Imagine a cheesecake. Or chocolate cake. Or pie if you don’t like cake. If you don’t like cake or pie then a bucket of lard. It’s delicious, it’s tasty and everything is just right. The only issue is someone has spewed ketchup and mustard all over your delicious cake/pie/lard. While ketchup and mustard are good on their own they don’t mix very well with cake and yet someone thought putting the two together was a good idea.
That someone was Kyoto Animation and today the chocolate cake in question is Tamako Market.
Tamako Market is a 2013 Kyoto Animation original about a mochi mastermind Tamako who lives in a small shopping district. Her Father runs a mochi shop right across from her childhood friend Ooji Mochizou’s family shop which just so happens also sells mochi. It’s a comfy life for Tamako and her friends but one day she runs into a talking bird, Dera, who is on a journey to find the princess for some prince on this island or something. Right away you can see the issue here, the premise!
Tamako Market at it’s core has a really nice set-up. A slice of life set in a small community of local shops. I like this idea, seeing Tamako’s connections with all the shop owners is and helping her Dad in the family shop. This show portrays small local shops perfectly, I myself like to go to places like the comic store and record shop, to buy stuff duh, but also to talk to the owners and employees. I always feel welcome and I can spend a while talking away with them. I’ve even got a parking ticket once for being in there too long. So I really liked how this show was set-up, all it needed to be was a story of a shopping district.
However the ketchup on the birthday cake was Dera and his storyline. He brings all this unnecessary stuff into the show that is invasive and has no reason to be there. Later on it’s believed Tamako is the princess because of her adorable neck mole, so it brings up the issue of ‘what if Tamako leaves her comfy home?”. I feel like Dera was only there as a plot device to bring conflict and a story arc to Tamako. It’s like the writers couldn’t think of another way to bring up the idea of Tamako leaving home so they had this insane and goofy storyline of a prince and all this nonsense.
Getting away from that for a minute the heart and soul of Tamako Market is simply the character’s connections. There are so many amazing episodes in this show, some of which are the best I’ve ever seen. Tamako is always humming a tune her Mother used to sing to her however she can’t remember what it is. The episode when she finds out is really sweet and I don’t want to spoil it incase anyone reading this has never seen the show, but she gets some help from the record store owner and it all resolves perfectly.
Tamako herself is a bit of a static character, not getting much development until the phenomenal film “Tamako Love Story” which I might review later. She’s the typical cheery female lead and yet I found her to be very memorable. You can’t not fall for this girl, she’s dangerously moe in the best ways (neck mole!). This show is a moe overload, every single character is moe, the girls, the guys, and the old people!
Mochi is a very well designed character as well, for once we have a male lead who appears as if some effort went into his design. Look at Kyoto Ani’s other shows, mostly all boring looking dudes. But Mochi has a good design that is equivalent to Tamako. When he’s next to her they just work together, he looks like a punk so you know “he was a boy, she was a girl” and all that. The thing is Mochi is a big ol’ wimp. He has a crush on Tamako but can’t build up the nerve to tell her. This gets annoying but he’s so painfully relatable at the same time, I would totally do the exact same things he did.
Tamako’s sister Anko is also very cute, she is portrayed realistically for a child. Tamako’s friend Kanna comes from a family of carpenters so she’s obsessed with everything related to building and tools. I’m thinking she has OCD or something related. She’s obsessed with carpentry and when something is broken in the school she will not rest until it’s fixed. Midori is super protective of Tamako and a flaming lesbian for her.
All the store owners are colourful and unique characters and the shopping district is very lively. This is a feel good comfy anime. Slice of life is my favorite genre of anime next to comedy and I love to see a show take a normally dull idea and make it something fun and interesting. Tamako Market is about local shops, that’s fun and interesting on it’s own! It didn’t need a silly side story to move things along. It’s like if an alien invasion took place during K-On! That sounds ridiculous but it’s similar to what Tamako Market pulled. Putting a supernatural bird in an other wise realistic show was a bad idea.
Complaints aside Tamako Market is a very pretty show as one would expect for Kyoto Ani. It looks really nice and all the designs are friendly and warm. The opening song “Dramatic Market Ride” is pretty nice, Tamako’s voice actress sings it and it’s a fun little number with a hummable melody and good instrumentation. It’s as if ever word picked for the song was meant to be as cute sounding as possible. The opening sequence is great also and that cut where Tamako flies down on Dera wa something I couldn’t wait to see every episode. The ending song “Neguse” is slower and a bit robotic. It’s a good sequence but not a song I’m too crazy for.
Tamako Market had something really good going on. I like the idea of an anime about small shops because I like to go to such places and interact with the people there. It’s great to make casual connections like that. I think everyone has a place where they can feel welcome like that. Store owners that take the time to interact with customers and remember the things they like to keep them coming back are bound to keep up business. There is a little chunk of community to be found in these stores and that’s what Tamako Market touches on. There are a lot of great moments and sentiments in the show. It expresses Tamako’s emotions very well and when an episode is focused on a specific theme like “everybody loves somebody” that’s when the show really shines.
I feel like Tamako Market might’ve cracked my top 15 had it been without Dera and the side story he brings. I understand why it was included in the show as to bring conflict but it really had no place here. At it’s core Tamako Market is a sweet, feel good show about community. Unfortunately it’s short comings knock it down for me. I would still give it a recommendation, specifically so you can watch the awesome “Tamako Love Story” movie, however unless you really like slice of life and moe then Tamako Market might not be for you. It’s not a standout in it’s genre but it remains memorable for me for it’s beaming array of positives. So go out and support local shops, find where you can feel welcome within your community, there is a place for everybody if you want there to be.