Review: The Tatami Galaxy- 4.5 Squares of Life

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Synopsis: A young college student is trying to get a fresh start and live out a so called “rose colored school-life” by having the best college experience possible. However his attempts to build a solid social life are constantly thwarted and he’s found that he’s wasted the last two years of his life on nonsense and wishes he could do it all over again. His wish is somehow granted and he’s given the opportunity to restart his college life over and over again in attempt to finally get it right, but will he ever actually succeed?

The Review

So this show has something of a rather infamous reputation at this point. Mainly in that I’ve seen nothing but almost unanimous praise about it, and yet the streaming numbers for it were apparently so ridiculous poor that it’s never seen the light of day for a physical release here in the U.S. and Funimation themselves have outright said not to hold your breath on that one. As a result, I’ve mostly attempted to steer clear of the show since I didn’t want to experience the agony of pining over something I can’t have and having now sat through the whole thing I can confirm that instinct was pretty much on the money. Though I ultimately don’t have too much regret over the decision as the show proved to be worth it.

Right off the bat it’s not particularly hard to see why this show would be a turn off to most audiences. The first episode doesn’t really do a good job of explaining what the heck it’s actually about, the main character talks so fast it’s hard to keep up with the subtitles, and the artstyle of the show certainly isn’t what most anime fans are used to seeing to say the least. However there’s a method to the show’s madness that doesn’t quite become clear until the second episode, and if you can make it through the first episode’s barriers unscathed, there’s a pretty immediate payoff.

The basic story of the show centers around an unnamed protagonist who just wants to live out a happy “rose colored” college experience and build a successful social life. That doesn’t quite end up going as planned and he ends up spending the next two years getting wrapped up in what he feels is a disaster, wishing he could do it over. Somehow he’s granted that wish and so forms the various episodes and situations the show has to offer. The different timelines the protagonist finds himself in are all loosely connected, but a couple of things generally remain constant: he always finds himself becoming friends with a guy named Ozu who he feels constantly drags him through the muck, thus ruining his life, and he’s always acquainted with a freshman named Akashi who’s clearly interested in him, but he never has the courage to ask out.

Each of the show’s scenarios get crazier and more fun with each passing episode, and with each one a cast of recurring characters slowly begins to form ,with all of them having some sort of bizarre influence in the protagonist’s life. In all of these stories, the protagonist seems eternally doomed to fail, but while he believes that circumstances out of his control (mostly Ozu’s very existence) are to blame for his constant failures, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that the biggest obstacle to the protagonist finding happiness is the protagonist himself. While in pursuit of his dream life, he always fails to take advantage of what he has right now, and always finds an excuse to back out of taking an actual step forward. Even in the one scenario where he actually does (sort of) gain power and influence, he’s still left unsatisfied in the end because he’s lost out on what really matters.

It all comes to a head during a conversation with one of the other characters who tells him quite frankly that the so called “rose colored” college life he dreams of obtaining simply does not exist. The best thing he can do for himself is to just accept his life as it is, and take advantage of what he has right now. Even Ozu, who the protagonist thought was as much of a loser as he was, was actually out living it up pretty well, and it drives home just how much the protagonist has wasted his life seeking something he can’t have.

As someone who similarly wasted a good percentage of early part of their college life in the same pointless pursuit, this hit pretty close to home for me, and it’s a message that captures that particular stage in life well, as it’s definitely something we tend to go through at some point whether it be in college specifically or somewhere around that age.  Of course it takes a couple of episodes of the protagonist choosing to isolate himself if he can’t have what he wants (along with simultaneously explaining the Groundhog Day plot the audience has already mostly figured out by this point) to finally realize this, but it eventually gets through to him and it makes for a satisfying conclusion.

The show was hemmed by Maasaki Yusa, who has since gone on to be known for last year’s Ping-Pong: The Animation as well as the Food Chain episode of Adventure Time, and it shows. All of his works carry a very unique art style, that looks almost cartoon scribble levels of crude, while allowing for a solid amount of fluidity in regards to animation and taking advantage of the art through the weirdest ways imaginable. That holds pretty true here and it really helps to make a lot of the show’s comedic moments work a lot better, while also making for a really neat contrast with some of the show’s real world backgrounds to give it a really interesting sense of flavor, though it can certainly be a turn off for the uninitiated. Michiru Oshima’s soundtrack for the show however isn’t nearly as distinct though the opening  “Koinu to Ame no Bīto” by the now legendary J-Rock band, Kung Fu Generation is pretty catchy.

It’s not hard to see why The Tatami Galaxy got the amount of praise it did when it aired. The show takes advantage of it’s weird premise to make for some pretty entertaining material, and the overall theme of the show is one that speaks well to both younger and older audiences in regards to living life to the fullest with what you have. It’s also perfectly capped off at a relatively short 11 episode count which is just the right amount of time it takes for this kind of show to work before the repetition of it really starts to set in. If you can get past the somewhat incomprehensible on it’s own first episode, and the weird art style, this show’s a really winner and one that definitely deserves a lot more appreciation than what it’s gotten thus far. So I guess you can now count me among those who’ll wait until the end of time for this show to ever get released here, and will complain ever day it isn’t. You win this round Tatami Galaxy. You win.

Overall: 9/10

 

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