The Tatami Galaxy
|The Tatami Galaxy|
(Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei)
|Written by||Tomihiko Morimi|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Masaaki Yuasa|
|Written by||Makoto Ueda|
|Music by||Michiru Ōshima|
|Original network||Fuji TV (Noitamina)|
|Original run||April 22, 2010 – July 1, 2010|
The Tatami Galaxy (四畳半神話大系, Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei, literally "4½ Tatami Mythological Chronicles") is a 2004 Japanese campus novel written by Tomihiko Morimi and published by Ohta Publishing. Its first-person narrator is an unnamed upperclassman at a Kyoto university reminiscing on the misadventures of his previous years of campus life, with each of the four chapters taking place in parallel universes in which he is enrolled in a different university society.
The novel was adapted into an 11-episode anime television series by Madhouse directed by Masaaki Yuasa, which aired on Fuji Television's late-night Noitamina programming block from April to July 2010. The novel received a sequel, Tatami Time Machine Blues, in July 2020.
The Tatami Galaxy follows an unnamed third year student at Kyoto University, using parallel universes as a plot device to explore how his life would have differed had he joined a particular campus club (also called a "circle"). The majority of the series' episodes follow the same basic structure: the protagonist joins a circle as a freshman, but is disillusioned when the activity does not lead to the idealized "rose-colored campus life" he dreamed of. He meets Ozu, another student, whose encouragement sets him on a mission of dubious morality. He becomes close to Akashi, a second year engineering student, and makes a promise to her, usually of and within a romantic subtext. He encounters a fortune teller, who cryptically informs him of an opportunity "dangling" in front of his eyes; this prompts him to remember a mochiguman keychain lost by Akashi and recovered by the protagonist, which he leaves hanging from a pull switch in his apartment and perpetually forgets to return to her. The dubious mission ends poorly for the protagonist, causing him to bemoan the state of his life and wonder how things would have differed had he joined a different circle. Time rewinds, and the subsequent episode depicts the protagonist once again as a freshman, joining a different circle.
- Protagonist / "Me" (私, Watashi)
- Voiced by: Shintarō Asanuma
- An unnamed college student in Kyoto reflecting on his past two years of college life. He entered college with dreams of finding a "rose-colored campus life" and the love of a "raven-haired maiden," but is continually disillusioned when he is unable to achieve this ideal. He is shy, self-regarding, and easily manipulated by others.
- Ozu (小津)
- Voiced by: Hiroyuki Yoshino
- A troublemaking student who claims he is bound to the protagonist by the black thread of fate, and who often encourages the protagonist to make morally questionable choices. His mischievous nature is personified in his pale and unsettling appearance, resembling a yōkai.
- Akashi (明石)
- Voiced by: Maaya Sakamoto
- An engineering student who is commonly (but not always) the center of the protagonist's affections, and who often appears in the same club that the protagonist joins. She has a cold and rational personality, but shows hints of softness and helpfulness towards the protagonist. She suffers from a severe fear of moths.
- Seitarō Higuchi (樋口 清太郎, Higuchi Seitarō)
- Voiced by: Keiji Fujiwara
- Though he claims be a god of matchmaking in the first episode, Higuchi — also referred to as Master Higuchi or simply The Master (Shishō) — is an eighth year super senior living in the same dorm as the protagonist. He has a wise, distant, and nonchalant personality, and is always seen wearing a yukata. Higuchi, Hanuki, the ramen stall owner, and Jōgasaki were formerly classmates; Higuchi has an ongoing rivalry with the lattermost called the "proxy-proxy war".
- Masaki Jōgasaki (城ヶ崎 マサキ, Jōgasaki Masaki)
- Voiced by: Junichi Suwabe
- An eighth year super senior and president of the movie circle. Though handsome and popular, he is privately lecherous and owns a love doll named Kaori. He often takes an antagonistic role relative to the protagonist, and is often assisted by Ozu in a way that is detrimental to the protagonist's progress, in spite of the fact that Ozu is helping the protagonist at the same time. Has an ongoing rivalry with Higuchi.
- Ryōko Hanuki (羽貫 涼子, Hanuki Ryōko)
- Voiced by: Yuko Kaida
- A dental hygienist and former classmate of Higuchi and Jōgasaki. A frequent drinker, she drastically loses her sense of judgement when inebriated; aware of this, she is cautious about choosing who she goes drinking with.
- Kaori (香織)
- Voiced by: Mamiko Noto, Nobuyuki Hiyama
- A love doll owned by Jōgasaki.
- Aijima (相島)
- Voiced by: Setsuji Satō
- A subordinate in the film circle who secretly leads the Secret Society Lucky Cat Chinese Restaurant.
- Keiko Higuchi (樋口 景子, Higuchi Keiko)
- A person the protagonist believes to be an elegant girl with whom he exchanges letters. She is actually Akashi, who writes the letters to the protagonist as a prank at Ozu's behest.
- Fortune teller (老婆, Rōba)
- Voiced by: Ako Mayama
- An old woman who appears in every episode, almost always along Kiyamachi Street, and tells the protagonist (often but not always at his behest) to seize the opportunities before him (or a variation thereof). She increases the price for her services by ¥1000 in each subsequent episode.
- Ramen stall owner (猫ラーメン店主, Neko rāmen tenshu)
- Voiced by: Atsushi Miyauchi
- The owner of the ramen shop the protagonist favors. He is mostly silent, occasionally putting in a short, new insight into the protagonist's current conversations or problems. He occasionally takes on a more active helping role in the protagonist's adventures, always on a helpful note.
- Johnny (ジョニー, Jonī)
- Voiced by: Nobuyuki Hiyama
- A cowboy representing the protagonist's libido, who constantly bickers with the protagonist.
The Tatami Galaxy was first released as a novel by Tomihiko Morimi, published in December 2004 as a tankōbon by Ohta Publishing, and republished in March 2008 as a bunkoban by Kadokawa Shoten. The novel was translated into Korean by Viche in August 2008, traditional Chinese by China Times Publishing in December 2009, and simplified Chinese by Shanghai People's Publishing House in August 2010. The 2006 Morimi novel The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl has the same setting and some recurring characters.
The novel received a sequel, titled Tatami Time Machine Blues (四畳半タイムマシンブルース, Yojōhan Time Machine Blues, literally "4½ Tatami Time Machine Blues"), which was released on July 29, 2020.
A television adaptation of The Tatami Galaxy was produced by Madhouse, with Masaaki Yuasa as director, Makoto Ueda as screenwriter, and Michiru Ōshima as composer. The series premiered on April 22, 2010 as a part of Fuji TV's noitamina programming block. Two pieces of theme music are used for the series: "Maigoinu to Ame no Beat" by Asian Kung-Fu Generation as the opening theme, and "Kami-sama no Iutōri (神様のいうとおり, "As God Dictates") by Etsuko Yakushimaru as the closing theme.
Three seven-minute shorts were included with the DVD and Blu-ray release of the series. The first DVD/BD volume was released on August 20, 2010 and contained the first short; the second and third shorts were released on the third and fourth DVD/BD volumes on October 22, 2010 and November 26, 2010, respectively.
In North America the series was simulcast by Funimation, and licensed by Beez Entertainment in the United Kingdom. In June 2019, Funimation announced the release of the series on Blu-ray and DVD with subtitles only on September 3.
|#||Title||Storyboard artist||Episode director||Original air date|
|1||"Tennis Circle "Cupid""|
"Tenisu Sākuru "Kyūpiddo"" (テニスサークル「キューピッド」)
|Masaaki Yuasa||Masaaki Yuasa||April 22, 2010|
|At a ramen stall behind Shimogamo Shrine, the protagonist meets Higuchi, who claims he is a god of matchmaking and that Akashi will be bound to either the protagonist or Ozu. The protagonist reflects on joining the tennis circle as a freshman, only to become embittered upon learning its membership was composed entirely of couples; abetted by Ozu, he spent the next two years sabotaging the relationships of his clubmates. He came to like Akashi, and had promised her to take her to the ramen stall behind the shrine. Higuchi tells the protagonist to confess his feelings to Akashi during Gozan no Okuribi, but he fails to do so.|
|2||"Film Circle "Misogi""|
"Eiga Sākuru "Misogi"" (映画サークル「みそぎ」)
|Akitoshi Yokoyama||Akitoshi Yokoyama||April 29, 2010|
|The protagonist joins the movie circle, but his ideas for films are rejected by Jogasaki, the circle’s president. Encouraged by Ozu, the protagonist spends the next two years shooting a documentary exposing the worst aspects of Jogasaki's character, including his love doll Kaori. He becomes fond of Akashi, the only member of the circle who takes an interest in his films, but she rebuffs him upon seeing the exposé.|
|3||"Cycling Association "Soleil""|
"Saikuringu Dōkōkai "Soreiyu"" (サイクリング同好会「ソレイユ」)
|Ryōtarō Makihara||Ryōtarō Makihara||May 6, 2010|
|The protagonist joins the cycling club, but is too frail to be competitive in races. He spends the next two years saving money to buy a road bike, but it is stolen. Akashi recruits the protagonist to be the pilot of the birdman glider she is building; the protagonist trains under Jogasaki to prepare for the event, but his increased musculature makes him too heavy for the glider. When Ozu attempts to steal the glider, it slips down a grade towards a pond. The protagonist attempts to steer the plane to safety, but instead crashes it.|
"Deshi Motomu" (弟子求ム)
|Akitoshi Yokoyama||Akitoshi Yokoyama||May 13, 2010|
|The protagonist and Ozu become disciples of Higuchi, who over the course of two years makes them do a variety of mundane tasks. The protagonist’s final task is to find a mythical tortoise brush that can purportedly clean anything; he is aided by Akashi, also a disciple of Higuchi. Upon finding the brush, Higuchi reveals that he has chosen the protagonist as his successor to carry on a “proxy proxy war” with Jogasaki, the original cause of which has become lost to time. Jogasaki chooses Ozu as his successor, who is revealed to have been a double agent all along.|
|5||"Softball Circle "Honwaka""|
"Sofutobōru Sākuru "Honwaka"" (ソフトボールサークル「ほんわか」)
|Hiroshi Hamasaki||Tomoya Takahashi||May 20, 2010|
|The protagonist joins the softball team, but finds that the outward kindness of its membership mask their hive mind and cult-like tendencies. The team is owned by a health food company, and the protagonist falls for the company owner’s daughter; he spends the next two years buying a large volume of the company’s products, before being invited to visit their factory. The company owner believes that the world will end in 2012 and has built a Noah's Ark, which is subsequently stolen and crashed by Ozu. The protagonist and Ozu flee the factory, and are rescued by the ramen shop owner.|
|6||"English Conversation Circle "JoEnglish""|
"Eikaiwa Sākuru "Joingurisshu"" (英会話サークル「ジョイングリッシュ」)
|Shingo Natsume||Shingo Natsume||May 27, 2010|
|The protagonist joins three circles as a freshman, one of which is the English Conversation Circle. He becomes close to Hanuki, a fellow member of the club, while simultaneously living with Kaori the love doll and exchanging letters with a girl named Keiko. One night, he must choose between getting drinks with Hanuki, spending time with Kaori before returning her to Jogasaki, or meeting Keiko in person. He chooses Hanuki, and after a night of heavy drinking, ends up at her apartment. To the chagrin of Johnny, the personification of the protagonist’s libido, he chooses to not reciprocate Hanuki’s inebriated flirting and returns home.|
|7||""Hero Show Association" Circle"|
"Sākuru "Hiro Shō Dōkōkai"" (サークル「ヒーローショー同好会」)
|Michio Mihara||Michio Mihara||June 3, 2010|
|The second of the three clubs joined by the protagonist in the previous episode is the Hero Show Association, where he dresses as a costumed character and performs for children. During one show, the protagonist intervenes when Akashi is harassed by two men. This attracts the attention of Jogasaki, who hires the protagonist to be Kaori’s bodyguard. The protagonist again faces the choice of which of the three women he will spend the night with; he chooses Kaori and attempts to elope with her, but once again is berated by Johnny when he hesitates in consummating his desires. Jogasaki, who has been informed of the protagonist’s actions by Ozu, finds the protagonist, kicks him away, and takes Kaori back.|
|8||"Reading Circle "SEA""|
"Dokusho Sākuru "SEA"" (読書サークル「SEA」)
|Hiroshi Shimizu||Junichi Fujise||June 10, 2010|
|The third of the three clubs joined by the protagonist is the Reading Circle, where Ozu lends him a novel inscribed with the name and address of Keiko, its previous owner. Keiko and the protagonist exchange letters over the subsequent two years, before she invites them to meet. Once again, the protagonist faces a choice between the three women; he goes to Keiko’s apartment, only to find Ozu instead. Akashi appears and explains that she wrote the letters at Ozu’s behest as a prank; though Ozu eventually tired of the prank, she continued to write the letters in earnest as thanks for when the protagonist saved her at the Hero Show. The protagonist returns home, where he is lectured by Johnny for not asking Akashi out.|
|9||"Secret Society "Lucky Cat Chinese Restaurant""|
"Himitsu Kikan "Fukuneko Hanten"" (秘密機関「福猫飯店」)
|Akitoshi Yokoyama||Akitoshi Yokoyama||June 17, 2010|
|As a freshman, the protagonist joins a secret society that organizes the dubious campus activities seen in the previous episodes. While the protagonist fails in the various missions the society assigns him, Ozu is incredibly effective and eventually becomes the leader of the society. Under Ozu, the protagonist rises through the ranks of the society, but still feels dissatisfied with life; Higuchi explains this is because the perfect, idealized campus life he is searching for does not actually exist. In the depths of his depression, the protagonist discovers that Ozu has a girlfriend; he is dismayed to learn that Ozu, who always seemed to be wasting time, has truly enjoyed his college years. The protagonist declares that he should simply stay in his 4½ tatami room; unlike in every episode prior, time does not rewind.|
|10||"The 4½ Tatami Ideologue"|
"Yōjōhan Shugisha" (四畳半主義者)
|Choi Eun-young||Choi Eun-young||June 24, 2010|
|Disillusioned by the discovery that a perfect life does not exist, the protagonist joins no clubs as a freshman, choosing instead to spend all of his free time in his 4½ tatami room. He awakens one morning to discover that he is surrounded by an infinite number of seemingly identical rooms behind every door, window, and wall. It transpires that the rooms bear slight variations, each corresponding to a parallel universe determined by the choices he could have (and has) made throughout the series. Overwhelmed by loneliness, the protagonist collapses. Once again, time does not rewind.|
|11||"The End of the 4½ Tatami Age"|
"Yōjōhanki no Owari" (四畳半紀の終わり)
|Masaaki Yuasa||Masaaki Yuasa||July 1, 2010|
|Still trapped in the tatami world, the protagonist continues to search for an exit to no avail, eventually returning to the room he started from. Upon noticing that Akashi's lost mochiguman hangs from the ceiling in every room, he realizes that he loves Akashi. As he makes this realization, a swarm of moths appear, which knock him back to the night of Gozan no Okuribi depicted in the first episode. Back in reality, he rescues Ozu from by the various groups he has wronged throughout the series, and asks Akashi out to the ramen shop after returning her mochiguman. The protagonist moves out of the 4½ tatami room, and begins to date Akashi. The protagonist and Akashi visit Ozu and, in a mirrored version of their conversation from the first episode, the protagonist offers to lend assistance to Ozu.|
The Tatami Galaxy won the grand prize in the animation category at the 14th Japan Media Arts Festival on December 8, 2010, making it the first animated television series to win the award, with the jury describing the series in their justification as a "richly expressive work that turns the limitations of TV on its head" and complimenting its "unique scene layouts, characters' actions and color scheme." It also won the Television Category award at the 10th Tokyo Anime Awards in 2011.
In 2019, Polygon staff named The Tatami Galaxy as one of the best anime of the 2010s; writer Julia Lee commented, "This is my all-time favorite anime. It's wordy, it's fun, and it has this great, over exaggerated art style". In a 2019 Forbes's article about the best anime of the 2010s decade, Lauren Orsini considered it to be one of the five best anime of 2010; she wrote, "With thoughtful wordplay and deep insight into the human condition, this bildungsroman bridges fantasy and reality with a cast of characters just on the other side of absurd".
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