…but the idea that you’d go so far as to train didn’t figure into my expectations.”

Tatami Galaxy has begun to settle into a somewhat familiar pattern, but each repetition begins to feel slightly more intense than the one before it. Watashi’s problem starts to come out in the repetition of these two episodes, and as I’ve noted previously, it is the conflict that stems from his own stubborn pride.

“Cycling Club Soleil” aptly illustrates this: Watashi’s issue is that he wants to remake himself to impress others, but Akashi, the girl he cares for, simply wants him the way he already is. The nod to the Greek myth of Icarus, who flew too closely to the sun and melted his homemade wings, is a nice touch that again brings us back to the theme of mythology and recurrent archetypes. The themes here are also very clearly presented and most viewers I feel will be able to piece things together with no trouble, but for completeness’s sake I will review the symbolism:

Note once more the role of stylization - Watashi's dreams are bright and sunny, while most of Cycling Club Soleil is actually very drab and cloudy, ironically enough.

There is a very strong metaphor presented in this episode through Watashi’s “relationship” with his two bikes – his new one, which he describes as his “wings”, and his old worn-down everyday model, which he affectionately names Manami. Later, after the bike theft, he returns to Manami with all the terminology of marital infidelity on display… only to later be disgusted by his sentimentality at his affection towards an inanimate object when he is left in the dust during the race. Later, he meets up with Akashi who promises to literally give him wings by letting him participate as the Birdman contest pilot. Much like in the case of the bikes, however, Watashi thinks of Akashi in a completely one-sided way – the wings that Akashi gives him are his to live up to. In the same way as his biciclyes, Watashi sees Akashi’s help as only additive to his own effort. He must be the one at the end of the day pedaling – Watashi remains the one on top, riding the bike (ho ho, innuendo). What Watashi lacks is the understanding that all Akashi desires from him is to simply sit still and be lifted up by her – something that his pride cannot (at this point) accept. This is amusingly and poignantly hammered home when Watashi asks “Where’s the pedals?” only to be informed that they are competing in the unpowered flight category.

On another note, it is good to see Jougasaki brought back in this episode as something more of a neutral character, and certainly still a very funny one. The conclusion of this episode, revealing Ozu as having masterminded the taking of Watashi’s bike, throws all previous assumptions for a loop; especially if one has been assuming Ozu to be a psychological phenomena – but more on that at the very end of this post. Overall, “Soleil” ensures we’re familiar with the formula…

“Disciples Wanted”, on the other hand, shakes things up a little, just in time to prevent the show from becoming too repetitive. The circle in this episode is not so much chosen by Watashi as much as it chooses him – there is no promise of that “rose-coloured campus life” that Watashi sees in his first impression. Ironically enough the triviality of the activity as a “disciple” is as pointless as Watashi’s strivings in the past few clubs, and might in fact have been a good deal more fun. Episode 4 is also framed against the backdrop of (presumably) Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – we see Higuchi/Kamotake reading it constantly, and sticking pins in every part of the globe. His musical song and dance number (a high point of the episode that tickled me immensely) also features the Nautilus erupting from the river.

The sense of repetition continues to get stronger with each episode and reaches a high point in “Disciples Wanted” – characters frequently allude to having seen each other or having done some things before, moreso than a simple repetition of themes: Higuchi winning the Shimogamo Cup, the expose on Jougasaki, and of course, the price-hiking fortune-teller. The plot of “Disciples Wanted” itself follows Watashi as he is selected to succeed Higuch/Kamotake as the heir to an ongoing conflict that began with two students feuding over love, while Ozu of course becomes heir to the opposing side.

Truly an exercise in futility, but all the other circles so far have been just as pointless for our protagonist.

As I noted in my post on Movie Circle Misogi, the animation style is at once both playful and purposeful; this is less used in “Soleil”, but “Disciples Wanted” brings back stylistic depictions with a vengeance, substituting various deep-sea creatures for the various shop-keepers that Watashi flags down in his assigned task, and as mentioned, the spectacular backdrop of the Nautilus. As well, Watashi’s attraction towards Akashi is much more clearly visually displayed:

hnnng. That is all.

As always, the animation helps reveal much more about Watashi’s emotional state – it shows, rather than tells.

Kamotake has steadily begun encroaching into the story as a character himself, rather than standing in the background and watching as one would expect of a spirit. In “Movie Circle Misogi”, he is an acquaintance of Ozu, then in “Cycling Club Soleil” he becomes Ozu’s master and the recipient of the bike thefts, and by “Disciples Wanted” he becomes Watashi’s master as well – but in these cases he is referred to as Higuchi Seitarou, not by the name he introduces himself by in the first episode. I can’t help but feel there is a Japanese pun or reading convention in regards to this.

In regards to puns, it’s also interesting that the “mystical tortoise scrubbing brush” that Higuchi asks Watashi to get him has near the same pronounciation as the name he introduces himself by in Episode 1.

Note the many signifiers of feminine beauty here - the long, wavy hair, noticeable earrings, etc.

We are also introduced to a new character in this episode, and presumably the last major character (if the opening theme is anything to go by) – Hanuki, an older female student who has a fondness for drinking. Much how Jougasaki’s character design presents an hypermasculine alpha pack leader look, Hanuki has elements of almost a completely feminine opposite – sultry, worldly, and seductive – she is the opposite of Akashi in the same way that Jougasaki is the opposite of Watashi.

Ozu’s depiction since Movie Circle Misogi has featured on occasion a raccoon-like tail – a nod perhaps to the trickster tanuki of Japanese myth. And, as the trickster, Ozu is revealed certainly as the continuing constant, the true antagonist if not necessarily a villain. Episode 2 seemed to suggest Ozu as a psychological phenomena experienced by Watashi. Episode 3, with Ozu’s talk of Higuchi as his master, suggests perhaps that he is a divine or at least supernatural servant. Episdoe 4 casts him – most accurately – I think, as Watashi’s foil. What to make of this? It’s irrelevant what Ozu actually *is*, but it’s far more important to focus on what he does in the context of the plot – he is the focal point of all of Watashi’s frustrations. It is Ozu who takes away the bike in “Soleil”, Ozu who traps , Ozu who turns the documentary into a personal attack, and so on and so forth.

There is a constant temptation to try and plot out what is “real” or what is “actually” happening consistent from retelling to retelling – my advice would be to take a pass on that. We’ve fully entered the realm of mythology now, where anything is possible and everything happens at the same time.