Rushing to catch back up to the simulcast here. There are very few thoughts I have to add that aren’t already covered by anime|otaku and mystlord‘s commentary. In this episode, we see a reversal in circumstances but not the outright character of our itinerant protagonist. Episode 9 has answered a lot of questions raised in the previous arcs, and instead I’ll take a look at some interesting structural choices and parallelisms here – especially the comparison between “Neko Hanten”, introduced in this episode, and “Neko Ramen”.

Firstly – and most importantly, there is an interesting parallelism one can note between the Lucky Cat Chinese Restaurant – “Neko Hanten”, in Japanese – and the small traveling noodle stand Watashi always meets Higuchi at – “Neko Ramen”. Note the similarity and wordplay in the original Japanese names. There’s more going on here than just homonyms, however – both are essentially “secret” locations. Watashi is one of a select few in each case: only a select few know the true nature of Neko Hanten, and only a small few are able to find the mysterious traveling Neko Ramen stall. In addition, both serve the same food but with key differences. It might not be immediately obvious to the individual who has never traveled to Japan, but in Japan imported Chinese cuisine has “gone native” in the same way that it has in North America and Europe. Japanese elements have been introduced in many places to appeal to the local palate. Most “Chinese restaurants” in Japan actually serve Chinese-themed variations on Japanese Ramen: inauthentic ramen. By way of contrast, Neko Ramen serves traditional Japanese ramen, prepared right in front of you by a single person while you wait, in a humble outdoor setting: the very picture of authenticity.

This sheds further light on how both places serve as a refuge for Watashi. Neko Hanten is the place that Watashi crawls to wanting to gain outside popularity – an exterior popularity that completely runs against who he is on the inside. Neko Ramen, however, is the place where Watashi feels most at home, most able to express himself freely. His closest and most honest conversations – with Higuchi, with Hanuki, Ozu, and even Kaori – have all taken place at Neko Ramen. The fact that Akashi has not yet been to Neko Ramen, and Watashi’s hesitance at doing so – speaks to his hesitance about entering a relationship with her.

Neko Ramen’s theme and role has been there all along, but is only really fully revealed now with this contrasting view in the mirror.

I commented in anime|otaku’s post on episode 9 that interestingly enough, the real focus of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is Captain Nemo himself – literally a “No Man”, who despises his fellow man and has consequently taken to living under the waves. There a few further parallelisms I can draw, but depending on the reading, one might see Nemo as essentially running away from his toils and travails, in much the same way as Watashi. That’s all I have to throw in about the book, additional comments would be welcome.

It’s interesting although Ozu’s pure motivations are revealed at the end of the show, the show continues to use his “youkai face” (or as I affectionately term it, his fishface) rather than reverting to the “normal face” we had a brief glimpse of. What does this signify? Well, the simplest answer might just be “lazy animators”, but this may still point to the idea that Watashi still has not let go of his perception of Ozu. Perhaps. Or it might just be lazy animation.

Here is a fascinating role reversal which completely mixes up the traditional stories in a very intentional way. “Genji” refers to the protagonist of the Tale of Genji, a romance story depicting Japan’s Heian era. Genji is introduced to us as a young man mostly grown – handsome, striking, and loved by all – but he loves a lady above his station – a situation where his love cannot be reciprocated. Instead, Genji adopts his love’s niece, Murasaki, into his household, and finds himself raising the girl as an expression of his love for his lady. (A little creepy by modern standards, but perhaps one can see the roots of lolicon here?)

“Kaguya” refers to Princess Kaguya (“Kaguya-hime”) is from the Tales of the Bamboo Cutter, a Cinderella/Snow White styled folktale that recounts the discovery of a wonderful baby girl by a bamboo cutter inside a bamboo plant, who later turns out to be a princess of the Moon.

By their traditional roles, the proper juxtaposition should be “loved as much as baby Kaguya was by Hikaru Genji”: the handsome and complete man, raising a cherished daughter. Instead, we have a role reversal here – Watashi’s world has literally been turned upside down.

It’s little details like this that make Tatami Galaxy a joy to watch.

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