Anime Review: The Tatami Galaxy Episode 3

(Originally published on Livejournal on May 22, 2010)

Anime Review:
The Tatami Galaxy Episode 3

What This Is All About: Over the past several weeks, I watched the first episode of every fansubbed anime show of the Spring 2010 season. Ten of those first episodes passed the muster (out of more than thirty). Out of those shows getting the thumbs up, eight of them passed the second round, and now I am taking a look at the third episodes. Just a quick synopsis, my thoughts, and a verdict — nothing too fancy.

About The Series: Watashi is attempting to live the rose-colored life in college, by joining a social circle and making lots of friends, and fall in love with a certain raven-haired girl. But it seems he is cursed, because whatever he attempts to do, he ends up alone and miserable, his only friend the detestable Ozu, who is a perpetual bad influence on him. At first he joins the tennis club, and following his rejection he turns to an ‘anti-cupid’ prankster. Then he joins the movie club, but when his ideals of making intriguing films are spurned by all the club members, he engages on a monomaniacal quest to take down the egotistical club leader.

In This Episode: In this iteration of Groundhog Day…er, I mean…The Tatami Galaxy, Watashi returns back to the beginning of his college life and joins the Cycling Club Soleil, with dreams of lazily riding through the countryside with young women on his seat. But he soon learns the cycling club is a serious, no-holds-barred endeavor filled with determined athletes bent on winning competitions. With his weak physique Watashi could never keep up with them, so instead he spends two years of single-minded savings and work to purchase the most state-of-the-art equipment possible, trying to replace athletic prowess with mechanical advantage.

But he soon runs afoul of a goon squad that steals bicycles, never to be seen again. With two years of his life gone in an instant, Watashi turns to enters the next competition with his old, rusty, cheap basket-bike, driven to complete the course no matter how long it takes. Traveling all day, all night, all day and all night again to the finish line and back, he collapsed in exhaustion where he is “saved” by Akashi. The year previously she was the sole member of the cycling club, won a major competition and promptly dropped out. Akashi takes him to her new secretive society, which she founded with the winnings from the competition, and explains to Watashi that he is the perfect candidate to pilot their new ultralight aircraft. As she explains it, someone who would push themselves so far on a quest to complete such a meaningless task as his bike ride is the perfect person to fly an aircraft for the Birdman Club.

With renewed vigor, Watashi re-dedicates himself to becoming strong enough to pedal the aircraft to victory in the upcoming competition. With weeks of training, he shows back up at the club all buff and muscled…much to everyone’s horror. They did not want someone with strength and stamina, instead they wanted some as gangly and weak as possible, and Watashi is immediately rejected again. That night he comes across the goon squad again, this time they have upped their ante from bikes and have absconded with the ultralight craft. Much to his surprise, he learns that the leader of the group is the silver-tongued Ozu. Suddenly Akashi shows up, the group retreats leaving Watashi alone with the craft, and the misunderstanding that he was trying to steal it. The aircraft was already set for its initial launch at the top of a tall hill, and begins sliding downwards; before it can crash into the sea below, Watashi sees his only option to jump inside and pilot it to safety. But once inside he discovers there are no pedals — it was actually built solely for gliding. Once again, Watashi has a few seconds to reflect on his failure before crashing into the sea.

My Thoughts: This time around Watashi replays the myth of Icarus, who in his vanity tried to fly too close to the Sun and instead crashed into the ocean. In this third iteration he still meets with the old fortune teller, and this time around he finally realizes what was dangling right before his eyes the entire time, but does not have the time to act upon it. So once again we have Watashi wasting two years of his life, ending in failure with the help of the devilish Ozu, once again returning back to the starting point to begin the folly all over again.

Will Watashi ever figure out the error of his ways and break the cycle? Or will this show just be a continuous repeat of the same basic theme over and over again, different in details but always with the same conclusion? I certainly hope not — while that may make for individually interesting episodes, that would make for an ultimately boring series. I still hold to the theory that Ozu and Watashi are actually the same, with Ozu representing the dark side of Watashi that split off from him as a way for him to deal with his failures. And I am still in love with Akashi, who plays the reticent-yet-assured ingenue archetype and represents the solid center that Watashi is flying around like a lost moth, and also represents his ultimate salvation.

This could easily be the best show of the season, and once everything is all over I may look back and judge it as best. However, there is still the nagging problem of the speed-reading narration, which is distracting to the point that it interferes with the story. Several times I find myself seeing the wonderful visual styles and effects out of the corner of my eye, yet I must keep my attention squarely fixed on the bottom of the screen so that I can read the subtitles as fast as possible before they disappear. If I was a native Japanese speaker and could keep up with the rat-a-tat-tat narrative delivery, I’m sure I would enjoy this show more.

The Verdict:

My review of the first episode: http://matthigh.livejournal.com/470551.html
My review of the second episode: http://matthigh.livejournal.com/474428.html
Star Crossed Anime review of Episode 3: http://psgels.blogsome.com/2010/05/06/yojou-han-shinwa-taikei-03/
Full episodes streamed online: http://www.hulu.com/the-tatami-galaxy

Passing Grade for Round Three: Working!!, Angel Beats, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, K-On Season 2, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Giant Killing

Up Next: House of Five Leaves

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