Home > Episode Reviews, Tatami Galaxy > Tatami Galaxy Episode 9 – There’s Never Enough Time

Tatami Galaxy Episode 9 – There’s Never Enough Time

I don’t think Tatami Galaxy would have been nearly as affective if it hadn’t aired right when it has. On the threshold of adulthood, trying to figure out what to do with my life, I wish I could live multiple lives, take as many separate paths as I possible. There’s so much to do, so many different ways for a life to develop, that I can’t believe I can only choose one.

So I get trapped, paralyzed into indecision by the decision itself. Faced with an infinite number of possible mes, unable, by definition, to judge the quality of any, I freeze up, and end up making the worst choice: nothing.

Our hero once again dressed as the leader of the Cycle Cleanup Corps. This time, he actually is

That just makes me believe that my choice would be meaningless, anyway. That I’m just a plaything of fate, being tossed around according to its whims, unable to have any effect on my own life. The rush of possibility, the ineffable choices I imagine in my happier are moments are just an illusion, a cruel game being put on by whatever unknown force controls my destiny.

I don’t think I’m the only person who’s ever been at the same crossroads, and one of the reasons for this belief is because of shows like Tatami Galaxy. Here, the protagonist is in much the same boat, but he’s able to live multiple scenarios, to rewind time when everything has fallen in on him and he’s realized just how much he has wasted. The sad thing is, no matter what, he is predestined to misery.

As before, Ozu is constantly discomfiting the Library Police

If you didn’t believe before that Tatami Galaxy was an experiment in nonlinear, concurrent storytelling, then I hope this episode convinces you. If not, you are hopeless. This episode concerns itself with the details of the Lucky Cat Chinese Restaurant Secret Society, whose actions intertwine with every episode of the show so far.

Our hero joins the Society (after answering their ad, naturally) with the usual dreams of success and prosperity, raven-haired maidens and a rose-colored college life. He wants to fight his way to the top, struggling to gain influence in the Machiavellian environment of the college’s underworld cartel.

Akashi and her Mochiguman doll: star-crossed lovers?

The Lucky Cat Society, as we soon find out, has its hands in every bit of dirty business that goes on in the college. They run the Cycle Cleanup Corps, which stole the protagonist’s bike in episode 3. They control the Library Police, whom Ozu and the main character helped Higuchi evade in episode 4. They run the Print Shop, whose plagiarized essays kept the main character in school during episodes 6-8. Through these organizations, they keep a tight grip on the school, and the surrounding area.

Ozu is a natural at crime, of course, rapidly rising to become the leader’s right hand man. Our hero, naturally, is lousy at it, getting stuck with recapturing Higuchi’s copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (episode 4), his Print Shop essays destroyed by the fireworks shot at frolicking lovers (episode 1), and failing to capture make off with any bikes due to his weak frame. He even botches an attempt to set the leader up with Akashi via the film society (episode 2) by making a move on her instead, and runs away rather than help kidnap Kaoru after seeing the pure love Jougasaki has for his love doll (also episode 2).

The Lucky Cat Society launches a full-scale commando raid on Jougasaki's apartment

His bad luck changes when Ozu unseats the leader of the Society and takes his place. Soon, our hero is head of the Cycle Cleanup Corps and loving life. It’s the closest he’s come to being happy all series. He finally seems to have it all: raven-haired maidens, money, a fulfilling job as a powerful man. And yet, after Akashi slaps him for stealing the Birdman plane (episode 3), he feels empty. In this midst of his rise to the top, he’s forgotten about something more important than ambition, money or power: love.

It’s a well-worn tale, but it’s not really the point here. Tatami Galaxy isn’t a show about the costs of ambition—more often than not, it’s about the humiliation of sloth and folly. It’s not about clawing your way to the top, but about growing up.

Even in this episode, our hero fantasizes about running off with Kaoru

The previous 8 episodes of this show have been about the main character trying—and failing—to find the glorious, idealized college life he’d dreamed of. However, in the process, he’s grown progressively more self-aware, assertive and capable of dealing with life. He’s still a miserable failure, blown about by the winds of fate (or the machinations of Ozu), but now he’s less of one.

In this episode, he’s achieved everything he dreamed of, in a way, and it still doesn’t satisfy him. As Higuchi tells him in a sobering conversation, nothing will. That rose-colored campus life he’s been dreaming of doesn’t exist. It never will. So our hero is at a crossroads, having realized that there’s no way out. Wondering how things would have been if he’d lived differently won’t do him any good: he’s never going to be any happier. There are no happy endings, no way out. There’s no sense in giving it another try; that too will just leave him hollow and unsatisfied.

The whole episode is flat and monochromatic, although in different colors, except for a few brief moments of fantasy becoming reality

The main character eventually learns that there’s more to Ozu than meets the eye: he’s madly in love with a raven-haired maiden: the daughter of Honwaka’s president, and wants to run off with her. He ends up stealing the Honwaka airship (and crashing it, after the previous leader of the Lucky Cat Society mounts an all-out attack to keep Ozu from finding happiness (episode 5)).

This sets up a beautiful moment where the protagonist watches the airship slowly fall to earth outside his window. As a piano plays slowly, he realizes that even Ozu, the most wicked creature in this show, found something meaningful, found some measure of happiness.

Having the main characters thoughts scroll by as the reflection of streetlights on a windshield is pretty neat in anime, although it would be cheesy beyond belief in live action

The episode ends with the protagonist as I am now: alone, in his room, ruminating. He’s hit rock bottom. This may not be the worst situation he’s ended up in, but it has a far greater existential significance: he knows now that there was no right choice he could have made. The happy ending he so badly desired not only wasn’t meant to be, but never could have been. He was always already a failure.

And so, with nowhere left to go, no other path left to take, he’s stuck. This episode, unlike the previous eight, doesn’t end with the clocks rewinding, doesn’t set up another path for next week. It just ends. He has to make a choice, and he has to live with it.

The conversation with Higuchi is one of highlights of the whole series

You can watch this episode here.

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