On the surface, this show might give off the impression of being yet another rom-com or slice of life featurette. But, Tatami Galaxy by Masaaki Yuasa is much more than that. While the overall story is grounded in reality, (with slight science-fiction undertones) it is quite a mentally enthralling coming-of-age anime. It’s thematically ingenious, poignantly introspective, and something that leaves a long-lasting impression on you for quite a long time.
A notable pet peeve I have with some anime shows that I’ve watched in the past is how the opening episodes is sort of treated as a one-off thing and ignored for the rest of the series, or when it overpromises by starting off with a bang and then ends up gradually getting worse towards the conclusion. Thankfully, I never experienced this issue with Tatami Galaxy since my eyes were intently glued for all of the episodes. You constantly get aurally barraged by an undulating stream of consciousness emanating from a young college student that thinks faster than an Eminem freestyle. The main protagonist, Watashi, is overly contemplative and maybe even a tad bit insecure, but he never comes off as pompous or overbearing since he’s just venting his internal anxieties rather than trying to make you believe that he’s a self-assured macho man.
On a visual standpoint, Tatami Galaxy does appear a bit minimalistic and barebones at first; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But after I allowed a couple of episodes to sink in, I found the quirky aesthetic and it’s heavy emphasis on colors to be absolutely spellbinding. And in my opinion, I think this is one of the best works in anime in terms of artistic merit. The backdrops in this show aren’t there just to simply serve as eye-candy for the viewers, or to try and distract you from any deficiencies that the anime might have. The art and colors in Tatami Galaxy do a fantastic job of symbolically encapsulating Watashi’s fickle state of mind without coming off as heavy-handed. This is a teeny tiny nuance that I wish more anime productions would do in the future. The soundtrack is also heavenly and really fits well in every scene whenever it is utilized. Musically speaking, the compositions really capture the ambience and themes of the series to an amazing degree, and it always played at the right moment; it never ended abruptly or sounded off-putting.
Tatami Galaxy also does an excellent job when it comes to developing the side characters. More often than not, the secondary characters in shows are usually just cardboard cutouts of typical tropes within anime, or they are just basically there as plot devices to keep the story fluidly moving along. There are a plenty of characters here that never felt out of place, and some of them may linger on your mind long after you’ve finished watching this anime since they each change over time to some degree and don’t stay static.
On another note, this is one of the few anime shows where the episodic structure is actually handled exceptionally well towards the last episode; the only other one I can think of at the top of my head is Higurashi. While it is episodic, I feel like the episodes do sort of tie in and subtly segue together since alternate realties is a theme that is covered in Tatami Galaxy. Overall, the ending left me with a feeling of content conclusiveness, which is something that I rarely feel towards slice of life anime shows.
While I believe that the overall message of this show is totally open to a wide array of interpretations, I think the underlying motif within the entirely of Tatami Galaxy is to not be afraid of making some mistakes in life. The main character initially believed that it was always important to make sound decisions in order to lead a fulfilling life, so he either made or avoided a decision with a sense of meek trepidation. But in retrospect, he comes to the realization that even some of the errors or untimely decisions you make can also be a positive and help you grow as an individual at some later point in time.
All in all, I think Tatami Galaxy is an outstanding show and easily one of the best titles in anime altogether. The only potential downside I can think of is the rapid-fire delivery of the internal monologues from Watashi; you will probably need to pause every now and then unless you are a very fast reader or well-versed in Japanese. Tatami Galaxy melds together inventive storytelling and unconventional yet dazzling visuals to create something that will stand the test of time. This anime is totally worth your time, and I’m excited to see whatever Masaaki Yuasa makes in the near future.