Tamako Market – 12 (Fin)

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Prince Mechya Mochimazzi arrives at the shopping district and everyone assumes it’s to “collect” Tamako, who still goes to school, but her mind is preoccupied. Finally, she decides to politely decline the offer, but Mechya tells her she was never a candidate; Dera confused Tamako’s smell with that of the flowers the florist stocks. The Prince and Choi return home, but Dera stays until New Years, after which he plans to leave without saying goodbye, but falls asleep in a bouquet Mochizou orders for Tamako’s birthday.

One thing this series has made abundantly clear is that the Bunny Mountain shopping district is a wonderful place to grow up, live, work, and play. There’s never a dull moment, and just about every day has a festival atmosphere. Another thing made clear is that Tamako loves this place very much, and everyone in it. She has that big medal to prove it, along with the love of everyone else right back at her. Which is why despite knowing next to nothing about the outside world, she declines the offer. It turned out to be a misunderstanding anyway, but Tamako didn’t know that at the time she made her not trivial decision.

Frankly, we couldn’t see her anywhere else but the district. Perhaps one day she’ll pick up on Mochizou’s feelings, return them, get married, and they’ll grow old running the mochi shops, training their children to do the same. Happens all the time; absolutely nothing wrong with that. One thing this series lacked was a district character who had actually been in the outside world and came back. Something tells us that while people may stop by for extended visits, like Dera and Choi, ultimately this is place you either leave or stay. And Tamako doesn’t want to leave. She’s never felt lonely or restless here. It’s where feels she belongs, and it’s more than enough world for her.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Tamako’s dramatic sneeze – and Dera’s reaction to it – we’ll miss that bird…
  • In another future scenario, perhaps it will be Midori who wins Tamako’s heart and they get married. Would suck for Mochizou, but it’s Tamako’s choice to make, and she’s not ready to make it yet.
  • We’re not sure Choi will be able to bring that hammer on the plane…

 

Tamako Market – 11

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Word spreads around the district that Tamako is a “princess”, but she’s more excited about winning a medal for filling 100 order cards throughout the years. Her dad is sour about the entire idea, and Mochizou isn’t altogether ecstatic either, especially, when Tamako gets to chat briefly with the prince via Dera. After Mochizou tells her if she’s happy, he’s happy, and Anko sleeps with her, Tamako wakes up to find the medal gone. In the street, it is handed to her by none other than the prince.

As one of the shopkeepers says to her dejected dad, Tamako is very good around the house and with the mochi shop. But that doesn’t mean that everything’s going to stay the same forever. Even if she herself doesn’t want to leave yet, one day she may. No one, not even Choi, knows exactly what the future holds. We certainly don’t, after an episode that’s all about how everyone reacts to the biggest change yet: Tamako moving away to marry some weird prince. And to be fair, no one – not her dad, Anko, Midori, Kanna, Shiori, or Mochizou, saw that coming.

Of course, a lot of smaller changes have already taken place in the course of the series: When Dera arrived, that was certainly change; but it didn’t really shake anything up, because he was the one sticking around, in a new life. For everyone else, it was the same old life. In fact, now that he’s a fixture of the household. But Tamako leaving? That’s a change that scares everyone close to her, and her most of all, especially because she doesn’t know exactly how she feels or should feel about this, and no one has satisfactory answers, because it’s her life.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 10

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RABUJOI apologies for the delay of this review.

The Usagiyama High Cultural Festival approches, and the Baton Club gets a primo spot in the schedule, when they’re assured the largest audience. Captain Midori designs the uniforms and volunteers to come up with the choreography. However, she can’t think of anything, and hides her creative block from the others. When she misses a day of school with a fever, Tamako, Kanna, and Shiori visit her, and she admits she has nothing. They decide to come up with choreography as a team, and perform splendidly. When the festival concludes, Choi, having noticed a mark on Tamako’s neck, declares her the Prince’s Bride.

Virtually every school-themed slice-of-life series is going to have a Festival episode or two that gives the characters defined goals and challenges them to rise to the occasion and meet them, and Tamako Market is no different. What’s admirable about the series is that the core characters are in a club (the baton club), but it hasn’t been a particularly integral part of the series. The show hasn’t lived and died by their…er...batoning; which is nice, because far too often it seems like series are dominated by club activities. And far more important than the actual performance (which was pretty good), was how the Baton Club arrived there.

Midori, the Fearless Leader, turns out to have quite a bit of fear after all. She cannot come up with choreography she promised, but maintains a  false facade of control and confidence as long as she possibly can. Ultimately breaks down when presented with all of the evidence she’s failing. She’s afraid of looking bad, even for a moment, but her team don’t want her to cry or hold anything in. There’s no shame in asking for help, or crying, for that matter. This episode is a feast for the eyes, with a plethora of nice little gestures, close-ups, hair-falling, leg-twisting, and eye-glazing. The characters really feel alive. We also liked the generous use of jump-cutting. Very, very nicely directed and animated.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. Choi finally confronts Tamako with her belief she’s the one who must marry her Prince. Whether this goes anywhere at all, we’ll have to see.

Tamako Market – 09

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October 10th is Mochi day, and also Mochizou’s birthday, but he’s afraid Tamako forgot it. Anko is upset about something, and he learns that her friend Yuzuki is moving away on the 10th. On that day, Tamako sends An to his house to deliver fresh mochi, and give him a proper goodbye. Tamako catches her dad Dai singing the song she’s had stuck in her head; it turns out to be a love song he wrote for their mother, to convince her to go out with him. Before calling it a night, Tamako surprises Mochizou with birthday mochi.

This was a lovely, moving episode, with the overarching theme of “everybody loves somebody.” Anko is in love with her friend Yuzuki; Mochizou is in love with Tamako; Dera is in love with whatever maiden sneezes on him; and Tamako’s dad is still in love with his dearly departed wife. This has always a show not of big revelations, but of slow, quiet, incremental change. But things are definitely changing, especially after the events of this week.

Take Tamako’s dad: he was able to open up and allow the secret of his songwriting to come to the surface, showing Tamako a whole side of him she (and we) never knew or suspected; we just thought he was a traditionalist stick-in-the-mud, but he’s a true romantic who didn’t let a couple awkward encounters with his future wife discourage him. Mochizou could definitely learn a thing or two from him, and while his progress with Tamako remains slow, in the end his birthday wasn’t forgotten. We just hope Tamako remembered, and didn’t have to be reminded by An!


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 08

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Kanna builds Dera a birdhouse, but he has grown too fat to fit inside. Choi orders him on a diet. Because Tamako’s father and grandfather are quick to show mercy and feed him, they must keep a constant eye on him. To this end, Choi attends school with Tamako, Kanna and Midori, and meets Shiori. They then take Choi to vintage stores to try on clothes more suitable for Japan in the Fall. Dera eventually loses weight, though only in his lower half, and Kanna and Midori present Choi with a coat.

Beyond the addition of Choi and the rough goal of getting Dera a bit slimmer (he has been letting himself go), this week is straight-up slice-of-life, seasoned by those anomalies. Choi has been walking around in a linen shift and bare feet all this time, but it’s getting colder, and if she intends to stick around, she needs to dress a bit warmer. It’s pretty funny that the girls treat her as a canvas for their own fashion ideals, and she is willing to defer to their judgement.

Meanwhile, Dera the fat-ass complains at first, and his stomach growls, but he eventually bears down and loses a few pounds. He is a proud bird, after all, and his whole raison d’être is to assist Choi with her divination, he must improve his physical condition. The end result of his labor is visually hilarious, as the top half remains haughtily broad, while his overall shape is that of an upside-down teardrop. While we interpreted Choi as picking out Tamako as her prince’s bride to be last week, we were either wrong, or that plotline was merely shelved this week.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Tamako Market – 07

Choi Mochimazzi arrives at Usagiyama in search of both Dera and her prince’s bride. Distressed by his increased girth, he blames Tamako, who set up a “trap” that cost him the will and ability to leave the town. As a suspicious Choi spends more time with Tamako and experiences the hospitality of the shopping district, she concludes there is no such trap, and that the townsfolk are merely kind and generous people. When Tamako asks whom Choi is looking for in a bride, Choi suddenly reacts as if Tamako is that bride.

Throughout the show’s run, Dera has been the wild card that’s kept it from being just another shopping district slice-of-life in which guys never get the girl. Now Dera’s boss, of sorts, is in town, and combines the exotic foreignness of Dera with the relatability of a human. After all, Dera is at the end of the day, a bird, and a tool of sorts. One wonders why a society that can put circuitry into a bird to turn it into a communications device would walk around in bare feet and wear such primitive clothing, but to each their own.

Choi serves well enough as a fresh fish out of water, and even buys into Dera’s lame excuse that he was trapped into staying…or is that lame after all? While they mean no ill will, Tamako, her family, and the shopping district have nonetheless conspired to create an environment so comfortable and welcoming, that it’s hard for anyone to leave…or remain thin. And then, at the end, we’re faced with something we probably should have seen coming long ago: that lil’ Tamako may (may, mind you) be the bride the Mochimazzis have been looking for all along. But that would mean leaving everything she knows.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

 

Tamako Market – 06

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The summer heat has driven away the shopping districts customers, so at the next meeting Tamako suggests they open a haunted house. Using the bathhouse storeroom, she and her friends prepare the house while the adult shopkeepers experience strange incidents that lead them to believe the district is cursed. However, three of the five incidents were explained logically by Shiori, and the other two fabricated by Kanna. The haunted house is a big hit, attracting lots of business to the district as intended.

As soon as the cold open projected a darker, more forboding atmosphere than we’d seen in the series to date, we were a little perplexed about what was in store this week, but after Tamako’s idea is revealed, it all became clear. With business in the toilet due to the summer heat, the promise of chills brought on by sundry frights proves a surefire way to bring the people out. Meanwhile, things like guardian stones and haunted houses bemuse and intrigue Dera, for whom they are foreign concepts.

It helps that everyone in the district is so tight, they not only promptly provide all the materials Tamako and her friends need for the haunted house, but they inadvertently perpetuate the rumor of the district itself being haunted, thus creating hype for the house. The adults did act a little goofily this week, but we’ll chalk it up to the heat. Ooji is absent this week, which is probably for the best, and at the very end the princess from Dera’s homeland appears, which should defintely shake things up.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Tamako Market – 05

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Summer arrives, and Mochizou grows so troubled by his lack of progress with Tamako, he enlists the aid of Dera, whom he takes along to a class trip to the beach. Midori finds out what he’s planning and tries to stop him, warning him she’ll protect her. The next day, while swimming, Midori learns from Tamako what she and Mochizou are to her, and she softens her stance on Mochizou.

Tamako’s utter cluelessness with regards to romance and Mochizou’s complete lack of guts and initiative conspire to form a perfect storm of uselessness. In fact, the futility he senses due to Tamako’s denseness fuels his inaction in a vicious cycle. Tamako boils their relationship down to a couple of labels: “childhood friend” and “mochi-making buddy”, which, while technically true, are not the whole story. The trouble is, she may never hear that story; she’s just not emotionally available enough.

Meanwhile, Midori gets super-defensive when she learns Mochizou is trying to court Tamako. They quarrel, leading the ever-perceptive Dera to conclude they both love “the Musume”. Tamako tells Midori “I love you”, but Midori knows Tamako’s feelings for her aren’t anything like the ones she’s feeling for Tamako. Though Midori sorta makes up with Mochizou, their rivalry for Tamako’s heart should continue – even if neither of them has a chance against her thick skull.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. The comic relief was ably handled by Dera, who was chased by a cat, a gull, and a dog, all while looking out to (a very beautiful) sea and thinking of his prince.

Tamako Market – 04

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The Usagiyama summer festival approaches, which means the mochi shop is at its busiest. Tamako’s little sister Anko wants to go on a Sunday trip to a museum with her fiends, among them a boy she likes. Her father forbids it, but eventually allows it after her grandpa negotiates a compromise. When the day arrives, she’s so caught up in the festivities that she isn’t able to make it anyway. Instead, her friends come to visit her. She runs and hides in her wardrobe, embarrased, but the very boy she likes comes in and coaxes her out, offering her a gift.

As far as we know so far, there isn’t a boy Tamako currently “likes”, nor is there any indication she’s remotely interested in boys. In that regard, her little sister Anko (sorry, “An“; it’s apparently cooler) has already surpassed her, on top of being better at making mochi than Tamako was at her age. The blissfully dense Tamako doesn’t even realize her sister likes a boy, because she’s too busy being content with her life in the shopping district as a mochi maker’s daughter. Anko, though admittedly still young and phase-prone, is far more restless. For one, nobody is calling her by the name she prefers.

She’s also annoyed that she’s being forced to work on the date she wants to hang out with friends. But after grand-dad steps up to the plate for her and she wins her freedom, she bumps into the florist with the manly voice on her way to her museum date and helps with the elegantly-dressed girls in the parade. They remind her of herself, and that priceless moment when she first looked in the mirror and saw a princess. Once it was clear Anko wouldn’t make it, she realized it wasn’t the end of the world. As Dera (who was painted gold this week) says in the end:

…even if things don’t go as you planned, on another road grows another flower.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 03

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Spring arrives, and with it a new school year. Tamako is interested in her new classmate Asagiri Shiori, but Shiori won’t give her the time of day. Mochimazzi gets lost and falls from the sky and is caught by Shiori, who takes him home to Tamako’s. She stays for dinner and goes to the bath with Tamako. The next day she can’t find the words to thank her, but she ends up back at Tamako’s anyway, helping her lost teacher make a home call. Over coffee and music at the cafe, Shiori is finally able to express her thanks to Tamako, and the two become friends.

This was a very pretty episode, that made us wish Spring were here already. It also makes the friendship of the devastatingly shy Shiori and the bubbly, friendly Tamako almost a matter of fate. After all, external forces (Mochimazzi and the teacher) drew Shiori to Tamako’s house both times, but she enjoyed herself both times. It was also nice to see how an “outsider” deals with all the generosity and friendliness of the shopping district as a whole. If you’re a friend of Tamako, you’re a friend of theirs, too.

While we’ll admit part of us wanted Shiori to finally blow her stack and verbally unload on Tamako, that wouldn’t quite fit the tone of this series thus far. Instead, she practices thanking her in the mirror, and after some strong coffee and a little music, she’s finally able to communicate her feelings. Tamako and the bird aren’t causing her trouble. On the contrary, she always wanted to be part of Tamako’s world. And now she is. Croquettes and sakuramochi for everyone!…Except Mochimazzi…bird need to lose some weight like yesterday.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Tamako Market – 02

Valentines Day is near, and at the shopping district meeting, Tamako (with Mochizou backing her up) suggests the district do a Valentines theme. Her father refuses to participate. Mochizou films a shopping district commercial with Tamako and Rika dressed as bunnies. Midori is preoccupied, and has coffee with Mochimazzi, who notices she has a “burdened heart”. In the end, Tamako’s dad makes “Lovey-dovey Heart Mochi” for the occasion. On Valentines Day, Tamako gives chocolate to her dad, Rikka builds a giant chocolate house, and Midori gets chocolate from a guy.

Everyone has a feeling they can’t give a name to…and it makes all of us hurt inside.

This whole episode had a lovely flow to it, bouncing from one little storyline to another while holding everything together under the theme of love; specifically, that quote above by the hippie record store guy. In most cases, that feeling is give the name “love”, but love is at once specific and vague, a catch-all term that isn’t always the most useful way to express feelings. Were that it were simpler for some of the denizens of Bunny Mountain; if simply sneezing on a potential mate indicated your desire to…mate. Mochimazzi still confuses girls’ sneezes thus. We don’t begrudge the bird sticking around this place; it’s so…lively.

It’s a tight-knit, warm, loving community. Sure, Tamako’s dad can be a grouch sometimes, and he and Mochizou’s dad are always near blows, but their rivalry is one of the hundreds of little threads that make up the tapestry of life in the shopping district. In the heart of it all we have Tamako, who takes her Valentines idea and realizes it, despite talking about romance as a kind of far-off thing in the future (and outwardly oblivious of Mochizou’s feelings). From Tamako and Mochizou flubbing their presentation at the meeting (and the chairperson catching their stage fright), to when Rikka is just killing time playing with Tamako’s hair, everyone is who they are, and the modern world is what it is.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 01

Kitashirakawa Tamako is the daughter of a mochi maker in the Usagiyama shopping district. One day while visiting the flower shop she finds an unusual, pompous talking bird named Dera Mochimozzi inside a bouquet. He claims to be a member of the “royal court” searching for a bride for his prince, but ends up living with Tamako and her family at the mochi shop Tama-ya.

KyoAni’s latest series is an affable slice-of-life/comedy with a tinge of supernatural in that there’s this very strange and very proud, arrogant bird. The instantly-appealing shopping district setting has a warm, cozy, lived-in feel to it. Tamako has everything she needs in this district – her home, a mochi-making business in which she is integrally involved, family, good fiends, a potential love interest across the street. And now it seems she has a pet bird.

Mochimozzi adds an element of whimsy and unpredicability. He’s a frequent source of sight and sound gags, and his formal, aloof voice (provided by Yamazaki Takumi) gives him lots of character. Tamako herself, by contrast, is just your ordinary unassuming girl: friendly, hardworking, upbeat…and sometimes the unwitting target of shuttlecocks. This series wasn’t originally on our Winter watchlist, but it’s so darned charming we’re going to give it a go.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)