Anime Review: The Tatami Galaxy Episodes 10 and 11 (finale)

(Originally published on Livejournal on 7/17/10)

Anime Review:
The Tatami Galaxy Episodes 10 and 11

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. Spending two years trying to reach for that perfect life, Watashi ends up back at square one to try, try again.

ep.10 tl;dr review: Watashi attempts to perfect the 4.5 Tatami existence; He ends up trapped in an endless maze of rooms, unable to escape.

Episode 10 Synopsis: Instead of trying to join a social circle or club during his college life, Watashi decides to try to perfect living the 4.5 tatami-mat existence. Spending as much time as possible in his small square of a room, he wakes up one day to discover he is trapped. No matter whether he tries to leave through the door, break through the wall, or even through the ceiling he only ends up in another 4.5 tatami-mat room. All alone, he goes exploring to find the series of rooms is endless…but not quite identical. Each room is slightly different, and posits each one represents a different reality of what his life could have been like if he had made different choices. We see the rooms that he inhabited in each of the previous nine episodes (including the time he broke through to the other reality), and an overwhelming sense of melancholy washes over him as he realizes how much he has lost by not being each of the different ‘Watashis’ he observes. Finally he comes full circle, breaking through the wall to the original room he started from, still trapped.

ep.11 tl;dr review: Watashi is finally able to grasp the meaning of the old fortune-teller’s advice; He escapes from his 4.5 tatami prison and is able to move on.

Episode 11 Synopsis: Two months have passed as Watashi has been trapped all alone in his 4.5 tatami maze, unable to find his way out. In a moment of inspiration he sees the moguchiman hanging from the light and grasp the metaphorical meaning of the fortune teller’s admonition. In an instant he is able to escape to the outside and ends up smack-dab in the middle of the night of the fireworks when Ozu was pushed from the bridge in the first episode. He jumps in to save his Ozu, finally understanding that he was never his enemy or demon but his best friend. Watashi also delivers the missing moguchiman to Akashi and they dine at the Neko ramen cart and live happily ever after.

My Thoughts: Many people are already boldly calling The Tatami Galaxy the best show of 2010, even though the year is barely halfway through. I’m not willing to go that far, but it certainly is the best show of the year to date. All the seemingly loose ends and unrelated bits for the first nine episodes are all tied up neatly into one tight package. It all makes sense now. The title makes sense now.

Each 4.5 tatami-mat room in the rundown apartment represents a different life that Watashi could have lived. Each one represents his attempt to live that perfect rose-colored life, each one represents his perceived failure at reaching that goal. Each one has a little moguchiman hanging from the ceiling, the physical metaphorical representation of that “which is dangling right before his eyes”, as foretold by the old crone. But the true thing that Watashi must grasp is that there is no such thing as a rose-colored life, it’s an unobtainable goal. Instead, each of the different lives he has lived in each of the realities, while far from perfect, is the joie de vivre that he should be embracing. It’s only when he is able to let go of his obsession, grab the moguchiman and accept his life is he able to move forward escape his personal prison.

Yeah, the moral of the story is a little bit heavy-handed, but it works quite well. Interesting to note the change in Ozu in the final episode. While before he was viewed as a vile character with exaggerated characteristics and a forked tongue — all as viewed through the warped lens of Watashi’s perceptions. But in the final episode Ozu has been transformed into a normal person with normal looks and normal motives, no longer the evil influence but a friend who was only trying to help him have a little fun.

Full-length essays have been written about this show by many other esteemed anime bloggers, and I won’t even try to compete with them. Suffice to say there’s a whole hell of a lot more to this show that I’m even hinting at, layers upon layers of meaning waiting to be discovered.

The Verdict:

SERIES FINAL GRADE: A-

Is it worth buying? Yup, especially if Funimation is kind enough to produce a dubbed version so I don’t have to focus so deeply on the subtitles. If this show has one flaw (and it’s a major one) it’s the inexplicably fast narration of Watashi’s inner thoughts. What makes it so infuriating is that it’s completely unnecessary, I can find no value to the decision to narrate in such a fashion and it only served to distract. That aside, I definitely will have to go back and re-watch the show, realizing just how much I missed the first time around.

Oh, and now I’m going to have to take a second look at shows by the director, Masaaki Yuasa such as Kemonozume and Kaiba, both of which I only watched the first episodes but didn’t continue.

Up Next: Working!! (finale), Angel Beats (finale), Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Senkou no Night Raid (interlude), Arakawa Under the Bridge (finale), Ookami-san, Highschool of the Dead, Mitsudomoe

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