I 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
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
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. ^_^