It might be the last new season series to hit the small screen, but you know what they say about the best things coming to those who wait, and with its place in the niotaminA time slot Madhouse's The Tatami Galaxy (or Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei if you prefer) certainly holds the potential to live up to that old adage.
Before we even begin, we find our protagonist for this series, Watashi, sat at a mobile ramen shop and ending up in conversation with a decidedly odd fellow who claims to be a God of match-making. Nonsensical though this seems, said fellow offers Watashi a contract - Either he can find happiness with a girl named Akashi, or he can defer said happiness to his friend named Ozu.
With that scenario set, so we get a little more background on this entire state of affairs - In short, Watashi is a university student who was expecting his student life to be filled with love and happiness, only to find his introverted nature crippling when it comes to being anything but a loner who is left out of any activities despite his best efforts and joining the campus tennis club. Eventually, Watashi at least finds himself a friend of sorts in Ozu, a strange-looking guy who sets himself (and furthermore Watashi) as some kind of "black cupid", a prankster who loves nothing better than to humiliate those who are already in a relationship.
While Watashi seems to outwardly hold quite the dark side himself after having his heart broken early in his university career, inwardly he clearly still yearns for some affection and romance, and the greatest potential for this seems to come the aforementioned Akashi, a girl who isn't exactly the easiest person to get to know or make small talk with by all accounts, leaving her as just as much of a loner as Watashi judging by what we see. For all of their respective eccentricities, this pair look like as good a match as any, and doubtless much of this series going forward will focus on the awkward symbiosis that exists between the two.
There are two things that become very obvious very quickly about The Tatami Galaxy. Firstly, the art style is (as you might expect of a noitaminA show) decidedly unique, providing a simple yet occasionally oddly spectacular aesthetic to this opening episode that takes a little getting used to but ultimately fits in perfectly with the fluid yet oddball world of the series. Secondly, the dialogue employed here is fired out at high-speed throughout, which can make the show hard to follow without some serious concentration on the viewer's part.
Thankfully, any concentration afforded to The Tatami Galaxy's opener is well rewarded - While this isn't a comic riot or anything of that sort, it "just works" on a rather different level that I can't really express in words. The whole thing takes on a genuinely fascinating air thanks to its trio of weird yet still believable main characters, and a story that races along without giving you a pause for breath, let alone thought. The final feeling of this episode is almost a mix of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei on the one-hand and the work of Natsume Sōseki on the other, particularly when it comes to Watashi and the duality of his isolation against his yearning for happiness and company. This makes for an absolutely fascinating blend of story and character, and if it can keep this up for its entire duration then The Tatami Galaxy could prove to be something very different, and equally something really quite special indeed.