Episode 1

This seems to be the consensus reaction amongst most viewers to the first episode.

There’s only a handful of blogs covering this show, which is a great shame. So let’s talk Tatami Galaxy. A disclaimer to begin with: this show is fast. Lightning-fast; a rewatch may be warranted if you are poor at Japanese (which likely describes many people who would be reading an English-language blog) and if you are not a fast reader. I hope to tackle this show in a slightly more analytical (or pretentious, if you prefer) style, paying attention to major themes and literary-style criticism. Summaries and recaps will be scanty, only insofar as to illustrate examples. And again, if you’re in North America, the show is being simulcasted on Youtube by Funimation.

This post in particular will be an introductory sort of post – referencing most of the events of episode 1, but more focusing on the pre-OP prologue and talking about themes in a general sense.

Let’s start with the title – which is itself an interesting case of translation in action. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei, the original Japanese language title for the show, translates to something like”Four-and-a-half Tatami Mat Mythological Chronicles”, which in turn references the dimensions of your typical Japanese flat – large enough to lay out four tatami mats and half of another. There are a number of ways to arrange the mats in the room, and the arrangement of them can also be considered auspicious or inauspicious.

The title is most clearly referenced in the ED – compare the diagram of a tatami arrangement below with the video.

Example of a Four-and-a-half Tatami mat layout.

Funimation has given the series the English title of “The Tatami Galaxy” – which connotes some sort of interconnectedness between tatami-floored rooms, which I think is very consistent with the ED. We can see here that the dormitory our main protagonist consists of four-and-a-half matted rooms; a common and absolutely anonymous layout. The other rooms in the dormitory are likely four-and-a-half affairs as well.

Note the tatami flooring - four-and-a-half mats.

We learn from the prologue that the dorm is named Shimogamo Yuusuiso; it’s located close to the similarly named Shimogamo shrine; it disappeared during the Bakumatsu (final days of the Tokuwaga Shogunate), was rebuilt, and it gives off the impression of a ruin or a much more ancient building than it actually is. What’s more, it seems we may have a bunch of rather interesting characters living in this dormitory – the god (kami) of matchmaking at the nearby shrine – named Kamotaketsunominokamo (that’s a mouthful) – that the protagonist meets at the beginning is living on the floor above (in room 210, to be precise). With the title in mind, it’s likely that Shimogamo Yuusuiso, more than any other location, will be the backdrop for the majority of this show – an web, or should we say a galaxy, of interconnected four-and-half rooms that bind the characters in this story together.

A lot to chew on and that’s just the prologue; in the next post we’ll take a look at the characters that are introduced.