Friday, 2 July 2010

The Tatami Galaxy - Episode 11 (Completed)

After the penultimate episode of The Tatami Galaxy turned pretty much everything we'd seen so far on its head to some degree, this final episode of the series takes that even further, even going as far as reversing its opening and ending credits.

Anyhow, from there we see our protagonist continuing his seemingly endless journey through the 4.5 tatami rooms which now make up his existence, each one a little different as evidence of an alternate life lived. It's these subtle differences that allow Watashi to build up a picture, not just of his own life (or rather, lives) but also those of his friends and others around him. This leads us to perhaps one of the most important sound bites this series has provided - That looking at any individual from a single angle can only ever give a very two-dimensional view of that person; it takes multiple viewpoints to build up anything close to a realistic, three-dimensional understanding of another person, something which Watashi has a unique opportunity to do via the Hell he is trapped in.

Eventually however, this Hell has to come to an end, and out protagonist's remembrance of the words of the old fortune teller brings him out and back into the world seemingly out of nowhere - A world which appears to be an amalgamation of the various realities Watashi has led throughout the series. With his new-found understanding of himself, all of the precious things in life which he saw as trifles in the past, and perhaps most importantly a better appreciation of his friends, Watashi saves Ozu, gets the girl and ensures that everyone else gets to live happily ever after. Yes, The Tatami Galaxy ends with what is effectively happiness all around, but for once it feels utterly deserved and a decidedly pleasing ending.

Although it perhaps threatened to be inaccessible on account of its unique animation style and broadly repetitive story-telling, The Tatami Galaxy proved to be a success when all is said and done. It didn't get everything right every time, but it managed to make its early episodes amusing and entertaining, before taking a turn towards fascination above all else as we found ourselves trying to unravel the world we were seeing unfold over and over before us. The, comes the end of it all, the series presented some hugely important life lessons - Namely, to live for the moment and enjoy your life no matter how mundane it might appear in comparison to some heady ideal, and also to try and truly understand those close to you (be they friend or enemy) rather than simply looking at them from a single, narrow-minded viewpoint.

Perhaps the biggest triumph of this series was its protagonist itself - He was a nameless fellow known simply as "I" for a reason (although I used Watashi throughout my 'blogging simply because it was easier), for the hope was that he would become us and us him. While this didn't work perfectly, it did succeed in its most important effort - To have us believe, like this lead character, that the route to happiness would be finding love and romance to carry him through his life. We, just like him, were fooled into thinking this were true, leaving us almost blind to the fun we were having even without succeeding in love, only to realise perhaps too late that we had a great time even without success in that department. Come the end of the series, we fell into the same traps and train of thought as Watashi, and the ease with which we did so is maybe the greatest lesson of all. "Live for the moment" is a horribly hackneyed old cliche, but if The Tatami Galaxy has achieved anything it's a reminder of why that axiom is true.

This might not make The Tatami Galaxy one of the greatest anime ever, but it is one that has reached deeper into my psyche than many, and that has to make it worthy of some high praise indeed.


Michael said...

I cried in this episode. What a beautiful show. Meaningful, thought-provoking, perceptive, beautiful, artistic, creative, and simply amazing.

It is one of the greatest anime ever, and I have no qualms saying that.

Rob said...

Fantastic stuff! I loved the artistry and storytelling aspects of it especially. I hope more like this are on the way.

Anonymous said...

A great conclusion to a great series. I could use my own incessant fortune teller to get me out of my apartment...

The only thing I would have loved to have seen at the very end would have been a brief cut of the 3D cowboy getting on his horse and riding off into the sunset together with a fellow cowgirl. It's like a fanservice and at the same time it's not, would have been a good chuckle.