The Tatami Galaxy (Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei)

(11 episodes, 2010)

My previous exposure

It’s a noitaminA show whose OP sequence was among JesuOtaku’s “best of 2010”. Beyond that, I knew nothing of it.

What’s it about ?

Our unnamed protagonist/narrator is a young college student who has spent the last two years in a quirky club ; he thought that’d be an occasion for socializing and having a great time, but it made him miserable and the only “friend” he made was Ozu, a backstabbing asshole who even looks impish. Well, there’s also this Akashi girl from the engineering department who might be a possible prospect… but our protagonist has by this point made such a mess of his life by this point that he thinks it’s too late to make a move, and really wishes he’d joined another club and never met Ozu.

The joke is that each episode has him joining a different club as he enters college, still meeting Ozu somehow, and still making a mess of his life in a completely different way. The series plays quite a bit on the format, first in #6-8 by having him join three clubs at once (with three different endings to about the same series of events), and then by climaxing in a tale where he never joins any club and things get really weird.

What did I think of it ?

Well, this is certainly a different anime from about everything else I’ve watched. I’m reminded a bit of some of the works of Satoshi Kon, with a stream-of-consciousness kind of storytelling that leaves a lot of room to dreamlike imagery. The character designs are deliberately cartoony, which helps when the plot gradually becomes more insane. I also love the ED sequence, which can only be described as “blueprint porn”, as rooms shuffle around rhythmically and thrust into one another along the tune.

This is a very wordy series. The characters are very talkative, and when they shut up, the protagonist takes over and never lets go. It could be tiring (and it is a bit), but the series is funny enough to get away with it. There are some great gags in every episode, the highlight probably being ep #3’s Cycling Club and its feud with the Illegal Parking Brigade.

What truly makes the series remarkable, though, is that the repetitive structure works. Each episode is different enough to entertain, and through each iteration we get a better handle on the supporting cast and how they all fit together. Especially remarkable is the final reveal about Ozu : he does have a purpose and a plan beyond random mischief, and it’s actually quite endearing. The weakest link may be Akashi, who doesn’t show that much personality beyond “ideal love interest”, but there’s still enough depth in her for the romance not to be forced. (It helps that some episodes have the narrator pursue some completely different women… or approximations thereof.) The ending is a bit weakened by the obviousness of the fractal structure of the narrative being made into the actual text, but there are enough pay-offs to what initially looked like throwaway bouts of weirdness for it to work.

This is a very good show which tried to do something very different from the norm and pulled it off. And it’s a lot of fun, too.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond – Page 7.

Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito)

(26 episodes, 2007)

My previous exposure

Heartily recommended by this thread at least thrice.

What’s it about ?

This is set in the Yogo empire, a parallel version of pre-industrial Japan with a rich spiritual world bubbling under the surface. A good part of the plot revolves on the relatively recent Yogo empire having mostly erased the spiritual knowledge of the previous civilization for political purposes, and having it biting them in the ass.

Case in point : Chagum, the young second son of the Emperor, has become the host of a major water spirit ; the Emperor mistakes it for a demon (because that’s how the faked histories describe it), and engineers “subtle” attempts on his son’s life to get rid of the menace. Chagum’s mother isn’t too keen on that, and hires Balsa, a foreign female bodyguard reputed to be very good at her job, to try and save him. Cue chase scenes and all-too-brief respites in the countryside in between.

Also among the main cast are Shuga, the high priest/diviner (and Chagum’s tutor) who leaked the news about the spirit to the Emperor and really regrets it ; Tanda, Balsa’s not-boyfriend, a skilled herborist who’s really handy to cure her frequent wounds ; and Torogai, Tanda’s teacher in all things spiritual, a wise (and abrasive) old woman who’s one of the few characters with enough knowledge to understand the significance of Chagum’s possession…

Because what Chagum is really carrying inside him is the egg of a water spirit whose rebirth is essential to the cycle of life in the world ; on the other hand, all the data Torogai can gather seems to confirm that Chagum is going to die in the process…

What did I think of it ?

This is a gorgeous show, with tremendous attention to detail. We spend a lot of time with our main characters living quiet lives in the countryside, and all of it feels real and well-researched. The (relatively rare) fight scenes are also impressive, Balsa being the most badass depiction of a spear-carrier I’ve ever seen. I also like that Chagum’s character design slightly changes in the last few episodes to reflect Balsa’s training and growing maturity.

The only false note on the production side is the score ; not that it’s bad (it’s very adept at rendering the atmosphere of a slightly eerie countryside with barely-concealed danger lurking underneath), but because it’s so strongly similar to another Kenji Kawai score from the same time period ; as a result, I was often half-expecting a redhead with a billhook to jump in at any time. That was quite distracting indeed. It’s only within the last few episodes that the soundtrack really manages to rise above this.

The strength of this series is its deep grounding in verisimilitude : all of it feels real, even when the cast is battling giant crablike monsters or sliding into the spiritual world. The society looks real, the politics are depressingly familiar, the characters feel like actual people (even the one-dimensional evil Emperor is a somewhat believable jerkass), and the supernatural elements are carefully and methodically worked in progressively so that they don’t feel jarring. I also enjoyed Chagum’s characterization ; he doesn’t whine, and he’s smart and well-learned. Actually, most of the characters are quite smart, and see reason relatively easily once they get the right information.

And this may be the part that doesn’t quite click : a big part of the plot hinges on the Emperor being a ruthless asshole as the only explanation for why the more reasonable rest of the cast spends so much time blundering about and working at cross purposes. It feels a bit like forced conflict, with the heavy-handed Message that forgetting (or worse, erasing) old knowledge is Wrong.

Still, this is a very entertaining tale that tries very hard to hit a mythic vibe, and mostly succeeds. Not my favourite genre, but it’s so well-done it doesn’t matter.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond – Page 6.

Kyousogiga ONA

(one-shot 25-minute episode, aired on the web a few days ago)

What’s it about ?

A girl has gotten stranded with her two younger brothers on a wacky parallel version of Kyoto. They’re kinda wreaking havoc on it through demented chase scenes, but the higher-ups of the place think she may be the reincarnation of their Divine Creator figure…


Koto, our heroine. Somehow she got her hands on a weird transparent mallet with colored balls inside. Anyway, she wants only one thing : to go home, and doesn’t care about anything else in the plot.

Myoue, one-third of the triad in charge, who took the three siblings under his wing (although the property damage exasperates him a bit). Doesn’t think she’s a reincarnation either.

Yase, the second third of the triad in charge (the third one’s a bit of a non-entity), and the big proponent of the “reincarnation” theory. She really wants to make it work, despite Koto’s obvious disinterest.

By the way, the original Koto was the mother of the triad.

Rounding up the cast are a couple of law enforcement people who are ordered to stand down and can only bemusingly watch Koto and her brothers’ rampage.

Production Values

The selling point here is clearly the demented and hyperactive animation… so it’s then quite a shame for it to air over an eyebleed-o-vision webcast. There was clearly a lot of money spent on this, but it’s wasted on this format. The eventual BluRay should look great, though.

Overall Impression

I have watched a short anime tour-de-force with impressive production values that managed to skillfully and unobtrusively weave exposition about its rich world into an enthralling chase scene. But that was Noiseman Sound Insect, more than a decade ago ; Kyousogiga clearly aims for something similar but doesn’t quite manage it.

I think the problem is that it’s so wrapped up in its energy that it forgets to deliver crucial exposition (Koto is stranded in a parallel workd and wants to go back !) properly until the halfway point ; the stakes are thus muddled for far too long for me to really care. One-note characters are kind of a given in this type of exercise, but they fail to entertain much even on that level.

It’s a shame, because there was potential for a fun mindless piece here ; but the screenplay definitely needed a few rewrites to streamline it and make it more compelling. As it is, it’s just kinda there.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2011 – Page 19.

Fall 2011 capsules

Just watched the first Chibi Devi! episode, although I don’t feel like making a full review. It’s yet another flash-animated 5-minute web-thingie. The premise : a bullied, lonely high-school girl suddenly gets a baby-devil dropped on her. Basically, Beelzebub without the delinquent angle… Frankly, there’s not much of interest there. The protagonist is boring, the jokes aren’t original (or funny), and it barely gets anywhere.

As skippable as any the recent similar stuff.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2011 – Page 9.

High Score

(8 3-minute episodes, airing from late November to January)

What’s it about ?

Cheap-looking adaptation of a 4-koma gag manga about assholes in high school.


Megumi, our “heroine”, an alpha bitch who tramples over everyone else at her school, sometimes literally.

Masamune, her self-centered boyfriend, who devotes his whole screentime mentioning how handsome he is.

Endless scores of one-note victims complete the cast.

Production Values

Over the course of these review threads I’ve seen my share of shoddily-animated shorts, but this one takes the cake. Ugly character designs, barely any animation at all, this just looks awful.

Overall Impression

It is possible for this kind of shorts to be decently entertaining despite the shoe-string budget (Nyaruani was nearly okay on average, for example). There have been a few decent series about utterly unlikeable leads. And I usually like Eri Kitamura quite a bit.

But this is just dire. There’s absolutely nothing to like here ; presumably the lead couple’s antics are supposed to be funny, but there’s just no actual jokes there to be found. There’s jerks for three minutes, and that’s it.

This is not the Worst Anime Ever, because I’ve witnessed stuff where the very premise was loathable. This is just a terribly-looking comedy that utterly fails to be funny. But you shouldn’t really bother with it.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2011 – Page 19.