Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Tatami Galaxy - Episode 6

Well, this is a turn-up for the books... After five episodes of The Tatami Galaxy have seen Watashi languishing in failure time and again, this sixth instalment begins with our protagonist the subject of interest to no less than three women.

Of course, this being the series that it taking the "harem route" is out of the question, and even choosing one girl from this triumvirate isn't exactly going to be simple. In fact, a multiplication of problems seems to be the order of the day here, as we see Watashi joining several circles on this particular "reboot" of his life, although it's only his part in an English club that we gain any proper insight into.

It's at this club (where Watashi is, of course, struggling) that our "hero" meets dental hygenist Hanuki (who we've already met before), and strikes up a perfectly normal friendship with her. Alongside this, Watashi also has at his command the affections of a pen-pal named Keiko Higuchi, and a love-doll (yes, you read that right) called Kaori, who is in Watashi's possession for reasons that we never quite get a full explanation of, although it all ties into the episode featuring Jougasaki we saw earlier in the series.

Things come to a head when all three women are demanding of Watashi's attention on the same evening - It's Kaori's last night before returning to her rightful home, Keiko is demanding to move beyond mere letter writing by meeting the recipient of those missives, and Hanuki wants to go out for a drink or two billion. It's here that the entire shooting match falls apart for our protagonist, as his seemingly clear-cut plans end up going completely awry, leaving him with a drunken Hanuki licking his face. That doesn't sound like such a bad deal to me, but Watashi does have his pride to consider...

While this episode of The Tatami Galaxy is refreshing in itself simply by being a little different from previous episodes (although still clearly cut from very much the same cloth), there's more to the genius of this particular instalment than just that. In short, this is probably the most sharply written and plotted episode we've seen yet, which makes the most of its three female characters even though one never physically appears and another is inanimate to push the show's protagonist into a situation where nobody wins, yet everyone seems to end up reasonably happy with their lot.

This particular episode is also notable for introducing the conflict between Watashi's mind and sexual desires (via the return of Johnny, last seen in Eden of the East but now appearing in cowboy form), in scenes which are played out to hilariously good effect in a kind of "it's funny because it's true" way... we've all been there, perhaps minus the line "two soft swellings are pressing against the mothership" running through our heads. This all combined to bring a near-perfectly formed blend of character and comedy, while the lack of any sort of appearance from Akashi suggests that she remains the real object of the protagonist's desires no matter what, with that hanging mascot in his room almost serving as the similarly hanging fate of those two characters that are surely destined to end up together. Perhaps most interesting of all is that despite all his mistakes, hypocrisy (wanting love without the effort of loving, ostensibly) and bone-headed moments, we still want the guy we follow through those mishaps every week to be happy.

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