Anime Review: The Tatami Galaxy Episode 4

(originally posted on Livejournal on 6/1/10)

Anime Review:
The Tatami Galaxy Episode 4

tl;dr review: Watashi is sucked into becoming a disciple to Kamotake, who grooms him to become his successor in a Masochistic Proxy War with Jougasaki.

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. Third time around, he it completely unsuited for the cycling club, recruited to the Birdman Club by his secret crush Akashi, only to disappoint her once again.

In This Episode: In the fourth iteration of Watashi’s neverending pursuit of a rose-colored college life, he is sucked into becoming a disciple in a personality-cult-of-sorts run by Kamotake (despite his professed desire to run as far away from the group as possible). A bit of an odd duck, in this version of reality Kamotake is an ne’er-do-well eighth-year student, who has for years been operating a low-level war against Jougasaki, each playing little pranks and tricks against each other. As his disciples, Watashi along with fellow members Ozu (of course), Akashi and Hanuki (her first appearance, as the always-drunk dental hygienist), it is their job to help pull off the pranks and tend to Kamotake’s whimsical needs.

He is always sending Watashi on quests for unusual items, and finally he is presented with his “final exam”, a quest to bring back a special “forbidden” toilet brush, or else he will be expelled. After searching high and low, Watashi is about to give up, until he runs across Akashi, who takes up his cause and together they are able to track down a merchant who has the Holy Grail, but Watashi is turned away, dejected, when he learns it will cost him 100,000 yen. He has already made up his mind to give up and start life anew, but when he returns to his 4.5-tatami-mat room, he finds a bag with exactly enough money to buy the brush. Does he use the money to run out and start his new life? Nope, he ends up buying the brush, and giving it to Kamotake.

Satisfied, Kamotake leads him to a bridge where they all meet with Jougasaki for a ceremony. Turns out that the “Masochistic Proxy War” between them has been going on for countless years, the origins lost in the haze of history and Kamotake vs. Jougasaki is only the most recent version of the war. Now, it is time to hand off the war to the next generation, and Kamotake has chosen Watashi as his successor. As for Jougasaki, he has chosen…Ozu, who was actually a double-agent the entire time. Aghast, Watashi tries to run away, but it seems he has once again been sucked into his sad, sorry fate, and once again finds himself cursing ever meeting Ozu.

My Thoughts: I am musing that The Tatami Galaxy may not end up being the best show of the season, but it certainly is the most intriguing. Sure, the very basic underlying plot is the same for each of the four episodes so far, while the details each time are wildly different. However, you can feel the growing tension and frustration as Watashi is beginning to subconsciously grasp the true meaning of his fate. Each time, he has been offered “an out”, a chance to escape the cycle of failure by grabbing “what is right before his eyes”. Twice now he has grasped the small toy (one of a set of five, lost by Akashi), a symbol (or perhaps a key) to his salvation, only to be unable (unwilling?) to act upon it.

In fact, it seems the fault does not lie on a situation beyond Watashi’s control, but Watashi’s own choices to put himself in such situations. He is cognizant enough to realize to stay away from becoming a disciple with Kamotake, yet ends up with him anyways. He makes the firm decision to quit college and take control of his life, but the very next scene we see him using the money that would make that escape possible to fulfill his nonsensical quest. While it seems he is not consciously aware that he is repeating his life over and over again, sly reminders of previous reiterations are seeping into the current reality, and a growing sense of urgency is slowly building, and we are left wondering what will ultimately precipitate to cause the cycle to be broken.

And yet, I sense that Watashi is moving *away* from his desired goal with each passing Groundhog Day, rather than towards it. His raven-haired beauty, Akashi, is drifting farther from him, and I am left wondering if the opening prediction in the first episode, where Watashi is warned that he may lose her to Ozu (Watashi’s split personality??) in the end.

(Ahhhh…Akashi Fascination…)

I wonder why Akashi, so very grave and level-headed with such a commanding aura, seems to be inextricably tied to Watashi with the red string of fate. She is unlike any of the other characters, who are more like comical caricatures. In comparison, Akashi comes across as a very real person that you could meet on the streets — what is she doing hanging around with these losers? One blogger surmises that Senjougahara Fascination could be replaced by Akashi Fascination (since it seems that Bakemonogatari has sputtered out with a whimper). The difference being that Senjougahara was such an unconventional personality that you were left wondering in fascination at what she was thinking; while Akashi is more of a real person that remains fascinating as much by what she does *not* say as much as she does (her stony-eyed silences speak volumes). It seemed pretty clear at the outset that Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge was the clear successor of the Senjougahara character archetype (she is certainly a much more analogous personality), but I find Akashi a more fascinating character, certainly more intriguing.

The Verdict:

My review of Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3.

Up Next: Episode 5 of Working!!, Angel Beats, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, K-On Season 2, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Giant Killing and The Tatami Galaxy.

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