The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tamako Love Story: Tamako Market Movie Review

“But not everybody is loved by somebody.” – Midori

The last time this blog hosted a talk about Tamako Market was more than a year-and-a-half ago, during which I noted that the series was slowly paced, being meant to showcase the kind of community present in Usagiyama Shōtengai, one that is diverse and close to one another. When Dera arrives and Tamako might be whisked away to be the princess of some distant country, Usagiyama’s reaction is naturally one of concern. Similarly, Tamako herself had grown up in this district and cannot imagine life elsewhere, leading to a bit of internal conflict. When the movie was announced and slated to be a love story, more than a few heads were turned: during Tamako Market‘s original run, the plot line emphasised Dera, Mechya and the southern islanders. Any signs of romance were only hinted at, and Mochizou never had a chance to properly speak to Tamako about his feelings. Thus, when the TV series ended, disappointment reigned. Tamako Market had been stymied by its wish to develop two stories within a twelve episode anime, and as such, was not able to satisfactorily explore either in detail. The movie, Tamako Love Story, aims to rectify this: as Tamako, Mochizou, Midori, Kanna and Shiori near the end of their high school careers, they must each pursue their own future. The movie’s central conflict is Mochizou’s aspirations to become a filmmaker, and in order to do so, he must leave for Tokyo. In doing so, he will be leaving Tamako behind, and thus, he struggles to find the courage and make his feelings known to her. Throughout the movie, the bonds between Mochizou and Tamako are reinforced by means of flashbacks, which show the two as being there for one another as long as they’ve been children, offering each other emotional support wherever things looked difficult. Mochizou thus realises that “the person just for him” is Tamako: no one else understands him in quite the same way.

Following Mochizou’s love confession to Tamako, the latter’s world goes into a nose-dive. Consistent with Tamako’s personality, Mochizou’s confession is a preoccupation that distracts her. She does not know how to respond and tries avoiding the matter, but after encouragement from Midori and Kanna, manages to catch up with Mochizou as he sets out to write an entrance exam and respond to his feelings, showing that she reciprocates them. The sort of confusion and chaos, the internal conflicts that afflict Mochizou and Tamako are fluidly woven into them; their emotions are nothing unreasonable and are consistent with Mochizou and Tamako’s respective personalities. The journey it took to reach a point where Mochizou and Tamako come to terms with their feelings for one another was well-fleshed out: most anime typically does this sort of thing over the span of minutes, but Tamako Love Story lengthens this. Though this might be seen as “second tier”, one must consider that love stories in real life can occupy any length of time, being resolved in as little as minutes or taking months (or even years). Tamako Love Story chooses to go with a slower route, allowing characters to comprehend their feelings and make their next decision; this take on a love story is natural and rewarding to see. We note that the diversity of styles in love stories are so incredibly diverse that it is a fool’s errand to judge which styles are better: some left the movie feeling shafted, thinking that Tamako Love Story have shown Tamako and Mochizou together at the end. Generally speaking, the latter is not necessary: love stories can be open-ended and remain satisfying to watch, and the main element in Tamako Love Story is about getting to this first step, rather than how Tamako and Mochizou’s relationship subsequently progresses. It is sufficient to know that they reciprocate feelings for one another because, as noted earlier, they have known each other for many years and therefore will understand each other well enough to pursue a meaningful relationship. Tamako Love Story set out to explore the events that would happen following Mochizou’s confession to Tamako; by far and large, they have succeeded in delivering a concise, touching story.

Besides the love story aspect of Tamako Love Story, the future beyond high school is also touched upon. The transition between high school and what follows, whether it be post-secondary education, apprenticeship or work is a major point in people’s lives, where individuals (hopefully) join society as productive members. However, making this transition is quite challenging in and of itself. As such, anime choose to illustrate the final years of secondary education as a point where individuals discover a path they wish to follow, and that these paths may lead individuals to diverge. There is a bit of melancholy in Tamako Love Story as Midori and Kanna set out on their separate paths following high school. However, the girls decide to leave on a high note and participate in a Baton competition. While the results aren’t known, it is clear that to perform with one another one final time before their high school career closes will produce memories to cherish, and that counts for something. All in all, Tamako Love Story provides a satisfying continuation and conclusion to the Tamako Market series, answering questions about Mochizou and Tamako’s relationship that have dogged audiences since last April. This story is packaged together with animation quality that is characteristic of Kyoto Animation, and while prior knowledge of Tamako Market would help with comprehension (mainly pertaining to Dera, Choi and Mechya), the story is sufficiently self-contained so that the movie can be enjoyed on its own even if one has not seen the TV series yet.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There are a vast number of characters in Tamako Market, far too many for me to efficiently name in a single image or even over the course of a thirty-image post. Many of them make a return in the movie: as refresher, here’s a chart of the characters in Tamako Market to match names to faces I had translated a few years back.

  • Choi and the other southerners have a minimal role in Tamako Love Story: besides a short appearance in the movie’s opening moments, they do not appear anywhere else for a significant duration and do not affect the story heavily. With that said, the scenes featuring them are immensely amusing, and one can very nearly feel the warmth of the tropical sun, a welcome sight in light of the approaching winter.

  • This scene was particularly entertaining: Choi is under the impression that Dera has made mochi resembling an anatomical feature I am not permitted to outright mention here, and proceeds to deck Dera out of embarrassment. When Mechya appears, it turns out the mochi is merely replicas of Dera in miniature form. Beyond these moments of comedy, the remainder of the movie is a love-story and drama that is decidedly more serious than what was seen in the TV series.

  • Mochizou is seen to be longing for Tamako, and throughout the movie, is quieter when alone. In his friends’ presence, he’s livelier and jokes with them; Mochizou appears to be quite close to his friends, as they can plainly tell something’s on his mind even as he helps prepare a short film for a school event.

  • The baton club sets out to compete with other baton clubs, and begin training in earnest to ensure their preparedness is sufficient. While Tamako’s involvement in the baton club is depicted in both the film and TV series, it ultimately becomes a secondary element; much of their practises probably happen off-screen, and are only shown where the dialogue helps advance the film’s story.

  • Shōtengai (商店街) are shopping districts  running along streets. They are usually pedestrian-only and are covered with a roof, featuring various shops and boutiques, offering a kind of intimacy that larger shopping centres lack. Owing to this closeness, Tamako is very familiar with everyone in the district.

  • Before proceeding, I note that I am no expert in the matters of the heart. As such, when I am assessing on how fluidly or naturally events proceed in a given anime, the basis for that is how reasonable it is for some event to occur provided the set of events that occurred before it and the conditions the aforementioned events have created. In other words, I eyeball things.

  • Generally speaking, it’s easiest to write about things one is familiar with; for me, this means I cannot particularly provide a fair, unbiased and accurate assessment of what I think of different love stories, having no experience in this field. It’s a particularly difficult to make things work since there are an unlimited number of factors at work here: I’ve resolved to merely be patient, making the most of an opportunity should one be presented and in the meantime, focus on the things that matter most to me.

  • I had finished this movie about a week-and-a-half ago, the evening I was set to help out with my first-ever exam invigilation, and since then, it’s been quite busy. There’s been a slight respite now, so I’ve finally been able to catch up and start drafting out this talk.

  • I’ve never actually tried building cup phones before: in theory, they operate by transmitting vibrations funneled into a string, which oscillates with the same pattern as the audio. When it reaches the other cup, the vibrations are amplified and turned back into sound. These phones only work if there is no interference that prevents the string from oscillating. Electric phones operate on a slightly different principle, making use of electrons to carry audio information over much greater distances.

  • Anko reminds me greatly of K-On!‘s Azu-nyan and, though her presence in the movie is limited, she does liven things up. Here, Mochizou mistakenly thinks Anko is Tamako after Anko enters Tamako’s room in search of some pencil leads, and therefore, is unable to talk to Tamako about his moving to Tokyo for post-secondary education in film-making.

  • I interrupt the flow of events to feature a completely unneeded screenshot that somehow prompts Tamako to start thinking of some unusual concepts for mochi, which was briefly explored at the film’s opening. The classic question of fower-fife-fife and ait-zeero-zeero-ait-fife is subtly incorporated into the movie for comedic purpose. From a mathematical perspective, the latter would quickly win, although exact semantics to this argument is well outside the scope of what I’m willing to discuss.

  • In the name of keeping things G-rated for the most part, water effects in anime are typically limited to what would be considered as ‘low settings’. In Unity3D, the standard license offers a very basic shader for water, and one needs the Pro license to get access to reflective and refractive water. My work for the Giant Walkthrough Brain granted me access to Unity Pro so I could incorporate videos, but at present, I have not made extensive use of any of the Pro features.

  • After classes one day, Mochizou summons up the courage to tell Tamako about his future, although Tamako manages to continuously redirect the conversation away from Mochizou’s news. One might suspect that Tamako is probably somewhat aware that Mochizou has feelings for her, and her actions throughout the TV series suggest that Tamako herself fears dramatic change.

  • There are a disproportionate number of screenshots surrounding the love confession because this is a pivotal point in Tamako Love Story, because this moment marks the point where the rising action really begins. Such pacing may seem quite misplaced in most shows, where the rising action happens earlier on to motivate the story, but Kyoto Animation’s specialty seems to be slowly-paced stories that tend to focus on nothing and as such, progresses at a much more casual rate.

  • Love stories in general are quite difficult to write, and although some self-proclaimed critics out there may argue that they alone know all of the tropes that make a good love story, I contend that they’re wrong. Love stories are similar to walking in that people are generally quite attuned to what they see as natural, and as such, when things deviate slightly, it becomes rather noticeable (consider how quickly we can pick up poor walking animations). The same holds true for love stories: while we cannot immediately or readily explain what makes a love story work, we probably intrinsically can tell when things are working reasonably or not.

  • The impact of Mochizou’s love confession is sufficient to send Tamako into the river. While the movie may be slow, one must admit that this is probably one of the more unique reactions to a love confession, deviating from the usual blush and awkward silence that follows.

  • Tamako’s immediate response after Mochizou’s confession is a familiar one, though I may be completely unversed at what happens past this point. While Tamako may say that she’s honoured by Mochizou’s feelings, Mochzou is left hanging here, as Tamako leaves her honest thoughts ambiguous past this point. For the viewers wondering what would’ve happened in Tamako Market had Mochizou confessed his feelings to her, this scene provides a definitive answer for that.

  • While Kyoto Animation may not be masters at crafting a love story that viewers are familiar with, they do manage to craft love stories that are fitting with the environments their anime are set in, and they most definitely have a talent for making use of visuals to illustrate the atmosphere surrounding a moment.

  • Thus, following this unexpected moment, Tamako’s entire world has been thrown into chaos, and in reflecting that, Tamako is shown running through a blurred world: her mind cannot shake off what has just happened, and everything in her surroundings suddenly become of little significance. It’s clever, and it fits the situation quite well.

  • Officially, Tamako Love Story released on October 10, nearly a month ago, but because of various logistical reasons, I haven’t been able to find much time to keep up with new anime, much less blog about them. This post was written over the course of a week, during time periods where things were modestly quiet. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, but writing the figure captions for each image is more time consuming than the main body of the post itself.

  • Kanna makes a surprising catch, impressing everyone, during practise. She suggests to Tamako that the latter understands where her baton’s centre of mass is to better catch it by following its angle; this metaphor, if extended a ways, might also apply to Tamako’s conundrum of choosing between Mochizou (breaking the status quo) or mochi (keeping the status quo). If the aim is to understand how things are balanced and naturally follow through, then Kanna is implying that Tamako should face her own challenges with a more analytic, balanced approach.

  • I am way out of the game as far as anime goes; many fans picked up on Midori’s unspoken feelings for Tamako, and that the former was well aware of the fact that Tamako would never reciprocate her feelings. This aspect was always subtly present in the series but was never brought to the foreground to introduce some conflicts between the characters, and in the movie, Midori appears to come to terms with her emotions, helping Tamako out even if it means her own feelings go unreciprocated.

  • Perhaps my memory isn’t serving, but the movie does seem to be a little washed out in some scenes, giving rise to a melancholic, distant feeling. After Mochizou’s confession and Tamako’s subsequent confusion, she avoids Mochizou: one scene shows the two sitting together in their classroom during a time lapse, suggesting that unexpected love confessions can dramatically alter the dynamics between two people.

  • The fact that Tamako finds herself at a loss for what to do for a better half of the film has been the point of contention for some, who feel that the film dragged out and left too many points unresolved. However, the open ending, if anything, adds to the sense of plausibility: I understand that some individuals like linear stories that walk them through everything that happens and fully resolves everything, but life, and stories of the heart in particular, is hardly ever that direct.

  • After Tamako’s grandfather is hospitalised after a minor accident, Tamako and Mochizou have a short talk with one another, with the latter asking Tamako to disregard his confession. Tamako deflects the question yet again, but finds herself distracted for the remainder of the evening. Earlier, Mamedai, Tamako’s father, speaks with Mochizou and implies that he is supportive of the latter’s feelings.

  • The baton competition spoken of at the film’s beginning finally arrives: despite everything that has happened, Tamako puts her best efforts into the competition and manages to perform quite well. However, Mochizou is notably absent from this performance: as time wears on in the film, Mochizou’s belief that Tamako’s answer is “no” strengthens.

  • We come to it at last: in Tamako Love Story‘s final moments, Tamako finally decides to face her feelings and sets off to find Mochizou. While he is merely going to Tokyo to write an entrance exam, Midori, now accepting of reality, encourages Tamako by making it sound as though Mochizou was transferring. Spurred on by desperation, Tamako resolves to let Mochizou that her answer is going to be “yes”.

  • Thus, there are two love confessions in Tamako Love Story, both of which were very heartwarming, but simultaneously melancholic to watch. I am envious of those who reciprocate feelings for one another: as I journey further and further into my occupation and life, bit by bit, I gain more experience and wisdom. All of that accumulated wisdom and knowledge seems to indicate that it will be remarkably difficult to find “someone just for me”, my present efforts notwithstanding.

  • I hope that there may come a day, far out there, when I am reading through this blog’s archives, that I may say to myself that I did indeed find “someone just for me”.This phrase originated from Chobits, an anime I finally got around to watching during the summer and generally enjoyed. Thus ends this reflection on Tamako Love Story: though my final impressions are thirty images ago, I’ll reiterate that for all of the melancholy this movie evokes in me, I nonetheless enjoyed it for what it was.

Quite personally, I enjoyed Tamako Market for its eccentricities when it came out back during Winter 2013; I had picked the anime up because it seemed to be a light-hearted slice-of-life that would be well-suited for a busy university student. Enjoyable in its own right, but not particularly memorable, Tamako Market had fallen to the back of my mind by the time the movie was announced in December 2013. Now that the movie’s done and watched, it’s time for some speculation, and with due respect, Tamako Love Story closes off the series in a satisfactory manner, such that there are no loose ends. As it stands, Tamako Market is done for good, and it would not be unreasonable to expect that no further continuations of this series will be made, so it’s time to close the books on what is a familiar, but not unwelcome addition to Kyoto Animation’s repertoire.

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