Then I was a brand-spanking new freshman university student and countless doors to the mystical treasure that is known as that 'rose-colored campus life' lay open before me. I was half-swooned with glee. And the one I chose was...!
Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei (A Compendium of 4.5 Tatami Mythology) is a 2004 novel by Tomihiko Morimi, narrated by an unnamed third-year agriculture student at Kyoto University. After getting dumped by a crush his first year, he's become convinced the idealised, lovey-dovey campus life he expected will never become reality, and as a result, has wasted the last two years ruining the love lives of others at every opportunity with his partner in crime, Ozu. Despite this, the narrator has taken a liking to Akashi, a girl one year his junior.One late night while eating ramen at a cart near his boarding house, our narrator meets a man claiming to be a god of matrimony. The god tells the protagonist that come the tenth lunar month, the gods will gather in Izumo and determine who will marry whom—and Akashi's hand is either going to him or Ozu. When a fortune teller further tells him he's at a crossroads—one path leading to a life of happiness, the other leading to one of the same frustration and monotony he's currently experiencing—the narrator realizes that he needs to get a move on.The novel was adapted to anime for Noitamin A's spring 2010 season, directed by Masaaki Yuasa of Kaiba fame and produced by Madhouse. Funimation has licensed it for a near-simultaneous, English-subtitled stateside release on the Funimation website, YouTube, and Hulu under the Market-Based TitleThe Tatami Galaxy.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Since the narrator doesn't seem to be aware of the time loop, his references to the fortune teller's prices increasing and their conversation getting shorter each time probably qualify as this.
Episode 7 has the narrator use a metaphor about wandering a maze of 4.5 tatami rooms, which is the literal subject of one of his other student films in episode 2. In episodes 10 and 11, the narrator actually does this.
Episode 5 has a random man suddenly stumble into the room. The protagonist understandably freaks out. It's the protagonist from episode 10 and 11, where he's wandering the maze of 4.5 tatami rooms.
And in episode 4, he finds a bag of money in his room, which he assumes was planted there so he could pay for the turtle scrub-brush. In episode 10, we learn that it was his own money, which he amassed by stealing some cash from each alternate universe tatami room.
A Date with Rosie Palms: Implied in a couple of instances in the episodes dealing with the protagonist's romantic pursuits. His sexual desire is represented by a sort of phallic-looking cowboy named Johnny, and in some instances, Johnny is shown kept at bay in a hamster wheel with a girly mag and Kleenex box close by.
Deranged Animation: It's a Yuasa anime, isn't it? It's positively tame compared to his other works, however.
Drinking Contest: One between Jogasaki and the protagonist in episode 6. Hanuki joins in later. The protagonist wins, although it really seems that Hanuki did.
Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the rewinds, troubles, and lessons learned, the protagonist has lost all the closeness he had with the other characters—but at least he knows to appreciate all of them more. And even better, he finally summons up the confidence to ask Akashi out to that bowl of neko ramen.
Watashi: Out of the question! Visiting the home of your pen-pal is completely unacceptable! That's breaking the most fundamental rule! I absolutely will not!
*next shot cuts to him standing in front of his pen-pal's home*
Good All Along: Ozu is still kind of a jerk, but the main character eventually realizes why he does the things he does and that, deep down, Ozu was his best and only real friend.
Gonk: Ozu. The narrator even compares him to a youkai several times. However, the opening and episode 7 hint toward this being more than it seems, and the finale makes it clear that it was simply due to an Unreliable Narrator.
The narrator himself experiences Gonk in episodes 9 and 11, and both occasions are thematically appropriate.
Grey and Grey Morality: Absolutely every main character has done some good things and some questionable ones. It is all about perspective, and we discover that both the good and the bad stuff are who they are. In fact, that is kind of the point.
"Groundhog Day" Loop: Although it seems the narrator isn't totally aware of it and will be joining a different club every time. Besides, it's directed by Yuasa. There had to be somethingMind Screwy about this show.
The narrator eventually becomes aware of the repeats in Episode 10 after busting through the various tatami rooms of each of the alternate universes
It becomes apparent that Akashi is the only girl for the narrator (episodes examining him in pursuit of other girls have all ended in miserable failure) and the fortune teller has said again and again (in so many words) that returning her Mochiguman charm and hooking up with her is the only way he'll be happy. The narrator himself has also come to take Ozu as more and more of a threat to all of this.
Hikikomori: In episode 10, the Narrator has become so fed up with the "Groundhog Day" Loop (even if he's only subconsciously aware of it) that he decides to spend as much time as possible in his 4.5 tatami room. Of course, as he starts traveling across the various iterations of his college life, he starts to realize how much he missed out on by abandoning any chance of meeting the cast of characters that had defined his college life in the other iterations.
Homoerotic Subtext: Ozu rubs up against the narrator when they're about to sabotage a romantic night for several couples with fireworks from across a riverbank. "But it's so cold..."
Happens again in episode 5... only this time it happens at night, under the covers, on a boat on which the two of them are escaping down the river. Oh, and Ozu is dressed as a woman.
Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The narrator does different things each loop but because of this we learn more on the other characters who more or less do the same things each time. Things like Ozu having a girlfriend, the proxy war, the narrator's three love interests, the clubs Ozu joins and other things that happened in previous loops still happened if not mentioned.
Kick the Dog: Ozu is actually sort of likeable in episode 1 and even seems to be trying to set up the narrator with Akashi. As the series goes on Ozu gets progressively more morally ambiguous until he starts to seem like little more than a sinister criminal, until in the last episodes the narrator discovers the reasons behind Ozu's actions and re-examines his relationship with him and realizes that he is his only friend.
Market-Based Title: As the original Japanese name translates to A Compendium of 4.5 Tatami Mythology or The Four-and-a-Half Tatami Mythological Chronicles, it's no wonder they marketed it in America as The Tatami Galaxy. The original title is a mouthful, the 4.5 part (which refers to the size of the narrator's room) would be lost on American viewers.
Meaningful Name: Ozu's name is pronounced the same way as a Japanese word for "fearful". Same with Akashi ("evidence" or "testimony") and Hanuki ("tooth extraction", appropriate for someone who works at a dental practice).
Medium Blending: Most obviously in the last two episodes, where 2D animation mixes with real life.
Mobile Kiosk: The elusive but very good "Neko Ramen" stand where the narrator meets the matchmaking god. Akashi wants to eat there but has never found it.
Motor Mouth: Everyone indulges in it a bit, but the narration in particular can get a bit ridiculous.
No Export for You: You live in America and want to see the 3 bonus episodes? Good luck.
No Name Given: The narrator is never named but is referred to as "I" or "Myself" in the credits and other materials. Ozu's and Akashi's given names are also never mentioned.
Not What It Looks Like: The narrator gets manipulated into looking like he's confiscating stealing the Birdman team's plane. Of course, Akashi just happens to arrive and comes to the wrong conclusion. In a later episode, he is the one who stole the glider in that incident.
Once an Episode: The narrator will deliver the page quote verbatim right after the opening plays, and later on he'll run into the fortune teller, who will have hiked her fee up another thousand yen. At the end of the episode, the university clock tower will appear and run backwards and blur into the series logo as the credits start.
The fortune teller bit is double-subverted in episode 8, where she initially only charges 6000 yen, but later on addends to the narrator's fortune and charges him another 2000.
Although later the standard clock tower ending is missing from episodes 9 to 11.
Every time the narrator meets Ozu for the first time (sic; no, really!), Ozu delivers a speech explaining that they really are comrades. This is reversed in the last episode.
Out-of-Clothes Experience: Subverted in the finale; the narrator symbolically goes through several outfits matching other lives as he dashes to save Ozu, which makes the fact that he ends up nude at the end of it seem like a mental thing, but nope, he actually is nude in public.
Save Scumming: You could call the whole concept this, but the trope fits episodes 6-8 especially well, where the narrator rewinds his life only by a few hours so he can try every path in a situation where three girls want him at once.
In a more straight example of this trope, Akashi and the Narrator seem to be tied by the Red String of Fate. He simply cannot be happy without her, and Akashi's behavior seems to demonstrate that she likes him too.
The Reveal: In episode 9. Ozu's got a girlfriend—incidentally, Honwaka's daughter—and has been doing all these questionably moral things for two years for the sake of the perfect date with her after a date in the first year went awry.
Shipping Bed Death: In-universe. The narrator lampshades this as justification in the finale to wrap up other loose ends as opposed to expounding on the details of his budding relationship with Akashi.
Narrator: That's just a hobby! It's not like I'm trying to add some extra flavor to my campus life or something!
Title Drop: While not formal, the last two episodes reveal why the American title has "Galaxy." In that the narrator travels (literally) through each alternate version of his room (which is sized at 4.5 tatami).
Unreliable Narrator: Despite his protests, he really does seem to have some feelings for Akashi, even before his eventual (and too late) revelation. Also, even though Ozu has taken advantage of the Narrator many times, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the Narrator that Ozu has actually been looking out for him and has helped him on several occasions. Also, Ozu's Gonk is only due to this trope.
Unusual Euphemism: The narrator's "Johnny," which is visually represented by a silly-looking cartoon cowboy.
Wine Is Classy: In the romance-geared episodes, as the protagonist tries to present himself as suave and worldly, several scenes show him as better looking than in reality and lounging in a fashionable apartment (also not the reality) with a glass of wine in hand.
Youkai: Ozu is compared to one in episode 1 and even grows a kitsune tail several times in episode 2.