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Literature / The Tatami Galaxy

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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 in 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 more frustrating monotony—the narrator realizes that he needs to get a move on and truly experience all that his college years have to offer.


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 licensed it for a streaming-only, English-subtitled stateside release on the Funimation website, YouTube, and Hulu under the Market-Based Title The Tatami Galaxy.

The series has a Spiritual Successor in the 2017 anime film, The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, an adaptation of another Morimi novel produced by the same creative team featuring the same setting and sharing a few minor characters.

In 2020, the original book received a crossover sequel with the Makoto Ueda stage play Summer Time Machine Blues. Titled Tatami Time Machine Blues (Yojohan Time Machine Blues), this book follows Ozu and the Protagonist going back in time to prevent their dorm's air conditioner remote from being broken.


Exhibits the following tropes:

  • Anachronic Order: Within the first episode.
  • Anti-Hero: The protagonist is a type I, of a very Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei variety without the suicidal tendencies.
  • Arc Number: 4. The room the protagonist is renting out is a 4.5 tatami and Akashi has only four Mochiguman because she lost the fifth one. When the protagonist finally returns the fifth Mochiguman and decides to move out of his room to a bigger apartment, it symbolizes that he's moving past everything associated with four to better himself.
  • Arc Welding: In episode 9. Episodes 10 and 11 also spell out most of the consistent factors of the setting across each timeline.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Akashi can pull these off (and does so, several times).
  • Art Shift: Frequently shifts to filtered photos of real life backgrounds when discussing life or other topics.
  • Beauty Mark: Akashi and Hanuki both have one.
  • Beehive Barrier: Akashi can erect one. Figuratively, of course.
  • Big Good: Higuchi, who tries to get Watashi to drop his dreams of a rose colored campus life and live.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: There are several—for example, the situations the narrator imagines before picking a club every episode eventually all come to pass; in another example, the proxy war first explained in episode 4 appears in episode 2 as a student film of the narrator's.
    • 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.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: The narrator can't return Akashi's Mochiguma and he can't ask her out to Neko Ramen, at least until the finale.
  • Cargo Ship: Jogasaki is in love with a mannequin he named Kaori. In one timeline, the narrator falls in love with it as well. invoked
  • Character Development: By the finale, Ozu and the narrator have basically switched places, but definitely not in a bad way.
  • Cherry Blossoms: They show up whenever the protagonist has his once-an-episode rant about the rose-colored life and his choice of club.
  • Church of Happyology: Honwaka.
  • Clock Tower: It shows that time is rewinding, causing the protagonist to live his college life again each episode. When the protagonist is stuck in his room, its lack of rewinding shows that there's no more chances at resetting for him.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Pretty much everyone has elements of this, but particularly Higuchi.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The major characters have their own color motifs, presented in the opening and occasionally in the show (the Protagonist has white/light grey, Akashi has light blue, Ozu has red, Jougasaki has orange, Hanuki has pink/red, and so on). Each episode tends to have its own set color as well. The episode color schemes become a piece of very subtle foreshadowing in later episodes.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: Everything from the past episodes come back one way or another in episodes 10 and 11.
  • 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.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: The protagonist's being so swept up in finding a rose-colored college life is what, ironically, blinds him to how meaningful his experiences really are.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The tower in episode 6. Especially when it's aligned suspiciously with Jogasaki.
  • 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.
  • Epiphanic Prison: The titular galaxy is revealed to be one.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: It's revealed in an episode that Jogasaki, Higuchi, Hanuki, and the Neko Ramen vendor all went to Kyoto University at the same time, which is how they all already know each other.
  • Expy: The narrator has a certain resemblance to one Mr. Despair.
  • Eye Beams: Akashi can also (figuratively) fire these.
  • First-Episode Twist: The series seems like it might be an ordinary, albeit fast-paced Slice of Life at first... then the episode ends on the note of the protagonist blaming the club for his failures in achieving his rose-tinted college life and time being thrown back, setting up for the rest of the series.
  • First Girl Wins: Akashi is the first girl the protagonist expresses interest in, but he has several other love interests throughout the series. For one reason or another, none of them work out, and towards the end of the series he realizes he's in love with her and finally does what it takes to get together with her.
  • Food Porn: Neko Ramen is animated and described in loving detail as it's the one food the protagonist loves above all else, especially after he escape the infinite variations of his room and actually gets a chance to eat food that isn't the castella or fish fingers.
  • Forever War: No one remembers how the Masochistic Proxy Proxy War started.
  • Foreshadowing: From episode 2, all three stories of the protagonist's directed films shown in the episode end up happening to the protagonist within the narrative in later loops, as presented in the exact order that the protagonist made them.
  • Fortune Teller: Appears in each episode, always giving the protagonist the same advice. And increasing her fee by 1000 yen each time.
  • Gilligan Cut: In episode 8 features one.
    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 his bizarre appearance was simply a reflection of the narrator's opinion of him. The protagonist later adopts Ozu's usual look to illustrate their switched roles.
  • 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: It seems the narrator isn't totally aware of it, but he nevertheless joins a different club every time. Later events imply that we have seen only some of the loops. One of the screwiest instances is when Higuchi is revealed to have somehow kept the cash he won between time loops and uses it to fund his vacation, despite everything else seemingly being reset in-between each iteration of a loop.
    • 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.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Hanuki. There's a reason she only will drink with people who are close to her.
  • 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.
    • In episode 2, they kiss in a movie. And knowing all the films filmed are in fact other reallities, this could be another one we don't finally see!.
    • Ozu claims that he and the narrator are connected by a "black string of fate" — a nod to the traditional Red String of Fate.
    • "It's my way of expressing my love!"
  • Humiliation Conga: In episode 2 the narrator and Ozu replace Jogasaki's Alexander the Great movie with a series of clips demonstrating that Jogasaki is not exactly perfect.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode is named after the text on the flyer of the club the narrator is a member of in that episode.
  • In Spite of a Nail: One thing is always shown to happen regardless of the protagonist rewinding time back to the first year of university, Akashi loses her Mochiguman with it ending up as the protagonist's light switch decoration. Only when the protagonist realizes that Akashi's been losing it in every single timeline and it always finds its way to him, does he finally take it upon himself to return it to her.
  • 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.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: Moths shows up in a massive storm in the final episode when the protagonist escapes the endless tatami rooms and serve as a means of symbolic rebirth for him when they strip away all his clothes and facial hair.
  • Manipulative Editing: The Jogasaki "biopic" Ozu puts together.
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: Copiously, but especially when the matchmaking god finally finishes reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and reaches Nirvana.
  • 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.
  • Naked First Impression: Pretty much everyone towards the protagonist, in the finale. Ozu's the only one to find it odd.
  • 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.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The first episode ends with the botched Daimonji festival after Ozu inexplicably crossdressing runs in, chased by a bunch of unknown characters, and is cornered on a bridge railing. All the episodes slowly reveal each element so that by the final episode when the same scenario happens again, all the pieces click together. Ozu has been dating Kohinata (the girl who dumped the narrator in the first episode and Honwaka's daughter) for two years, insinuated himself into the Lucky Cat organization by sucking up to Aijima only to backstab him and take over which is why Aijima chases Ozu, Jogasaki hates him for exposing Kaori, and the Honwaka are after him for stealing their planned ark and attempting to take Kohinata on their planned date for Daimonji. But after that plan went kaput, Ozu takes the same escape route along the river used in episode 3 in order to come back to the city and meet up with Higuchi, only for everyone who hates him to chase him down.
  • 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.
  • Putting on the Reich: Jogasaki is compared to a charismatic dictator, and there are scenes that depict him in appropriate dress along with his club members in uniform and goose-stepping.
  • Red String of Fate:
    • Ozu claims he and the narrator are linked by a black string of fate. This is usually accompanied by a visual of the two tied up together in black cord and sinking into the Mariana trench.
    • 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 — who is 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.
  • 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.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: The narrator at times.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Every episode as the narrator ends up lamenting whatever terrible fate's happened to him and wishes for a do-over, with the magical force at work obliging, or in the tenth episode, is horrified to realize that he's accidentally locked himself into a never-ending purgatory comprised of his own room. The exception is the very last one as he finally gets a happy ending after learning that he should work with what he has, not wishing for infinite do-overs..
  • 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.
  • Show Within a Show: Mochiguman, which is about five cartoon superheroes and their fight against villainy. It's very popular with its target demographic of kids, though Akashi is a very open fan of the characters. Details beyond that are very vague since the protagonist doesn't really care much about it and only becomes invested in them during a loop where he works as a performer as one of the Mochiguman.
  • Slice of Life: Outside of the "Groundhog Day" Loop, this can very much be considered a "Shaggy Dog" Story version of this.
  • Spoiler Opening: Although you may not realize it at first. The opening contains scenes of someone moving through several rooms that are all the same, save for their different colors. This spoils the protagonist being trapped in the 4.5 tatami world and discovering all his alternate lives with the differently colored rooms.
    • Someone with a quick eye will also notice human-looking Ozu toward the end of the opening. This spoils the Protagonist's unreliable storytelling.
  • The Stoic: Akashi, but she has her moments.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: From episode 6:
    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).
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Ozu, in the eyes of the narrator. And vice versa by the end when he and Ozu properly meet in the final timeline.
  • Trickster Archetype: Ozu. Depending on your point of view, he's also a Trickster Mentor... though what he has to teach isn't always good.
  • Unreadably Fast Subtitles: The natural consequence of the narrator's Motor Mouth.
  • 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. The fortune teller's Gonk is similarly related to the protagonist's interpretation of her as being a "witch" of sorts - she is later seen with a normal nose and no longer radiating that "powerful aura."
  • Unusual Euphemism: The narrator's "Johnny," which is visually represented by a silly-looking cartoon cowboy.
  • Villain Protagonist: The narrator goes through a rather bad phase in episode 9.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The narrator and Ozu, the former supplying the vitriol. The narrator is also very quick to point out the reasons Ozu is a terrible guy in the narration.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Hanuki in episode 10.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Akashi is terrified of moths; a moth landing on her face and the aftermath demonstrate the only moe chink in her poker face.
  • 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.


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