credits?
This is addressed by Vendredi here.
In addition to that, however, you see that as the color of the final ED changes, the first kanji representing four reverses. Four is a very unlucky number in Japanese and Asian culture because it sounds similar to death. I think it re-arranges to portray Watashiâ€™s previous choices and incarnations. No matter how he chose to re-arrange his ideals, it did not lead him out of the room because to escape his vicious cycle he had to learn to face reality and accept the other existences in his life, even with their idiosyncrasies. Notice in the end the 4.5 mat room finally opens, a stark contrast to the different EDs past. Whereas in the previous endings everything converges to the 4.5 room â€“ Watashiâ€™s rejection of the world, in this final reality it finally opens up despite it converging to himself: he realized that no man is an island.
10. He continues: Why is the clock always at 8:20?
I think itâ€™s very symbolic: four is one of the most unlucky numbers in Japanese culture, and eight is one of the luckiest. The short hand is always on eight; the long hand is always on four (twenty) when there is a rewind. I think it symbolizes the nadir of Watashiâ€™s life in that iteration: â€˜fourâ€™ in Japanese culture sounds like their word for â€˜death.â€™
Part of him is pointing towards luck, but it is short; the longer part of Watashi is pointing towards death and tragedy. All of his previous incarnations ended up tragic when they rewound. I think it just shows us that although he was near the things he dreamt for, he himself brought himself far away. He also relied on luck and idealism to get his rose-colored life.
Nine is also an unlucky number in Japanese numerology, but I think the fact that the clock said 9 and not 8:20 means that Watashi has finally broken free of his failure. He has finally advanced the clock forward, and is never going back. Note that he is no longer oriented toward luck (luck of the draw in the circles he chose) or towards death and tragedy of the previous circles. He has accepted reality and seized the day, and he has therefore moved on from his previous self. At least, thatâ€™s how I think of it.
11. Elineas asks: Why these nine iterations specifically? Why not less? Why not more?
I think thatâ€™s primarily because each iteration deals with a major theme or specific ideal during that episode. The succeeding episodes are reactions to the previous episodes, culminating in his escape from the Tatami Galaxy.
For example, episode one focuses on love; episode two focuses on purity; episode three is on effort; episode four is with contentment, and the list goes on. I canâ€™t really decipher a rhythm as to why there were exactly nine.