It’s interesting that the trend in the early reaction to Tamako Market seems to be that two camps have emerged – “I like the series because I love the bird” or “I hate the bird but everything else was cute”. Well, you can put me in the former camp – Dera is certainly the most entertaining element of the show after two episodes for me. But there’s no denying that the people behind this series are very good at what they do – the only question for me as a viewer is whether I like what they do enough to stay with the show to the end.
The comparisons to a certain Kyoto Animation show are self-apparent – especially given the character designs – but after two eps I’d say TamaKet reminds me quite a bit of a different show from last year, Tari Tari. That was a show, of course, that many people said reminded them of that KyoAni show so I guess there’s an Ouroboros quality to the whole thing which isn’t coincidental (studios certainly know how to read Blu-ray sales charts). There was a certain something to Tari Tari that made me like it quite a bit – perhaps more than anything a determined refusal to take itself too seriously and an earnest sincerity that made the kawaii tolerable. So far Tamako seems to have enough of the first quality, but the jury is still out on the second.
Kyoto Animation is obviously very, very good at selling discs, and that’s why I confess I find it difficult sometimes to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the nature of just how calculated their artistic choices are. They really do seem to cover all the bases here: we have the adorable heroine who everyone fawns over because of how moe she is. We have the uber-moe imouto. We have the possible yuri subplot with the school friend, and the cute girls being cute grouping at the school. In this fantasy world, where high-schoolers look like grade schoolers, have bedrooms that look like this and talk to each other on tin-can (actually ramen cup) telephones, all that seems perfectly normal. But it’s a fantasy world, undeniably – albeit one that KyoAni can create better than anyone else in the business, and one that holds tremendous commercial appeal.
Probably – in addition to Yamazaki Takumi’s hilarious performance – that’s why I find Dera to be the most interesting element so far, because he’s the one part of TamaKet that doesn’t seem to have been inserted specifically for commercial reasons. Dera doesn’t have too much to do this week, though, as the focus shifts to Tamako and her school group. I don’t think there’s much here we haven’t seen before – we have Midori (Kaneko Yuki), who stands to be the most important as she’s in love with Tamako, and Kanna (Nagatsuma Juri), who fulfills the requirement for the lidded-eyed, soft-spoken oddball genius (the preview shows us the 4th member of Tamako’s band, the “cool girl” to be introduced next week). Nothing here is too fresh, but it’s not offensive by any means – Midori’s feelings aren’t played for laughs, though there’s no indication Tamako reciprocates them. The school scenes inevitably drag a bit, though, as there’s the feeling of watching a rerun even having never seen the show before.
As for plot, I think it’s almost a moot point with Tamako Market – but there is one, and it surrounds Tamako’s desire to see the market do something for Valentine’s Day. This paves the way for a lot of “hare” jokes, some schoolgirl antics as Mochizou films a commercial featuring Tamako in a bunny suit, and the introduction of more of the market oddballs. The most interesting element here is that Tamako seems more in-line with the thinking of Mochizou’s Dad in terms of innovation, with the potential for some conflict – though everything here is so soft-pedaled that I’m sure it’ll never get too serious. There are some possibilities here that intrigue – the aforementioned conflict over tradition vs. innovation (though that’s admittedly old hat in anime), Mochizou (he at least is somewhat unusual for the genre in that he wears an earring) and Midori competing over Tamako, and of course Dera’s sub-plot with the Prince – but it’s very much an open question whether any of them will be pursued with enough intensity to really matter. My gut feeling is that plot is going to be less important here than in Tari Tari, which was willing to go to a dark place with Wakana’s arc and gave us a fairly involved conflict for the finale. That’s no certainty of course but if that’s the case it’s going to come down to two things – how much the focus stays on Dera and his antics, and how much appeal watching Tamako and her friends being cute holds for you.