The Tatami Galaxy (Japanese: 四畳半神話大系, Hepburn: Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei, lit. "4½ Tatami Mythological Chronicles") is a 2004 Japanese varsity novel written by Tomihiko Morimi and published by Ohta Publishing. Its first-person narrator is an unnamed upperclassman at Kyoto University reminiscing on the misadventures of his previous years of campus life, with each of the four chapters taking place in parallel universes in which he is enrolled in a different student society.

The Tatami Galaxy
2008 edition and DVD cover art
(Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei)
The Tatami Galaxy
Written byTomihiko Morimi
Published by
English publisherHarperCollins
Anime television series
The Tatami Galaxy
Directed byMasaaki Yuasa
Produced by
  • Fumie Takeuchi
  • Noriko Ozaki
Written by
  • Makoto Ueda
  • Masaaki Yuasa
Music byMichiru Ōshima
Licensed by
Original networkFuji TV (Noitamina)
Original run April 22, 2010 July 1, 2010
Episodes11 (List of episodes)
The Tatami Time Machine Blues
Written by
  • Tomihiko Morimi
  • Makoto Ueda
Published byKadokawa Shoten
English publisherHarperCollins
PublishedJuly 29, 2020
Original net animation
The Tatami Time Machine Blues
Directed byShingo Natsume
Produced by
Written byMakoto Ueda
Music byMichiru Ōshima
StudioScience Saru
Licensed byDisney Platform Distribution
Released September 14, 2022 October 12, 2022
Anime film
The Tatami Time Machine Blues
Directed byShingo Natsume
Produced by
  • Fumie Takeuchi
  • Noriko Ozaki
  • Eunyoung Choi
  • Hana Sugawara
Written byMakoto Ueda
Music byMichiru Ōshima
StudioScience Saru
ReleasedSeptember 30, 2022

A sequel, The Tatami Time Machine Blues (四畳半タイムマシンブルース, Yojōhan Taimu Mashin Burūsu), was published in 2020, which combines the characters of The Tatami Galaxy with the plot of Makoto Ueda's play and film Summer Time Machine Blues. English translations of both novels were published by HarperCollins in December 2022 and November 2023, respectively.

The Tatami Galaxy was adapted into an 11-episode anime television series produced by Madhouse and directed by Masaaki Yuasa, which aired on Fuji TV's late-night Noitamina programming block in 2010. The adaptation was critically acclaimed, winning the 2010 Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize in the Animation Division and the 2011 Tokyo Anime Award in the Television Category. An original net animation adaptation of The Tatami Time Machine Blues produced by Science Saru premiered in September 2022 on Disney+.

Plot edit

The Tatami Galaxy follows an unnamed third-year student at Kyoto University, using parallel universes as a plot device to explore how his life would have differed had he joined a particular student society (called a "circle" in Japan). The majority of the series' episodes follow the same basic structure: the protagonist joins a circle as a freshman, but is disillusioned when the activity does not lead to the idealized "rose-colored campus life" he dreamed of. He meets Ozu, another student, whose encouragement sets him on a mission of dubious morality. He becomes close to Akashi, a second year engineering student, and makes a promise to her, usually of and within a romantic subtext. He encounters a fortune teller, who cryptically informs him of an opportunity "dangling" in front of his eyes; this prompts him to remember a mochiguman keychain lost by Akashi and recovered by the protagonist, which he leaves hanging from a pull switch in his apartment and perpetually forgets to return to her. The dubious mission ends poorly for the protagonist, causing him to bemoan the state of his life and wonder how things would have differed had he joined a different circle. Time rewinds, and the subsequent episode depicts the protagonist once again as a freshman, joining a different circle.

Characters edit

Protagonist / "Me" (, Watashi)
Voiced by: Shintarō Asanuma
An unnamed college student in Kyoto reflecting on his past two years of college life. He entered college with dreams of finding a "rose-colored campus life" and the love of a "raven-haired maiden," but is continually disillusioned when he is unable to achieve this ideal. He is shy, self-regarding, and easily manipulated by others.
Ozu (小津)
Voiced by: Hiroyuki Yoshino
A troublemaking student who claims he is bound to the protagonist by the black thread of fate, and who often encourages the protagonist to make morally questionable choices. His mischievous nature is personified in his pale and unsettling appearance, resembling a yōkai.
Akashi (明石)
Voiced by: Maaya Sakamoto
An engineering student who is commonly (but not always) the center of the protagonist's affections, and who often appears in the same club that the protagonist joins. She has a cold and rational personality, but shows hints of softness and helpfulness towards the protagonist. She suffers from a severe fear of moths.
Seitarō Higuchi (樋口 清太郎, Higuchi Seitarō)
Voiced by: Keiji Fujiwara, Kazuya Nakai
Though he claims be a god of matchmaking in the first episode, Higuchi—also referred to as "Master Higuchi", or simply "the Master" (Shishō)—is an eighth-year super senior living in the same dorm as the protagonist. He has a wise, distant, and nonchalant personality, and is always seen wearing a yukata. Higuchi, Hanuki, the ramen stall owner, and Jōgasaki were formerly classmates; Higuchi has an ongoing rivalry with the lattermost, called the "proxy-proxy war".
Masaki Jōgasaki (城ヶ崎 マサキ, Jōgasaki Masaki)
Voiced by: Junichi Suwabe
An eighth-year super senior and president of the movie circle. Though handsome and popular, he is privately lecherous and owns a love doll named Kaori. He often takes an antagonistic role relative to the protagonist, and is often assisted by Ozu in a way that is detrimental to the protagonist's progress, in spite of the fact that Ozu is helping the protagonist at the same time. Has an ongoing rivalry with Higuchi.
Ryōko Hanuki (羽貫 涼子, Hanuki Ryōko)
Voiced by: Yuko Kaida
A dental hygienist and former classmate of Higuchi and Jōgasaki. A frequent drinker, she drastically loses her sense of judgement when inebriated; aware of this, she is cautious about choosing who she goes drinking with.
Kaori (香織)
Voiced by: Mamiko Noto, Nobuyuki Hiyama
A love doll owned by Jōgasaki.
Aijima (相島)
Voiced by: Setsuji Satō
A subordinate in the film circle who secretly leads the Secret Society Lucky Cat Chinese Restaurant.
Keiko Higuchi (樋口 景子, Higuchi Keiko)
A person the protagonist believes to be an elegant girl with whom he exchanges letters. She is actually Akashi, who writes the letters to the protagonist as a prank at Ozu's behest.
Fortune teller (老婆, Rōba)
Voiced by: Ako Mayama
An old woman who appears in every episode, almost always along Kiyamachi Street, and tells the protagonist (often but not always at his behest) to seize the opportunities before him (or a variation thereof). She increases the price for her services by ¥1000 in each subsequent episode.
Cat Ramen stall owner (猫ラーメン店主, Neko Rāmen tenshu)
Voiced by: Atsushi Miyauchi
The owner of the ramen shop the protagonist favors. He is mostly silent, occasionally putting in a short, new insight into the protagonist's current conversations or problems. He occasionally takes on a more active role in the protagonist's adventures, always a helpful one.
Johnny (ジョニー, Jonī)
Voiced by: Nobuyuki Hiyama
A cowboy representing the protagonist's libido, who constantly bickers with the protagonist.

Media edit

Novel edit

The Tatami Galaxy was first published in Japanese in December 2004 as a tankōbon by Ohta Publishing; it was republished in March 2008 as a bunkoban by Kadokawa Shoten.[4] The novel was published in Korean by Viche in August 2008,[5] in traditional Chinese by China Times Publishing in December 2009,[6] and in simplified Chinese by Shanghai People's Publishing House in August 2010.[7]

Morimi's 2006 novel The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl serves as a spiritual successor to Tatami Galaxy, with a shared setting and some recurring characters. The novel was published in English in the United States in 2019 by Yen Press.[8]

The Tatami Galaxy received a sequel, titled The Tatami Time Machine Blues (四畳半タイムマシンブルース, Yojōhan Taimu Mashin Burūsu, lit. "4½ Tatami Time Machine Blues"), inspired by Makoto Ueda's stage play and film Summer Time Machine Blues. It was published in Japan on July 29, 2020.[9]

Both The Tatami Galaxy and The Tatami Time Machine Blues are licensed for publication in the United States by HarperCollins,[10] and were published in December 2022 and November 2023, respectively, translated by Emily Balistrieri.[11]

Anime edit

An anime television series adaptation of The Tatami Galaxy was produced by Madhouse, with Masaaki Yuasa as director, series composition by Makoto Ueda, teleplays by Ueda and Yuasa, and music by Michiru Ōshima.[12] The series premiered on April 22, 2010, as a part of Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block.[13] Two theme songs are used for the series: "Maigoinu to Ame no Beat" by Asian Kung-Fu Generation as the opening theme, and "Kamisama no Iutōri (神様のいうとおり, lit. "As God Dictates") by Etsuko Yakushimaru as the closing theme.[14]

Three seven-minute animated shorts were included with the Japanese DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases of the series. The first DVD/BD volume was released on August 20, 2010, and contained the first short; the second and third shorts were released on the third and fourth DVD/BD volumes on October 22, 2010, and November 26, 2010, respectively.[15]

In North America, the series was simulcast by Funimation,[16] and it was first licensed in United Kingdom by Beez Entertainment.[17] In June 2019, Funimation announced the release of the series on Blu-ray and DVD with subtitles only on September 3.[18]

On August 12, 2021, it was announced that The Tatami Time Machine Blues novel would be receiving an anime adaptation. The series, later revealed to be an original net animation (ONA), is produced by Science Saru, directed by Shingo Natsume and written for television by Makoto Ueda, with character designs by Yusuke Nakamura, music composed by Michiru Ōshima, and the majority of the original Japanese voice cast reprising their roles.[19][10] Asian Kung-Fu Generation performed the theme song "Demachiyanagi Parallel Universe".[20] The 6-episode series premiered exclusively on Disney+ in Japan on September 14, 2022, while a theatrical compilation film version followed on September 30.[21][22] The Disney+ release of the series includes an original episode that was not covered by the theatrical compilation, which was released on October 12, 2022 along with the series finale.[10][22] The series was also released in the United States on November 9, 2022.[23] It was slated to appear on Disney+, but was unexpectedly moved over to Hulu with no promotion or announcement.[24]

Episode list edit

# Title Storyboard artist Episode director Original air date
1"Tennis Circle "Cupid""
"Tenisu Sākuru "Kyūpiddo"" (テニスサークル「キューピッド」)
Masaaki YuasaMasaaki YuasaApril 22, 2010 (2010-04-22)
At a ramen stall behind Shimogamo Shrine, the protagonist meets a man who claims he is a god of matchmaking and that Akashi will be bound to either the protagonist or Ozu. The protagonist reflects on joining the tennis circle as a freshman, only to become embittered upon learning its membership was composed entirely of couples; abetted by Ozu, he spent the next two years sabotaging the relationships of his clubmates. He came to like Akashi, and had promised her to take her to the ramen stall behind the shrine. Higuchi tells the protagonist to confess his feelings to Akashi during Gozan no Okuribi, but he fails to do so.
2"Film Circle "Misogi""
"Eiga Sākuru "Misogi"" (映画サークル「みそぎ」)
Akitoshi YokoyamaAkitoshi YokoyamaApril 29, 2010 (2010-04-29)
The protagonist joins the movie circle, but his ideas for films are rejected by Jogasaki, the circle’s president. Encouraged by Ozu, the protagonist spends the next two years shooting a documentary exposing the worst aspects of Jogasaki's character, including his love doll Kaori. He becomes fond of Akashi, the only member of the circle who takes an interest in his films, but she rebuffs him upon seeing the exposé.
3"Cycling Association "Soleil""
"Saikuringu Dōkōkai "Soreiyu"" (サイクリング同好会「ソレイユ」)
Ryōtarō MakiharaRyōtarō MakiharaMay 6, 2010 (2010-05-06)
The protagonist joins the cycling club, but is too frail to be competitive in races. He spends the next two years saving money to buy a road bike, but it is stolen. Akashi recruits the protagonist to be the pilot of the birdman glider she is building; the protagonist trains under Jogasaki to prepare for the event, but his increased musculature makes him too heavy for the glider. When Ozu attempts to steal the glider, it slips down a grade towards a pond. The protagonist attempts to steer the plane to safety, but instead crashes it.
4"Disciples Wanted"
"Deshi Motomu" (弟子求ム)
Akitoshi YokoyamaAkitoshi YokoyamaMay 13, 2010 (2010-05-13)
The protagonist and Ozu become disciples of Higuchi, who over the course of two years makes them do a variety of mundane tasks. The protagonist’s final task is to find a mythical tortoise brush that can purportedly clean anything; he is aided by Akashi, also a disciple of Higuchi. Upon finding the brush, Higuchi reveals that he has chosen the protagonist as his successor to carry on a “proxy proxy war” with Jogasaki, the original cause of which has become lost to time. Jogasaki chooses Ozu as his successor, who is revealed to have been a double agent all along.
5"Softball Circle "Honwaka""
"Sofutobōru Sākuru "Honwaka"" (ソフトボールサークル「ほんわか」)
Hiroshi HamasakiTomoya TakahashiMay 20, 2010 (2010-05-20)
The protagonist joins the softball team, but finds that the outward kindness of its membership mask their hive mind and cult-like tendencies. The team is owned by a health food company, and the protagonist falls for the company owner’s daughter; he spends the next two years buying a large volume of the company’s products, before being invited to visit their factory. The company owner believes that the world will end in 2012 and has built a Noah's Ark, which is subsequently stolen and crashed by Ozu. The protagonist and Ozu flee the factory, and are rescued by the ramen shop owner.
6"English Conversation Circle "JoEnglish""
"Eikaiwa Sākuru "Joingurisshu"" (英会話サークル「ジョイングリッシュ」)
Shingo NatsumeShingo NatsumeMay 27, 2010 (2010-05-27)
The protagonist joins three circles as a freshman, one of which is the English Conversation Circle. He becomes close to Hanuki, a fellow member of the club, while simultaneously living with Kaori the love doll and exchanging letters with a girl named Keiko. One night, he must choose between getting drinks with Hanuki, spending time with Kaori before returning her to Jogasaki, or meeting Keiko in person. He chooses Hanuki, and after a night of heavy drinking, ends up at her apartment. To the chagrin of Johnny, the personification of the protagonist’s libido, he chooses to not reciprocate Hanuki’s inebriated flirting and returns home.
7""Hero Show Association" Circle"
"Sākuru "Hiro Shō Dōkōkai"" (サークル「ヒーローショー同好会」)
Michio MiharaMichio MiharaJune 3, 2010 (2010-06-03)
The second of the three clubs joined by the protagonist in the previous episode is the Hero Show Association, where he dresses as a costumed character and performs for children. During one show, the protagonist intervenes when Akashi is harassed by two men. This attracts the attention of Jogasaki, who hires the protagonist to be Kaori’s bodyguard. The protagonist again faces the choice of which of the three women he will spend the night with; he chooses Kaori and attempts to elope with her, but once again is berated by Johnny when he hesitates in consummating his desires. Jogasaki, who has been informed of the protagonist’s actions by Ozu, finds the protagonist, kicks him away, and takes Kaori back.
8"Reading Circle "SEA""
"Dokusho Sākuru "SEA"" (読書サークル「SEA」)
Hiroshi ShimizuJunichi FujiseJune 10, 2010 (2010-06-10)
The third of the three clubs joined by the protagonist is the Reading Circle, where Ozu lends him a novel inscribed with the name and address of Keiko, its previous owner. Keiko and the protagonist exchange letters over the subsequent two years, before she invites them to meet. Once again, the protagonist faces a choice between the three women; he goes to Keiko’s apartment, only to find Ozu instead. Akashi appears and explains that she wrote the letters at Ozu’s behest as a prank; though Ozu eventually tired of the prank, she continued to write the letters in earnest as thanks for when the protagonist saved her at the Hero Show. The protagonist returns home, where he is lectured by Johnny for not asking Akashi out.
9"Secret Society "Lucky Cat Chinese Restaurant""
"Himitsu Kikan "Fukuneko Hanten"" (秘密機関「福猫飯店」)
Akitoshi YokoyamaAkitoshi YokoyamaJune 17, 2010 (2010-06-17)
As a freshman, the protagonist joins a secret society that organizes the dubious campus activities seen in the previous episodes. While the protagonist fails in the various missions the society assigns him, Ozu is incredibly effective and eventually becomes the leader of the society. Under Ozu, the protagonist rises through the ranks of the society, but still feels dissatisfied with life; Higuchi explains this is because the perfect, idealized campus life he is searching for does not actually exist. In the depths of his depression, the protagonist discovers that Ozu has a girlfriend; he is dismayed to learn that Ozu, who always seemed to be wasting time, has truly enjoyed his college years. The protagonist declares that he should simply stay in his 4½ tatami room; unlike in every episode prior, time does not rewind.
10"The 4½ Tatami Ideologue"
"Yōjōhan Shugisha" (四畳半主義者)
Eunyoung ChoiEunyoung ChoiJune 24, 2010 (2010-06-24)
Disillusioned by the discovery that a perfect life does not exist, the protagonist joins no clubs as a freshman, choosing instead to spend all of his free time in his 4½ tatami room. He awakens one morning to discover that he is surrounded by an infinite number of seemingly identical rooms behind every door, window, and wall. It transpires that the rooms bear slight variations, each corresponding to a parallel universe determined by the choices he could have (and has) made throughout the series. Overwhelmed by loneliness, the protagonist collapses. Once again, time does not rewind.
11"The End of the 4½ Tatami Age"
"Yōjōhanki no Owari" (四畳半紀の終わり)
Masaaki YuasaMasaaki YuasaJuly 1, 2010 (2010-07-01)
Still trapped in the tatami world, the protagonist continues to search for an exit to no avail, eventually returning to the room he started from. Upon noticing that Akashi's lost mochiguman hangs from the ceiling in every room, he realizes that he loves Akashi. As he makes this realization, a swarm of moths appear, which knock him back to the night of Gozan no Okuribi depicted in the first episode. Back in reality, he rescues Ozu from the various groups he has wronged throughout the series, and asks Akashi out to the ramen shop after returning her mochiguman. The protagonist moves out of the 4½ tatami room, and begins to date Akashi. The protagonist and Akashi visit Ozu and, in a mirrored version of their conversation from the first episode, the protagonist offers to lend assistance to Ozu.

Film edit

Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, a feature film and spiritual sequel to The Tatami Galaxy, based on the novel of the same name, was released by Toho on April 7, 2017.[25]

Reception edit

The Tatami Galaxy won the grand prize in the animation category at the 14th Japan Media Arts Festival on December 8, 2010, making it the first television series to win the award, with the jury describing the series in their justification as a "richly expressive work that turns the limitations of TV on its head" and complimenting its "unique scene layouts, characters' actions and color scheme."[26][27] It also won the Television Category award at the 10th Tokyo Anime Awards in 2011.[28]

In 2019, Polygon staff named The Tatami Galaxy as one of the best anime of the 2010s; writer Julia Lee commented, "This is my all-time favorite anime. It's wordy, it's fun, and it has this great, over exaggerated art style".[29] In a 2019 Forbes's article about the best anime of the 2010s decade, Lauren Orsini considered it to be one of the five best anime of 2010; she wrote, "With thoughtful wordplay and deep insight into the human condition, this Bildungsroman bridges fantasy and reality with a cast of characters just on the other side of absurd".[30]

Accolades edit

Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2010 14th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize for Animation Division The Tatami Galaxy Won [31]
2011 10th Tokyo Anime Award Best Picture for TV Series The Tatami Galaxy Won [32]
2023 58th PEN America Literary Awards PEN Translation Prize The Tatami Galaxy Nominated [11][33]

References edit

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External links edit