Tamako Market Anime, Guest Review by Katherine H.

May 22nd, 2013

Tamako_MarketI watched the first episode of Tamako Market and decided I was done with it. Even Yuri was not enough to make me watch any more. And now that Sentai has licensed it, I’m no more moved to review it than before.

Thankfully YNN Correspondent and Okazu Superhero (and all-around fabulous person) Katherine H. has agreed to take a break from writing reviews at her own blog, Yuri no Boke, and step in to cover me in a weak moment. I’ve taken a lot for Team Yuri, but the bird was too repulsive for me to deal with. Anyway, it is with genuine appreciation (and relief) that I turn the floor over to Katherine!

Sometimes less is more. I have never watched a show for which that phrase is more apt than Tamako Market.

Sixteen year-old Kitashirakawa Tamako is a mochi shop owner’s daughter. She grew up with her kid sister Anko, her father, and her grandfather. Like her father and grandfather, her passion is making and selling mochi, even seeing Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to drum up business by making chocolate-filled, heart-shaped mochi.

Tamako loves her neighborhood, the close-knit Usagiyama shopping district, whose business owners treat her like family. She usually hangs out with Kanna and Midori, two girls whose families own businesses in the area. She is also close friends with Mochizou, the son of the owner of the mochi shop across the street. Tamako and Mochizou’s dads see each other as rivals, but this is played for comedy.

If Tamako’s family and the nice people in her neighborhood were all this show is about, it would be a solid slice-of-life show. However, someone involved in its production apparently watched Coming to America and thought, “This show needs something like that, but with a talking bird!”

In episode 1, Kaoru, the local flower shop owner, finds a huge talking cockatiel in a bouquet when Tamako visits her shop. The cockatiel insists on going home with Tamako and introduces himself as Dera Mochimazzui. Dera has flown from a made up country in the south Pacific to find a suitable bride for his prince. It’s Dera’s fault that Tamako Market feels like two shows mashed together- like a jalapeño puree added to a peach smoothie. “Well, Katherine, I liked the show fine. Dera’s subplot didn’t bother me.” That’s fine and dandy- I’m sure someone liked it, but I wanted to poison whoever came up with it.

In episode 7, Choi, a girl who serves the same prince Dera serves, comes to check up on Dera’s progress. She’s the best thing about this subplot because she’s like, “Stop being such an annoying little shit” to Dera. Alas, her arrival precipitated Tamako Market’s climax, in which the prince himself, with his bodyguards who look uncomfortably like racist caricature drawings of black people, arrives in Tamako’s hometown.

Everyone stupidly expects Tamako to leave to marry the prince even though it’s Choi who decided Tamako should marry him and Tamako’s reaction to that was pretty much, “Huh?” Tamako cares more about having enough shopping points to win a pendant than the proposal, until she gets saddened and upset that everyone expects her to leave—although, wtf Tamako, I know you’re dense, but why did you take so long to clarify that you don’t want to marry the prince, other than needing to fill out twelve episodes? The Dera subplot not only sucked in its own right, it made everyone conveniently stupid.

There is good in the show, when it focuses on Tamako and her friends and family and minimizes Dera. Tamako is a likeable lead, despite how dense she is. (I was amused that being dense is a family trait, and her dad and grandpa are the same way, though.)

I don’t find Anko herself particularly compelling, but her episodes were sweet—the first one focusing on her relationship with her deceased mother, and the second one giving us a look at how her and Tamako’s parents got together.

Midori, our yuri character, got three episodes: episode 2, the Valentine’s Day episode; episode 5, the class trip to the beach episode; and episode 10, the school cultural festival episode.

In episode 2, Midori comes to terms with her feelings for Tamako. The most surprising thing about this episode is Kanna telling Midori, out of the blue, that “Anyone can love anyone they want.” I like to think Kanna said that because she caught on to Midori’s feelings :-)

In episode 5, Mochizou decides to confess his feelings for Tamako, but Midori finds out what he plans to do and prevents him. Btw, anyone who thought Midori was being “mean” by running interference—what the hell is the alternative? Sitting idly by and risk letting the person she loves being taken? I’m glad she had the cojones to do what she did.

Midori tells Tamako she loves her, but Tamako earnestly says that she loves Midori back in a way clearly meant platonically. Nonetheless, again, I’m glad Midori did something, while still acting the way a teenaged girl in love might act instead of being like “Hern, TAMAKOOOOOO, LEMME GROPE YOUR BOOBS.” By the end of episode 5, Midori and Mochizou recognize each other’s feelings for Tamako, and come to a mutual understanding over them. Mochizou makes his feelings apparent in front of Tamako—and unlike Midori, in front of other people—also, but Tamako doesn’t recognize them for what they are either.

Episode 10 focuses on Midori’s role as President of her school’s Baton Club (which Tamako and Kanna are part of) rather than her love life. She takes it on herself to design their costumes and choreograph their dance for the school cultural festival, and finds that she’s in over her head in doing the latter. She’s afraid of disappointing the other club members, but when they find out, they offer to help. Things turn out fine and they give a good performance.

As a one-sided crush, Midori’s storyline doesn’t do much for me as a Yuri fan, but she’s a good character and her crush is handled well for what it is. Episode 2’s message, delivered by Kanna, pleasantly surprised me, even if it was handled a bit awkwardly by being given no context by the show, my assumptions aside. Add that to Kaoru being trans without anyone caring or it being treated like something wacky (which is inconsistent with Midori keeping her feelings under wraps in front of other people more than Mochizou, but still nice), and you have a pretty LGBTQ-friendly show.

In short, again, this would be a solid, enjoyable slice-of-life story if you stripped away certain additions to it.

Art: 8 for everything except the prince’s bodyguards, who get a -10

Story: 7 for the non-Dera aspects, 3 for Dera’s subplot

Characters: All over the place. 7 for the overall cast excluding Dera, 2 for Dera

Yuri: 4

Service: There’s that one comedic butt shot in the bath, and the girls wear swimsuits at some point, and I assume someone somewhere will get off on that. There are also a couple times Dera peeks at the girls in the public bath. The girls themselves aren’t shown from his perspective, so it’s a mild example of that gag, but I can understand how it might be a deal-breaker for someone jaded by the creepy commonality of peeping gags in anime and manga. 3

Overall: 5

Once again, I say thank you, thank you! and sob a little at your ankles, Katherine for the fabulous review. I hope you know you’re welcome as a guest anytime. ^_^

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10 Responses

  1. Ultimately, I liked Tamako Market on the balance, but I do think it was a deeply flawed show. The reduction of Dera’s screentime as the show progressed did help quite a bit, but I feel unsettled about the racial elements of the latter third of the show. Too bad! I really loved Tamako and all the folks of the shopping arcade – I really enjoyed the sense of community there. And the way Kaoru was handled was impressive to me, honestly; wish more anime could be as unfussy as that when it comes to LGBT characters.

  2. Josh says:

    I’m with A Day Without Me on this show. It’s lots of fun! There’s a big sense of community in the market, where everybody knows everybody. It’s nice, friendly, and the connection between each of the characters is simple, but it’s smile inducing.

    Tamako Market has some big flaws, but if I can smile because of an episode, I try not to pay attention.

  3. dm00 says:

    I eventually made my peace with the bird by reflecting on the character Excalibur from Soul Eater: it could be worse. Otherwise, the show seemed very sweet, and accepting, as others have noted.

    I think Kanna deserves some special notice for her perceptiveness (not limited to her encouragement for Midori), her comic uses of the bird, and her deadpan wit.

  4. Michael Vito says:

    Spot on review. Dera, Choi and the prince could have disappeared and you’d still have had a decent slice-of-life show, one that might have offered more breathing room to develop the Midori/Tamako/Mochizo triangle. For a moment, I even thought Kanna might be interested in Midori, but seems that was Yuri-goggles, in retrospect.

    The location spotting otaku actually made more of a story about the people and events in the arcade than in the show. The Demachi Masugata Shotengai was packed with anime pilgrims every weekend during the broadcast. Most of the shopkeepers were following the show and graciously hosted the invaders in the midst of normal operations.

    • Interesting- I think otaku sightseeing is neat (as long as, you know, they’re respectful about it; though considering I hopped a fence to sneak into the Kamakura Literature Museum’s grounds to photograph the outside of a building one of the schools in Aoi Hana is based on since I didn’t make it before closing time a couple summers ago, maybe I shouldn’t talk), and hope the place Tamako Market is based on got some good business (with minimal fan obnoxiousness) as a result.

  5. Antony says:

    I enjoyed the show, but I do agree that it could have been better if they’d not had the whole prince subplot and had more of a focus on the market community as there could have been more stories to be told there,
    (For example, the bit about Tamako’s parents was particularly good) and one of my favourite side characters was the guy in the coffee and record shop.

    And I have to agree on Kaoru. It’s good to see a character who is widely perceived as trans but who isn’t a comic side character, whose identity isn’t a major plot point, and who was a well liked and respected member of the local community. Which has to be a point in the show’s favour.

    • That was one of the few likable things about Tiger and Bunny, as well. That the big, black queen, was a respected member of the team and while his “identity” is not hidden, it’s not an issue for any of them.

  6. dmitrij says:

    But I liked Dera :(. Also I believe he had his place in this story, served as catalyst for characters interactions and made this anime unique. Whole prince plot lead to the point of the show – when the community was going to let Tamako to became princess. Because they loved her so much (and wanted best for her after mothers death) they kinda lost sight of reality and took this “fairytale” perspective where girl meet prince etc. Which perspective was brought by Dera and Choi. (sorry if my English is bad)

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