On the Third Day of Anime: All The Small Things (Tamako Market)

[Mazui]_Tamako_Market_-_09_[2381B0B2].mkv_snapshot_19.42_[2013.12.15_00.25.43]

Tamako, hoping to find out more about her mother, discovers her dad singing a very familiar tune. Our perspective of her loses its clarity and becomes softer, perhaps dreamier, to reflect her emotions.

I have some issues when I watch slice of life anime. Or rather, I’m critical of slice of life anime. As someone who searches for themes and story structures in anime, the slice of life genre comes off to me as something opposite of my tastes. Where’s the story, the plot progression? When can I start complaining about pacing issues or plot twists? More importantly, why is nothing happening? This was at the beginning of the year for me. My tastes have shifted slightly since then.

[Mazui]_Tamako_Market_-_02_[A74AB4F2].mkv_snapshot_15.08_[2013.12.15_00.17.48]

“Everybody loves somebody?” As if in response to her own question, the camera pans around her as she looks around, surrounded by wonderfully animated Valentine’s Day decorations.

Tamako Market has a place in my list of moments because by the end of the series I had to question what I valued in anime. Well, let’s look at some of my top favorites. “Classics” like Gankutsuou and Cowboy Bebop are beloved because their power lies in their thematic execution. Comedies with the perfect timing like Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei or Detroit Metal City never fail to catch my interest. But what about Tamako Market? What about my exorbitantly high score for things such as Wandering Son or Whisper of the Heart? When the going gets tough, neither of those anime actually tell a consistent story, nor are they layered with the kind of intensity you see in other, more dramatic works. There was, however, something about all three of these anime that caught my interest. That thing was the animation.

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The camera cuts between shots of Shiori and of both her and Tamako, marking an internal struggle of expressing her thanks in the midst of an awkward atmosphere and her own shy personality.

Slice of life is a genre that is ultimately restricted in what it can do with its setting and with its characters. It must convey that their characters live relatable, believable, but most of all interesting lives under the lens of an animation studio. Creating a character that feels real is a feat in and of its own, but for me the biggest concern lies in how the animation supports this illusion. I do not view animation merely as a device to make characters move and talk with the sounds. It’s a medium begging to be played with. You may only see the moeblobs and the huge eyes when you look at Tamako Market. However, what I see from it is a variety of camera angles, cutting techniques, picture editing, camera movement, and cinematography. Okay, I also see moeblobs and huge eyes, too. There was this active creativity around Tamako Market, something that I came to enjoy and look forward to every week.

[Mazui]_Tamako_Market_-_11_[04FAB67E].mkv_snapshot_07.31_[2013.12.15_16.57.45]

Discussing the prospect of Tamako being married off to someone in a faraway land, the slightly shaky and off-center camera belies Kanna’s usual deadpan disposition.

I’ve read that Tamako Market is a failure as a slice of life series because it does not make the viewer feel “safe” in its environment. That to center a slice of life around love was a precursor to character development, killing the illusion of the “safe” environment. I’ve also heard that it’s bad simply because it’s a slice of life with a multitude of moe elements. Rejected by both extremes, this anime sits in a very awkward spot between its nostalgic, comfortable setting and the cast’s burning desire for passion, be it from their self-worth or their feelings of romance. Make it by no mistake that there exists love in almost every facet of Tamako Market’s burgeoning list of characters, and that the setting is quite comfortable. But those are just two aspects of an anime that captured my interest in spite of all the other slice of life anime more worthy of that label. That would be ignoring the efforts in animation, and perhaps the purpose of this show. Yes, Tamako Market exists in a bubble, but the entire point of slice of life is that we wish to be a part of the festivities. For me, that supposition was successful. If everyday life were filled with the kind of magic that the animation brought out of its characters, I would certainly find life in that universe to be more interesting, and to a lesser extent, fun to watch.

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Choi is a fantastical element in the setting. So, fittingly, she is perhaps the only character who is the subject of a visual metaphor.

What I value in Tamako Market was Kyoto Animation’s meticulous and creative efforts to bring life into its characters through its animation, as well as its commitment to a full cast of colorful characters. From tsundere dads to tired women in maid outfirs, from transvestite Daisuke Onos to grandpas wielding motherfucking kendama staves, having a story centered around love feels a bit… normal, in comparison. Yet wouldn’t that be fun? That worries about love and development come and go so freely that it’s considered normal? If so, what illusion is really being broken here?

[Mazui]_Tamako_Market_-_04_[148BE582].mkv_snapshot_14.57_[2013.12.15_00.22.27]

Addendum

  1. MA-WA-RU, MAWA-RU, RECORD
  2. But seriously, tsundere dad is so moe im gonna die
  3. fuck it everyone is moe in this show
  4. stahp
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2 comments

  1. I’ve nominated your blog for the Liebster award. If you’d like to participate, I have a list of questions on the below page. If not though, that’s totally okay and please just take this for the compliment it’s intended as! http://otakulounge.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/liebster-awards/

  2. […] that I enjoyed watching Tamako Love Story after writing about my experiences watching Tamako Market the year before. The original TV series stood out to me a particularly effective s’life during a time where I […]

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