Review: Tamako Market

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Tamako Market  (Kyoto Animation) – Genre: Comedy, School, Slice of Life

KyoAni has quite an affinity for school anime about a mishmash of kids in a club (Clannad, K-On!, Hyouka, and so on). The latest incarnation of this infinite cycle is Tamako Market, a charming anime about the daughter of a mochi maker who lives in the Usagiyama shopping district of her small town. The series grounds itself, not achieving anything amazing, but I feel that’s it’s greatest appeal point. It creates a cozy little world with cute and interesting characters that makes it easy to lose yourself in its charm and hospitality.

The story begins when our heroine, the mochi-obsessed Tamako Kitashirakawa (CV: Aya Suzaki), has a chance encounter with a strange talking bird who calls himself Dera Mochimazzi (CV: Takumi Yamazaki). Acting as an emissary from a remote island, Dera is searching for his prince’s fated bride and believes Tamako to be a potential candidate which provides the fuel for much of the conflict. One of the greatest strengths that Tamako Market has is how interesting every single character is, regardless how important he or she is to the series as a whole, and I think we have KyoAni to thank for that. Everyone, from the Florist Princess to enigmatic record store owner to even Tamako’s senpai in her Baton Club, will be sure to leave a lasting impression no matter how short their time on screen is.

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The character designs are done by the same team that did K-On!, which is pretty obvious to any anime veteran. This is good or bad depending on your tastes, I suppose, but it’s just one of those things that you like or you don’t and there’s seldom any opinions in between. I like it, and that’s all that matters to me, though! The OP and the ED are nicely crafted works of art in themselves. Both songs are performed by the rising star and Tamako’s seiyuu, Aya Suzaki, and have entirely different emotions attached to them. The OP is lively and theatrical (almost addictingly so), while the ED is more sentimental and contemplative. I think this is an accurate description of the series as a whole, too. It constantly mixes fun charm with emotional introspection, and the product is a setting that just feels warm and inviting.

Tamako and Dera are almost undoubtedly the stars of the show, and their seiyuu fill out the roles incredibly well. Tamako acts out the excitable girl, but in a way that doesn’t get old or tiring to listen to. Hearing and watching Tamako fawn over the wonders of mochi, or gloat over the medal she accrues shopping points to win, is simply a lot of fun. It’s this simpleminded-ness (not to be taken offensively) that makes me feel envious. Her friends also do a great job of keeping up with her quirks as well as being interesting themselves, like Kanna’s obsession with right angles or Midori’s overprotective-ness of Tamako or Shiori’s quiet compassion. I must admit that I wasn’t too hot on Dera’s character towards the beginning of the series, but I warmed up to him as time went on. The series would not be the same without his noble air and ridiculous pearls of wisdom, and I came to understand that by the end. The way he grows into a full-fledged member of the Kitashirakawa family is nice too, but I just wonder why no one questions why he can talk.

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There’s not much else I can say to convince you to watch Tamako Market. It’s just one of those shows that you’ll like just because it’s a slice-of-life type series. It’s relaxing to watch, but you’ll get some laughs out of it as well. Not only that, but the aspect of love plays a heavy role with the themes of the series, even though very little romance happens at all. While unrequited love and lost love pervade Tamako Market, it still manages to keep the atmosphere light and easy to digest (like mochi?). It’s a thematically poignant series, with fantastic animation. KyoAni gets all of the little details down pat, from the frequent jump cuts to an airplane’s navigation lights in the distance, and delivers a visual feast.

The way the series ends leaves a lot open, which makes me hopeful for a sequel. There’s quite a bit of untapped potential left in the world of Tamako Market, and given that it’s a completely original work by KyoAni, that should mean there’s a lot of freedom to go in any direction that they so desire.

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Definitely check this series out if you’re into boisterous birds, sweet mochi, and baton twirling. Be sure to hop on down to the Usagiyama shopping district for a load of fun and heart-warming moments.

B.W.

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