What They Say:
College is full of opportunities to leave one’s comfort zone. One third-year student is constantly fantasizing about how his life might differ had he joined various campus circles—chasing, with mixed results, an idealistic rose-colored campus life where romance, friendships, and purpose fuse into a perfect university experience… at least until bad luck, questionable decisions, and dubious relationships enter the mix!
The audio presentation brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. No dub was produced for the show so we get just the one language here. The series has its moments where it goes kind of big and crazy but the swells come more from the music than sound effects and it gives it a really good feeling overall. The bulk of the show is dialogue but it handles the placement of it well with some very creative scenes thanks to the style of the show. The mix handles the highs and lows well and there’s some good directionality along the way as well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/two format with the extras kept to the second disc. Animated by Madhouse, the series goes for a distinctive style that we saw with a lot of the early noitaminA series and it’s definitely a delight with the character designs being more fluid, the color palette softer and working its own angle. The end result is a show that doesn’t look like everything else that would air in a given night and there’s a lot of appeal in that. The encoding captures it well as it has a slightly flatter look to it with the colors looking solid and clean and no visible breakup or motion noise that proved problematic during regular playback. It’s great to own it and to have it looking as good as it does here.
The packaging for this release is great as we get a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case the holds the two DVDs and two Blu-rays on hinges inside. The set come with an o-card for the first pressings where it’s designed the same as the cover but each uses different artwork within from the Japanese key visuals. These are busy and crazy with all that it has and it looks wonderfully distinctive and engaging as it’s unlike anything else you’ll have on your shelf. The white border helps to highlight things all the more and the end result is something very eye-catching. The back covers are the same with a lot of white for the background with the summary for it in black over that. The shots from the show are colorful and there are some nice nods to the creator’s other works that should draw people in. The extras are clearly listed and the technical grid breaks everything down clearly and accurately – but that’s also the only place it really says that it’s a Japanese-only release, which might catch some people off guard. While there are no show related inserts we do get artwork on the reverse side that brings out two more of the Japanese covers for it.
The menu design for the release goes with the static image approach and that works just fine as we get our core cast of characters used with their simple but effective designs. It’s just them standing there set against the white backgruond while we get the logo along the top and Masaaki Yuasa’s name along with it as well which is a nice touch since this is so distinctively his series. The navigation along the bottom is basic with the selections since there are no language options and the first disc doesn’t have any extras either. Setup is quick and easy and the menu functions well as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are pretty nice as we get the promos from the Japanese side and a fun piece where we’re taken to places within the show from Kyoto so we can see what they look like in real-life compared to the animation itself. Nobody was expecting much for extras at this stage but these are welcome to have.
Based on a novel by Morimi Tomihiko, Tatami Galaxy is most definitely an intriguing show based on its visuals alone, as well as its overall sense of style. Produced by Madhouse, it wants to be very artistic and creative in its approach as it uses a variety of animation styles as well as heavily filtered live-action bits to tell the story of an unnamed young college student in search of love. At first, it seems like we may get an episodic series about different things but this episode at least goes into the second one as we don’t get any conclusion here, but rather a surprisingly amusing cliffhanger.
Tatami Galaxy revolves around a young man who is never named here as he initially meets another man at the Neko Ramen cart who casually tells him that he’s a god of the Shimogamo shrine and knows all about this young man. He rattles off a lengthy list of things that hits home for the student and then informs him that he’s the patron god of matrimony there. The student’s life has been difficult when it comes to love and he’s had no luck at all since entering college. Much of that stems from being socially awkward and not knowing how to fit into the various circles, especially in the tennis circle that he joins. What makes his life even more difficult is that he befriended another social outcast named Ozu and the two decided to become the Black Cupid’s of the school, spending their time causing trouble for others and breaking up relationships while cutting the red string of fate for them.
As much as he does enjoy this though, he’s still looking for his raven-haired beauty to spend his life with. What the god, Kamotake, informs him is that he’s currently deciding on where the young engineering student named Akashi should end up. The choice said god is making is between Ozu and this unnamed student (and it’s terribly awkward never having a name for him!). The first half of the episode revolves around the flashbacks to his life with Ozu and the bad times he suffered through at the school while the second half has him coping with what he’s learned from Kamotake and then getting closer to Akashi without even realizing that he is. It’s really interesting to watch the two of them, mostly because Akashi has an interesting offbeat personality while also having some mild interest in him through her own somewhat awkward social interactions.
This episode has the nameless one joining the movie circle in which he tries to participate to the best of his abilities, but he finds that the whole thing is run like a dictatorship. The senior student, an eight-year named Jougasaki, treats the whole circle like his own little kingdom. He’s gone so far in the past as to have all the girls go topless in order to judge who would be good for a role, though nothing requiring nudity or any kind of cleavage-ranking would be needed for it. Seeing what Jougasaki is doing and feeling for his own humiliation as well as other freshmen, the nameless one proceeds to be goaded into action by Ozu to film the dastardly things that Jougasaki does and to build a movie out of it that will be shown in place of the official one the circle is working on.
Admittedly, the movie that they create is pretty hilarious as Jougasaki leads quite the life that’s easy to make fun of considering how popular he is. Anyone who does a lot of what he does would be ripe for it. The film doesn’t go over well with some, notably Akashi at first, but eventually, it leads to her and the nameless one getting closer. If it wasn’t obvious earlier in the episode, it should be now that the series is likely to be a series of quasi-Groundhog Days where the nameless student experiences different aspects of college life until he finds what he’s truly looking for. With several scenes being identical to the first episode in how they play out, just in different settings, it has the potential to be intriguing to see how the nameless one lives through all these possibilities. But it also could burn out its interesting elements quickly and become little more than a gimmick.
With the first two circles dealt with, our lead has been rebooted into starting his college career again and this time deciding that bicycling will be his thing. His goal is, of course, the same in that it’s all about finding the right girl to do these bike rides with and to have that young romance that will make his college days sparkle. And just like his previous circle experiences, Ozu is again at hand as a friend of the lead’s who does nothing but cause trouble. Our nameless young man hasn’t been doing so well in the circle and often can’t keep up with everyone else who is all above and beyond into cycling, which has him feeling very left out from events. And that just leaves him spending his time with Ozu.
His cycling life goes horribly for a number of reasons and he’s finally ready to chuck it all when he meets Akashi. She ends up recruiting him for the Team Birdman project in which a number of students are creating a flying vehicle that needs a weak and meek pilot that can handle things. With the potential for a love interest, but also feeling like he’s been forced into things, our lead starts going through various training exercises in order to pilot the craft. Everything goes awry, but surprisingly, Ozu is pretty low key throughout this and ends up not being all that involved until the last few minutes of the episode where his role in the grand scheme of things is revealed. It’s not a surprise but it was pleasant not having to listen to him for a good chunk of the episode. And when that’s the saving grace of a show, you know you’re in trouble.
To some degree, this kind of defines a large chunk of the series as he goes through these different experiences and gets close but not quite, discovering new things along the way. Each offers its own unique take even while doing the familiar. One episode I really liked was the sixth one where the rose-colored glasses are out again as our nameless lead has ended up in a new club, this time an English Language Conversation Club. Since it’s one of the more prominent languages across multiple lands and he wants to up his chances of meeting beautiful women this way. With his push into this particular club, he once again comes across the creepy looking Ozu who easily finds himself able to wheedle his way into the leads life and begins to twist and corrupt everything that he gets into. It’s a very, very, very familiar routine at this point and there aren’t any significant changes to the overall idea and you can feel yourself almost tuning it out some as we see it every episode.
Much of the overall concept is the same here as we see our lead going through the motions of trying to get close to a particular woman, this time Hanuki of the English conversation club, and invariably things don’t go well and Ozu gets involved in some way that makes it even worse. What’s amusing about this one, in particular, is that because it is an English conversation club, we do get a fair number of lines spoken in English which obviously sound amusing, much as my own spoken Japanese would amuse a native there. These moments are relatively few though in the overall scope of the episode and it actually feels like we spend more time in the drinking contest he gets into with Jogusaki than the English conversation side.
While our lead gets closer to actually getting some this time around than ever before, so much of this episode feel even more of a mishmash of different things than it has in the previous five. It’s all over the map, largely from his drinking so much early on, and it mixes in different animation styles in order to showcases how out and out crazy his view of the world is. While there is definitely an appeal in Tatami Galaxy acting a bit more mature this time around as Hanuki is ready to take him completely, it’s done in that over the top way that turns it into a farce, which is fine, but it just adds to the way the show is completely intent on just continually beating down the lead and never giving him any real sense of hope during any of his attempted club moments.
As it moves toward the finale, Tatami Galaxy pulls back a huge layer of itself in the last episode as our lead started moving across the various parallel worlds that are connected via his small 4.5 tatami room. Taking us into these parallel worlds and giving reason for what is happening, though not the why, Tatami Galaxy became an interesting series here toward the end as it played in a very fun realm, albeit a bit too late in my mind. With the discovery made and attempts at contacting his other selves having ended badly, for the most part, he’s now just wandering the halls of all of them in some effort to discern the small differences that make up each of these selves so he can understand what it is that’s failing across all of them.
The realization that Ozu may be at the crux of his problems is a difficult one as he looks through the various lives. In nearly all of them, it comes across that Ozu is the only friend he’s really had but also the one that’s causing the most trouble for him, taking an otherwise happy campus life and throwing it out the window to something far more difficult and problematic. Discovering Ozu’s phone has him understanding all the things that Ozu has ended up with in our leads place and the kind of crazy schemes he’s come up with as well. Very little about Ozu is on the up and up and the lead’s discovery of his phone and these key bits of information hasn’t changed much since he’s not sure what’s really real in a way.
As more events dawn on him, he starts to realize what he’s really been looking for all this time and comes up with a creative way to escape all the 4.5 tatami rooms that he’s traveled through now that he’s back at the start. His return to what he thinks is the real world is fascinating when he strolls along the outside and everyone he sees briefly showcases their various outfits across multiple parallel worlds. Taking us back to the beginning at first with the original storyline we had seen, there’s a nice bit of closure with that in a sense as our lead is now watching it from the outside as Ozu is bouncing around in his dress and he sees all the familiar characters that have populated the series since then. It’s interesting to see this particular story followed through further past where it was before and understand it as a way for our lead to finally move forward after doing something good for someone else.
Tatami Galaxy was a rough show when I first started watching it until I got into the rhythm of what it was trying to do and then enjoyed the individual stories more. It’s one where a binge works just as well as parceling out depending on how much of what happens you want to let sink in individually with each story. Revisiting the show again has been fun since once you know the trick you start to look for more of the details or play more what-if games with various subplots that come up for it. Funimation’s release is definitely welcome since it’s been almost a decade since it first aired and we’ve had only streaming for it since then. It’s a niche show but it’s a hell of a niche show coming from a creator behind a number of engaging and strong anime feature films. While there are struggles to have with it and not everything will work for everyone, this is something that’s definitely worth going all-in on.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Europe Kikaku’s Guide to Kyoto, Promo Videos, Commercials
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Running Time: 275 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.