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