Japanese Title: Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei
Similar: Mind Game
Welcome to the N.H.K.
Watched in: Japanese
Genre: Psychological Mystery
Length: 11 episodes
- Unique in style, concept, and execution.
- Creative art.
- Protagonist’s performance with this sharp script.
- Weirdness overshadows clarity at times.
Every once in a while, you come across an odd piece of fiction, something that pushes the boundary of weird. The last time this happened for me was with Mind Game, where a guy had to rewatch his own death of being shot up the arse. This time we find ourselves in The Tatami Galaxy, an exploration of a student’s choices at university and the possible ‘what ifs’ had he joined different clubs (of sorts).
The nameless protagonist narrates his uni life as a hopeless romantic before he turned into a delinquent. Each episode looks at the ‘what if’ of a different club. This ranges from a cycling club run by the Bicycle Mafia, who will take your bike away if it isn’t up to standard, all the way to bodyguard duty for a guy’s mannequin girlfriend, a very alluring mannequin girlfriend. However, merely telling you about these scenarios – as odd as they may be – cannot possibly convey the strangeness of Tatami Galaxy’s style. Honestly, my best advice is to watch an episode for yourself; you will quickly know if it’s for you.
For myself, enjoyment varied from episode to episode. The two scenarios above were great, especially the mannequin girlfriend bodyguard, which represented the protagonist’s sexual urges as an ill-mannered Woody from Toy Story. He tries to find life, torn between sexual desire, instant gratification, the taboo, and love that requires hard work.
Some, however, bored me, such as the episode with the protagonist trapped inside his own apartment, in an infinite building of tatami apartments. Great idea, but the payoff was lame. The challenge with weird fiction is striking the balance between weirdness and clarity – there’s no point being wacky if it doesn’t make sense. That leads to “lol random” rubbish. The worst-case scenario is “artistic” fiction that keeps screaming, “Ask me what it means! Ask me what it means!” when in reality it’s just an artiste servicing himself on screen. Thankfully, Tatami Galaxy never reaches such atrocity. Its blunders are relatively minor; rather than make the whole anime look bad, they ruin individual scenes, at most.
The Tatami Galaxy won’t be for everyone. I go so far as to say few would enjoy this oddity – not because of high concepts or “intellectual” subjects, but because of its style. This is a unique and unusual piece in every regard, and is the most niche anime I have reviewed, thus far.
Art – Very High
Creative art that changes with every scene, matching mood with a mix of drawn and live action work. When the mood is silly, the art is silly; when weird, art is weird; when serious, art is serious. The art achieves a careful balance – could have easily resulted in a mess.
Sound – High
The protagonist sports great acting in this sharp, witty script. Pay attention, for the speech is rapid, scenes changing quickly. The rest of the cast is good.
Story – High
A man thinks back on the ‘what ifs’ of his university days and how they would have changed his future. Unusual and weird, The Tatami Galaxy is an entertaining anime, albeit with limited appeal.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: Try it. An episode is all it takes to know if The Tatami Galaxy is for you. After that first episode, if it doesn’t grip you, then don’t feel bad about moving on. Fans of weird and unique fiction are in for fun, on the other hand.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)