Friday, 25 June 2010

The Tatami Galaxy - Episode 10

After seeing our protagonist finally receiving some hints as to his seemingly Groundhog Day-esque fate last episode (not that it helped him find his rose-tinted campus life), episode ten (and indeed the penultimate episode) of The Tatami Galaxy turns the entire world... no, the entire universe on its head.

This time around, Watashi eschews all possibilities of social interaction, instead deciding to lock himself away in his 4.5 tatami room day after day in the realisation that there's no such thing as a perfect and wonderful university life. This all seems pretty dull, until he awakes one day to find that this room is now literally his life - No matter what he does to try and leave, be it smashing walls, floors or ceilings, he always ends up in the exact same room, over and over again.

Or is it? As Watashi explores further simply to stay alive, so he begins to spot subtle differences in each room; in its paraphernalia, the books on the shelve and the clearly slightly divergent life lived within that particular room. For this is not a never-ending maze of identical rooms, but rather a seemingly infinite stack of parallel worlds, each one following one of the choices made by our protagonist. Of course, this is a fascinating discovery, but it still begs one question for Watashi - How the Hell does he get out?!

After seemingly setting us up for episode after episode of Watashi's life being "reset", this instalment certain proves to have thrown us all for a loop, introducing us to a key tenet of the series that perhaps should have been obvious when he look back on it via with the benefit of hindsight - Now the meaning of the oddities that we explained away or simply shrugged off earlier in the series have become clear, making me feel a little bit stupid yet leaving me loving this feeling of naive stupidity at the same time.

It's actually rather difficult to pinpoint just what's so great about this episode of The Tatami Galaxy - It isn't simply the reference to Franz Kafka's work, the use of parallel worlds or the markedly changed animation style which makes heavy use of "real" backdrops and scenery to far more notable effect. Instead, it's a combination of all of these things, coupled with a certain je ne sais quoi that ties everything together and makes the entire experience fascinating yet still oddly impenetrable. Here is a world that makes no sense, yet at the same time it makes perfect sense, while also unveiling much social commentary about modern expectations of one's life and a person's requirements to live it in a fulfilling manner. I don't own up to this often, but my simple 'blog can't do this episode, nor this series concept, justice - It needs a more concentrated and fastidious approach, for I suspect you could probably write a book about it. To be honest, I'm starting to hope that somebody does just that.


Michael said...

It was a great but difficult episode to go through just because of the sadness that pervaded it. All the different references whisper meaning, although I have not deciphered most of them. What I gleaned from this episode, however, was in addition to Watashi finally facing reality as it comes, he also realizes the value of learning with life as it is and as it happens. It was clear in the end when he noted that everyone of them had flawed existences but filling lives as compared to the ultimate act of cowardice he enacted, which was to escape within himself. I can only offer my own interpretation, but it's in the link with my name. :)

The episode was just full of nuance that it's difficult to get all the references, but I tried.

Unknown said...

That was brilliant! It'd almost be worth going back through the whole series for cross-references (if only I had the time) as I love stuff like that.

Like you I can't wait to see how it ends, even if they've foreshadowed the moral of the story already I bet there'll be enough there to make for a great ending.

Jambalaya Bob said...

You know, the tatami galaxy started out as a light novel, so it already has been done as a book, lol. Anyways, this episode definitely was a mindfuck, and i find it interesting how it's almost like he's in a universe created by himself, since it referenced the movie he made in episode 2 about someone trapped in a labyrinth of tatami rooms, not to mention how it was his choice of solitude that lead to him discovering the truth of this universe.