Tatami Galaxy is a strange story about a young, nameless college student in relentless pursuit of the “rose-coloured campus life”. This wish, to spend his college years luxuriating in a circle of his choosing, surrounded by a bevy of raven-haired maidens, is not easily fulfilled, however, as our protagonist repeatedly finds himself in all kinds of trouble and wishing that he could start over and do things differently. The show takes a strange turn when our protagonist does just that. But will a different set of choices lead to a different set of results? And will our protagonist finally be able to lead a worthwhile college life and make that all-important love connection? You’d have to watch the show to find out! In the meantime, please check out the following review!
What I like most about Tatami Galaxy is that its protagonist, like many of us, romanticises the idea of college, seeing it as an opportunity to reinvent himself and form the relationships that he’ll carry with him into the rest of his life. With these very familiar concepts Tatami Galaxy could very well have been your run-of-the-mill slice-of-life anime, but, thanks to its unusual non-linear narrative, it’s something else entirely!
Our protagonist doesn’t travel through time to relive his college years, as such. Rather, each episode, bar two, are standalone episodes, set in different, parallel worlds and featuring separate (though equally pompous) versions of our protagonist. Whilst his choices, what circle to join, who to associate with, etc. differ from episode to episode, the end result is usually the same: complete and utter disaster, to the point where you’re left wondering, maybe it’s not his circumstances that are the problem, but him! Anyway, though each episode features a different parallel world, or *ahem* galaxy, the rather introspective two-part finale ties all of them together in a way that’s extremely satisfying. Our protagonist is put in the position to reflect on his choices, on his character, and what he really wants out of life.
As you can probably tell, I like Tatami Galaxy’s unconventional approach to storytelling, however, it’s not for everybody. Given that the setting of each episode is the same, with only minor variations to its theme (the circles that our protagonist joins) and characters, you will frequently find yourself treading familiar ground in terms of key events and interactions. If you’re somebody who dislikes flashbacks in an anime, this show is probably not for you. Not to mention that Tatami Galaxy is extremely dialogue-heavy and that that dialogue is incredibly fast-paced. Think Speedy Gonzales, but on crack! This show is not something you want to watch unless you’re switched on and ready to focus.
Tatami Galaxy is made up of an extremely colourful cast of characters, many of whom are caricatures of the kinds of people you actually meet in college. The party girl, the eternal student, the one who never attends class, yet inexplicably succeeds in all that they do – they’re all there! My favourites include Akashi-san, our protagonist’s straight-talking underclassman and crush, and Ozu, our protagonist’s closest friend/enemy(it’s not immediately obvious which category he falls under). Akashi-san’s sullen towards those in desperate need of an ego check, but personable towards society’s outcasts, making her incredibly likable, whereas Ozu’s like the friend who’s always giving you terrible advice and egging you on to pull the craziest, most dangerous stunts, but, for some strange reason, you keep around anyway.
Funnily enough, our protagonist’s delusions of grandeur, which are in stark contrast with his inability to take action when necessary and accept personal responsibility for his choices, make him the least likable of the bunch! Though this is not necessarily a bad thing! Many of us possess the exact same flaws. This makes him fairly easy to relate to. Not to mention that these flaws are what continually drives the story forward, placing our protagonist in some very unfortunate (albeit entertaining) predicaments. Additionally, the viewing experience is made all the more satisfying when these flaws are finally laid bare for him to see and address.
Tatami Galaxy’s uniqueness doesn’t stop at its storytelling. It also has an extremely distinct look to it. The fellow responsible for its character designs, Yosuke Nakamura, is an accomplished illustrator, responsible for many of Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s CD covers, among other things. His character designs, devoid of any shading whatsoever, are incredibly colourful and eye-catching. They absolutely pop against the background, especially during segments in which the show uses live-action backgrounds.
To conclude, Tatami Galaxy is an extremely enjoyable show. It takes themes, a setting, and character archetypes that we are all familiar with and mixes these things together with an unusual narrative structure and art style, resulting in a show that is paradoxically familiar, yet unlike anything you’ve ever seen. If you’re a fan of director Masaaki Yuasa’s other, equally as peculiar works of art, including Kaiba and Trapeze, or enjoy clever character and dialogue-driven shows like Bakemonogatari, you’ll definitely like Tatami Galaxy!