Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei: Letting our inner moths out of Tatami Galaxy

July 3, 2010

Moths are pitiful creatures. They are nocturnal, yet require light to navigate. They flutter their wings gracefully under moonlight, but sometimes that beautiful luminance seems so far and out of reach. And the night is cold and dark. They will flock instead to closer source of man-made light, even at the consequence of meeting their inevitable demise, sharing the same tragic fate of Icarus.

People too can be pitiful sometimes. When life gets tough and one starts losing his rose-tinted visions of life, he blinds himself from the truth and begins to see what he only wants to see: that the reality sucks, rosy university campus life can never exist in real life, especially if you are forced to associate yourself with failures like Ozu, free-loading bums like Higuchi, perverts like Jougasaki and drunkards like Hanuki! So he shuts himself, alone appreciating the comfort of his fixated 4.5 Tatami room.

But perhaps there is honesty in Ozu's pranks, devotion to Jougasaki's perversion, pure feelings behind Hanuki's habits, learning to be found in Higuchi's loafing.

The real beauty of tatami mats is that they can be arranged differently to form various spatial qualities, like how people have numerous dimensions to them. If only Watashi approached Ozu from different angle and understood his motivations, and later empathise with how lively his campus life has been, or just how damn far he would go to achieve all this instead of lamenting about reality by himself…then maybe he could have spent 2 years of his campus life with his best friend. If only he chose to grab that opportunity dangling right in front of his nose, maybe he could have had 2 years of rose-tinted romance with Akashi instead of exchanging fake letters. Instead, he was blinded by the delusional comfort this exchange of fake letters offered him and chose to fall deeper and deeper to its allure, like a moth’s destructive flight towards the flame.

So why not take your first step and grab that thread of opportunity, which has always been dangling in front of you? Find the courage and turn off the light that has pulling you towards deeper despair. Do not beg for the hands of time to turn back so you can put your life back on right track, because no matter how many times, how many parallel worlds, nothing’s going to change if you remain blind to the comfort and allure of your enclosed world. Draw your most honest and suppressed feelings out and scream to your heart’s content. Run towards those that are important to you like you’ve never ran before and embrace it to your heart’s content.

As I followed Watashi’s running before he passionately leaped towards what was most important to him, the anime showed a glimpse of a swan taking flight. It was majestic and beautiful. The vice that has been squeezing my heart from following Watashi’s depressing tatami galaxy was lifted, and my tears were flowing at surrendering myself to what was one of the most powerfully cathartic climax in cinema. A most satisfying ending to a brilliantly crafted series. Masaki Yuasa the Chameleon has yet again dramatically transformed his style of direction to present us with a work of more humour, velocity, and (as always) unique visual aesthetics. But beneath the stylistic skin lies the same Yuasa that captivated us in his previous works, the kind of force powerful enough to make you cry for repulsive characters like Vanilla (Kaiba) and Ozu. Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei is an honest look at a part of human nature through the introspective character study of Watashi, prompting us to let our inner moths burst forward, not hovering around the yojo-han shinwa taikei we trap ourselves into. Because the possibility of arranging our tatami mats is endless and beautiful.

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18 Responses to “Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei: Letting our inner moths out of Tatami Galaxy”

  1. Celeste Says:

    :)

    Honestly, much as I’ve loved Tatami Galaxy, I actually find it hard to watch. Watashi, true to his role as the everyman hits close to home for me – a university student who often feels like the world is running a little too fast as he tries desperately to catch up.

    You’re right, too. The ending was nothing short of beautiful, cathartic, and well-planned. Kyoto’s Okuribi hearkening Watashi’s return from the underworld of endless 4.5 tatami rooms to the real world where, in a scene to make any Buddhist proud, he sheds everything he came out of the rooms with: his copious beard (a physical manifestation of his wasted time?) and his clothing, to be born again as a child.

    Anyways. I’m in the process of collecting my own thoughts on the series, so I’ll stop here. Lovely post, though :)

  2. Michael Says:

    I’m glad to know that I wasn’t the only one who cried with that scene of Watashi’s, because I really cried.

    It is my top anime, not only for 2010, mind you. I have it as one of my perennial favorites, just because it’s just that damn good.

    The ending was beautiful, and his ablution even more so.


  3. I’m glad I read this post and I’ll choose it as my preferred reading of the show. I haven’t been confounded by a show that I like as much as this one, and have been reliant on writers and bloggers to guide my experience.

    Sometimes it’s good not to get every show I think, I get to experience the insight of others in a way beyond mere curiosity for them, but of such value that I’d be genuinely lost without them.

  4. gaguri Says:

    @Celeste

    Haha thanks. I think lot of cruel works like this are hard for us to watch, because they throw those painful issues right at our face, instead of shying away and internalising them with sugar and fluffs.

    I like your view of Watashi stripping away his clothes to symbolise being ‘reborn’. I originally thought of it as him just being true to himself (laying ‘bare’) without the pretensions of whatever ideal vision he chooses to associate himself with (i.e. a cycling star? action hero? top secret agent?). But that reborn idea fits in nicely with the imagery of Watashi still being inside mother’s womb (episode 9) and also ties in nicely with Yuasa’s previous work, Mind Game.

    @Michael

    We’re all cry babies to excellent scenes…anyway, I won’t label it as one of my absolute favourites, because it wasn’t quite at its highest tier until episode 9, but will still end up as my favourite 2010 anime (if Cross Game counts as 2009). I still like Yuasa’s Kaiba a little more but obviously that’s personal.

    Anyway I enjoyed going through your archives of excellent thoughts. Lots of discussions from your readers too.

    @ghostlightning

    I missed a lot of things too, but I think it’s wonderful that, when things are pointed out by someone, generally we agree with it, and despite the show’s complexity there seems to be one main unified reading for the audience in general. Everything seems so…’right’, and I think that is a good thing!

  5. muhootsaver Says:

    Pretty damn good episode, eh? ^^ I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. Good to see you writing again, too.

    I wasn’t too fond of the other two TV series director Yuasa directed but I always appreciated his effort. So I’m glad that he finally created something that I can really enjoy. ^^

    *p.s: BTW, last image, is that from a CD?

  6. Kim Says:

    Since there is nothing I want to watch this summer (and every series I am following is finishing) maybe I will go back and watch this. That last image is especially lovely.

  7. Kavik Ryx Says:

    Thanks for writing this post. Now I can write a review knowing that someone has already done an analysis piece saying precisely what I couldn’t fit into 100 words.

    If nothing else, this is probably the most fascinating anime to come around in quite a while. It most definitely one of the best anime when it comes to existentialist themes. And yes, because of that, the show got insanely hard to watch at time. For reasons other than the fast dialog, L found myself pausing in sort of pain at what would come up next. I’m positive that our unnamed protagonist will become an avatar for all feeling of disappointment and failure for fans like us.

  8. Vendredi Says:

    This is why, I think, Watashi chooses a 6 tatami arrangement instead at the very end of the series. A 4.5 tatami leaves only a small space for Watashi, and space for only Ozu, Hanuki, Jougasaki, and Higuchi. There is no space in this arrangement for Akashi. A 6 tatami arrangement provides a full tatami for all 6 of them.

    I think in the end part of the whole thing is Watashi coming to accept that two year portion of his life that he has always dismissed as wasted… or more accurately, rather than moping about the waste, to focus instead on what he has gained and what he can gain.

    Glad to see you’re still posting – have missed your insights.

  9. gaguri Says:

    @muhootsaver

    I like how tatami galaxy is almost universally loved by everyone who watched it, even by people who didn’t exactly go crazy over Yuasa’s previous works. Yuasa seems to make works that split people apart, but this time he brought them together in unison! As for the picture, I stole it shamelessly from one of Vendredi’s posts (haha)…

    @Kim

    Good idea! It’s only 11 episodes too. I know you don’t like mix of live action in anime (Tatami has a little bit in it) but it’s not as prominent as it was in Trapeze.

    @Kavik Ryx

    Yea it can sometimes be very hard to watch this show, even with all the humour. Anyway good luck on the review, there are soooooo many technical brilliance to this anime, even with 1000 words I can’t imagine doing this anime a justice!

    @Vendredi

    “This is why, I think, Watashi chooses a 6 tatami arrangement instead at the very end of the series. A 4.5 tatami leaves only a small space for Watashi, and space for only Ozu, Hanuki, Jougasaki, and Higuchi. There is no space in this arrangement for Akashi. A 6 tatami arrangement provides a full tatami for all 6 of them.”

    BRILLIANT! I never thought of that, merely writing his choice off as just wanting to go little different and bigger than 4.5 tatami. Sheer level of details Yuasa is willing to go through is scary…good catch as always.

  10. 2DT Says:

    This entry is like an amber marble encasing the bug of my thoughts. I just finished Tatami Galaxy a minute ago.

    Beautiful. Loved it. Best show of the season. Favorite– hmm, maybe? God damn, but it was good. Glad to see you again!

  11. gaguri Says:

    Thanks! To be honest it ain’t going to be one of my all time favourites (haha), but yea damn it was good.

  12. Elineas Says:

    Catharsis is a beautiful thing. Sure, to fail nine times is discouraging, and futility settles as the only mode of thought, but when that realization finally comes, it feels like nothing else.

    And really, I can’t remember the last time I paid so much attention to detail, knowing that even then I’d be missing something, some other little tidbit that further supplements the work as a whole. I think that that was made even worse by my determination to watch through each episode only once without pausing in between to fully feel the disorientation the first time through. Thoughtful, pointed, and rich with earnestness; it’s hard to see one not like it.

    As for how hard it is to watch, I’d say it gets harder as you go along. Really, on the inside you’re just laugh at him, laughing at how wretched his life is. It’s a bit of schadenfreude. But as the iterations happen again and again, you realize how, deep down, he reflects the dreams, the flaws, and the failures of every one of us. But that just makes the catharsis that much more powerful.

  13. Jack Says:

    Firstly, it’s great to see a new piece of writing from you.

    Secondly, I want to thank you for being mercifully concise, at least, in comparison to some others.

    Watching this show can be fairly overwhelming (which seems to be deliberate) and I’ve only started to appreciate the neat links between episodes and characters and details on my second run through the work.

    Even then, I find that there is so much more information packed into these tiny, twenty minute episodes, then I can ever comprehend.

    When I stroll over to animeotaku, there are near-endless of essay-length posts on every single facet of this show. While this is fascinating, and remarkable, such extensive attention to detail can mask the bigger picture.

    I think your post perfectly captures the themes and feelings that the final episode (successfully) explores.

    I have applauded you for your brevity, but sadly I can not follow your example with this comment.

  14. elianthos Says:

    Aaah, concise and insightful at once.
    It’s alwaysa pleasure to read your posts, whenever you decide to publish them ;).
    Furthermore, this is a very timely reading for me. Along with Bakemonogatari and FMA: Brotherhood this is the only other anime series that has caught my interest recently.
    I haven’t watched the latest episode of Yojou-han yet, actually XD, but spoilers are not a problem for me, and judging from what I’ve already watched of the series your thoughts on the finale are only fueling my anticipation for the catharsis.
    Thank you once more for picking and analyzing such good anime titles ^_^V.

  15. gaguri Says:

    @Elineas

    I agree. There are soooooooo many details packed into each episode, just like his Kaiba. I actually think re-watch is a must for shows like this. Like you say, being disoriented at first, then maybe pick up few things more that you missed before!

    @Jack

    Great to see you back Jack =D. I haven’t gone through my second run through his series yet (well, I watched episodes 9~11 twice, I felt that they were most important/emotional), but I should sometime later. And I’m glad you enjoyed the great attention to details at animeotaku, but also glad I could still offer you something different, makes my efforts and time worthwhile.

    @elianthos

    The best thing about this blog is picking good anime titles, yep! I haven’t watched Brotherhood yet but I do plan to. Haven’t watched a good shounen title, last one was Soul Eater which was ‘ok’ I guess. I’m positive you’ll enjoy the last episode, which is one of the greatest ending you’ll see.

  16. elianthos Says:

    The last episode was glorious indeed, and visually speaking too the unnumerable moths were impressive.
    Also, the jump moment turned into a flight, and this time Icarus had wisened up enough not to crash.
    Also, the scene with Ozu in the hospital was really a nice touch, the banter and Watashi’s face put a smile on my face and really showcased the protagonist and the story going full circle in a very satisfying and uplifting way.

    By the way, don’t be too humble . Picking good titles means a lot for a blog’s worth , but being able to ‘sell’ such titles to the readers is no less important. Keep selling like this, I’ll keep buying :* .

  17. gaguri Says:

    Good catch with him not crashing and burn like Icarus this time he jumped, because this time he turned off the light that’s been consuming him. And thx for the encouragement :)


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