Absolutely flawless, down to the last detail. I can see why anime|otaku dropped everything to get to it first. There is barely anything to add or interpret here, rather, I’ll focus again on the small visual details and provide my own annotations. Absolutely no visual quirk has been spared – this final episode does not misstep even once, and absolutely everything is in there by intent.
It’s very hard to tell from the colour of the screenshot above, but there is a change at the end of the ED-turned-OP. In all previous EDs, the single lonely tatami room stays shut. In this episode, it opens – every so slightly – a small door to the outside world.
Again, we see this change in focus in Watashi – his inward journey has changed him. He has all the time too himself, so rather he prefers to spend his attention trying to piece together what he knows about others who exist outside his own personal Tatami Galaxy.
In a further change of perspective, we get the sense of a 3-dimensional rendering of one of Tatami Galaxy’s character designs. It’s no accident that the characters in the show are designed as abstractedly as they are – they literally are, in their simplistic and flat designs, absolutely 2-dimensional. But it is now that Watashi begins to realize that these are people too.
This gets kicked up a step further in the juxtaposition of live footage with rotoscoped animation: in the previous episode, this technique was utilized to create an uncanny effect in everday occurrences. Now, it hammers home the fact Watashi is literally “seeing in 3 dimensions.”
The “open door” is again realized here – Watashi’s private sanctuary – Neko Ramen, is not only now open to himself and Akashi, but every single club he’s interacted with. Note the Cheery Bicycle Cleanup Crew, the professor from the Birdman Club, the Library Police, the Mochiguman suit, and the Honkawa groupies, among others. Unlike previous episodes, where Watashi shut out these side characters out of his personal life, he now has brought them deep into his circle of acquaintances.
The expansiveness is also reflected in the selection of a 6 tatami room (approximately 9′ x 12′, as opposed to 9′ x 9′ for a youjouhan) – partly out of reaction to past experience, but the selection of a different living space and a different dorm I think reflects a new confidence: there is a full tatami for each one of the 6 – enough room now, to accommodate all of them together, rather than the measly “four-and-a-half” relationships he had prior – in the women’s arc immediately prior, he had room for only himself and three other major characters and then only one half of Ozu. The other arcs vary this formula slightly, but up until the end Ozu remains the “half-mat”. As well, recall this is the same “Tatami Idealogue” Watashi – it is a complete repudiation of his past position that people should restrict themselves to a particular mat.
This entire segment was absolutely gorgeous. The slow build up and instrumental came together with masterful execution that communicated the sense of collapsing all of the alternate possibilities into one single step forward.
It’s notable the very first word Watashi shouts upon escape is his friend’s name – and he says it lucidly, unlike the mumbling from before – and the first response he speaks is “Watashi da!” – the same ‘name’ by which we’ve come to know him. It’s a fitting touch – even in the end, Watashi remains Watashi.
Also, a big nod to Michael over at anime|otaku for calling this one theory. It’s not exactly what he predicted, but the moths certainly were a key factor.
Each character’s resolution is also handled in a very satisfactory manner. I’ve mentioned before how the three seniors – Higuchi, Jougasaki, and Hanuki – mirror the younger students Watashi, Ozu, and Akashi – in different and opposing ways. It’s so very fitting how Watashi, Ozu, and Akashi in many ways inherit their roles and relationships.
The final scene is just perfect – a wonderful reversal that has come to show the growth and change of the character, and also, the change in his perceptions. Ozu is revealed with his “proper” face for most of this episode – rather than the devilish prankster Watashi has made him out to be for so long, he is also revealed to be human, with his own thoughts, fears, and insecurities. Yet Ozu has always had Watashi’s back despite his impish demeanour, and the fact that Watashi can put on the same face shows if anything how much he has come to appreciate his friend.
There are a handful of mysteries left unexplained, of course – for example, what was Higuchi’s real nature anyway, and what was the whole thing with him passing off as a kami in the first episode? How in blazes did Watashi make that jump from the riverbed? I can’t really say they’re particularly pressing ones, though; I’d say the mystery of it all is just a part and parcel of what gives Tatami Galaxy such magic. I have been continually impressed throughout the entire run on how absolutely detail-oriented the entire series has been. While some may differ on the speed of the pacing, at no point is any frame wasted. The show is a real testament to the strengths of animation over other visual mediums. At the same time, the show remains constantly very accessible – there’s no real need to go through frame by frame, or have a major background in animation to appreciate the show in general. There may be other shows that come and go but Tatami Galaxy is definitely a keeper from any angle you look at it – plot, characters, or animation.