Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Impressions - Tamako Market

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That wasn’t quite what I expected.  And thank goodness for that.


OP: オープニングテーマ「ドラマチックマーケットライド」(Dramatic Market Ride) by Suzaki Aya
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I’ll be completely honest here – I went into this premiere more or less expecting to dislike it.  While there’s always a ton of crossover with staff at Kyoto Animation and everybody works on pretty much every show – it’s like a massively inbred royal family – the particulars of Tamako Market worry me.  The big guns are Yamada Naoko and Yoshida Reiko, effectively “Team K-ON!” – and while I always have a potential love-hate relationship with any KyoAni show, that’s the branch of the family I tend to like the least.  I’ve spoken of the postage rate with KyoAni – just how are they mailing it in with any given series?  And given the track record of the director and writer and the promos for this series, the impression was pretty much of skipping right to the shameless pandering that KyoAni usually can’t resist, without much preamble in terms of plot or originality.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of shameless pandering in the first episode of TamaKet – Tamako isn’t chipmunk moe enough, you have to give her a little sister?  But there’s shameless pandering in every KyoAni show, good bad or indifferent, so the question was always going to be whether there was enough of anything else to make the show worth watching.  And there was a lot more in the premiere than I frankly expected, much of it because it turned out the main character wasn’t Tamako at all, but the weird bird – known only as Tori to start with, but whose actual name is Dera Mochimazui (Yamazaki Takumi).  And given that Tamako’s family is in the mochi business and mazui means “not tasty”, that name is a bit of a problem.

There’s a fun, manic energy to the episode, and much of it comes from the wildly over-the-top performance by Yamazki-san.  I didn’t expect so much of the show to focus around the bird, or for him to have a back-story – he’s actually a representative for a Prince (played by Shimono Hiro, no less) trying to find a mate for his master.  After Tamako (Suzaki Aya) finds him in a flower shop run by transvestite Hanase Kaoru (Daisuke Ono) she sneezes on him – which in his country is a declaration of love.  So Dera attachés himself to Tamako, and when he finds out he loves her family’s mochi even more than Tamako herself, it’s a match made in heaven.  There’s also a rival mochi shop across the street where young Ouji Mochizou (Tamaru Atsushi) helps his Dad as he pines for Tamako’s love.  The two rival shop owners are played by Fujiwara Keiji (Tamako’s Dad, the traditionalist) and Tachiki Fumihiko (Mochizou’s Dad, the innovator). 

As with many KyoAni shows, there’s an interesting mix of cringe-inducing moments and genuine standouts in this first episode.  It seems clear now that Hyouka was an exceptional visual masterpiece even by KyoAni standards, as Chuunibyou never approached it in terms of art and animation and there’s nothing in TamaKet that does either, so far – but by any standard apart from that, the show still looks great.  The cast is fine if unmemorable, apart from Yamazaki – it’s nice that KyoAni went for a relative unknown for the male role for a change.  I liked the scenes between Tamako and Mochizou, and the potential for a sort of light-hearted “Romeo & Juliet” farce with the two of them has a certain appeal, though I doubt it will get much play.

I see a real danger here still, as the premiere is hardly free of Tamako and her sister Anko (Hidaka Rina) pulling cute faces in close-up.  And I think the premiere is appealing largely because the main focus is on Tori and his bizarre antics – there’s a cast of moemoe schoolgirl friends waiting ominously in the wings, only occasionally present in the premiere, and if the focus of TamaKet turns mostly to that (as the track record of the creative team would indicate is likely) I could see the whole thing collapsing like a house of cards under the sheer weight of the cuteness.  KyoAni can never totally resist that side of their nature (not that I can blame them if Blu-ray sales are the goal – their record in that department is unassailable) but as always, it’s a question of how much they choose to indulge their dark side and how often restraint wins the day.  If the balance stays as it did this week, TamaKet should turn out to be a pretty entertaining affair.

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ED: エンディングテーマ「ねぐせ」(Bedhead) by Suzaki Aya
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30 comments:

  1. I see many plushies and merchandise in that bird's future.

    I think the show has potential if it sticks to its varied cast. Not that I needed another series to add to an already busy schedule.

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    1. Hah, my comment was going to be "I expect them to market the hell out of that bird" but you put it more politely. xD Fingers crossed that Sentai's stream of this is free to everyone and not subscriber only again.

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    2. I probably wouldn't mind at all if this show continued to revolve around the bird and prince storyline...Dera is FABULOUS :P

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  2. I really like the kyoani art style. It's a derivative and perfection of the style used in. Card captor Sakura.

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  3. Ahhhh, your cynicism about moe borders on the pathological here. I wonder why KyoAni always gets picked on the most. Any premise can be executed well, even "shameless pandering".

    I'm really sorry to say this since I generally like your reviews, but here I could really tell you went into this with preconceived notions and, well, it's kind of disappointing to read about that instead of what actually happened in the episode.

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    1. I honestly don't get your complaint here. It's not as if I presented my views under any false pretensions. And I think I made it clear I thought this was executed pretty well.

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    2. I think my problem stems from the last paragraph, mostly. It sounds like you're preparing for bad things and associating the moe girls with that. It's like... how do I say it... you're waiting for things to pick on to arise with an attitude like that. In the long run, I can't help but thing that will hurt your enjoyment of the anime, and rather needlessly.

      As for when you commented on the execution, I noticed that they were the aspects that did not involve the moe but rather the humour or the animation - you were complimenting (albeit, implicitly) how it was in fact avoiding the cute material. You made no comment on the cute in and of itself. It's fine if you don't like cute things or if you didn't think it came across well in this iteration, but it would have been nice to see how the execution of it compared to other KyoAni shows. You simply dismissed it straight off the bat in your write-up. As someone who watches every KyoAni show, these are the sorts of opinions that feel are worth noting.

      I hope this articulates my opinion better. I'm really, really sorry if this comes across as rude. I don't mean to sound like I'm attacking your tastes. I was just disappointed with how you expressed your opinion, not your opinions themselves.

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    3. I don't know to present my tastes as anything apart from what they are, so I can't really reply to that in any substantive way. I think my feelings about execution relative to other KyoAni shows is pretty clear from what I wrote - if Tamako turns out like the other shows this writer/director team is best known for, that will likely let me off at the next station. If it's more like Hyouka or Kanon or even Clannad or Chuunibyou - shows where the moe factor isn't shoved down the audience's throat (well, not all the time anyway) and there's a variety of elements to the series besides the cute girls being cute - that will rank it in the upper echelon of KyoAni as far as I'm concerned.

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    4. great impression enzo; your feelings towards kyoani are very reasonable and as usual you clearly present your reasons why you feel the way you feel so neglect what others think about your opinion. Anyway, I Hope this show proves that it has some substance in the future episodes. Not bad for a first episode. Naturally, i feel that kyoani waste their amazing production values on cutsie stuff and i only wish they would take on more serious projects. Here's hoping that their next adaptation is kyokai no kanata.......i reeeeaaally hope so

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    5. Moe, and the way the industry shamelessly capitalises in it, breeds cynicism.

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  4. So let me get this straight. LB's moe pandering is no problemo, but this moe pandering is? Okay, got it.

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    1. I more or less thought the same thing, but I guess it's a matter of taste on what kinda of cuteness is easier to watch.

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    2. Actually, the same thought crossed my mind. And if its a matter of taste then I'd say Kyoani is the clear winner.

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    3. How can there be a clear winner in a matter of taste?

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    4. Lol, because Little Busters really sucks at portraying moe characters. They're all trying too hard to be cute.

      Of course I didn't mean in general when I said that it was a matter of taste. I just meant in the case of Tamako Market and LB.

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  5. What's with japanese anime girl characters' obsession with red meat? I saw it from Ore no Kanojo, Minami-K, and (a tiny bit on) this one. They literally yell out "meat, meat, meat!" and just go bananas over it. I tried not to think there is anything sexual behind it since I don't think Japan has the same euphemism as USA on meat, but this disturbs me a bit. I know vegetarianism/veganism is almost non-existent in Asia, but why are these girls going over-the-top crazy over red meat, even more so than boys?

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    1. It's not sexual, it's moe.

      Also, red meat is an expensive luxury for them, not a big part of the common Japanese diet. They eat mostly things from the ground or the sea.

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    2. I agree with Richard.
      Meat seems to be very expensive in Japan compared to other type of food. It's not something they can eat daily, unlike my country. Yup. I lost count of how many times I saw anime girls sang "Niku. Niku. Niku."

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    3. I don't know... In a country where you can get a huge gyodon for 280 yen or a nikuman for 90 yen, I don't really see meat as any kind of luxury. It's not scientific but I can say with certainly I've been eating more meat since I got here, and I'm living on a shoestring.

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    4. @Anon you must know very little about Asia to think that vegans are non-existent there. Most Indians for example don't eat beef and a very large number abstain from any kind of meat (or poultry/fish) all together.

      Also a lot of people consider people who only eat fish as vegans in one sense.

      Enzo, if anyone expected Tamako Market to be like this that person is either an esper or in Gotham Asylum. Much funnier than I expected in any case. I share your fears for how much percentage moe we will be force fed in the coming weeks.

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    5. The funny thing is, totoum shared an interview with me where Yoshida joked about "the bird taking over the leading role". So maybe it shouldn't have come as such a big surprise as it did!

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    6. I wouldn't say that grinded pork meat (nikuman) or beef toppings (gyodon) are real-deal bovine "MEAT" that I'm thinking about.

      Then again, I'm sure you know better than me how's out there.

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    7. Meat is meat!

      I can only tell you what my observation is since I've been here - meat is no more expensive here than anywhere else (unless you want to spend ridiculous amounts on stuff like Kobe beef) and people eat plenty of it. It's true that the Japanese eat more fish than almost any other industrial nation, and they don't tend to eat huge slabs of beef or pork as we do in the States (but then, neither do most other countries). So on balance the Japanese probably eat less raw tonnage of beef and pork, but it's not because of any scarcity or forbidding expense - it's simply a more diverse diet.

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    8. By saying meat is meat you're saying hamburgers and steaks are the same thing. Scarcity and expense are the exact reasons why quality red meat is considered a big deal in Japan. The meat used for gyudon and nikumans are super cheap low quality beef imported from the US. Essentially most of the castoff stuff just like ground beef in America. Good Wagyu style (not even Kobe quality) Japanese red meat is expensive because in order to compensate for not being able to raise as much livestock they had to focus on making the quality of the beef much higher. It's a totally different level of meal for the majority of Japanese people. Being able to frequently go to non-super cheap yakiniku restaurants requires you to be among the pretty privileged in Japan.

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    9. But that's not what the big deal is being made about in these shows, which is what brought up the topic. These kids aren't demanding aged steak. They just want things that aren't vegetables and fish. And for that, hamburger, pork cutlet, port strips, all that is fine. And that stuff's not super expensive, like Enzo says.

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  6. I noticed some Nichijou in the reaction faces. Very fun throwback.

    Ono Daisuke in another transvestite? role? I guess someone at KyoAni found his character in AKB0048 amusing. Unless there's an earlier precedent?

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  7. I enjoyed this premiere episode hopefully it stays this way and not focus on those moe school girls

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  8. I find the bird too annoying. Like the series otherwise but tone down that annoying bird.

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  9. I was waiting for the moment that bird would summon Lancer from F/Z and say something like "By this command spell, I order you to...".

    Also, Chitandaaa!
    http://lh6.ggpht.com/-Pt5MbNU2dgU/UO4k7j_deBI/AAAAAAACbFY/ISZeiGhabBQ/s1600-h/%25255BMazui%25255D_Tamako_Market_-_01_%25255B874F23E3%25255D.mkv_snapshot_23.22_%25255B2013.01.10_11.08.12%25255D%25255B2%25255D.jpg

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