Anime Review: The Tatami Galaxy Episode 5

(Originally published on Livejournal on 6/12/10)

Anime Review:
The Tatami Galaxy Episode 5

tl;dr review: Watashi joins the softball club, which is a front for a pyramid-scheme/doomsday cult, and ends up wasting two years of his life again. The cake is a lie.

About The Series: Watashi is attempting to live the rose-colored college life, 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. Tatami #1: He joins the tennis club, and following his rejection he turns to an ‘anti-cupid’ prankster. Tatami #2: 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. Tatami #3: He is completely unsuited for the cycling club, recruited to the Birdman Club by his secret crush Akashi, only to disappoint her once again. Tatami #4: Watashi is sucked into becoming the successor of an endless Masochistic Proxy War.

In This Episode: The clock is reset again, this time with Watashi recounting when he joined the Softball Circle Honkawa, which he sees as an easy way to meet girls. But he soon finds himself an outsider, unable to conform to the ‘groupthink’ of the hive, and they quickly marginalize him, countering his every word with frozen smiles on their faces. All except for the devilish Ozu, of course. But at his lowest, he catches sight of the positively radiant Kohinata, who he immediately elevates to goddess-like stature in his own mind.

Watashi makes it his goal in life to be by her side, but in order to move in the same social circles as her, he learns that he has to buy tons of product. Turns out that the softball club is actually a sponsored front for a major corporation that uses the students to push their get-better-quick panaceas in a shady pyramid scheme. For two years, Watashi relentlessly pours every ounce of his energy into buying as much as possible, until one day he finally gets his chance: an invitation to the annual company retreat. There, he gets a glimpse of the cult-like fervor, their dark 2012 doomsday predictions, and the massive flying ark they constructed to save humanity. Somehow, Ozu steals the blimp, crashes it into the compound, and snatches Watashi away as they escape with the help of the Neko Ramen cart-driver.

Watashi returns to his 4.5-tatami-mat room, where he meets up with Kamotake who returns some items, Akashi delivers a cake, and Watashi (once again) sees Akashi’s charm dangling right in front of his face, and comes to the sudden realization that he has thrown away two years of his life…again! Mysteriously, a bearded version of Watashi emerges through the walls of his room, and he walls “himself” off with boxes of the Honkawa product. Only now at the very end does he realize his folly, but it is too late, and the clock rewinds once again.

My Thoughts: It’s a good thing that I like to take a day or two to think over my reviews before posting them, because at first I was quite disappointed with this episode that it was yet *another* rewind of Watashi’s life. Another club, another disappointment, another two years lost, another reset. But I thought about it some more, and read a few of the online reviews, and rethought my position. All five episodes are building on a theme, the tension slowly growing, lots of seemingly unconnected elements slowly coming together. This series seems to be sorta like Paranoia Agent or Shigofumi, where everything seems to be separated until the very end when it all ties together, but you don’t realize it until the conclusion.

I did recognize a few repeated elements from previous episodes, but various reviewers who are paying closer attention caught several that I was not immediately aware of. One thing is for certain: I am definitely going to have to re-watch this series to catch everything that I missed the first time around. I am convinced part of the reason why I’m missing these little keys is because I’m having to focus so much on the rapid-fire narration, eyes fixed on the subtitles on the bottom of the screen – hopefully a dubbed version will be available in the future.

Various anime bloggers are writing long theses about this series, speculation abounds with lots of interesting ideas. I have my own ideas, of course, but I’m doing my best not to try and over-analyze the show. Rather, I’m more inclined to sit back and just enjoy the show, and let the events unfold. It’s more fun that way. But if you really want to try and pick it apart, check out the musings of FungaFuFu, Mecha Guignol, Sea Slugs!, Sekijitsu, and, of course, Hanners’ Anime Blog — all good stuff. They have interesting points about how Watashi has switched from blaming Ozu to blaming himself (I still think they’re the same person), to how he is chasing the impossible utopian ideal (notice how Kohinata is faceless, an unbearably bright light?), the role of the tatami-matted rooms.

(Bearded Watashi floating through the wall! Everyone seems to think this is an “older Watashi” peeking in from the future, but why older? Why not just another “what if?” dimensional Watashi?)

The one thing that keeps this show in the “good” category instead of “must see” category is the unnecessarily-fast narration. It is downright maddening, for no other reason than there is absolutely NO REASON for it, no clear purpose. All it does is serve as a major distraction to the story itself — the more I have to focus on the subtitles, the less can focus on the story and visuals. What the ever-lovin’-FUCK was the director thinking?? Bah.

The Verdict:



My review of Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4.

Up Next: Working!!, Angel Beats, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, K-ON Season 2, Arakawa Under the Bridge, The Tatami Galaxy

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