OP: 「ドラマチックマーケットライド」 (Doramachikku Maaketto Raido) by 洲崎綾 (Suzaki Aya)
「あの娘はかわいいもち屋の娘」 (Ano Ko wa Kawaii Mochiya no Musume)
“That Girl is the Cute Daughter of a Mochi Shop Owner”
Oh boy, you think you have KyoAni figured out when actually…bird.
A good chunk of the buildup to Tamako Market has been mixed. A common preconception has been, “It’s going to be another K-ON! Cute girls doing cute things!” Those preconceptions are not ungrounded–as a refresher, the director, character designer, and scriptwriter of K-ON! are all reprising their roles in this project. This of course triggers a flag, whether positive or negative, based on our opinion of K-ON! type shows. So if Tamako isn’t just a show about mochi making with cute girls such as Kitashirakawa Tamako (Suzaki Aya), then what is it?
In a conversational interview between Tamako Market’s director and scriptwriter seen here, the dialogue states that in its early stages, the show was to be a magical romance, but evolved into a homely and warm feelings show (partly because of the limitations of a one-cour format). While some may dread what may be perceived as a downgrade, not all elements of the first rendition disappeared, leading us into the first hint that things are not what they seem…
Dera Mochimazzi (Yamazaki Takumi), royal bird of a tropical monarchy, immediately stirs up the pot with his nobly fabulous, energetic, and clingy antics. Hailing from a country where sneezing into one’s face is a declaration of love, Dera’s antics are a foreign observance to the residents of the Usagiyama Shopping District and vice versa. This doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s able to talk, though surprisingly the entire shopping district adjusts to this trait quite quickly. With foreshadow that more magic may be coming to Usagiyama, or at least more tropically tan royalty, life isn’t going to be completely normal for this shopping district this season.
We’ve transitioned from a fairly normal slice-of-life with a mochi focus to a slightly wacky and ridiculous avian comedy (I already expect shipping). Alas though, for that’s not all. Hints of plot seeds have already made their way into episode one. Other than the magical elements, there already exists a more serious plot involving Tamako’s mother and the bond they continue to share beyond the grave. Judging from the reaction of coffee and record shop owner Yaobi Kunio (Tsujitani Kouji) towards the passing of Tamako’s mother, we can expect some exploration of this backstory in a more serious, yet ultimately optimistic tone. There exists as well as a possibly honest exploration of romantic adolescence through suspected-M Ouji Mochizou (Tamaru Atsushi), son of the rival mochi company. While the flavor of this specific plot point rings of a spin on Romeo and Juliet (dat feud), it may be interesting to see just how the “mochi prince” fares with his crush. The signs show that Tamako will at least go beyond the slice-of-life, which no matter the scope, is a plus in my book.
But how big that plus is going to be–no one really knows. The power that a direct-to-anime adaptation has on anticipation is very potent. Any genre can experience the benefits of original material, not just plot-heavy productions. This is perhaps one of the reasons why I look forward to blogging this show–the field of speculation widens without pre-existing material, allowing for a great discussion leveled for all of us. Even though the primary focus is on the common life infused with a bit of spice, I sincerely hope that with this opportunity to write original material, the writers create something heartwarming. I’m not expecting jaw-dropping conclusions here, but if they manage to draw out an emotional scene that warms the heart…I’ll consider that another win for KyoAni.
But even when looking at the show through those lenses if you hadn’t already, Tamako Market definitely will not be for everyone. I guarantee now that this is not a laugh-out-loud comedy where you are expected to roll on the floor, but rather this is one of those productions that are meant to be laughed at occasionally, where the majority is spent smiling at the positive interactions the characters have with each other. You’re meant to have a little smile when many of the people in the shopping district get together to give Tamako birthday presents, and meant to have a little chuckle when they totally forget about it due to Dera’s choking. This world is in no way supposed to reflect reality closely, but rather highlight the good parts of socializing, the “shopping district dream” that the creators wish to get across.
I believe the interview nailed the purpose of Tamako Market well when they spoke about the inspiration. Throughout the episode, Tamako is on friendly terms with all of the people in Usagiyama, where exchanges are casual and always full of warmth and charity. They wished to reflect that microcosm of a mid-20th century shopping district in Japan, where you could get the freshest of produce and ask how to prepare it at the same time, all while talking about the daily gossip of the district. You get this sense that everyone in Usagiyama is family, family with history, where you can ask favors of people casually without fear of judgement. In a sense, the tone of the show reminds me of Summer Wars or Shirokuma Cafe, where both communities meshed well with each other and played off of each other’s strengths. For some this may be off-putting for its lack of negative portrayals or perceived depth, and that’s fine. To say that there is no depth though is ignorant of the emotional depth held in portraying positive interactions between people. There is value in the positive feelings felt when watching people just be good for once, in seeing inspiration not corrupted by reality. Hanase Kaoru (Ono Daisuke), the Florist Princess, wonders what her next present for Tamako will be. Kitashirakawa Anko (Hidaka Rina), desires to just be called An and move away from the mochi business. Ouji Gohei (Tachiki Fumihiko) and Ouji Michiko (Yukino Satsuki) are trying to put a new spin on mochi…with limited success. And of course let’s not forget Makino Kanna (Nagatsuma Juri) who could possibly go Higurashi with that hammer of hers, and Tokiwa Midori (Kaneko Yuuki), who has that slight yuri vibe towards Tamako (hint: I’m only serious about one). In addition to the above, there is a sea of characters whose part will push the episodes forward with their “daily life” moments, creating an atmosphere that warms the heart. If you’re on the fence, give the show a couple more episodes and see how the pace and feel of the show affects you. It may be a bit weird to get into shows like this, but often the hook, if at all, grows over the course of the first episodes, compelling you to watch how their anthology of daily life concludes.
But alas, a decisive factor that may play in are the logistics and presentation. For a KyoAni show, the quality of design and animation are not disappointing. Though not as spectacular a showcase as more recent KyoAni titles such as Hyouka, Nichijou, or most recently chu2koi, the quality is still there, reminiscent of the animation energy closer to Clannad–exaggerated styles when necessary, but sticks to a fairly stable animation. Never will you see mochi made at this high quality framerate other than real life. I am especially impressed with how many facial expressions they manage to have Dera express in such a short time, as they were one of the more enjoyable things to watch this episode. The colors are pretty nice for expressing a cheerful shopping district, with a nice deepness to them that gives a warm atmosphere. The seiyuu, especially the main girls, have done pretty well considering their inexperience, and the supporting character haven’t faltered either. Ono Daisuke does a good womanly impression if you ask me, and Yamazaki’s interpretation of Dera is done really well–although he exudes a sense of snobbery, his ability to switch to a more empathetic state is pretty darn good. While nothing rings of absolute excellence here yet, the production overall is darn solid. KyoAni, as always, does not disappoint in this area.
It is then that the deciding factor lies in how original and heartwarming this production can be. Having been another release in the chain of KyoAni releases, a recent trend uncommon to their usual one-a-year release schedule, I had my doubts about whether the attention this original deserves was properly fulfilled. Having watched the first episode, the glints of potential shine, not as great as chu2koi did in its premiere, but as with all slice-of-life oriented shows, they need time to fully bloom their potential. If you’re looking for a show to warm your heart, come hither to Tamako. If you haven’t already, glance through the interview. If you find yourself entranced by the inspiration, watch onwards. If not, perhaps another show will serve your entertainment. For those who continue from this point out, I am in your care as we watch this show together, where no one really knows what projections will be shot next.
ED: 「ねぐサ」 (Negu Sa) by 洲崎綾 (Suzaki Aya)