Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Tatami Galaxy - Episode 2

After impressing with its first episode, rather surprisingly this second instalment of The Tatami Galaxy effectively (and self-referentially) reboots itself, beginning the story of Watashi's university life from the very start once again.

This time rather than joining a tennis club it's the university's movie circle that Watashi opts for, where he soon comes into contact with the leader of said club - An egotistical guy named Jougasaki who loves nothing better than to make himself the centrepiece of the films made by the circle while surrounding himself with a bunch of doting "yes" men and women who hang on his every word.

It's during a disastrous filming session for one of Jougasaki's vanity projects that Watashi meets Ozu, and between the pair of them Watashi manages to make a number of films of his own - All of them far from well received and viewed as weird by most, and weird but amusing by Akashi.

Eventually, Watashi's hatred for Jougasaki turns into his creating a documentary looking to expose the club leader's perverted and downright weird nature, before Ozu's hand manages to turn it into less of a documentary and more of an outright attack film, which certainly succeeds in its goals but in doing so ruins Watashi's growing relationship with Akashi.

After that fascinating opener it was always going to be tough to pull off the same trick twice, and thus The Tatami Galaxy's second episode struggles to assert itself initially in comparison. However, once it does it turns out to be a much funnier episode, openly admitting as it does it's simply a reboot of the first at times while also cramming in some hilarious moments of its own - The highlights we get to see of Watashi's completed "documentary" in particular are fantastically funny. While the pacing and plot progression of this episode is decidedly odd, it actually works in the show's favour here, simply letting us see Watashi's actions before unveiling the impact they've had on ruining his love life after the event, leaving us to share his belated regret rather than allowing us to feel superior as we say "I told you so".

If there's one word I'd use to sum up The Tatami Galaxy thus far, it's "fresh" - From its animation style down to the way it goes about telling its story, it feels so different to your typical anime that you can't help but love it for that alone. The fact that it manages to be so different yet still gets me to laugh and holds my interest throughout in the face of its lightning-quick dialogue delivery marks it out not just as something fresh, but as something rather special too. It's going to be tough for the series to keep this up for the entire series I would imagine, but so far I'm oddly hooked by The Tatami Galaxy in a way that's actually a little difficult to verbalise.


Anonymous said...

I can understand why you call this approach "fresh". If you think of it from a functional point of view, the second episode would normally do at least one of the following:
- Introduce another important character. The foil introduced here doesn't seem like he has what it takes to continue to be relevant in future episodes.
- Advance the plot. Here we have exactly the opposite, the plot is re-examined as a variation on the original theme.
- Develop the previously introduced characters. Again, character development is resisted. we are re-introduced to the same characters, who are modified in surface details.

So what is the function of this second episode? It clarifies that we have entered an alternate reality, where the main character must break free of the rut he has stuck himself in. It also establishes certain elements as invariants, for example the recurrence of his friendship with Ozu, and an unfulfilled promise with Akashi.

Vendredi said...

This episode certainly felt a lot slower, mostly because I think we get much less exposition. It's very interesting to see a sort of mythological approach happening - we are likely to see the same characters reprising similar roles in future episodes. Jougasaki in particular seems the perfect sort of standout character who could repeat.

Anonymous said...

Everyone remembers the 2nd season of Haruhi, the Endless Eight? Judging by the first two episodes (which may be hugely premature) it seems Tatami Galaxy has a similar formula going on - but better! Whereas Haruhi had literally identical episodes sans some costume and stylistic changes, Tatami Galaxy has some key moments that are the same (fortune teller most notably), but explores a different choice of "club". It's a lot like Groundhog's Day but over a longer stretch of time and at least thus far the main character doesn't realize the time loop.

Venturing a totally wild guess, I would think the series will culminate in the main character having to decide between the way of Ozu, which seems to be the route of short-term happiness rooted in revenge or vengeance against others (be they people who have what the main character does not ala the lovebird couples in ep 1, or those abusing power and position ala Jougasaki in ep 2) and Akashi which is a bit vague at the moment but seems like the more "true happiness" choice.

Pontificating aside I'm definitely looking forward to ep 3.

Hanners said...

Funnily enough, I thought about that Endless Eight comparison briefly as well after watching this episode, although as you say the difference between the two is night and day.