What They Say:
Tamako knows just about everything there is to know about mochi, the traditional Japanese dessert treats. When she’s not attending her first year of high school, she even invents new flavors and varieties for Tama-ya, her family’s mochi shop. School and growing up, on the other hand, are things that she’s still trying to find the right recipe for. But with the help of her best friends Kanna and Midori, Tamako’s determined to make the best of things.
It’s complicated, though, especially when it comes to emotions and her relationship with her best BOY friend Mochizo, whose family runs a rival mochi shop. And lately, Kanna’s been feeling a little odd about her feelings towards Tamako as well. And what’s with up with that strange bird fluttering around, the one that speaks fluent Japanese? It’s all very mysterious and overwhelming, but at least Tamako always has one thing she can count on: no matter if your day’s been good or bad, there’s certain to be something sugary and delicious waiting at the end of every adventure!
Contains episodes 1-12
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language mix, both of which are encoded in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. While the series is one that is pretty much all about the dialogue and there’s not any real action to be had, the lossless nature of it definitely helps it out overall by coming across warmer and fuller – especially with the music. For the majority of it, though, it’s all about the dialogue and slice of life sounds that populates the show and the mix comes across well here. There’s some decent placement at times with the dialogue and even a little bit of depth within some of the market scenes, but overall it’s not a mix that has a lot of hard work to do. The show pretty much comes across cleanly and clearly without any problems and the end result is one that makes for a decent mix that fits the material well.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Kyoto Animation, the show has a very good look and design to it that certainly works better in high definition than in the standard definition set we saw before. There’s a good bit of detail to be had, colors are very solid throughout and the palette used definitely has some great life to it as well as some subtler approaches at times. Kyoto Animation does a lot with the fluidity of its animation and you can see that here well enough in just the simple movements, especially with Dera at times, and overall we get a good, clean transfer that definitely has a better look and clarity to it overall compared to the DVD version.Packaging:
The packaging for this release is presented a standard sized Blu-ray case that has both discs against the interior walls. The front cover artwork replicates what we had with the DVD release and is good because it’s definitely cute as we get Tamako and her two friends together hanging out while Tamako herself is holding onto Dera, which you might not even notice at first. There’re some light girly design pieces here with the flowers and colors used but it has a soft and inviting look that’s reminiscent of a view of how teenage girls would adorn things. The character artwork definitely shines well here, though. The back cover provides for more of the flowers across it with a green background instead and we get a decent look at a few shots from the show across it. There’s also a nice piece of Anko artwork as well. The premise is well covered in the middle in an easy to read form while the discs episodes and extras are also laid out well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice and again plays for the teenage girl vision that a lot of people have – and a lot of girls are like. The layout is split in half where the right side changes up the character artwork for each volume with the girls in different configurations and just being close and cute. The left side goes for the menu navigation as we get the episodes by number and title in pink and white on a blue background with pink embroidered lining along it. The navigation is simple and straightforward enough, language selection is a breeze and the extras are easy to access as well.
The extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences found on the first disc that we saw with the DVD edition while also newly including the web previews for the episodes as well.
Kyoto Animation has certainly built a certain level of expectations with their works over the years and a lot of it is pretty warranted. While not everything works wonderfully, you can usually expect a show with some sort of quirk or interesting aspect to it that gets you hooked to see where it goes. With Tamako Market, we get a twelve episode series that aired in the winter 2013 season that was followed up by a novel at the end and then a feature film a year later. It’s not a show that you would have expected to go that route, but it does it well enough. Some shows handle the small parts of existence well and it’s easy to get drawn into the everyday life of people, especially when you add a surreal aspect to it as they do here.
The series revolves around Tamako Kitashirakawa, a first-year high school student who has a pretty good life. She’s got friends, she does decent at school and gets along with adults there and she’s very well liked in the shopping district that she lives in. Her family runs a mochi shop there that’s been around for a couple of generations as it’s run by her father with some assistance by her grandfather. Tamako has a good family support system there with her younger sister Anko included and all the people she’s close to in the market that have known her all her life, including her childhood friend Mochizo who lives across the street. Amusingly, his family also runs a mochi shop. The two do things differently, but there’s no real competition in a way because everyone does their own thing in order to make the marketplace work and draw customers. For Tamako, the only real hardship she has beyond doing a lot of work and school is that she lost her mother some time ago though it’s not delved into all that much.
Into every everyday life a little change must enter. For Tamako, that comes in the form of a rather mildly fancy bird that shows up in the market that she ends up sneezing on, which causes the bird to bond with her. The problem is more than just that though as said bird actually speaks fluent Japanese and is named Dera. It turns out Dera had arrived here from a small island nation as he’d been sent by the kingdom’s royal fortune teller, a young woman named Choi. She sent him out for the prince of the island, a young man named Mochimazzwi, in order to find for the prince a bride. These things have always been discovered by divination and the use of the birds like Dera though for Dera this is the first time he’s ever been off the island. Dera’s mission is important but you can see pretty easily that Choi has a certain level of feeling for Mochimazzwi. But outside of a couple of minor appearances from afar early on, he doesn’t show up until just about the end of the series so it’s not a huge role.
The first half of the series immerses us into Tamako’s life as we see her going through work, home and school and the various interactions, which includes making a friend with another student named Shiori that has her own shyness issues to contend with. There’s a lot of simplicity to things, almost to the point of it being mundane, but it works well because the focus helps to let us the family dynamic that exists. We get good interactive time with Anko and Tamako’s father with some nice familiarity with their grandfather, but we also get some good time with the extended family that exists as the marketplace is made up of that. It’s a real family-community and watching it come together really works well to show why Tamako has as good a foundation as she has. It’s all done in a good, honest and realistic way. Which is why you really, really have to suspend your disbelief in a big way when it comes to Dera as not only do we see Tamako accepting that he’s a pretty smart and conversant bird but pretty much everyone else does. And nobody calls him out on it really as they go on about their days just thinking it’s a little surprising at first and never another thought about it.
Dera is… interesting. He’s a bit full of himself as he considers himself a part of the royal family and he’s on an important mission, which puffs him up all the more since it’s about finding a princess for his prince. But he’s also a creature with an addiction as when he tries the mochi from Tamako’s shop, he falls in love with it and opts to figure out what’s drawing him to this location that reminds him of the prince. That has him living with Tamako and the others and eating a whole lot of mochi, which slowly but sure changes his shape in a cute and fun way. He takes to the market well and inserts himself into the family with ease and it’s fun seeing the way he plumps up, others put him on a diet at times and we see the involvement he has in making sure the family really is a family. I like Dera a lot, but there’s a kind of glossing over of the character and his existence – and some of his quirks – that makes it really had to suspend disbelief quickly or easily.
The second half of the series largely plays the same as the first, but what it changes up is that it brings Choi into the picture as she comes to Japan to find out what Dera is up to. The show spreads its episodes over a good bit of time as nearly a year passes from the first episode to the last and bringing Choi in during the fall works nicely as we see how she integrates with the close-knit family that exists in the marketplace while trying to find out what it is that Dera is doing. Her being there eventually leads to the subplot that you expect of Tamako being called the princess bride to be and that has its own issues, but Choi is a nice character to add to it. Often new characters that come in that late can be problematic or dominate the storyline, but they manage a decent blend here that takes us to the kind of quiet slice of life ending that you’d expect.
Tamako Market is the kind of slice of life show with a bit of the surreal side to things that certainly has its interesting moments but falls short of being a compelling series. Revisiting it again just under two years since the DVD was released is an interesting thing because you find that there’s plenty of familiar, but you end up enjoying the connections and the simplicity more than the bigger storyline that plays out. It’s a good slice of life piece, one that looks even better in high definition, that delves into the mundane side a bit more than you might expect, but it does it to build a good narrative of the external influence on Tamako. Similar to my first experience with it, I feel like I’m more down on this series after watching it than I was while watching it. The series is one that gives us some welcome characters that are lightly fleshed out but are focused on telling the story of an extended family with small reveals that also has a bit of surreal material about it that’s never truly explained. The end result is a little odd, but I like the path it takes, the way the characters act and the overall feelings it generates. But it’s not a series that goes for the hard stuff because there isn’t anything hard here. It’s all light material that accomplishes its goals well but doesn’t quite leave you feeling hugely satisfied.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Web Previews
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.