Tamako Market, the Never-Ending 12-Episode Anime

Over the course of Tamako Market‘s run I noticed that it had a mixed reception, especially among Kyoto Animation fans. I may be mistaken as to how many people really disliked it, but I’ve seen enough to want to say something about it. As for myself, I had considered it an interesting and welcome step forward for the popular studio, and wondered what could be the source of this difference in opinion. After some conversations with friends, I think I’ve figured it out.

To put it simply, for the most part the girls of Tamako Market do not have, in their presentations, visual designs, or their personalities, the sort of near-tangible qualities that have made people in the past fall in love with Kyoani characters. The girls are comparatively less “moe,” and they certainly aren’t tragic, which leaves the show with a different sort of appeal that may seem alien to fans of Kyoto Animation’s existing body of work. The main character Tamako herself is simply a smart and capable but naive girl who loves mochi and who, to a small degree, reminds me of Madoka from Rinne no Lagrange. Dera the talking bird is as far from “cutesy girl” as one can possibly get, and seems to have been particularly unpopular. The main exception seems to be the carpentry girl Kanna (pictured above, left) whose eccentric personality, to be fair, does kind of steal the show.

(I’m fond of Shiori, the girl on the right, myself).

The best way I can describe Tamako Market‘s appeal is that it’s not so much about showing off an ensemble cast consisting of various characters with easily identifiable quirks like how K-On! is, but about showing the residents of the Usagiyama shopping district as a small community of people. While many of the side characters are never really developed, they don’t really need to be, as they add to the feeling of an oxymoronic slow-paced hustle. Seeing the small developments that occur in the residents’ lives feels not so much like “slice of life,” but like a low key-yet-silly comedy.

Someone asked me what anime out there was similar to Tamako Market. After some thought, I realized the answer: Sazae-san, a popular comedy anime about a Japanese housewife and her family, and which 1969 has continued to run on Japanese TV making it the longest-running anime ever. That’s probably the furthest answer from Haruhi possible, so I think that might say it all about how Tamako Market is different, and why I think it’s the sort of show that could’ve gone on forever.

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3 thoughts on “Tamako Market, the Never-Ending 12-Episode Anime

  1. I enjoyed Tamako Market quite a bit, but i can certainly understand why many people did not. The most noticeable problem of the series seems to be that it lacks focus. It has a slice-of-life aspect centered around the market, which works pretty well, but the plot aspects that were introduced in the series seemingly come across as an afterthought.

    The main one about Dera being sent out to find a bride for the prince, although briefly referenced several times in the series, appears to immediately be pushed aside in favour of character-centric slice of life episodes, gets temporarily resurrected when Choi arrives, then drops off the radar again until the arrival of the prince. Even then, the viewer never really gets the impression that Tamako is ever seriously conflicted by this and the whole misunderstanding is cleared up in essentially no time flat. This entire plotline, which was clearly intended as a source of some dramatic tension, just seems to end up being a little low on impact.

    The other major plot aspect that is introduced is the romantic feelings that both Mochizou and Midori harbour for Tamako. We see some hints of this here and there throughout the series and the issue seemed to be headed for a dramatic conflict in ep.5, only to be pushed aside as a result of both interested parties realizing that they do not wish to push their luck, as Tamako is at present more interested in mochi-making than in romance. While the romance aspect of the series is handled with an admirable amount of realistic subtlety, the lack of any significant results could by some be regarded as a significant missed opportunity.

    Personally, i’m not too bothered by the lack of impact of these plot points, as the series still mangages to get the slice-of-life and comedy aspects right most of the time. I also like how Kyoto Animation continues to work at the way in which they use their animation to add individuality to each character by providing them with their own subtle body language. This is something that the studio has been noticeably improving on while it was working on both K-ON! seasons and managed to raise to even considerably greater height with last year’s Hyouka anime series. Combined with realistic character interaction, this does wonders in making the characters feel like genuine people and is tremendously useful in allowing the audience to be immersed in the story.

    It’s a real pity that Tamako Market’s reception has been poor and DVD/BD sales likewise, but even though it was not a commercial success, i’m certainly confident that Kyoto Animation’s work on the series has helped them to improve the cinematography and character animation in their productions. I’m looking forward to seeing what the studio has planned with their adaptation of the supposedly action-heavy Kyoukai no Kanata light novels.

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  2. I don’t care what anyone says, this anime was utterly fabulous. I’ve never seen a more lovable main character, and she didn’t have to be even slightly sexualized to achieve that title. I adored that silly fat bird and there wasn’t a single character on this show I disliked.
    That being said, I will say it isn’t my favorite anime by any means. But it was a very well done cutting of what life is really like while still being able to throw in some crazy shit that only happens in anime. The “lack of focus” mentioned doesn’t even remotely surprise or bother me, because honestly real life is never that focused. I realize that anime was never about trying to be accurate to real life, but I assume “slice of life” anime are, and that’s what this is classified as.
    All in all, I love it but I’d never watch it again. There is just too much I wished would’ve happened, even though it probably would’ve ruined the show, and too much emotion involved all together for me. But I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an utterly adorable slice of life anime. 9/10 for me.

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