Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: June 2010, 27

Sunday, June 27, 2010

10:23:34 pm , 851 words, 2075 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Director: Masaaki Yuasa, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei

Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei #7

I thought maybe this series would start making sense by episode 7 or so, but no. Not even close. Things have only gotten stranger, not clearer.

Suddenly we seem to have some continuity, albeit reversed. This episode lays the groundwork for what happened with the mouth fetishist Hanuki in episode 6, then proceeds forward with the as yet unnamed protagonist's attempt to elope with the mannequin Kaori. Clearly next we will be having an episode about mystery girl Keiko. Then comes Akashi?

This episode was the most insane so far, despite being the most straightforwardly dramatic. It's a simple love drama, but a completely surreal and artificial one that you know the whole time is fake. I felt I had to watch at an emotional remove and just enjoy it on an intellectual level, expecting that at a later point it would make sense. The situation isn't played up as a joke; it's played completely straight-faced, which makes it pretty fun to watch. It makes for a peculiar disconnect - the drama is so earnest and passionate, yet you are always aware the you're being toyed with. I understand that this is all a game being played in the protagonist's mind, but his apparent inability to make any decision whatsoever without agonizing melodramatically over it is frankly annoying and maddening rather than funny.

Identity seems pliable and impermanent in Tatami Galaxy. Aspects of the protagonist's identity such as his libido literally come alive and act of their own volition. There was an unexplained bit where a doppelganger appears briefly at the end of a previous episode. Hopefully that will make sense later. There are clearly lots of things throughout the show that are not meant to make sense immediately, but hopefully will fall into place by the end. So there is not really much point in speculating about what this or that means. You just have to kind of let it wash over you and say, "Okay then." You just have to observe all the layers of meaning at play in each episode, like the protagonist wearing a white Mochigumon suit and saving Akashi from the punks, mirroring Akashi's doll we've seen hanging in the protagonist's 4 1/2 tatami room in every episode so far.

I never cease to be amazed how many little details are packed in at every moment. Rewatching it now, I consciously notice for the first time, for example, the protagonist's inner libido voice saying "What's it matter?" when the protagonist wonders about his 'ideal woman' Higuchi Keiko - the libido isn't concerned with perfection; it wants release in a real woman like Hanuki. Also just noticed that he mentions that his ideal girl Keiko says she wants to meet him, but he's hesitant to meet her because he's played himself up into his ideal vision of himself in his letters.

In terms of directing, this episode was different from everything that came before, closer in spirit to Ryotaro Makihara's episode 3. It didn't have the fast-paced manic cutting and flood of colorful visual embellishment of the other episodes; it was played out using more conventional dramatic staging and pacing, letting the characters act out the drama rather than interpreting it through montages.

I could tell pretty quickly that this was the Michio Mihara episode in the series. I suspected there was probably going to be one. It would be odd if there hadn't been. It seems to be a tradition in Yuasa TV shows to have an episode by Michio Mihara. It's not actually that identifiable. For the first few minutes I didn't realize. (I think this part was done by Yasunori Miyazawa) Then I could start to tell from the way the characters acted, and particularly from the mouth and the expression. Mihara is unmistakable from the mouth. He has his own unique exaggerated forms for the various mouth shapes. You see them in everything he does. But this felt low key for Mihara. It wasn't moving like crazy like his Kaiba episode or drawn as crazy as his Kemonozume episode. The more expressive and pliable face of the protagonist is about the only place that felt a little idiosyncratic and showed his personality. He didn't animate everything this time around, not sure why. Maybe he was deliberately holding back as an animator, and letting the storyboarding do the talking. Who can blame him for not wanting to do all that work. Mihara has a unique style of subtle humor that I like. For example the moment where we see him looking in puzzlement at his gloves is subtly funny and very understated - I only figured out the comedy of the moment while rewatching.

I just figured out why the ending seemed familiar. I'd seen one of Takuya Hosogane's music videos before and posted it on my animated music video blog. In fact, I chose it as one of my favorite picks - his video for Cubesato. Fantastic video & song, and great choice for a person to do the ending.

Storyboard / Director / Animation director: Michio Mihara
Supervising animation director: Nobutake Ito

Hiromi Hata
Yasunori Miyazawa
Michio Mihara