Home > Episode Reviews, Tatami Galaxy > Tatami Galaxy Episode 5 – Slow Pitch

Tatami Galaxy Episode 5 – Slow Pitch

After an episode of references to past episodes which seemed to reveal something important, we have another episode that doesn’t hew to the formula. I suppose now that the pattern has been established, every episode from here on out is going to be anomalous to some extent.

This episode keeps up the pan-chronological continuity, where references to previous (and, if I’m right, future) episodes abound. Akashi, for example, refers to herself as a disciple of Higuchi, which irritates me since it still seems out of character.

The mysterious travelling ramen cart from previous episodes makes an appearance

There’s also something we haven’t seen before: what appears to be the bearded ghost of the main character materializes through the door to our hero’s apartment at the end of the episode, spooking him into a panic which is only stopped by the sudden re-winding of the clock and the end of the episode.

See, this episode feels like it runs out of time at the end, leaving the episode without any resolution of any kind. The main character doesn’t even fall into his usual cycle of despair, bemoaning the poor decisions that led to him wasting two years of his life. Instead, he stands defiant, ready to fight against his fate at all cost, when the episode comes screeching to an abrupt halt.

This strange bearded figure appears at the end of the episode

It’d be a cliffhanger, if time didn’t rewind at the end of every episode. Maybe it will get resolved next week; maybe it will only be hinted at. Either way, I hope this marks something like character development in the main character. We’ll see if he ends next episode cursing his fate, or if he’ll try to make the most of the situation he’s in.

Anyway, that’s the interesting stuff; the rest of the episode is spent on yet another misguided choice of club. This time, our hero joins the softball circle honwaka, on account of the high female/male ratio and the fact that the club seems to spend most of its time idly socializing.

Instead of a way to hone his woeful social skills, however, he finds himself surrounded by blandly pleasant people who instantly turn uncomfortable the second you say anything that runs contrary to the group’s inoffensive, upbeat ideology. There’s no sense of individuality or intimacy, just pleasantries and groupthink.

The club is represented as a mob of look-alike drones, part of the bee theme associated with them

It turns out that the club is one part of a massive cult-like corporate marketing scheme. Honwaka softball club is controlled by the Honwaka health food company who, like shady health supplement scams in America, play the anti-establishment card to ply their unconventional wares.

They also use a cult-like reward system that, like Scientology, bestows greater prestige and access to the members who buy more products. Our hero falls for this hard: after catching a glimpse of the angelic daughter of Honwaka’s owner, he works himself to the bone for the honor of being invited to Honwaka headquarters, where he’ll presumably get to see her.

The owner's daughter just has this glow to her, you know? By which I mean she's literally glowing all the time

Honestly, this is a pretty lame reason to get caught up in a cult. Not being into someone involved with it, necessarily, but the girl doesn’t seem to be that involved in the group at all. Plus, she also seems to attend his school, so it’s not like there won’t be other, more plausible ways to meet other than buying a bunch of health food to see her. The protagonist himself even mocks the idea, claiming that she’s not some prize he can collect enough box tops to win.

I know infatuation makes people do things that even they know are stupid. But it just seems so contrived, so forced. It’s clear the writers wanted to get him into the Honwaka cult, and were just looking for a way. I just think there are better ways they could have done it. I mean, the main character is a lonely, frustrated young adult out on his own for the first time and struggling to find something to give his life meaning. If he isn’t prime cult material, I don’t know who is.

Our hero visits the fortune teller in a bee costume this time. She still knows that it's him, somehow (and charges him 5000 yen)

From the amount of time the show spends on the crazy goings-on at Honwaka HQ, it’s even more clear that the preceding twelve minutes were merely setup to show the nutjobs running the cult. When you’ve got 20 minutes to tell a story and at least three of that is boilerplate that’s in every episode, like talking about how the club can fulfill his dreams of a golden future filled with raven-haired maidens, or the fortune teller scene, you have to be very economical. And yet this episode spends about five minutes on showing the loony things going on there. There’s a strange scene where a Honwaka employee tells everyone to share their true feelings while a strange purple gas is pumped into the room, causing a psychedelic rampage of angry raving and people baring their soul to no one in particular.

I think this scene is supposed to look like an acid trip gone horribly wrong. It sure freaked me out

By far the weirdest is Honwaka’s owner, though. He gives a rambling speech about the persecution the devoted will face that devolves into claiming that 2012 will be the end of the world, and unveiling an airship he’s built that will hold two humans and two of every species, like Noah’s ark. Ozu, being the prankster he is (well, terrorist in this case), steals it and crashes it into Honwaka, which our hero gets caught up in and sets off a frenzied escape from the angry Honwaka mob, which is the fate our hero ends the episode prepared to fight.

Still, the preoccupation with the cult is strange. It’s like the show is trying to make some kind of social commentary. Considering that the first half of Kaiba, the previous show from director Yuasa Masaaki and the most of this show’s crew, was social science fiction in the purest sense, I shouldn’t be surprised, but it comes at the expense of weakening the plot and making the episode seem even shorter than normal.

The cult leader is what Buddha would look like if he were on infomercials

So Tatami is slowly meting out tidbits of information about its world and characters. It’s frustrating, because I want to know more, but the unique way the show has of delivering this information usually makes the wait worthwhile. Hopefully, next week’s episode can either stand on its own, or it widens the world like last week’s episode did.

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