I’ve watched quite a large number of anime series over my few years as a hard-core otaku, and with such a number, I’ve found there are quite a few very memorable ones. I’m not just talking about series that are so epic and thrilling that I’m glued to my seat as I watch them. I’m not just talking about series that provoke me to contemplate the mysteries of life and the world. I’m not talking about anime that shake the otaku community with awe and are considered by many to be the best anime ever. Of course these series are incredible and are certainly worth watching. But even some of the greatest series, I tend to forget them over time. Maybe that’s just how it is with life. Maybe I just have a really crappy memory. But in any case, there are some series that just have a massive impact on me, for better or for worse, and I can never shake off how this series has managed to hit me so hard.
The most recent one to add this list is Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy). This series premiered and wrapped up its eleven episode run in this spring anime season, and while being such a fascinating series, did not get the attention it deserved across the otaku Internet community. This series, while not breathtaking in art style, usually something I highly value in an anime, struck me as brilliant and one-of-a-kind through its brilliant plot, told by the narrator, at a pace that would make a Kenyan sprinter at full-speed look like he’s doing a light jog. And what a story it was.
Two years after entering college, our protagonist (who remains unnamed) meets a self-proclaimed deity of marriage at an eccentric ramen stall. The deity tells our protagonist that he is to partner off the protagonist to a lady friend our protagonist is familiar with, although it’s a split choice between our protagonist and his... friend, Ozu. The deity offers our protagonist the choice of who to pair, which causes our protagonist to think back to his early days as a college freshman.
By the way, that doesn’t describe the series at all. To properly explain the premise of the series would require spoiling some of the finer cleverness of the series, something which I refuse to do. Well, you should be satisfied with the premise of the first episode.
Beyond the fascinating plot and the clever way the series ties everything together in the end, the characters were also a large reason for why the series has become such a beloved one for me. To begin with, our protagonist, nicknamed Watashi by the fanbase (those who know rudimentary Japanese will get the humour in this), is one of the most interesting main characters I’ve ever met. He’s introduced as basically the anthropomorphic realization of all the feelings people have when they enter college (similar to the ones I felt entering high school): hopes and aspirations for an exciting new life. He rushes in, not paying attention to the little things he’s passing, only focusing on his goal of a “rose-coloured campus life.” Life however, as usual, does not live up to his standards. From there he grows more cynical, never giving up on his dream goal, but also never stopping to look around and think why he’s unhappy.
Well, that’s not entirely true. When he does stop to think, he almost always immediately places the blame for his current predicament on his almost-constant companion, Ozu, a strange young man with a face of a youkai and a mischievous streak a light year long. While Ozu enjoys teasing Watashi for his faults however, he also stays by Watashi through thick and thin, and could probably be considered Watashi’s only real friend. Ozu does enjoy causing troubling pranks though, such as firing fireworks at a couple party on a beach, which Watashi participates in, only to blame Ozu for the trouble it causes him.
And what of Watashi’s lovely lady friend, the European fortress of a woman, Akashi? An incredible woman of confidence, who’s the kind of person that if she wants to do something, she goes a head and does it. No hesitation. She never plays the damsel-in-distress, and instead is a rare, but personal favourite, character in anime: a woman who never needs a male to save them from some problem. Well, usually, she does have a terrifying fear of moths, but even then, she forgoes men to squeeze her cute little keychain accessories.
Aside from the unique and loveable main trio, there’s also a large number of supporting characters, from a breast-loving egotistical idiot to a female dentist (who I swear has a fetish for teeth). My personal favourite was an eccentric eighth-year college student by the name of Higuchi, who moves through the series with immense momentum; moving along at his own pace and pleasure, but occasionally offering some of the series’ most important speeches and morals. This man is the physical embodiment of easygoing.
What’s curious about this show is how it changed my opinion of it itself. As I said above, this series is not high-quality in any way concerning art style. In fact, because of its art style, I found myself ready to drop this series after five minutes. However, I stuck through with finishing it, and by the end of the episode I found myself fascinated by the series. It’s the fastest turn-around I’ve ever experienced watching a series. And you know what? By the end of the series, I found the art actually endearing and suiting the series perfectly. I suppose you could say it’s the minimalistic honesty of the art. Or maybe not.
All in all, this series is one that deserves attention. It carries strong themes that while being some of the most clichéd themes in fiction, like how it’s not the destination which matters, it’s the journey, are taken and thrown around in a washing machine, coming out as a fresh and original anime, one that been cemented as one of my favourite anime. It’s not everyday you find an anime as unique as this one, and it’s certainly worth the time to watch.