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Over the course of Tamako Market‘s run I noticed that it had a mixed reception, especially among Kyoto Animation fans. I may be mistaken as to how many people really disliked it, but I’ve seen enough to want to say something about it. As for myself, I had considered it an interesting and welcome step forward for the popular studio, and wondered what could be the source of this difference in opinion. After some conversations with friends, I think I’ve figured it out.
To put it simply, for the most part the girls of Tamako Market do not have, in their presentations, visual designs, or their personalities, the sort of near-tangible qualities that have made people in the past fall in love with Kyoani characters. The girls are comparatively less “moe,” and they certainly aren’t tragic, which leaves the show with a different sort of appeal that may seem alien to fans of Kyoto Animation’s existing body of work. The main character Tamako herself is simply a smart and capable but naive girl who loves mochi and who, to a small degree, reminds me of Madoka from Rinne no Lagrange. Dera the talking bird is as far from “cutesy girl” as one can possibly get, and seems to have been particularly unpopular. The main exception seems to be the carpentry girl Kanna (pictured above, left) whose eccentric personality, to be fair, does kind of steal the show.
(I’m fond of Shiori, the girl on the right, myself).
The best way I can describe Tamako Market‘s appeal is that it’s not so much about showing off an ensemble cast consisting of various characters with easily identifiable quirks like how K-On! is, but about showing the residents of the Usagiyama shopping district as a small community of people. While many of the side characters are never really developed, they don’t really need to be, as they add to the feeling of an oxymoronic slow-paced hustle. Seeing the small developments that occur in the residents’ lives feels not so much like “slice of life,” but like a low key-yet-silly comedy.
Someone asked me what anime out there was similar to Tamako Market. After some thought, I realized the answer: Sazae-san, a popular comedy anime about a Japanese housewife and her family, and which 1969 has continued to run on Japanese TV making it the longest-running anime ever. That’s probably the furthest answer from Haruhi possible, so I think that might say it all about how Tamako Market is different, and why I think it’s the sort of show that could’ve gone on forever.
Name: “Goidou, Yui” (五位堂結)
Alias: Katsuragi, Keima (桂木桂馬)
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: The World God Only Knows
Goidou Yui is the daughter of a wealthy family, a talented musician, and the vessel for the goddess Mars. Having to deal with overprotective parents and possessing a timid personality, Goidou winds up switching personalities with male classmate and game addict Katsuragi Keima when the soul of a demon enters her body. The real Goidou is not actually a fujoshi in any way, nor is Keima; rather, it is the combined entity of Keima’s soul inside of Yui’s body that is something of a fujoshi.
After their minds return to their original bodies, Goidou takes on a more “masculine” personality, dressing in men’s clothes and even going so far as to try to romance Keima as if he were a dainty maiden. She also takes up the drums and joins her classmate Chisato’s band, the 2-B Pencils. Katsuragi returns to his old self, no longer interested in otome games.
Though not wholly a “fujoshi” mindset, the combined entity of Katsuragi Keima’s mind in Goidou Yui’s body brought Keima’s endless devotion to male-oriented dating sims to female-oriented ones, BL or otherwise.
In one of my earliest posts I ever wrote for Ogiue Maniax, I talked about my desire for Kyoto Animation to go beyond its own limits, to go from just adapting work to making their own original material. Though my opinion of Kyoto Animation isn’t quite as rosy as it was back in 2007, with their new original anime Tamako Market I actually feel like they’ve finally fulfilled those expectations to a fair degree.
Kyoani is known primarily for two things: really solid animation and cute girls. Together, the resulting product is a soft, delicate quality that is unmistakably Kyoto Animation (and which shows like Kokoro Connect and Sora no Woto have tried to mimic), and it affects different adaptations in different ways. For Haruhi and their Key game adaptations it lent weight and significance to characters’ movements, while in K-On! and Nichijou, two manga with sharp and abrupt humor, it caused the anime versions to slow down in terms of comic timing. In the end, it seems to all come down to the cute girls.
Tamako Market is the first Kyoto Animation show I’ve seen to really let the animators spread their wings. Tamako Market has allowed Kyoani to show personality through movement in a greater variety of character types of all shapes and sizes, from small children to geriatrics, to even a person of ambiguous gender and a silly talking bird. The show then places them in a deliberately slow-paced setting in the form of a small-town shopping area, which makes that Kyoani “slice of life” style feel appropriate. What’s more, even though there are indeed still cute girls in Tamako Market, all of the other characters are portrayed differently from them, giving the viewer not only Kyoani’s bread-and-butter but also something even more substantial.
Given the sheer amount of character variety in Tamako Market, I have to now wonder if it wasn’t just that their old shows didn’t allow them to “push their envelope,” but that having to adapt works limited them due to the contact of the original sources. Most of what Kyoto Animation has adapted has come from dating sims, light novels, which often times are all about cute girls, or manga which center around cute girls. While I think Kyoani isn’t ideal for making certain types of works, it’s clear to me from Tamako Market that their strengths, namely their ability to have characters move with almost a sense of tangible liveliness, go beyond what’s expected of them.
Name: Moe-chan (地ちゃん)
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Tonari no 801-chan
Chi-chan’ is one of 801-chan’s friends. She is knowledgeable about Akihabara, and her name may reference her abilities as a tour guide. She appears fond of the maid cafe Schatzkiste.
Nothing is known, other than that she is a fujoshi.
Name: Moe-chan (萌ちゃん)
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Tonari no 801-chan
Moe-chan is a friend of 801-chan’s whom 801-chan has tried to get to watch Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love 1000%. She has a peculiar laugh, “Puukusukusu.”
Little is known about Moe-chan’s fujocity, other than her ability to manifest into a little “fujoshi” creature with ram horns and her association with 801-chan.
Genshiken II‘s been running for a while now, and every so often I go back and look at the earlier chapters of the new series (would you expect me to do otherwise?). Upon a recent revisit, it hit me just how much the artwork had changed between the inaugural Chapter 56 and its immediate followup in Chapter 57.
For comparison, here is Ogiue in Chapter 56 on the left, and 57 on the right.
There’s a clear difference between the two versions of Ogiue (or any other character) that can’t be chalked up simply to the gradual evolution of art style that happened throughout the original Genshiken. This change, given just how drastic it is, was more abrupt, though one has to keep in mind that the real life gap between 56 and 57 was almost a year (Chapter 56 was originally a one-shot that got turned into the start of a new series).
Because of how much softer and more cutesy Chapter 56 Ogiue is portrayed, my suspicion is that Kio’s style was affected by his time working on Jigopuri. Indeed, Chapter 56 of Genshiken actually came out in the middle of his run on Jigopuri.
In fact, if you look at one of the characters in Jigopuri, the little sister Kaname (pictured left), she looks pretty close to the Ogiue of Chapter 56. What’s also kind of funny is the fact that Volume 1 of Jigopuri features an Ogiue cameo on the inside cover, and it’s clear that the Jigopuri style hadn’t fully taken over Kio’s artwork yet at the time he drew it.
I think it’s interesting how an artist can get so influenced by how they’ve been drawing that it makes it difficult to shift gears back to a different kind of story. It’s different depending on the artist of course, but I have to wonder how much effort Kio put into switching into a less moe-type art style. Something tells me it wasn’t easy.
After the intensity and emotion of the last chapter, this month’s winds down with a post-confession Madarame. In order to try and cheer him up, the old Genshiken girls (+ Hato and Kohsaka) cosplay for him, and for a brief moment the old impassioned expository Madarame makes a triumphant return. As Tanaka and Kugayama leave with Madarame for some male bonding, Saki encourages Madarame to not let go entirely of his past with Genshiken. There also seems to be some bad blood between Keiko and Hato, though the reasons are unclear.
As is the case with recent previous chapters, this one also referenced an old anime, in this case the title of Akuma-kun‘s final episode. Appropriate, because whether you want to call it the denouement of dramatic structure or the ketsu of kishoutenketsu, Chapter 81 feels like a wrap-up of the crazy developments that have happened over the past few months with Madarame, at least when it comes to his feelings for Kasukabe. As such, this chapter feels a lot less overt with its significance and its presentation of information compared to last time, but there are still plenty of moments which radiate with potential. As always, this isn’t an end (well obviously because the manga isn’t finished but you know what I mean), but a continuation.
There’s one scene in particular this chapter that I’ve read over and over because I’m not sure how to interpret it. As the girls (and guys) cosplay for Madarame from the gender-bender game that Kohsaka worked on, Kasukabe herself joins in as well. Before we see Saki in un-drag though, we see her having a conversation with Kohsaka about her character, who’s supposed to be “boyish,” to which Saki retorts that it’s actually a boy. Then, we see two characters off-panel speaking to each other (their words are visible but they aren’t), who I’m pretty sure are Kohsaka and Kasukabe. One of them asks if they accidentally “let it slip” and the other says that it’s not about that. I believe we’re supposed to read it as Kohsaka having hid the details of his game from Saki and her response being that the content of his game is besides the point. However, because of the way she says “it’s a boy,” and the follow-up conversation about a secret being out, and the fact that we see Saki go from what others have charitably referred to as “maternity clothes” to an outfit with a corset such that we can never get a clear idea of her figure, and the fact that even with the corset she looks bigger than she used to (notably in the chest area), I feel as if this chapter is lending credence to the theory that Saki is indeed pregnant.
I might just very well be overanalyzing, and things like Saki’s slightly larger figure and larger breasts might just be either a stylistic change by Kio or a sign that she’s growing older, but it just has me wondering. If my speculation turns out to be unfounded, I’m of course fine with that.
This chapter we get to see the “old” Madarame make a return as he muses on the very concept of “trap” characters and how there are different things to consider when translating them to 3D, a rant which Saki quickly reminds everyone is reminiscent of the Madarame she first met and despised. Is this scene a sign of Madarame getting his otaku groove back? Is it the case that the last few years have been a continuous trial and now that it’s over with he can go back to being himself, or is it that Madarame is trying to force it? Is it a regression to a past identity, or is it a progression, a nerd phoenix rising from the ashes of rejection and anxiety? I’d like to believe that the old Madarame is a new Madarame, and I’m definitely looking forward to where his character will go from here.
As a side note, if you’ve ever wondered what I meant by density of information looking unusual in manga, just look at the page above where Madarame is ranting. If you’re used to manga at all, just the whole page seems to stray from how Genshiken usually flows, though that’s what also gives this page its impact.
An interesting thing I’ve noticed about Madarame’s character is that Madarame seems to get paired with more characters than anyone else both inside Genshiken itself and among fans both English-speaking and Japanese. There’s of course the whole ordeal with Kasukabe, but there’s also Ogiue’s Sasa x Mada fantasies, Angela putting the moves on him hard, the ambiguity of Hato’s friendship, Kohsaka feigning (?) interest this very chapter, and then on top of that I’ve seen fanart and such going all the way back to 2005 that put him with Keiko and Sue, well before they interacted with him like they do now. It might just be that, as Hirano Kouta of Hellsing fame puts it, that “Madarame is the most moe character in Genshiken,” but I just find it interesting that so many, fictional or otherwise, seem to want Madarame to be happy (or at least less pathetic). It’s probably a testament to his enduring character and the fact that he is above all others the quintessential nerd/otaku.
In any case, it makes Saki’s comment that Madarame could very well make his own harem feel both tongue-in-cheek, yet somehow serious, though in the end I interpret it more as Saki telling Madarame that he is actually attractive in his own way. That said, I have to wonder how awkward it would be to have a girl who just rejected you also tell you that it’s okay for you to keep the sexy(ish coplay) photos you have of her. That’s the kind of scenario that so many nerds ae desperate to avoid (“What if she knows that I find her sexually attractive?”), but it’s a new world I guess. I wouldn’t be surprised if Madarame ends up throwing them out anyway, though I also wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps them.
I’ve used this comparison to describe multiple characters over the series, but Keiko is something of a Saki-type for Genshiken II. Yajima is a Saki in the sense that she’s a fish out of water and has the dry wit, but Keiko serves the role of being the character with the most “real world” experience, though as Sasahara remarks it’s more the result of making numerous mistakes. Still, it gives Keiko a type of perceptiveness that’s lacking in the current members of Genshiken, and it makes the moment where she just shows Madarame how his secret never really was one quite hilarious. Given how she didn’t even appear in the second TV series (though as far as I know that was just an unfortunate scheduling conflict, and she does make an appearance in one of the drama CDs), it almost feels like the series is making up for that by giving her more presence in the current manga.
As for the dirty look Keiko gives Hato, it’s yet another ambiguous moment in this chapter whose path will lead us who knows where. If we go by the harem view mentioned before, then this could be interpreted as Keiko exhibiting jealousy, but I think it’s something else. If I had to guess, I’d say that Keiko’s impatience towards Madarame dancing around and avoiding his own feelings for fear of confrontation is also showing itself with Hato and where he might stand with Madarame.
Even though she’s clearly not the focus, I do want to talk a bit about Ogiue’s part in this chapter. When Kohsaka grabs Madarame’s arms and tells him that they could’ve had a polygamous relationship with each other and Saki, I like how you can tell who is thinking what in that moment. For most of the guys, it’s just an awkward moment, but clearly Ogiue and Hato think more of it. Ohno seems much less affected, though it might make sense given her preference for significantly older, hairier, and balder guys. Keiko’s blushing on the following page is probably the most surprising, and another moment in this chapter open for interpretation. Could Keiko be a candidate for the Fujoshi Files after all?
The chapter ends with the reappearance of Katou, who we don’t know much about other than that she has Ohno-esque preferences, and that she’s been job-hunting as of late, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her at all. At this point Asada has more development than her, and she doesn’t even have a real face! I don’t have confidence we’ll see much of her, but one can always hope.
As an anime by the studio P.A. Works about a group of teenage girls growing up and strengthening their friendship, Tari Tari inevitably draws comparisons to last year’s Hanasaku Iroha, which has both a similar premise as well as visual style. In addition, both feature similar trios: a petite main character with a lot of pep, a more serious one, and a gentler one with a sizable bust. Yet, as close as they are, I find the two shows to feel quite different, and it has to do with aspirations, or lack thereof.
In Tari Tari, each of the girls (and the guys as well) each have a concrete goal they’re trying to pursue. Some of them are more long-term, like Sawa becoming a professional equestrian, while others are more immediate, like Konatsu forming a successful choir club or Wakana composing a song to fulfill a promise, but all of them have a conceivable end point to pursue which drives each character forward. This in turn influences the pacing of the show, as the sense of looking ahead gives the show a kind of momentum.
In Hanasaku Iroha, however, only Minko truly has an objective to push her forward: becoming a great chef. For everyone else, especially the main heroine Ohana, there are no particular goals or dreams associated with them. At the very best they have things they don’t want, like Yuina’s hesitation about inheriting her family’s inn or Ohana’s pensiveness towards responding to her friend Kouichi’s romantic confession, and this lends to Hanasaku Iroha on top of the rural setting a kind of slower and more subdued “day-by-day” feel.
Essentially, Tari Tari and Hanasaku Iroha are both about teenagers becoming adults, but they differ in focus. Tari Tari‘s sense of maturation comes from the characters moving along paths they’ve set out for themselves, learning along the way as a result. On the other hand, Hanasaku Iroha‘s characters are wandering through their growth to adulthood, trying to find their paths among many. Though both are about the everyday, Hanasaku Iroha sits a little more in the present, while Tari Tari shifts a little more towards the future.
In a recent conversation, I was presented an interesting question: why is that moe seems to engender the type of fandom which seems on some level staunchly devoted to it and has fans who can take attacks on moe personally? After some consideration, I thought of two reasons.
The first reason is that on some level, whether it be deep or shallow, I think moe fosters a very individual, perhaps even private connection. Regardless of the specifics and any sort of moral/aesthetic tastes, the idea (nebulous as it may be) begins to resonate with concepts such as catharsis, fantasy, sexual desire and identity, self-reflection, stress, and so on.
The second reason, and the one I’m more interested in for this post, has to do with the ease by which one can become a fan of moe. In a recent interview concerning Starcraft 2 fandom, commentator and personality Sean “Day” Plott was asked why so many SC2 fans have a tendency to identify themselves as “Starcraft fans” and to put down other games as inferior products, to which he responded:
There’s a lot of people who are into Starcraft and it’s just become their identity because, honestly, there’s so much Starcraft content that you can watch it all day, every day, just like you can be into football or baseball. And so, rather than just say, “I like this,” they look down on other things.
I think these words can apply to moe as well, in the sense that not only is there so much of it currently available that you can watch and read nothing but moe genre titles and have your entire day filled, but that the system behind it actively promotes and encourages this sort of obsession. On the fiction-production side, you have this tendency towards characters who each possess easily expressed individuality, and so make it easy to define a favorite, and it’s a process that can be renewed with the next show and the show after that. On the merchandise side, you have figures, posters, limited edition DVD boxes, fan clubs, official events, and so on. If you’re into some show, there’s a good chance you can buy something related to it, and though there’s a lot of talk these days about how fandom is moving beyond expressing itself through simple consumption, it can’t be denied that it is still in its own way an expression of one’s self.
Obviously this model doesn’t only apply to moe or even just anime/manga, nor does every single fan of moe do this (and I want to make the point clear that I’m not characterizing an entire fanbase as having a singular mindset). However, when combined with that very personal connection which moe fosters, I think it creates a particular kind of devotion, which, while not entirely unique, more easily manifests itself as something just that personal.
Name: Aoba, Tsugumi (青葉 つぐみ)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens
Aoba Tsugumi is a high school student with a long-time crush on her life-long friend, Mikuriya Jin. Upon seeing that Jin was living with another girl (his half-sister supposedly), Aoba has made a much more concerted effort to express her feelings for him. Knowing firsthand about Jin’s troubled past, Aoba is always looking out for him, even bringing over meals prepared by her mother. For this reason, Aoba also learned to cook, though she has a very limited repertoire, her best two dishes being “fried eggs with vegetables” and “vegetables with fried eggs.”
Aoba is a sweet, practical-minded girl, though she can also be a bit of a romantic. She can often be seen fighting with her imagination, both in terms of things not to think and things not to say. A newbie to the world of BL, Aoba was suddenly introduced to the genre by Kimura Takako and Ookouchi Fujino of the Art Club. It is not an active part of her life, though.
At first shocked by the content of yaoi doujinshi, Aoba very quickly asked for more. In addition, her reborn consciousness has allowed her to view the close bond between Jin and his friend Daitetsu in a new, corrupted light.