No matter how serene your youth, sooner or later we all have to grow up and leave the comfortable confines of home. It’s rarely easy to learn to take care of yourself, to figure out how to keep your sanity in a world so cold and indifferent.
You’ll probably never get used to it, never be entirely comfortable with the world, or your life. Few, if any, people can really master the world in that way. But hopefully you will eventually reach a point where you can stand it. Things might not be easy, but at least you can manage.
It’s a pivotal event, a turning point in one’s life, although it’s quieter and less celebrated than more widely recognized milestones such as being born, or getting married. Sooner or later, you wake up and realize something: you’ve grown up.
Tatami Galaxy is a show about that point. For nine episodes, our hero struggles against what seemed like his inevitable fate: being denied a rose-colored campus life, forced into a series of mistakes that lead to nothing bur misery and regret. Slowly, he grows more savvy, until he finally grasps everything he thought he wanted, but finds it lacking.
This episode, something is different.
There are no dreams of a rose-colored college life, no clubs to join with naïve optimism, only to be let down by the cold, detachment of reality; our hero is more realistic than that. He knows such things are impossible, so instead he shuts himself up in his tiny apartment, extolling the virtues of solitude.
He eventually becomes known as the “4.5 Tatami Ideologue,” although it’s never clear by whom. Outside of school, he sees no one, interacts with no one, is friends with no one.
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.
So, this is it: the finale to the closest thing Tatami Galaxy has had to a multi-episode arc. Is this going to be a return to status quo, or will our hero learn something, grow as a character, like he has in the most recent episodes? Is it time for him to finally grow up and accept his fate?
Not yet. There’s still three episodes after this, so we’re not quite at the climax. But by now it should be clear that Tatami Galaxy is building towards something; some resolution, some epiphany, or even as resignation to one’s fate. The plot is definitely thickening, even if it’s not becoming any more linear.
Finally, the Tatami Galaxy episode I’ve been waiting for ever since episode 4. Well, not literally, since this episode is heavily focused on the main character’s relationship with a love doll, which is, frankly, extremely disturbing, but in the sense that it’s going in the direction that I hoped this show would go.
I’d always hoped that this show would develop outward more, to tell complex plots rather than just broadening its characters. But the requirements of Tatami Galaxy’s repetitive structure means that certain scenes have to be included: hopeful dreams of a rose-colored college life, explanation of the misery of the club, meeting the fortune teller, etc., even if they don’t do anything to tell the current episode’s story. The introductory segment, for example, usually takes up the entire first act of the show.
Well, fortunately, this episode does away with most of that, and in a way that plays with the nature of the show.
There’s been consistent theme throughout the entire season: choice. In every episode, the main character has been given a choice of some kind: to improve his situation and become a better person, or to give in to his own base instincts.
That’s where the drama comes from: after the protagonist has been broken down, his dreams crushed and all hope apparently lost, what will he decide to do? Or, since we know he’s going to make the wrong choice, how is going to fail this time?
This episode is interesting because, rather than two years of wasted effort boiling down to one shot at redemption, the choice becomes whether or not two years of effort will be blown all at once. Because of this, it strays farther far from the standard formula that Tatami Galaxy episodes have been increasingly diverging from than any episode so far.
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.