Tatami Galaxy is an odd sort of anime that breaks from a lot of anime tropes and norms, giving it a very different feel from what you’d normally find. This anime is about people and perspective, presenting a relatively simple premise in a highly entertaining and convoluted, yet positive fashion. Tatami Galaxy is an outrageous merry-go-round in a very ordinary carnival.
Purpose: Excellent. This anime is both simple and complex at the same time. Going by overall theme and generally episodic nature, it first appears to have a much more frivolous tone. Each episode, however, ends up adding something different to the mix. The end result is an interesting looping sort of story that accomplishes its task by shifting perspectives on characters and events. Part of what makes it interesting is sorting out the continuity – which events “happened” and which ones didn’t, yet give you insight into the characters. The continuity itself can be difficult to keep track of, since it’s basically a series of “what ifs,” different sets of decisions that may or may not change the outcome of certain events. One of the strong points here is the use of “keystone” events that act as a landmark or roadmap of where we are in each story.
Characters: Excellent. The characters are all fascinating, bizarre, and complex. Characters both are and aren’t what they first appear to be. Rather, they have an evolving degree of complexity as the story shifts perspectives, giving the viewer different glimpses of who the character is. One of the more interesting aspects of this element is that characters are all affected, in some way, by the main character’s perspective. After a certain point, the viewer’s knowledge of the characters and the main character’s knowledge of the characters diverge, making that a unique perspective in itself.
More than that, the anime is about the relationship between the characters. It’s about how they interact together and with each other. Often, it’s how the characters bounce off each other in odd situations. The relationships have a unique feel and flow to them, very fluid. It gives them a very natural, if odd, feel.
World: Excellent. The world does a lot of heavy lifting, even if it isn’t fist evident. On one hand, it manages to create a place where craziness can happen without being too off-the wall or random. At the same time, it manages to ground everything so that the craziness ends up being of an everyday quality. That’s not to say the world makes things bland, only that it lends a sense of weight and realism to the events that happen, making the events believable, or perhaps more plausible. This ends up adding to the weight of the story and the genuineness of the characters’ actions and mannerisms as well.
Plot: Excellent. The plot, too, is another strange and potentially confusing contradiction – it doesn’t cover much ground, but at the same time, it goes a long way. What, exactly, the plot is depends on how you look at it. If you think of the plot in this anime as the distance between the starting and ending point, then it’s a relatively short trip. If you think of the plot as how we get from beginning to end, there’s a ton of progress. More specifically, the plot is a combination of what is, what perhaps was, and what could be. Even more, there are many interconnected character-specific plots that create a fascinating ultimate trajectory for the story. It’s not just that the plot represents changes in the characters’ story or the story the viewer is being shown. The tangled web of plots manage to direct the viewer’s perspective on characters and events, which can be understood as a separate and unique plotline. Part of this direction involves certain fixed plot points so no matter what happens, the viewer can keep a grasp of where the various episodes’ plots were on the timeline.
Storytelling: Masterpiece. The storytelling in this anime is truly unique. At a basic level, the art style is very different, lending a unique spin to the events that happen. Contrasts and colors end up being a very important part of the story. What makes the storytelling truly special is its weaving and shifting, seamlessly tying world, characters, and plot throughout the story. With the kind of story being told, it could very easily have become dull or stale, showing how delicate and skillful the anime really was. Much of the story ends up being almost on repeat, except that it isn’t. It’s more a series of what ifs that are all blended together to paint a complete portrait of characters and events. That said, the story is limited in perspective to the main character. The main character is never named, giving to the first-person feel of it. He narrates the story and, as it goes on, it becomes clear that the viewer’s view of each happening is limited and, daresay tainted, by the main character. As we shift through possibilities, the motives, actions, and goals of the characters (and the events they are a part of) come into clearer focus as our knowledge diverges from the main character’s. Though there is no real “villain,” by the end, it makes you wonder who the bad guy really is after all. Since there’s so much going on, this is an anime that lends itself to several re-watchings
Pace: Very Good. Not too much to comment on here. The slightly episodic nature of the anime gives it an odd feel, once you’ve gone through a few scenarios. It feels both fast and slow at the same time.