Genres: Psychological, Mystery, Romance;
Personal Rating: 9/10
Time – an unforgiving nemesis of every living being. When we look back at our lives, we realize how we can’t go back anymore. The choices we made throughout our life resulted in our current selves: that cannot be changed. However, what if it COULD be changed? How would it affect us? Would we ultimately realize how futile it is to worry about such things?
The Tatami Galaxy is an anime that reminds us of how important it is for humans to feel satisfied with what they’ve done throughout their lives. Whether it’s the choice of who we date, what college we go to, what friends we make or what club we join, these choices all offer different experiences that end up building our personalities. What if we could explore every possibility though? The protagonist has no name, so he is referred to as “Watashi”. Watashi is a college student who worries about living a rose-colored campus life and meeting the girl of his dreams. Sure enough, he ends up going through countless timelines, always making different choices to get to the fulfilling life he so much desires, but never seems to be quite happy about it at the end of each episode, when the clock turns back and Watashi relives his college days, with a new set of choices.
The way the anime works is simple: the first nine episodes are all about Watashi’s possibilities. He always makes different choices in each one, whether it is about the girl he meets or the club he joins, and that ends up shaping his personality over the course of those two years. This might lead some people to think the anime gets repetitive, but that doesn’t happen at all: the dialogues are always very interesting and different in each episode, Watashi himself changes drastically in each episode, and it all has to do with the experiences he went through in that particular timeline. Speaking of the dialogues, The Tatami Galaxy is an anime known for being very dialogue-heavy, so do expect that if you want to get into it. Now, the last two episodes are a bit different, and provide a conclusion to the story, a very satisfying one if I might add. These are the only set of episodes that happen in the same “timeline” as well.
In the end, whether someone can appreciate the story of The Tatami Galaxy or not, it has to do with the amount of attention you pay in each episode – sure enough, it might be hard to keep focusing on such a heavy anime, and thus I really recommend you to watch no more than three episodes per sitting in order to get the best experience out of the anime. It’s also an anime full of symbolism and interpretation possibilities: most people probably drew different conclusions from certain events in the anime than me, and that’s the beauty of The Tatami Galaxy: the message it carries depends on the receiver, and that’s something that we don’t see every day.
The artwork might look odd at first, but it definitely grew on me over the course of the anime: it’s not perfect at all, but it’s appealing to look at, and it fits the psychological mood of the anime extremely well once you learn to accept it. As for the animation, it’s good enough that the character movements flow nicely, and it doesn’t feel too rough. As for the soundtracks, other than the OP and ED themes (which are definitely worth checking out) there isn’t a whole lot of memorable soundtracks in this anime, as it uses them mostly to build the mood more than anything.
The characters are kinda hard to discuss: Watashi is the protagonist, like stated above, a bored college student that worries about wasting his life in every timeline he lives in. His nemesis and ironically best friend is Ozu, a guy with very strange looks who claims he is connected by fate to Watashi, and often pranks him. The other character that can be considered part of the core of the story is Akashi, a girl who is Watashi’s kohai, and apparently a multi-talented student who can do pretty much anything – though she freaks out with moths. Then we have the recurring characters that appear every episode, but can’t really be called part of the main cast, like the fortune-telling old lady, the head of the movie club Jougasaki or the one referred to as “master” by a lot of the characters in the anime – Higuchi. These characters all play different roles in the story, depending on Watashi’s choices. If there’s one thing The Tatami Galaxy excelled at was with the character interactions and dialogues: these were nearly perfect and very thought-provoking all the time. Also, some characters can be “antagonists” in some episodes, and then be of help to Watashi in others, adding in an unpredictability element to the mix. The entire cast comes off as lovable and entertaining, and chances are you’ll be wishing for more of these episodic timelines even after you finish the anime, just to see how different these characters can behave in each one.
The main themes of the anime, as stated previously, are all about humans and how they seek the perfect life for themselves, and most of the time end up being disappointed about what life has in store. The whole beauty of life is that it’s unpredictable: what fun would it be if you could know everything that’s going to happen in the future? Watashi, however, seems to have a different approach on life, and tries to make plans for it all the time. Some people go with the flow, and others try to change it: in the end, what we humans desire is the ability to feel fulfilled, and sometimes we don’t care about the methods we use to get there. What this anime will accomplish, I kid you not, is that you’ll be looking back at your life: are you happy with yourself right now? What would you have changed in the past that could influence the current result? The conclusion I drew from the anime is: there is no such thing as a perfect life. Life comes in all different colors, and we must learn to accept how unpredictable and sometimes cruel it can be.
In conclusion: The Tatami Galaxy is an anime that has one single goal: to make the audience think, not only about themselves, but about life in general. I quite enjoyed everything it had to offer, both the exploration of the infinite possibilities that Watashi had when he started college, as well as the resolution of the plot, it was all extremely well executed, and I can safely say that the anime deserves all the popularity it gets. Humanity’s eternal quest for happiness has been a harsh one, but who knows: we might have been looking for something we’ve had all along.